"An accompanying article on the history of the Book of Mormon translation will appear in the October 2015 issue of the Church’s Ensign magazine, and is now available online. Both the introduction to the new volume and the magazine article discuss the instruments Joseph Smith used to translate, and both include never-before-seen photographs of a seer stone Joseph Smith likely used in the translation of the Book of Mormon.
The stone he used in the translation was often referred to as a chocolate-colored stone with an oval shape. The stone was passed from Joseph Smith to scribe Oliver Cowdery and then from Cowdery’s widow, Elizabeth Whitmer Cowdery, to Phineas Young. Young then passed it on to his brother, Brigham Young, the second president of the Church. After President Young died, one of his wives, Zina D. H. Young, donated it to the Church. In addition to this seer stone, historical records indicate that Joseph Smith owned other seer stones during his lifetime." (MNR)
It appears that faithful membership in the Lord’s Church, going forward, is not to be for the faint of heart. (Not that it ever was, really.) Faith, being the key element and the necessary principle of the gospel to be applied when we are faced with anything that at first glance challenges our faith or seems odd. This type of test is reminiscent of the early days of the Church and what members were called to endure and act upon.
Today, what we are invited to act upon is not necessarily the giving up of previous beliefs, material possessions or heading west, etc. Rather, we are asked to stand for what we believe regardless of the onslaught of challenges to our testimony that the gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed true – Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and all! And we are to do this in the face of much ridicule both from within and outside of the Church.
Contained in scripture, there are numerous references to the eventual Restoration of the Church being "a marvelous work and a wonder." Through the words of Isaiah, the prophet Nephi reiterates this prophecy (note the conditions of the day that would prevail):
25 Forasmuch as this people draw near unto me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their hearts far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precepts of men—
26 Therefore, I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, yea, a marvelous work and a wonder, for the wisdom of their wise and learned shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid.
The Doctrine and Covenants section 1 contains the preface to the work and proclaims in verses 12-17 virtually the same:
12 Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh;
13 And the anger of the Lord is kindled, and his sword is bathed in heaven, and it shall fall upon the inhabitants of the earth.
14 And the arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they who will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles, shall be cut off from among the people;
15 For they have strayed from mine ordinances, and have broken mine everlasting covenant;
16 They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness, but every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall.
17 Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth, called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;
I would say that the Seer Stone falls into both categories. God's ways are not man's ways and certainly, it is a thing to "wonder" that He would possibly use a rock to assist in the translation of the Book of Mormon, in the face of knowing ridicule. Clearly the Lord knew that some would stumble on such small a matter (pun intended). With this in mind, we need to consider that whatever the Lord allows is intended to make "weak things" strong. In Ether 12, the Lord teaches us:
27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Not only that the Restoration of the Church came about under such circumstances but also, how it came about are deeply significant. And I would venture to say that this state of “a marvelous work and a wonder” is ongoing.
Perhaps we need to ponder deeply then, what "weakness" in the above context could actually mean. What if we replaced the word "weakness" with "faith"? Meaning, it could be in our recognition that faith is a principle of action in our lives we must also learn that faith is an ability (or power) to be increased and ultimately perfected.
Which leads me to the next question: Is my faith weak? Or rather, from a recent General Conference address by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf who begs the question: “Lord, Is It I?”
“In these simple words, “Lord, is it I?” lies the beginning of wisdom and the pathway to personal conversion and lasting change.”
Meaning, how strong is my faith and does it need shoring up? Apparently it does. Not one of us is exempt from the fiery darts of the adversary to undermine our faith in Jesus Christ and that this is His work. Oh, how Satan would love to cause us to stumble over things like seer stones, marriage, gender identity, polygamy, etc. And sadly, he’s having encouraging success with some closest to us.
Another question things of late cause me to ask: Is faith an endurance exercise? After all, we are encouraged to “endure to the end.” What does that mean? I think it means that under all circumstances we keep our covenants. I think it means that the Lord expects us to remain faithful even when we have doubts and questions. But faithful to what? Surely not faithful to our doubts and questions, but rather faithful to what we do know, and have developed our testimony upon, in the face of some doubts and questions. And, I think it means that perhaps the Lord greatly desires our loyalty so that He might show Himself unto to us by faith.
The marvelous thing about gaining a testimony of Jesus Christ and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is His Church here upon the earth today is in how we obtain that testimony – it can be stellar because properly obtained it comes not of man but from God Himself. Gaining a testimony in the way God has provided is the key to not only gaining a personal testimony of Jesus Christ, but also that the Book of Mormon is the keystone of our religion – whether it and/or we stand or fall it is the same. And it is only by the grace of God that we can stand if we will seek to keep sacred covenants with Him.
The point is, we know the Church will stand until the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Will we?