Ep 204 – Joseph the Seer the Smackdown


Posted August 16th, 2015

Suffering from stone fatigue yet? Well… suffer no more (or suffer a lot more) as Jake, John, Matt, and Randy smack down the recent Mormon Ensign article “Joseph the Seer.”

(Spoiler Alert: they actually all thought the article was pretty good)

And if any of you are wondering “should I really listen to this episode?” John Hamer says yes.





  • Lance

    Why didn’t Joseph Smith give his stone a name? Totally agree with glen in saying that it points to Joseph’s authorship of the BOM(Joseph Son of Joseph). He would have put in little bits in the text to validate himself and his methods. However, as a true believer i stand by Joseph Fielding Smith “there is no authentic statement in the history of the Church which states that the use of such a stone was made in that translation. The information is all hearsay, and personally, I do not believe that this stone was used for this purpose.” And choose to reject this article as uninspired and anti-Mormon literature.

  • Malachi

    Randy now suspects the stone to “petrified wood” instead of a stone? Ex-mormon’s just never know when to stop doubting hahaha 😉

    • hetaira

      Surely Randy knows wood when he sees it, right? 😉

      • Randy_Snyder

        Exactly Hetaira!

        • Malachi

          Well, I have to admit, it sure does look like petrified wood.

          • hetaira

            Yup, I thought that when I saw it, too. I guess a “hetaira” should know, right?

          • Malachi

            I didn’t know what a hetaira was. Google rectified the problem. Learn something new every day

  • Marc young

    Does anyone know why the they keep saying the church will never make the mistake of hiring a historian again to serve as church historian? They have mentioned that twice in two separate occasions. What’s the context for this?

    • Glenn

      I think the “they” you are referring to is Randy, and I believe that Randy is referring to Leonard J Arington and what was known as a “Camelot period” of Mormon History, where access to church archives was openly given to guys like D Michael Quinn, and historians were able to write histories based on history. The insinuation is that after Arington, the church decided to shut down access to the archives and write histories based on the spin they want to put on history. I think that is what Randy means. But he can correct me if I’m wrong about that.

    • Randy_Snyder

      Glenn summed it up pretty well. Just wiki Leonard J Arrington and you’ll find he was the man who opened up the church archives to both Mormon scholars and outsiders from 1972-1982. This lead to BKP’s famous talk “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater” denigrating historians for being obsessed w the truth and saying “some truth is not useful”. Arrington was privately released by the church in 1982 and wasn’t even given the customary honor in General Conference of a vote of appreciation for his service. Since then, the church has learned that a trained historian is the last thing they want to be in the position of official “Church Historian” opting for company men, particularly lawyers like Marlon Jensen skilled in the art of advocacy, not scholarly historians trained to present inconvenient and not very “useful” truth.

  • gem2477

    Where is that Gene R Cook speech from?

  • Glenn

    Like I said in the intro, it was from a Ricks college talk in 1989. Google it. That’s how I found the audio.

    • Malachi

      I’ve heard this story for years, but never the actual recording. Great find!

    • Longfellow Serenade

      A poster on NOM is taking umbrage with your use of GRC’s talk/audio. He claims you misattributed GRC words. FWIW this Jagger GRC tale has been built upon, paraphrased from, percolated and peed on by not only GRC in various venues, but other GAs too. It was retold in an MTC devotional by another GA when I first heard it.

      • Glenn

        I read the NOM comment. I don’t understand how anyone could hear Gene R Cook’s voice, and then my silly immitation “rolling (stones) or otherwise” comment at the end, and not realize immediatel that it is a joke. And a very lame one at that! Oh well. It made me laugh to think someone thought that ending part was real.

    • Marc young

      Before Cook became a Gen Authority, he came to our stake and talked about another incident he had on a plane (I guess he liked the first one so much he decided to have another one). This time it involved a discussion he had with an atheist. The way he told it, he–similar to his Jagger story–sat and introduced himself as a leader in the church, and the guy told him he was an atheist.

      Long-story-short: after some arguments back and forth about whether there is a God, Elder cook testified that he KNEW there was a God, he felt it in his soul (or heart or somewhere maybe bosom). So the atheist twirled his dastardly mustached, mu-ha-ha’d, and ask how he could possibly know that.

      Elder Cook then asked him to describe what salt tastes like, which the atheist tried to do by saying it’s not sweet. Cook replied, “you’re telling me what it’s not. And I am asking you to tell me what it is.”

      So, in the end, the guy couldn’t do it, and Cook analogized that his knowledge of god was the same as our ability to know what salt taste like. You can’t explain it, you just know internally. According to Cook, the guy just stared at him (again, like in the Jagger encounter).

      Cook: 2 points
      Satan: 0 points

      (Of course, the answer to Cook’s question of what does salt taste like… savory. It taste savory.)

    • LiteralHipster

      Crazy, sounded just like BKP.

    • Chris

      I listened to the audio off the byui website and it does not have the last part of that Cook clip that says “There was no peep stone, …or rolling stones”. Where did that part come from?

  • Heather_ME

    So, I’ve been aware that Mormonism was started with folk magic for years now. But every time I read something or listen to something that outlines the magic, I’m left a little gobsmacked. Mormonism is founded on straight up Harry Potter, bippity-boppity-boo, MAGIC. When I let that sink in a little I have to ask myself, “WAS I TAKING CRAZY PILLS?”

    To top it off, I also realize that I have friends and family who still believe in it! A while ago I asked my TBM friends if they believe magic was real (as gently as I could). Their response was something akin to, “Wellll…. that’s priestcraft.” I asked them if that means the priestcraft actually works and they said “sometimes, but it’s always because of the devil.” IT BLEW MY MIND. I had never, ever made that connection when I was a believer. I had always thought there was God’s power and then stuff made up by humans that didn’t actually work – it was pretend and they just didn’t realize it. But there is no getting around it. No matter how much the church has “normalized,” it’s still based in magic (and masonry).

    Sidenote: yes, I realize that magic and religion and such are all a part of the same spectrum of human behavior and thought. John makes good points about all of that. But I still exist in my culture and retain my viewpoint on what magic is. So I can’t help but be blown away by it every once in a while.

    • Marc young

      I remember a seminary teacher talking about a less-active teenage boy in his ward who would see devils and demons. It got so bad the boy would have to sleep in his parent’s room on the floor in a sleeping bag. So, my teacher had visited his house. He was aghast to see he had porn on his walls and the boy’s room was a mess. Well, the seminary teacher helped to throw out the porn and clean the room, which fixed the solution, he told us.

      Probably not. Hearing that in seminary, I was terrified to hear that the devil could invade your home by reading porn and letting your house get messy. And I totally bought that story. However, the adult version of me realizes that the boy probably was suffering from schizophrenia, and his likely ignorant parents didn’t–or wouldn’t–take him to a mental health facility for the treatment and care he needed, instead everyone involved believed that he was really seeing the devil.

      • Malachi

        If it is true, I feel sorry for that kid, because he probably was just sick.

        Is it possible your seminary teacher was just repeating a mormon folk legend? I’ve heard a very similar story to this one from different sources, some versions a lot more detailed and darker. Maybe Glenn has seen this in the archives?

        • Marc young

          “I’ve heard a very similar story to this one from different sources, some versions a lot more detailed and darker.”

          I should have known it was a god damned mormon myth. Now, it seems ever less real to me.

          • Aladdin Sane

            The author of “Go Ask Alice” was a Mormon therapist who regualrly published fraudulent and sensational cautionary tales of teenager’s diaries. This Satanic panic sounds a lot like “Jay’s Journal”.


  • hetaira

    Randy, as to whether JS used a “prop” for the plates – see court testimony in 1830 given by Josiah Stowel. He states that he saw Joseph Smith carrying his “bible” and a corner of it appeared to be a greenish stone about a foot square and six inches thick. JS refused to show it and described it as golden plates with characters written on them. I haven’t vetted this source but perhaps John can tell us if this is genuine: http://user.xmission.com/~research/early/court1830.htm (use Find: “greenish” to jump to the spot) I heard about this testimony on the nakedmormonism podcast recently, to give credit where due.

    And as to gazelem, I figured it was a kind of nominative determinism: “gaze-lem” for one who gazes, like “Shine-ha” for the sun that shines.

  • ohiosupermom

    REALLY enjoyed this podcast! Also,not that it matters but lds.org has it pronounced with a long “a” Gazelem (ga-zā´lĭm)

  • Dan

    I’ve always doubted that Mick Jagger story ever happened or happened they way it’s been described. Especially now. I just can’t believe that a Rolling Stone was shouted down by a guy who believes in Magic Stones.

    • Glenn

      Well, Jagger’s long time girlfriend L’Wren Scott was a former Utah Mormon, so it’s not such a stretch to think he knew more about Mormons and the BOM than you would otherwise expect. And it’s not hard to imagine Mick looking at this guy with a stunned “you have got to be f***ing kidding me” and Cook interpreting that as “yes – the spirit totally stumped him. NAILED IT!!!!!”

      I find the story quite plausible, albeit certainly embellished and tailor-made for the occasion of its telling. But that’s just the world of personal narratives. Especially when you feel the need to magnify that light that shines as an ensign to all the world.

      • Malachi

        The part I find the least plausible is the “Our music is supposed to drive the kids to sex” part. Sounds like something someone who thinks rock music is of the devil would think up.
        I found this with a google search:

        “The Rolling Stones are much more subtle. They use particular sound frequencies to arouse certain emotions in people. At one large American concert it is reported that during one experiment they aroused people to a violent mood which resulted in five murders that night.”

        Wow. Just think how many murders must have been committed because someone listened to the Rolling Stones. No reference to who reported it.

        Glenn, did the Rolling Stones ever start playing on your alarm clock at night, or just ACDC? The TBM perception of “devil music” is so fascinating.

        • Yes, I love it when someone quotes someone else in a vernacular that the quoted person would almost certainly never use. What was that Mick said? “. . . drive the kids directly to sex?” What it says is, “I’m lying to you.” Read Keith Richard’s autobiography sometime. I can’t believe the Rolling Stones gave a rat’s ass what “the kids” did once they had purchased their records and concert tickets.

          • Pink-lead

            Something along these lines. I see it as Mick goading the religious man. Playing up to his fears. The same way satanism and devilry made its way into rock and roll. Our music is devilish? they ask. Sounds like a good shtick. Let’s play that angle up.

      • Aladdin Sane

        Mick didn’t meet L’wren (what a characteristically, um, innovative Mormon name) until 2001.

  • Great job guys! I was so hoping you’d do this one! Always love your thoughts. I wish I had a group of friends like you guys I could talk with about all this stuff.

  • c

    great episode, I always enjoy these smack downs! Also, did you see this?!!: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/286836423/saturdays-warrior-the-motion-picture-coming-2016

    • Randy_Snyder

      Oh man, I hope Lex gets the funding he needs!

      • Aladdin Sane

        Hi Randy. In one of the recent episodes, either you or one of the other infants recommended or cited a BBC In Our Time podcast episode. I can’t figure out which one was recommended, and I’ve been desperately trying to remember. Could you help me out?

        • Randy_Snyder

          It wasn’t me but sounds like something Glenn would reference. I’ll ask the group.

          • Aladdin Sane

            I really appreciate this. I’ve been wracking my brain for days now. I don’t know if it was a philosopher or a mathematician or a scientist or a polymath or what it was. Thank you so much.

          • Glenn

            Nope, not me.

          • Aladdin Sane

            Thanks, but I was pretty sure it wasn’t you. You’re one of the guys whose voice I can easily tell apart -that mellifluous voice. I think it was one of the guys with a more gravelly voice. Matt or Tom?

    • hetaira

      Let’s all fund this so we can hear the Infants smack it down someday. Plus the dude says we could get a private screening or maybe even be IN it!! Let’s get the Infants some roles in the movie!

  • Having almost completely ignored the LDS church (which I was born and sort of raised in, sorta) for the better part of fifty years, I started looking into what it was really about when Mick Romney was nominated in 2012 and I have been enthralled with the story and back stories and spiritual and political intrigue associated with the Brighamite church and its fundamentalist stepchildren ever since then. But this seer stone business is just kind of sad. First it was a little sad. Then it was pretty sad. Now I’m almost to the point of thinking it profoundly sad. I remember my grandparents telling us the story of Moroni and the Golden Plates and the eleven witnesses around the the breakfast table on a bright summer morning with the windows open and the birds outside. I didn’t believe it even then, but I liked the story. And now it’s like kids won’t even have the story anymore.

    What’s fascinating, like Heather said, is that so many people believed so much of this for so long—and probably still do. I never could and I felt personally flawed, off and on, because I couldn’t. When I think about what my very own ancestors (handcart pioneers and English immigrants) went through for their beliefs . . . man, I would like to understand that, but I just don’t. I wonder if anyone else does.

  • Dcl

    Great Little Britain reference, even though it’s the cheesy US version.

  • ST

    Glenn, did you edit that audio book clip of Sanjiv Bhattacharya talking with Ron Barney? The second half of that clip is actually talking about polygamy not the seer stone. But it does tie in. I looked at the text source and it appears the audio you put in the podcast is spliced together and some words are removed. For instance:

    Ron Barney text: “Well, we’re not sure. In the absence of Joseph Smith, you cannot draw a proper picture of early polygamy. It’s all guesswork.”

    Ron Barney audio in your podcast: ““Well, we’re not sure. In the absence of Joseph Smith, you cannot draw a proper picture (inside the brackets was edited out). It’s all guesswork.”

    • Glenn

      Yes. You are right. I edited a few things out to keep the focus on the BOM translation piece of the larger “why don’t you publicly show the truth” discussion. Fantastic book, by the way.

      • ST

        Ok, just wanted to make sure I wasn’t crazy. Ron Barney was recently on a Mormon Matters podcast talking about the Seer Stone. I posted a question on the website to him asking if he was quoted correctly. I just wanted to make sure I had the quotes right and the since the audio didn’t match up, I was confused. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Randy Cox

    I would absolutely sell my signs and tokens to purchase a “John Hamer says, ‘NOOO'” shirt. Someone get on this ASAP

  • JT

    The New Mormon Soul Food

    1. Pull that old piece of “meat” from the back of the freezer.

    2. Marinate it in the Old Testament

    3. Dip it in Joseph’s golden batter.

    4. Sprinkle on a few new crumbs – not too many.

    6. Bake it in the Ensign for two months.

    7. Serve with your favorite side dishes.

    (Tastes best if swallowed whole)

  • Aaron Tunell

    You guys talked about THE MAGIC in the object that gets lost, but you still have the magic. You mentioned green lantern, but………….

    Isn’t that exactly what happens to Lone Star at the end of Spaceballs?