Joseph’s Orb: Undeniable Sign of Truth?

I am at a loss. I can’t find the logic in a statement found in Mormon Times (or the article that follows it). Maybe the Mormon Coffee community can suss this out and make some sense of it for me.

Mormon Times reported that at the BYU Studies Symposium a couple of weeks ago Paul Callister, associate professor of law/library director at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, shared his fascination with, and knowledge of, orbs. Mormon Times said,

“[Callister’s] interest led him to research orbs — and how they are connected with Joseph Smith’s Urim and Thummim and seer stone.

“In fact, Callister said that Joseph’s use of an orb, a seer stone, is an undeniable sign of the truth of the Book of Mormon.”

Callister reportedly talked about the artistic depiction of orbs throughout history as a symbol of authority. Then,

“‘Why did Joseph Smith have the … seer stone?’ Callister asks. ‘Why did he have to have them? And why don’t we have them today?’

“The seer stone, along with the sword of Laban and other things, serve the same symbolic function as they did with the ancients: ‘They are signs of his authority,’ Callister said. ‘It’s a way to plead his case.’

“Orbs have always historically symbolized two things, according to Callister: knowledge and authority.

“So where are the symbolic orbs showing authority today? There is an orb substitute.

“‘We have the book produced by the seer stone,’ Callister said.

“A real orb equates, at last, with a real book — bridging the symbolic and the tangible — spanning the knowledge of God and the authority of God.”

What I don’t understand is how Joseph Smith’s use of an orb, a seer stone, is “an undeniable sign of the truth of the Book of Mormon.” Smith used an “orb” for hire when he unsuccessfully sought to discover buried treasure for his employers, as well. What “undeniable truth” does this orb-use confirm?


(Many thanks to grindael for the graphic used above.)

About Sharon Lindbloom

Sharon surrendered her life to the Lord Jesus Christ in 1979. Deeply passionate about Truth, Sharon loves serving as a full-time volunteer research associate with Mormonism Research Ministry. Sharon and her husband live in Minnesota.
This entry was posted in Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith. Bookmark the permalink.

71 Responses to Joseph’s Orb: Undeniable Sign of Truth?

  1. Janet says:

    Martin stated, “Given that I received this by direct revelation through prayer from God by the Holy Ghost, would you care to discuss this aspect of my “personal revelation”?

    Matin, of course MJP does what so many Evangelicals do, “How did I come to know Jesus? I came to know Jesus from studying the Bible and looking at my own life.”

    How refreshing it is to finally have someone admit direct revelation through prayer, given witness by the Holy Ghost. There need not be any discussion since I totally agree with this scenario. Now wether you agree with Mormonism or not is irrelevant to the fact you know that Jesus is the Christ through personal revelation. You see any church that proclaims to be true, must have as it’s foundation the belief in revelation, otherwise a simple statement of confession that it was through being led to the Bible, and in it the word of God spoke to me is somewhat disingenuous.


  2. falcon says:

    I have given my “personal testimony” of “my personal revelation” of Jesus Christ countless times here on this blog, including a truly miraculous occurance. I’m not going to do it on demand from a Mormon now for one basic reason; it’s never enough for a Mormon. It doesn’t matter if it’s a personal testimony or volumes of documented evidence Mormons do a “Ho Hum” dismissal and the Christian always ends-up feeling had.
    I’ve been down that road with Mormons too many times on this blog to realize that what the Lord has reminded me of is true which is “don’t throw your pearls before swine.” I understand that’s pretty rough but when you’ve experienced the mockery and scorn from Mormons after you have risked some self-disclosure and made yourself vulnerable I say leave them in their sins.

  3. MJP says:

    Janet, do not misrepresent what I said. I got there from the Bible and looking at my own life.

    In other words, from the Bible I realized how empty my life was without Christ and how my actions were worthless.

    This is very different from the prayer Mormons encourage others to make to determine if the BoM is true.

    I’ll allow you to figure out why, and ask that you present my story accurately.

  4. falcon says:

    You have just demonstrated what I was talking about in my above post. I was talking with Andy Watson today, a sometimes contributor here, and he described in exact terms what you just wrote as his experience with hardcore Mormons. They’ll act interested in hearing your testimony in a feigned sincerity. Once obtained they will mischaracterize and shape your words to support their own warped view of reality. This is a religion that isn’t up front with recruits regarding such basic things as their heretical view of the nature of God. It’s a deceitful spirit that is the driving force behind this religion.

  5. MJP says:

    Falcon, yup. That is exactly what she did. She wasn’t even very good about, it either. She had to make a lot of assumptions and put some words in my mouth to make her conclusion. In my restating my original comments, I actually changed very little. I got a kick out of it, to be frank.

    I was also, for the record, very honest in my story. It was about control, and I still struggle with that. But what is most amazing about God is how much better relying on his guidance is than by doing it all ourselves… I am living proof of that.

  6. Janet,

    I read your post a couple of times, and I’m sorry but I still don’t understand it.

    Are you asking a question?

    Are you putting forward your viewpoint?

    What are you trying to say?

  7. I just wanted to thank grindael for the quote from Charles M Larson, including…

    Faith may go beyond reason, but does not go against it.

  8. falcon says:

    I guess what we’re dancing around here is whether or not God approves of people using magic rocks or divination rods to conjure-up spiritual entities or to peek into the spirit world. I know that the God who reveals Himself in Isaiah 43:10-13 and Isaiah 44:6 doesn’t approve of such activity. However it appears that the Mormon god is full-bore on this sort of thing.
    When we read through the NT, especially the Book of Acts, it’s important to note that none of the disciples of Christ ran about the country side with magic rocks using divination to receive revelation from the Lord. In Galatians Paul tells us that he didn’t receive the Gospel of Jesus Christ from man but that it was “revealed” to him. Paul goes on to tell us that he later went up to Jerusalem and submitted his revelation to the apostles to see if he had been running in vain. They confirmed the Gospel message that Jesus revealed to him. Everyone who comes to Christ in faith does so by means of divine revelation. God’s Word, the Bible, confirms this personal revelation. No magic rocks, no divination rods in the time of the apostles. Such things as this were seen as practicing magic. In Acts 19:19 those who had been practicing magic brought their magic books and burned them.
    So we get back to the question to “Who is the source of the power which Mormons claim?” This is answered by asking another question, “Who is the Mormon god?” We see that the source of “revelation” in Mormonism is a former sinful man who through his own efforts became one of a countless numbers of gods. Early Mormons acknowledged the occult foundation and connection of their religion by placing on the alter at the Mormon temple dedication in Manti, the magic rock Joseph Smith used in his divination activities. Mormon temples don’t have the cross as a symbol but reject it in favor of occult images.
    For Mormons there’s always (to them) a plausible explanation for their religions embracing of the occult. These excuses will wilt under the gaze of Our Lord on that Day.

  9. Enki says:

    Thank you for your comments about the LDS faith and its appeal to American culture and history. LDS church members just take this so seriously. At times it seems a little too seriously. I would agree that its probably a fair constitution, but I can clearly see its a man made document.

    Being raised LDS in the United States it was difficult for me to see until I had significant time away. Travel to another country helped significantly, Investigating other religions and philosophies helped also.

    I am surprised that the LDS faith has attracted any converts in other countries. I am assuming that the Americanisms are toned down a bit. Have you noticed if the LDS appeal to local customs and nationalism in other countries?

    Australia has had some English influence, like the united states and Canada right? Isn’t the queen on current currency? I had never heard of the ‘Orb’ being in association with legal matters, have you? Is there anything in Aboriginal culture that indicates an orb as having any authority?

  10. Enki commented

    Being raised LDS in the United States it was difficult for me to see until I had significant time away.

    I’ve also had the privilege of looking at my mother culture from the “outside”. You’re quite right, it’s an eye-opener, but you get to assess what is good and what needs work. I do wish, however, that the 15% or so of Americans who actually hold a passport would actually use it and get some exposure to the non-American world.

    Have you noticed if the LDS appeal to local customs and nationalism in other countries?

    From what I’ve seen, Mormonism overseas is not presented as the “American Way”, however it is presented as the “Christian way”. I have not noticed any attempt by Mormonism to co-opt native culture. There’s a broader discussion about whether an American church’s mission presents the Christian Gospel, or simply exports American culture, but Mormons are certainly not the sole culprits of the latter.

    Regarding the “Orb”, I can’t say it has any meaningful cultural reference to me (as an Englishman). The only significant reference might be to the orb and sceptre that’s presented to the Queen (or King) on their coronation.

    In terms of aboriginal culture, I understand that, interestingly, its a culture without artefacts (e.g. there’s no physical archaeology, and personal possessions are not valued in the same way that westerners value them) . So the occurrence of an artefact, such as an orb, might not be perceived as significant in any way. I guess that if a person was perceived as significant, they would be marked out by a spiritual episode, rather than possession of a particular type of artefact.

    So, no, an Orb is not a universally recognised sign of authority.

  11. Sharon, I attended this presentation at the BYU Studies Symposium and enjoyed it very much. I debated about adding my comment here because I’m not sure anyone really wants further clarification on what was said — it seems perhaps this post is simply a jumping-off point for denigrating the Mormon Church.

    But to anyone who might actually care, Callister used a series of several classical paintings to show how books, tablets, scrolls, and orbs were interchangeable in fine art as symbols of authority and knowledge. Since attending his talk, I have noticed this connection in other paintings as well. I thought his conclusion was interesting and didn’t seem to contradict the Christian understanding of the urim and thummim in the OT and the white stone in the book of Revelation. For a Mormon who believes in the authority of the Book of Mormon as a scriptural record, its association with an orb is fascinating.

    The talk made internal sense and was very masterfully presented. I realize that none of you believe the truth claims of Mormonism, but I think it is a shame that you would use this presentation, which you did not attend, as a way to diss the religion.

  12. Enki says:

    I have limited understanding of aboriginal culture, but there are archaeological sites associated with that culture. Doing a simple google search revealed at least 5. One is 70,000 years old! while its true, they may have related to objects differently from western culture, they did leave behind physical signs of their presence.

    Going to another country was an eye opener for me, no doubt about that. There are some places within the U.S. borders which could provide some cultural variation. Going to Yupik, Inupiaq, or Athabascan villages would provide something different. Its difficult for some people to imagine that there could be Americans with English as a second language, and not be an immigrant or children or grandchildren of any.

    Its difficult to separate the influence of a culture on another. In the state of Alaska, new foods, clothing, language came with new religion(s) and government. Actually this happened also with Russian occupation before the U.S. purchase. Its probably impossible for christian missionaries to convert people in other countries without a cultural overlay of their home culture.

  13. bored in vernal commented

    Callister used a series of several classical paintings to show how books, tablets, scrolls, and orbs were interchangeable in fine art as symbols of authority and knowledge

    …the consideration of the symbolic vernacular of a particular art genre might be interesting, but it’s possibly a different topic.

    What I mean is, it should be expected that, for example, rennaisance art (is this what Callister referred to in his references to “fine art”?) should have common themes and symbolisms that speak to the narrative of its time. I’m thinking of skulls representing death, keys representing authority, serpents representing deceipt and so on. These features of rennaisance paintings add to environment and body posture to enable the artist to tell his story.

    We should also expect that the european symbolic vernacular is quite different from the Arabic or Chinese vernacular. For example, to the european the dragon signifies a monstrous threat, but to the Chinese it signifies power and well-being.

    The question that baffled Sharon is how Joseph’s use of the Orb can be interpreted as an undeniable sign of the truth of the BoM.

    Callister may well have come to an artistic interpretation of his own (which is his prerogative), but he appears to project his interpretation onto the truth-claims of the BoM.

    Furthermore, the strategy of appealing to an artistic interpretation goes against the strident, literalist claims of the Mormon fathers, who asserted that the BoM is not simply and artistic interpretation, but an absolute, tangible truth that leaves no leaway for interpretation, artistic or otherwise; the “most correct book in all the earth”.

  14. callistr says:


    Thanks for covering the Mormon Times posting about my paper presentation at the recent BYU Symposium. This is a little bit like the telephone game, and I hope I can clear up some confusion.

    My paper has some origins in law and semiotics (I have another paper on the subject), and so, when I used the word sign, I was not referring to a “sufficient evidence or proof” but to the act of signing or a signal. The regal orb and the oracular objects of the Book of Mormon, and as held by Joseph Smith, function in a similar way in that they “sign” dominion, authority, and access to knowledge.

    I don’t remember how my exact statement was about an “undeniable sign,” which Michael DeGroote paraphrased. I may have misspoken, but my message was that the mere presence of the seer stones follows a pattern used to claim authority. It is as it were to put one’s claim in the proper form. Whether evidence supports the claim is another matter.

    Addressing other comments, I doubt whether anyone in the audience really bases their belief or testimony on Joseph seer stones. LDS beliefs come from an epistemology grounded in the Holy Ghost, rather than miracles, after the tradition of Peter’s experience in the New Testament. The whole exercise of the paper presentation was to gain additional understanding by comparing traditions of signs (as in semiotics), not to prove the existence of the seer stones, the veracity of the Book of Mormon, or even the reality of European orbs that functioned as oracular instruments.

    Thanks for the coverage.


  15. Thanks for the input and clarification, Paul.

  16. grindael says:

    The orb is nothing more than a representation of world domination … see:

    The article states this:

    “Why did Joseph Smith have the … seer stone?” Callister asks. “Why did he have to have them? And why don’t we have them today?”

    The seer stone, along with the sword of Laban and other things, serve the same symbolic function as they did with the ancients: “They are signs of his authority,” Callister said. “It’s a way to plead his case.”

    Where do you find anywhere, that a small misshape n peep stone found in a well could be related in any way to the symbolism of the ROUND orb and that by making this totally wrong assumption it would show some ‘sign of authority’ for Smith. This whole argument is silly. The middle ages were full of symbolism – for example they painted Mary Magdelene many times with a skull. This is another attempt of a Mormon reading way more into something than is really there, trying to tone down the fact that Smith used an OCCULT instrument, a magick peep stone – to translate his Book of Mormon. I find the disclaimer by Mr. Callister interesting… if he isn’t trying to prove anything …. than why associate peepstones with orbs. Why did they do it in Mormon Times? They had to get the connection from somewhere. And calling a seer stone a ‘urim and thummim’ has so many things wrong with it, it would take too long to go into here. This whole line of thought by Mormons is misleading and false.

  17. quamipj123 says:

    I think everyone should take a step back and try to understand WHY you are attacking the Church. Many of the things you are discussing can be interpreted SOOOO many ways…much like many of the scriptures in the Old and New Testaments. People against the Church can argue their points all the day long, while members of the Church could argue back all the day long. I am comfortable with my beliefs. I try my best to understand issues that others have with the Church, but one thing I can’t understand is the time and effort that some people put into trying to prove our Church wrong. As a people, we try to do what Jesus taught. We love Him. We believe we are doing what He wants us to do. We try to be peaceful and helpful to those around us. If you have found the teachings of the Church disagreeable or unsatisfying to your own person then so be it. But I KNOW Jesus did not teach us to speak evil of others. And most people claiming to be Christian, including those commenting on this site, know this. He taught us to be compassionate and loving, forgiving and peaceful. I’ve found God in my life, and I owe this to the principles that our Church teaches. They don’t teach me to be evil or hurt others. They don’t teach me to be mindless or reliant on others’ testimonies. I have found what I believe to be true through my own experiences with God. Please consider these things as you comment on another’s beliefs.

  18. Mike R says:


    You made some valid points.At times the dialogue
    on this blog can be less than respectful by some.
    Please remember that this is a forum open to all,
    and because of that there can be those with
    different experiences with individual Mormons
    or a postion taken by the leadership of your
    church.As a result emotions can vary.

    I agree with you that Mormons do have a love for
    God, and are striving to obey His standards.
    I think though that given the authoratative claims made by your leaders, their claims, not their lifestyle, needs to be evaluated by all those who love God and His Word. Did not
    Jesus issue a warning to beware of those
    who would claim the title of “prophet” ?
    Would that not be because not every prophet
    is actually sent by him? Though moral and very likeable, a prophet/teacher can be inaccurate
    in his teachings about God and how to gain
    eternal life. The apostle Paul’s heart ached
    for those who would be led into receiving such false teachings. As your own apostles have
    made clear, that to believe a false teaching
    on a fundamental doctrine would be a very
    dangerous position to be in.
    I would encourage you to examine the articles on the main page of this ministry to see if in
    fact the authoratative claims of LDS prophets and apostles are true to God and His word.Thank you.

  19. grindael says:


    You said:

    “They don’t teach me to be evil or hurt others…”

    Perhaps a few quotes from some prophets might help you understand? These are for your consideration, please look them up.

    “I say, rather than that APOSTATES should flourish here, I WILL UNSHEATH MY BOWIE KNIFE, and CONQUER OR DIE. (Great commotion in the congregation, and a simultaneous burst of feeling, assenting to the declaration.) Now, you nasty apostates, clear out, or judgment will be put to the line, and righteousness to the plummet. (Voices, generally, ‘go it, go it.’) If you say it is right, raise your hands. (All hands up.) Let us call upon the Lord to assist us in this, and every good work.” (-Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 1, page 83)

    Why was REVENGE taught in the Temple Ceremony?

    This oath was in the temple ceremony for over 80 years was so potentially dangerous that it was completely removed in 1927.

    Just after the turn of the century, Mormon leaders were questioned in court at great length concerning this oath by the United States Government. The investigation produced eye witness accounts which verified that the oath of vengeance against the United States was an obligation received by Temple Mormons in substantially these words:

    “You and each of you do covenant and promise that you will pray and never cease to pray Almighty God to avenge the blood of the prophets upon this nation, and that you will teach the same to your children and to your children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.” (The Reed Smoot Case, vol. 4, pp. 495-496)

  20. grindael says:

    Even your former prophet Jos. F. Smith, was so wrought up by what he was taught that he almost stabbed a man for APPROVING of Smith’s murder. Not participating in it, only approving of it. He had his hand on the knife…how does this reconcile with what Jesus taught?

    “About 4:30 p.m. this meeting adjourned and was followed by a meeting of Presidents Woodruff, Cannon and SMITH and Bros. Lyman and Grant….Bro. JOSEPH F. SMITH was traveling some years ago near Carthage when he met a man who said he had just arrived five minutes too late to see the Smiths killed. Instantly a dark cloud seemed to overshadow Bro. Smith and he asked how this man looked upon the deed. Bro. S. was oppressed by a most horrible feeling as he waited for a reply. After a brief pause the man answered, ‘Just as I have always looked upon it—that it was a d—d cold-blooded murder.’ The cloud immediately lifted from Bro. Smith and he found that he had his OPEN POCKET KNIFE GRASPED IN HIS HAND in his pocket, and he believes that had this man given his approval to that murder of the prophets HE WOULD HAVE IMMEDIATELY STRUCK HIM TO THE HEART.” (Daily Journal of Apostle Abraham H. Cannon, Dec. 6, 1889, pages 205-206 )


    How can you believe that this is a ‘good tree’ that would bear ‘good fruit’? I would urge you to read your church history. I urge you to do your own research. Don’t believe me, it will not help you. Just see for yourself if these things were taught. How could anyone accept that a temple oath of secrecy to cut your own throat before you revealed it’s secrets could be from Jesus? It has now been modified, but was this inspired from God? You must ask yourself these questions to understand why we post the things we do here.

  21. grindael says:


    I understand Jos. F. was the son of Hyrum, who was murdered with Joseph. But did the apostles (some brothers of Jesus) encourage others to take vengence? It demeans the whole message of Jesus.

Leave a Reply