SALT LAKE CITY -- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released never-before-seen images of the "seer stone" used by Joseph Smith to translate the Book of Mormon from golden plates.
The images of the small, smooth brown and black colored rock were published in a book containing the original printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon, a central text of the Mormon faith. At a news conference on Tuesday, LDS Church leaders said the pictures of the object would be included as a part of their "Joseph Smith Papers" project, a collection of documents related to the founding of the Mormon faith.
"We wondered, what do you do with a sacred object like this?" Richard Turley Jr., an assistant LDS Church Historian, said in an interview with FOX 13. "On the one hand, we wanted to treat it with sacredness and respect. On the other hand, we wanted to make it publicly available. So we settled on the balance on having a full-color image available."
The stone is believed to be one of many items Joseph Smith used when he translated golden plates into the Book of Mormon. The LDS Church has always possessed the object, LDS Church Historian Elder Steven Snow told FOX 13.
The publication of the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon is part of a collaboration between the LDS Church and the Missouri-based Community of Christ (formerly known as the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).
"The collaboration is almost 50 years in the making," said Lachlan MacKay, the Director of Historic Sites for Community of Christ.
The two faiths split after the assassination of Joseph Smith in 1844. Community of Christ obtained the original Book of Mormon manuscript in the early 1900s.
"On occasion, it's been made public," said Robin Linkhart, Community of Christ's President of the Seventy. "But very rarely and under heavy guard."
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Linkhart said her faith encourages "open, honest scholarship" of its shared history with the LDS Church. She said this latest edition of the "Joseph Smith Papers" gives people a primary source, as well as information of what went into the translation of the Book of Mormon -- including a transcription of the handwriting and annotated notes with historical context.
"It helps us understand the history surrounding the Book of Mormon, what was going on at the time," Linkhart said in an interview with FOX 13. "I find it incredibly enlightening to follow along those annotations to understand those people that were around Joseph and assisted with this process."