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Joseph Smith's "Magic" Glasses and Other Bizarre Objects from Mormonism

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Non-Mormons may not know this, but early Mormonism is surprisingly full of "magical" Mormon objects, such as the Prophet Joseph Smith's magic glasses, used to translate divine golden plates into the Book of Mormon. To outsiders, these sacred Mormon objects may seem odd, but to true believers, they're an accepted part of the faith.

Photographs of Mormon seer stones, for example, were released by the church in 2015 in an effort to increase transparency about these early objects. The most famous of these stones, Urim and Thummim, were used by Joseph Smith as "lenses" in the glasses that supposedly helped him interpret the word of God. Confused? Read on to learn what all these "magical" objects, plates, stones, and swords are really all about.

  • The Seer Stones, Which When Placed in a Hat Worn Over the Face Shine with Spiritual Light

    Photo: Seanhyte / Wikimedia / Fair Use

    Urim and Thummim weren't the only magical stones used by Joseph Smith. Other so-called "seer stones" were supposedly used to translate ancient text and receive "revelations." The picture above, released by the Mormon church in 2015, is allegedly one of these seer stones used by Smith. Unlike the magic Urim and Thummim spectacles, a stone like this was used by placing it in a hat:

    Joseph Smith put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English.

  • The Voree Plates, Supposedly Found by James Strang During His Bid to Succeed Joseph Smith

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia / Public Domain

    Supposedly discovered by early Mormon leader James Strang (pictured) in Voree, WI in 1845 following a visit from an "angel of the Lord," the so-called Voree Plates could have been "the Book of Mormon version 2.0" (and Strang was just one of many Mormons who claimed to have found plates similar to those unearthed by Smith). 

    After Joseph Smith's assassination in 1844, Strang and Brigham Young squabbled over who would be Smith's successor. The alleged discovery of the Voree Plates, which, via Strang's Urim and Thummin-assisted translation, "tells of the final struggle of an ancient people, written by a Native American named Rajah Manchou of Vorito," was evidence to Strang he was the next prophet.

    After all, like Smith,Strang was led to buried plates by an angel, and translated the plates with seer stones. Cut-and-dry, right?  Church leaders, however, thought the plates were a "wicked forgery" and excommunicated Strang. A small group of so-called Strangites still practice Strang's brand of Mormonism in Wisconsin today. 

  • The Kinderhook Plates, Manufactured in the 19th Century by Attention Seeking Mormons

    Photo: Unknown / Wikimedia / Public Domain

    In 1843, a merchant named Robert Wiley, along with a "number of citizens" (how specific), claimed to have found six ancient brass plates in an Indian mound near Kinderhook, IL. They were presented to Joseph Smith for divine translation, but no translation ever occurred. The Mormon Church, however, printed articles speculating on the meaning of the plates, and some Mormons claimed Smith had plans to translate them. After his assassination, the plates were "largely forgotten."

    A few decades later, some of the plate discoverers said they were a hoax. In 1980, the Chicago Historical Society tested one of the plates and confirmed it was, indeed, of "nineteenth-century manufacture."

  • The Plates of Laban, Another Strang Ploy to Position Himself as Prophet

    Photo: Artist Unknown / / Public Domain

    More plates!

    When Joseph Strang was making his case to be the Mormon prophet after Joseph Smith's assassination, he claimed to have in his possession the original "plates of the ancient Book of the Law of the Lord given to Moses," known as The Plates of Laban. Seven other men testified they had seen and "handled" these plates, and said they featured engravings with "beautiful antique workmanship." Strang allegedly used the plates to write the Book of the Law of the Lord. The whereabouts of the plates following the publication of the book - if they indeed existed - are unknown.