Chapter Thirteen

Knowing that Joseph translated the Book of Mormon by looking at a stone in his hat, why does the Church still hang misleading art and pictures in its buildings and reproducing these bogus images in its publications?

Where is the heroic paintings of Joseph with his head in his hat?

It is obvious that the Church did not consider this image as bolstering their cause. It was bad PR!

Honestly, which of the two images below do you think the Church would want the world to hold in their minds when they think of Joseph Smith, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator?


As I have said already, I certainly do not accept the Orwellian mantra hoisted on an already subdued people by the likes of Dallin Oaks that, “Not everything that’s true is useful.”

Useful to whom and for what purpose? Has Oaks considered that the corollary to this puerile statement must also hold, “That not everything that’s false is NOT useful!”

I am told that Oaks was trained as a lawyer, not at BYU, but a highly-ranked law school, Surely he must have taken a class in classical logic or philosophy.

But that was a long time ago, and perhaps he has forgotten the ‘Law of the Excluded Middle,’ espoused by Bertrand Russell. The law simply states that if ‘A is B’ is false, then ‘A is not B’ must be true.

If we accept that Oaks statement in the affirmative that, ‘A – Not everything that is true’ is ‘B – Useful,’ is equal in the negative too, ‘Everything that is true is not useful,’ then it must follow that, ‘Not everything that is false is not useful.’

But perhaps Elder Oaks believes that. There is certainly no lack of examples in the Mormon experience where things that were known to be untrue were nonetheless very useful.

Joseph Smith’s denials of his polygamous marriages, and the many lies he told the Saints and his wife in this regard. False statements? Certainly, but very useful – to him!’

The many paintings hanging in visitor centers and reproduced in Church books and manuals showing the strong-chinned young Joseph studiously examining the “Reformed Egyptian’ characters on the golden plates while his scribe sat across from him writing down his translation. A rather more inspiring image than Smith with his head in his hat!

The Church has long known these images were not true, but they remain because they are useful.


FairMormon agrees that the above photo demonstrates several historical errors, namely:

  1. Oliver Cowdery did not see the plates as Joseph worked with
  2. For much of the translation of the extant Book of Mormon text, Joseph did not have the plates in front of him—they were often hidden outside the home during the
  3. Joseph used a seer stone to translate the plates; he usually did this by placing the stone in his hat to exclude light and dictating to his scribe.


1Martin Harris, “Address to All Believers in Christ”, Richmond, Missouri, 1887, p.12

2James. B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints, 2nd ed., (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992), 40.

3 John Quincy Adams, The Birth of Mormonism (Boston: Gorham Press, 1916), 36

4 Affidavit of Isaac Hale dated March 20, 1834, cited in Rodger I. Anderson, Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reexamined, (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1990), pp. 126-128.

5 Cincinnati Advertiser of June 2, 1830


FairMormon’s Comment on the Bogus Images

“Response to claim: “Why does the Church continue to print bogus pictures and hang misleading paintings in Church buildings showing Joseph running his fingers over “Reformed Egyptian” characters on gold plates?”

All art, including church art, simply reflects the views of the artist: It may not reflect reality.”

“Why, then, does the art not match details which have repeatedly been spelled out in LDS publications?

The simplest answer may be that artists simply don’t always get such matters right. The critics’ caricature to the contrary, not every aspect of such things is “correlated.” Robert J. Matthews of BYU was interviewed by the Journal of Book of Mormon Studies, and described the difficulties in getting art “right”:

Even this does not tell the whole story. “Every artist,” said Henry Ward Beecher, “dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” This is perhaps nowhere more true than in religious art…”


I am sorry, but I don’t buy that. Decision-making in the Mormon church is more centralized than it is in the Kremlin.

Also, you just said the, “A common complaint is that church materials usually show Joseph translating the Book of Mormon by looking at the golden plates…” If that is the case, and it has been the case for decades, then why doesn’t the church do something to correct it.