To me, the most interesting thing about the seer stone that Joseph used when translating the BoM is not that he used it but that it is really just a rock. From what I understand, if you or I were to pick it up, we couldnâ€™t tell it apart from any other smooth rock of similar color. To be blunt, thereâ€™s just really nothing special about it in and of itself.
I am also intrigued by the idea that the seer stone played a role in Josephâ€™s development as a prophet. Bushman offers his theory about it in RSR, so go there for the details. Essentially, because of his folk magic background, somehow JS could focus his spiritual tuning using the stone, but as his abilities improved, he no longer needed the stone because he learned to tune his spiritual faculties directly in line with revelatory channels and without the stone. The stone was a tool that Joseph outgrew.
It seems to me that our reading of scripture is very similar. Any book of scripture is just a book. Itâ€™s just ink in the shape of words on a page. Thereâ€™s nothing magical about it. No special revelatory ink just as the seer stone has no special chemical composition. And just like Joseph and the seer stone, what we get out of reading scripture is related to what we believe we will get out the process. Iâ€™m not saying that inspiration flashes cannot ever come whenever there is doubt, or that inspiration necessarily comes when there is faith. Iâ€™m just making a general claim as a starting point. What you get out of reading the scriptures usually depends on your faith in the process itself.
But what does this imply? First, not everyone will get the same thing out of reading the scriptures, just like we all wouldnâ€™t get the same thing out of a stone. Joseph got revelations through a stone, but I probably never would even if I had the same stone. Itâ€™s just not the mechanism that generates inspiration for me.
Second, tremendous baggage can inhibit successful scripture reading just as it does stone gazing. If I donâ€™t believe the stone will yield a revelation, it probably wonâ€™t. Similarly, if a person just doesnâ€™t believe that scriptures will produce inspiration, then itâ€™s very unlikely they will. So when I say baggage, I mean past experiences, opinions, and so on, that you bring to the scriptures when you read but that can also inhibit the inspirational flow. For example, my wifeâ€™s BoM and D&C baggage is pretty heavy because those books have so few women. She gets little or no inspiration from them. She prefers the OT and NT because they are just more inspirational for her.
Third, maybe it is possible to move beyond scripture reading like Joseph moved beyond the seer stone. What do you think of this idea? Perhaps people eventually move beyond the scriptures. For example, I just donâ€™t imagine God reading scriptures. That said, I wonder if moving beyond the scriptures is pretty far off. At least, I donâ€™t see it happening to me anytime soon. I think text has a clear advantage over stone as a revelatory tool. Text has a storyline and message with various levels of meaning, so it provides directional focus for the mind, which to me is the most tricky thing to control when it comes to receiving revelation. A stone just doesnâ€™t give most people that sort of direction.
Fourth, if text is better than stone, then maybe there is something better than text. Sure you can say the HG is better. But is there some other concrete thing you can hold and interact physically with that is better than scriptural text?