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Urim & Thummim

Joseph Smith received the Urim & thummim "for the purpose of translating" The Book of Mormon plates from the writings of "Reformed Egyptian" into English.  (Joseph Smith History 1:64)  (Doctrine & Covenants 10:1)
The Hebrew words Urim and Thummim mean lights and perfections, "in other terms, communicating light perfecty, and intelligency perfectly, through a principle that God has ordained for that purpose."  (J. of D. V.24 p.263)

Orson Pratt stated:  
"This Urim and Thummim was ... not something that existed on the earth in a natural state, it was something made by the Lord."   "Two crystal stones that He gave unto the brother of Jared were made by Him."  (Orson Pratt; J. of D. V.19 p. 214

The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia states.
"Objects connected with the breastplate of the high priest, and used as a kind of divine oracle. Since the days of the Alexandrian translators of the Old Testament it has been asserted that  mean "revelation and truth" (δήλωσις καὶ ἀλήθεια), or "lights and perfections".
“The ancient, and most of the modern, explanations of these mysterious instruments [Urim and Thummim], through which Yhwh communicated His will to His chosen people identify them with…stones in the high priest's breastplate”.
Source: JewishEncyclopedia.com  

Prophets in the Bible, had and used the Urim and Thummim, to receive revelation. 

Saul at the time he was not doing right, sought help and 'answers from the Lord' -- someone who had the Urim and Thummim so that he might receive a revelation.  But because  of his unworthiness no answers were given.   "And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by prophets."  (1 Samuel 28:5-6)

"And thou shall put in the breastplate of judgment the Urim and the Thummim..."  (Exodus 28:30)

When questions arose among the jews, concerning  if some among them had the genealogy which would enabled them to hold the priesthood. They had to wait until the answers were given by revelation, through the Urim and Thummim. 
"the children of Habaiah, the children of koz, the children of Barzillai..."    "...that they should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with the Urim and Thummim."  (Nehemiah 7:63-65)

"...ask counsel for him...of Urim..."  (Numbers 27: 21) 
"...also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim."  (Leviticus 8:7-8)
"...let thy Thummim and thy Urim be with thy holy one..."  (Deuteronomy 33:8) 
"...a priest with Urim and with Thummim."  (Ezra 2:62-63)

"I Abraham had the Urim and Thummim which the Lord my God had given unto me, in Ur of the Chaldees; and I saw the stars..."  (Abraham 3:1-2)
"And the Lord said unto me, by the Urim and Thummim..."   (Abraham 3:4)

A statement by Orson Pratt:
"Noah, after having preached the Gospel and published glad tidings among the nations, was commanded to build an ark.  He had a Urim and Thummim by which he was enabled to discern all things pertaining to the ark, and its pattern."   (Orson Pratt, J. of D. V.16 p. 50)


The Prophet Joseph Smith was given the Urim and Thummim to help translate the Book of Mormon. 

"He [the Angel Morni] called me by name, and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.
He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fulness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants;
“…that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim—deposited with the plates; and the possession and use of these stones were what constituted “seers” in ancient or former times; and that God had prepared them for the purpose of translating the book. 
 (Joseph Smith-History 33-35)
The Prophet Joseph Smith stated, "On the west side of this hill not far from the top, under a stone of considerable size, lay the plates, deposited in a stone box."  "Having removed the earth, I obtained a lever, which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up.  I looked in, and there indeed did I behold the plates, the Urim and Thummim, and the breastplate..."   (Joseph Smith-History 1:51-52)

The golden plates were written in "reformed Egyptian" and were translated into english by Joseph Smith, "by means of the Urim and Thummim  I translated some of them..."  (Joseph Smith-History 1:62)

"you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim..."   (D.& C. 10:1)

"When the actual work of translation began, the Urim and Thummim were found to be indispensable. In various places the statement is made that the translation was made "by means of the Urim and Thummim". (D. & C. 10:1) On one occasion, when the Prophet, through the defection of Martin Harris, lost a part of the manuscript translation, the Urim and Thummim were taken from him, and the power of translation ceased. Upon the return of the sacred instruments the work was resumed.... While the Prophet was undoubtedly required to place himself in the proper spirit and mental attitude before he could use the Urim and Thummim successfully, yet it must also be concluded that the stones were essential to the work of translation."    (John A. Widtsoe, Evidences and Reconciliations, Pg.89 - Pg.90)

Joseph Smith received many revelations through the Urim and Thummim.

Joseph Smith said "I inquired of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim and received for him the following."   (History of the Church V.1p.45)
(Note: Preface to D.&.C. 3, 6, 7, 11, 14, 15, 16, 17.)

A statement concerning the Urim and Thummim, recorded in Joseph Knight Sr's journal.
"When it came time for Joseph Smith to obtain the plates.  Late that night, after Joseph Smith had returned from his mission, he said to Brother Knight, "It is ten times better than I expected." According to Father Knight, the Prophet decribed the plates, though he "seemed to think more of the glasses or Urim and Thummim than he did of the plates. 'For' says he, 'I can see anything. They are marvelous.'"    (Ensign Jan. 1988 p. 44 "A new prophet and a new scripture: the coming forth of the Book of Mormon")

Words of Edward Stevenson:
"During the Prophet's visit [to Michigan, fall 1834], he came to our house. My heart swelled with love as I selected and presented him with some of our choice apples. While looking over our copy of a large English Book of Martyrs, he expressed sympathy for the Christian martyrs and a hope for their salvation. He asked to borrow the book, promising to return it when he should meet us again in Missouri. On returning it he said, "I have, by the aid of the Urim and Thummim..., seen those martyrs. They were honest, devoted followers of Christ, according to the light they possessed. They will be saved."   (Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet, p. 85)

Other people beside Joseph Smith were permitted to see the Urim and Thummim. 

Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris were able to "view the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Labon, the Urim and Thummim ...and the miraculous directors", or the Liahona.   (D.&C. 17:1)
During an 1830 trial Oliver Cowdery testified under oath, that “said [Joseph] Smith found with the plates, from which he translated his book, two transparent stones, resembling glass, set in silver bows. That by looking through these, he was able to read in English, the reformed Egyptian characters, which were engraved on the plates." , 
(A. W. Benton, "Mormonites," Evangelical Magazine and Gospel Advocate n.s. 2:15 April 9, 101)
Elder Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal that the Prophet Joseph Smith, showed him the Urim and Thummim.   
"December 27, 1841: The Twelve or a part of them spent the day with Joseph the Seer and he unfolded unto them many glorious things of the kingdom of God, the privileges and blessings of the priesthood, etc. I had the privilege of seeing for the first time in my day the Urim and Thummim."
 (Wilford Woodruff, Journal

Joseph Smith received the same Urim and Thummim that the Brother of Jared had.

"...these two stones will i give unto thee, and ye shall seal them up also with the things which ye shall write."  (Ether 3:23)  note: (Ether 3:21-28)
Prophets in the Book of Mormon had and used the Urim and Thummim, which were also called "the interperters", to translate ancient records and to also receive revelation.

It was handed down from Prophet to Prophet.   (Ether 4:1-7Omni 1:20, Alma 63:12-13)

The Prophet Mosiah had a Urim and Thummim and used it to translate the 24 plates of gold or the Book of Ether and we are told that "he can look, and translate all records that are of ancient date; and it is a gift from God. And the things are called interpreters, and no man can look in them except he be commanded, lest he should look for that he ought not and he should perish. And whosoever is commanded to look in them, the same is called seer."  (Mosiah 8:13)  note: (Mosiah 8:9-20)   (Mosiah 21:26-28)  
"And now he translated them by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow."  (Mosiah 28:11-20)

Future use of the Urim and Thummim

Orson Pratt in talking about the sealed part of the Book of Mormon said; "I expect that the same Urim and Thummim which the Lord gave to Joseph Smith will come forth with these plated, and they will be translated, but by whom I know not"  "Also the 24 gold plated of the record of the Jaredites."  (J. of D. Vol.19 p. 216 & 217)

 The Prophet Joseph Smith stated the following, at Ramus, Illinois, on April 2, 1843
The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.  
This earth, in its sanctified and cimmortal state, will be made like unto dcrystal and will be a Urim and Thummim to the inhabitants who dwell thereon, whereby all things pertaining to an inferior kingdom, or all kingdoms of a lower order, will be manifest to those who dwell on it; and this earth will be Christ’s.  
Then the white stone mentioned in Revelation 2:17, will become a Urim and Thummim to each individual who receives one, whereby things pertaining to a bhigher order of kingdoms will be made known;"  (D.&C. 130:8-10)

Where is the Urim and Thummim now?  

The Urim and Thummim were evidently returned with the plates to Moroni sometime before the year 1830.   (Doc. of Salvation. V. 3)

The Prophet Joseph Smith's Mother, Lucy Mack Smith recorded the following:

 <<  Lucy Mack Smith
(Replica of the Urim & Thummim courtesy of Steven Reed.)

 "On the morning of September 22, after Joseph had returned from the hill, he placed the article [the Nephite interpreters] of which he spoke into my hands, and, upon examination, I found that it consisted of two smooth three-cornered diamonds set in glass, and the glasses were set in silver bows, which were connected with each other in much the same way as old fashioned spectacles. . . . He [Joseph Smith] handed me the breastplate spoken of in his history. It was wrapped in a thin muslin handkerchief, so thin that I could feel its proportions without any difficulty. It was concave on one side and convex on the other, and extended from the neck downwards, as far as the center of the stomach of a man of extraordinary size. It had four straps of the same material, for the purpose of fastening it to the breast."  (References: Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith) (Lucy Mack Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (Liverpool, S.W. Richards, 1853), 101.)

An Interview with Mattin Harris by Joel Tiffany in 1859 A.D.

"They [the plates] were placed in this way: four stones were set up and covered with a flat stone, oval on the upper side and flat on the bottom. Beneath this was a little platform upon which the plates were laid; and the two stones set in a bow of silver by means of which the plates were translated, were found underneath the plates.

   "The two stones set in a bow of silver were about two inches in diameter, perfectly round, and about five-eighths of an inch thick at the centre; but not so thick at the edges where they came into the bow. They were joined by a round bar of silver, about three-eighths of an inch in diameter, and about four inches long, which, with the two stones, would make eight inches.

  "The stones were white, like polished marble, with a few gray streaks. I never dared to look into them by placing them in the hat, because Moses said that ‘no man could see God and live,’ and we could see anything we wished by looking into them; and I could not keep the desire to see God out of my mind. And beside, we had a command to let no man look into them, except by the command of God, lest he should ‘look aught and perish.’"  (Sourse:  Interview with Martin Harris, in Tiffany's Monthly, 1859,  New York: Published by Joel Tiffany, No. 6  4th Ave.   Joel Tiffany, Interview with Martin Harris, p.163-170)

 << William Smith

"When Joseph received the plates he also received the Urim and Thummim, which he would place in a hat to exclude all light, and with the plates by his side he translated the characters, which were cut into the plates with some sharp instrument, into English. And thus, letter by letter, word by word, sentence by sentence, the whole book was translated."  (William Smith, "The Old Soldier's Testimony," The Saint's Herald 31(1884):643-44.  Sermon preach by William B. Smith, in the Saints' chapel, Deloit, Iowa, June 8th, 1864. Reported by C. E. Butterworth.)

The Breastplate.

J.W. Peterson and W. S. Pender interviewed Joseph Smith's brother, William Smith, in 1891 and reported that William Smith told them the following: 

 << Golden Plates, Urim & Thummim, Box, Breast Plate. by David A. Baird, & Edit by Phil Michel
 “Among other things we inquired minutely about the Urim and Thummim and the breastplate
. We asked him what was meant by the expression “two rims of a bow,” which held the former.  He said a double silver bow was twisted into the shape of the figure eight, and the two stones were placed literally between the two rims of a bow. At one end was attached a rod which was connected with the outer edge of the right shoulder of the breast-plate. By pressing the head a little forward, the rod held the Urim and Thummim before the eyes much like a pair of spectacles. A pocket was prepared in the breastplate on the left side, immediately over the heart. When not in use the Urim and Thummim was placed in this pocket, the rod being of just the right length to allow it to be so deposited.  This instrument could, however, be detached from the breastplate and his brother said Joseph often wore it detached when away from home, but always used it in connection with the breastplate when receiving official communications, and usually so when translating as it permitted him to have both hands free to hold the plates.”      (J. W. Peterson in The Rod of Iron I:3 (February 1924), 6—7.) 

Is there any evidence that these ancient people in the Americas had knowledge of the Urim and Thummim?

 << This gold mask was found at the ancient city of Monte Albán, Oaxaca Mexico. 
What I find very interesting is that this ancient gold facemask has “two” “three-cornered”  triangles, one on each eyelid.
Why did these ancient people put triangles on each eye?  


  << Another gold Mask also discovered from Monte Albán, Oaxaca Mexico.
 << This gold mask also has carved marks in front of the eyes.  Both masks were found at the ancient city of Monte Albán, Oaxaca Mexico.  

Just by chance did these ancient people have information or some falling-away knowledge of the Urim and Thummim?


     << Lucy Mack Smith the mother of the Prophet Joseph Smith recorded the following:
“…I found that it, [the Urim and Thummim], consisted of two smooth three-cornered diamonds…[used as],
…old fashioned spectacles…”   (References: Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith)

Additional Information

  Urim & Thummim by Spencer W. Kimball, A man called to be a prophet of God in these last days, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


  How Do the Interpreters and Breastplate Support the Reality of the Plates?, (Book of Mormon Central, Knowhy 409,  (2:23 min.)