Return to TREASURES PAST

 

 

photograph by Rick Grunder, 1991 - © 1991 RICK GRUNDER — BOOKS

 

 

SEER STONE OF JOSEPH SMITH, handed down through private hands to the present day (1991). Apparently acquired by Joseph Smith in the 1820s before translating the Book of Mormon in Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania.

Greyish-ivory-colored stone of irregular oval shape, approximately 5 cm. in length by 4 cm. thick. Marked with small irregular dark grey indentations and green deposits. With a large hole extending through the stone, terminating in three small apertures created by embedded stone particles. The apertures function like primitive lenses when held close to the eye.

SOLD (1993):: $75,000::

THE FAMOUS BELCHER-SMITH-DIBBLE-PIERCE STONE, said originally to have been found at Salina, New York, taken to Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, and there purchased from the owner by Joseph Smith before he translated the Book of Mormon. Near the time of the martyrdom, this stone was acquired by a survivor of the Missouri mobs, Philo Dibble, who also made the death masks of Joseph and Hyrum. Dibble later exhibited the stone, death masks and other historical objects on lecture tours which he conducted in Utah Territory.

Early Mormon seer stones are of the greatest rarity and importance. The lure and lore of "magic stones" have of course fascinated people throughout history. According to Brigham Young, Joseph Smith had three seer stones during the early part of his life. Judging from numerous other accounts, these would have been the white, opaque stone, of which nothing has been heard since 1900, the present "green" stone now offered here, and the brown stone which, according to David Whitmer and other friends of the Prophet, was used to translate much of the Book of Mormon and which is kept in the First Presidency's vault in Salt Lake City. Modern studies based on writings by faithful early members of the Church suggest that Joseph Smith took his seer stones very seriously, and sometimes used them to receive revelations. For documentation and analysis of the above, see Quinn (below, citing statements by Brigham Young and others in the Church Archives), and David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ . . . (Richmond, Missouri, 1887), p.12.

 

PROVENANCE

Anonymous owner, Salina, New York (immediately north of Syracuse).

Purchased by Jack BELCHER, of Gibson, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania (ca. early 1820s).

Purchased by Joseph SMITH, Jr., of Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania (ca. 1825).

Acquired from Joseph Smith or the Nauvoo Mansion House near the time of Joseph's death by Philo DIBBLE.*

David DIBBLE, son of Philo Dibble.

James Madison PEIRCE (1850-1934; brother-in-law to Loran Dibble, son of Philo Dibble).

Louise Workman PEIRCE (widow of James Madison Pierce).

Norman Clifford PIERCE [surname spelling changed] (1906-76; nephew of James Madison PEIRCE); acquired the seer stone in 1936.

The children of Norman Clifford PIERCE.


* Based on the description by James B. Buck, prominent early Susquehanna County settler, the original Belcher stone is generally viewed by historians as being the same, Dibble-Pierce Stone which is now offered here for sale. The haunting origins of this stone were recorded in Buck's account quoted by Emily C. Blackman . . .

The stone which he afterwards used was then in the possession of Jack Belcher, of Gibson, who obtained it while at Salina, N.Y., engaged in drawing salt. Belcher bought it because it was said to be "a seeing stone." I have often seen it. It was a green stone, with brown, irregular spots on it. It was a little longer than a goose's egg, and about the same thickness. When he brought it home and covered it with a hat, Belcher's little boy was one of the first to look into the hat, and as he did so he said he saw a candle. The second time he looked in he exclaimed, "I've found my hatchet!" — (it had been lost two years) — and immediately ran for it to the spot shown him through the stone, and it was there. The boy was soon beset by neighbors far and near to reveal to them hidden things, and he succeeded marvellously. Even the wanderings of a lost child were traced by him — the distracted parents coming to him three times for directions, and in each case finding signs that the child had been in the places he designated, but at last it was found starved to death. Joe Smith . . . bought the stone of Belcher and then began his operations in directing where hidden treasures could be found. His first diggings were near Capt. Buck's saw-mill, at Red Rock; but, because his followers broke the rule of silence, "the enchantment removed the deposits."

 

LITERATURE ON THE BELCHER/DIBBLE STONE

BLACKMAN, Emily C. History of Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania . . . Philadelphia: Claxton, Remsen & Haffelfinger, 1873, p. 577.

BUTLER, Jon. Awash in a Sea of Faith; Christianizing the American People. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1990, p.244, with illustration.

KRAUT, Ogden. Seers and Seer Stones. [Salt Lake City, n.d.], pp. 57-9, with two illustrations.

Millennial Star, Volume 11, pp., 11-12, cited by Kraut.

PIERCE, Norman C. LETTER to Wilford C. Wood, 5 February 1937, and STATEMENT, 24 November 1934. Reel 16, Film 413, Wood Papers, LDS Church Archives, cited by Quinn.

QUINN, D. Michael. Early Mormonism and the Magic World View. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1987, pp. 39-41, 195- 200, and illustration Figure 9.

 

 

Return to Treasures Past