South Park Part 4 (Translating the Book of Mormon)


Mormons on South Park: – Part 4: Translating the Book of Mormon


South Park depiction of the translation of the Book of Mormon is more accurate than the most Mormons realize. It shows Joseph Smith putting two seer stones into a hat, then burying his face in the hat and dictating words to Martin Harris.

South Park Joseph's face in a hatMormon Church Apostle Russell M. Nelson explained the real translation process:

“The details of this miraculous method of translation are still not fully known. Yet we do have a few precious insights. [Oliver Cowdery’s brother-in-law] David Whitmer wrote:”

Joseph Smith would 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. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.’ (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ, 1887, p. 12.)” Elder Russell M. Nelson, A Treasured Testament, Ensign, July 1993, 61

South Park Translation Smith and HarrisSo according to Special Book of Mormon Witness David Whitmer, Joseph Smith only used one seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon, not two as South Park shows. This fact is also corroborated by Martin Harris himself, who acted as Joseph Smith’s scribe as depicted in the South Park Episode. Martin Harris testified to Elder Edward Stevenson how he helped Joseph Smith translate the Book of Mormon. Elder Stevenson wrote:

“Martin Harris related an incident that occured during the time that he wrote that portion of the translation of the Book of Mormon which he was favored to write direct from the mouth of the Prophet Joseph Smith. He said that the Prophet possessed a seer stone, by which he was enabled to translate as well as from the Urim and Thummim, and for convenience he then used the seer stone, Martin explained the translation as follows: By aid of the seer stone, sentences would appear and were read by the Prophet and written by Martin and when finished he would say “Written,” and if correctly written that sentence would disappear and another appear in its place, but if not written correctly it remained until corrected, so that the translation was just as it was engraven on the plates, precisely in the language then used.”
Deseret News, “One of the Three Witnesses,” 30 November 1881.

Again, only one seer stone was used, not two as South Park depicted. But still pretty close to the truth.

As a sidenote, Joseph Smith continued to use his brown seer stone after his Book of Mormon translation work. He used the same seer stone to translate the Book of Abraham. And evidence suggests that several of the early revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants also came through this medium.

Revelations given through the seer stone at the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York, during 1829 include not only LDS Doctrine and Covenants sections 14 through 17, but also section 18. The headnote references, which were not added until the 1921 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, list sections 14-17 as having been given through “Urim and Thummim,” but David Whitmer testified that these Revelations as having come through the same brown seer stone Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon.
David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in the Book of Mormon (Richmond, MO: n.p., 1887), p. 3. Also All Believers in Christ, p. 30.

Details on the Urim and Thummim and the Book of Mormon

Eyewitness Testimonies of the Book of Mormon Translation Process

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