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NICK - I had a question about Joseph Smith and the translation process of the Book of Mormon. I've been hearing a lot of people talk about how Joseph Smith used a top hat in the translation process I was confused about this and wanted to know what this meant.
There is actually little known about the translation process. Joseph Smith himself never described the mechanics of how he did it. All we have is second hand accounts by the scribes and others involved, sometimes written many years after the fact. Most reports state that throughout the project Joseph used the "Nephite interpreters" or, for convenience, he would use a seer stone placed in the botom of a hat (I never heard it called a top hat), supposedly to keep out surrounding light so he could see what appeared on the stone. Both instruments were called the Urim and Thummim. In an 1891 interview, William Smith indicated that when his brother Joseph used the "interpreters" (which were like a silver bow twisted into the shape of a figure eight with two seer stones between the rims of the bow connected by a rod to a breastplate), his hands were left free to hold the plates. Years after the trnslation David Whitmer indicated that words would appear to Joseph on something resembling a piece of parchment and that he would read the words off to his scribe. Sometimes Joseph dictated for long periods of time without reference to any books, papers, manuscripts, or even the plates themselves.
So there is some confusion as to exactly how it was done and we can't know how reliable the information is that was related by these people involved in it.
With regards to any historical information there is bound to be conflicting information simply because people are different and are going to remember things differently or even incorrectly, especially if they wait until years later to record it. This is why our testimonies should not be based on historical information but by the witness of the Holy Ghost. I do not have a testimony of the history of the church but of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.