8 – Mosiah 28: 13 — LeGrand Baker — the Urim and Thummim
Mosiah 28: 13,
13 And now he translated them by the means of those two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow.
That sounds very much like Joseph Smith’s description: “Also, that there were two stones in silver bows—and these stones, fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim” (Joseph Smith-History:35a) – – and, in fact, they clearly are describing the same thing.
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Limhi brought Mosiah a record, “engraven on plates of ore,” (Mosiah 21:27) which he translated by the aid of “two stones which were fastened into the two rims of a bow,” and which gave an account of the Jaredites.(Mosiah 28:11-19).
There is little question about their origin, but there is no information about how Mosiah got those stones except that they were a “gift from God.” (Mosiah 21:28)
They had originally been given, by the Lord, to the brother of Jared. When the Lord commanded the brother of Jared to seal up the record of his great vision, he also instructed him to include with it the Urim and Thummim so that, in the future, one who had the authority could read the record.(Ether 3:21-28) Since they were used by Mosiah for that purpose, one may assume that his “interpreters” were the same as the “Urim and Thummim” that the brother of Jared had sealed up.
But there is no evidence about when or where Mosiah received them. He got them before he was given the plates of Ether. One knows that because the king had already used them to translate the ‘large stone’ that was had engravings on it. Those writings were translated by the “gift and power of God.” (Omni 1:20-21) – the same words that describe how the Book of Mormon was translated.
The history of the Urim and Thummim (called interpreters in the Book of Mormon) is easy to trace after that. Mosiah gave them to Alma (Mosiah 28:20), who in turn gave them to Helaman (Alma 37:20-22). Each gave their successors instructions that they were to be passed down with the plates, sword, and other sacred things. There is no record of that happening, but it clearly did. In the end, Moroni says he hid the Urim and Thummim and the plates together so they could be given to the Prophet Joseph (Ether 4:1-6).
After the Book of Mormon was translated, Joseph did not return them to Moroni with the plates, but continued to use them. The latest account I know of his having them was in July 1843, about a year before Joseph died. William Clayton who was Joseph’s scribe in Nauvoo left this account of the writing of the revelation that is now D&C 132;
He [Joseph] then requested me to get paper and prepare to write. Hyrum very urgently requested Joseph to write the revelation by means of the Urim and Thummim, but Joseph, in reply, said he did not need to, for he knew the revelation perfectly from beginning to end. (Andrew Jensen, Historical Record, Vol. 5-9 [Salt Lake City, Andrew Jensen, 1886-1890], p. 225.)
That part of their history is all clear enough, but that is the only part that is clear. As far as I know, there is no evidence of what happened to them after Joseph’s death, just as there is no account of their origin, other than that they were given, by the Lord, to the Brother of Jared.
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It appears there is more than one set of stones called the Urim and Thummim (Or else there is only one and the Lord moves them from continent to continent as various people have need of them.)
There are several other references to the (or a) Urim and Thummim in the Old World scriptures. Abraham had a set by which he learned about the systems of stars (Abraham 3:1-4). There is no evidence of where he got it, or what he did with it. Moses later had one, but since Moses did not get his Melchizedek Priesthood from his Israelite fathers in Egypt, it is unlikely that they had the Urim and Thummim to give him. But one does not know that. Moses got the priesthood from his father-in-law, Jethro, who was a descendent of Abraham from another son.
Moses gave the Urim and Thummim to Aaron, who carried in the breastplate that was a part of his high-priestly garments. (Exodus 28:30, Leviticus 8:8, Numbers 27:21, Deuteronomy 33:8) Tradition has it that the they continued with the High Priests until – – – no one knows when. There is a reference to them in 1 Samuel 28:6 that says they didn’t work for King Saul. The implication is that they should have been working, but it doesn’t actually say who was using them, or even if they were really available to use. That is the last we hear of them in the Old Testament until after the Babylonian captivity. Then, there are two versions of the same story in Ezra 2:63 and Nehemiah 7:65. The story is that some people without a proven genealogy were trying to claim they were from a priestly family. The decision about what to do with them was that they could not be acknowledged as priests until their linage was confirmed by someone who used the Urim and Thummim. The implication of that postponement is that at that time there was no one who could do use the Urim and Thummim–presumably because no one had the authority, or no one even knew where they were.