By Cordell and Janice Vail
09 May 2004
A weekly email gospel message for the descendents of Ammon and Winona Vail
The Urim and Thummim of the Old Testiment
The Urim and Thummim of the Old Testiment
On the front page of the church news in January there was a picture of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon by reading the plates. I have attached a copy of that picture if you did not see it. I with a little study there of that picture you would have to ask, "where is the Urim and Thummim in the picture that he used.?" To quote our former stake president who is a church employee, the one that took the picture of the tomb (see article on "empty tomb that I wrote on Easter) he said the church has asked artists to not paint pictuers of Joseph Smith using the Urim And Thummim to translate. Why? Well for several reasons. The Urim and Thummim is as sacred as the temple ceremony. No one was allowed to see it except Joseph and those who acted as is scribes. He could not even show them to his family. Oliver Cowdery was allowed to try to use it one time (note the word TRY... see D&C section 9 for the results of that attempt). So that is the first reason. It is something very sacred to the church and the second reason is that no one saw it no one really knows what it looked like except from some of Joseph's very brief descriptions. He also talked to his mother about it and actually let her feel the breast plate under a scarf but would not let her see it. And many years later David Whitmer described what he knew about it (but that description is quite inaccurate). So we would be painting pictures of something we know very little about.
So lets talk a little about what we do know. We know that there were actually two Urim and Thummims. One was made by the Brother of Jared and passed down to King Mosiah and hidden by Moroni in the stone box at the Hill Camorah with the Gold Plates. That is the the one Joseph Smith had. There are a few descriptions of it in the Book of Moromn in addition to the things Joseph said to describe it (2 stones held in a silver bow etc etc). But there was a second one made by Moses and Aaron. It is described in quite great detail in the Old Testament. We dont know much about that one either except from those descriptions. The one thing that we know that was different was the breast plate. The one in the Old Testament was made of cloth with 12 stones on it symbolizing the 12 tribes. The one that the brother of Jared made had a metal breast plate (according to Joseph Simth's mother who felt it through a scarf). She said it was made for a very large man.
On the 10th of December 1978, I went to a fireside given by Patriarch Eldredge G. Smith who at the time was a Prophet, Seer and Revelator and the Patriarch of the church. Why is that important. Well the fact that he was sustained as a seer in the church would give him some authority to talk about what seer is and what he knew about the Urim and Thummim being the grandson of Hyrum Smith. Much of what I know about the Urim and Thummim I learned from him in that fireside. He also gave a fireside very similar to it at BYU if you want to look that up for a written copy of what he said.
At that same time we were teaching a family there in Bennion. I have never taught the missionary lessons to anyone who asked such profound questions. He wanted to know what the Liahona looked like and had so many questions about it. So finally I made a replica of it so he could see it. I regret I did not do a Sunday Seromn on that when the Sunday school was on that at the beginning of the year. Maybe I will as a part of this series anyway. So then he wanted to know what the plates looked like so I made a replica of them for him to see. Then he wanted to know what the Urim and Thummim looked like. So using the Old Testament descriptions as a guide I made one of those too for him to see. I also combined what Patriarch Smith had told us in making the stones because there is very little description of them by Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon or in the Old Testament. But here is what we do know.
The words are very important. In hebrew here is a rough translation of the words:
UR = LIGHT - GOD
IM = CONTINUAL - MOTION - COMING FROM
TH = GODWARD
IM = CONTINUAL
THUMM = TO SPEAK - PERFECTION (in this case to God or GODWARD ACTION)
So if you take the URIM (which represents light coming down from God) and point that triangle with the point down symbolic of light coming down continually from God...and take the second triangle (the Thummim) with the point facing up symbolic of man talking to GOD and you have a rough idea of what the two stones placed in the silver bow may have looked like. Joseph Smith told his mother (see her history for these descriptions) that the silver bow looked a little like "Specticals". Eldredg G. Smith had Hyrum Smith's glasses with him that night and showed us what "SPECITALS" of that day looked like. They were little wire rim glasses that hung down on a persons nose like we now wear 1/2 glasses when we can see far away but need glasses to read. Nice if you took out the glass and put in the two stones... It appears that the 2 seer stones of the Urim and Thummim (in the one that Aaron used at least) were triangular in shap like a 3 sided pyramid. This is what Eldredge G. Smith said he thought they looked like not what the church says they looked like. (so that is what my model looked like).
Now here is a very significant point. The reason I was so fascinated by that is because it says in the Old Testament that they folded in half and went into a pocket over Aarons heart when they were not being used. Now go look at the pictures I have attached and see what happens when you take two stones that are 3 cornered one pointing up and one pointing down nd put them over each other. You get the STAR OF DAVID.
If you look at the back of a $1 bill you will see something that looks a little like what we are talking about. That whole symbol on the back of the bill can be the subject of another sermon and how the founding fathers (who were mostly all masons) knew all that. But look at the triangle at the top with the eye in it. That is the all seeing eye of God or "A GLORY" as it was called in those days. Man looking into the stone pointing up TO TALK TO GOD.
I think that is enough for this time. I just wanted you to start thinking about that so when they talk about King Mosiah being a "SEER" in the Book Of Mormon Sunday School class you will realize that it is more than just being the President of the Church.
NOTE: Nothing in any of these Sunday Sermons is intended to represent the official doctrines of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They are strictly instructions and teachings from Cordell and Janice Vail to their family.
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