Urim and Thummim are lots in the pouch of the priests (High Priest? I don't remember) in the Old Testament. Not sure what "lot" is in this context but I am imagining some kind of dice. In any case, sometimes the lot were cast and the result seen as manifestation of divine will. Revelation.

The interpreters (on the breastplate which Joseph Smith got together with the plates) were clear stones you would look into and see something. Joseph Smith used them to translate the Book of Mormon, and I suppose there could be some other revelations he had through them.

The connection is both are physical objects used to inquire God and receive revelation, but that's about it. It's not even obvious whether or not the Urim and Thummim were stones (right?). The interpreters are more like the Liahona than the Urim and Thummim in my mind. The Book of Mormon, as far as I am aware, doesn't use the term "Urim and Thummim", nor does any angel that visited Joseph Smith (right?). The interpreters appear in the Book of Mormon from nowhere, as far as I am aware, King Mosiah just happens to have them.

So why did (I assume Joseph Smith) start calling them "Urim and Thummim"? Just to give them a biblical name or is there something more to it? And when did this association start?

  • The Urim ("lights") and Thummim ("perfections") were gemstones that were carried by the high priest of Israel on the ephod / priestly garments. They were used by the high priest to determine God’s will in some situations. They are first mentioned in Exodus 28:30 then Leviticus 8:8. See also Numbers 27:21 and Deuteronomy 33:8. Under 'Interpreters' in the BoM it refers you to Mosiah 8:13 and to the Bible Dictionary for Urim and Thummim. – Lesley Nov 27 '20 at 11:34
  • I found this question at BH.SE which puts me somewhat at ease: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/q/25617/36303 I forgot the Urim and Thumim were on/in "the breastplate of judgement". There is also mention of them not giving an answer to Saul, which seems inconsistent with dice or lots which were drawn from a pouch. So my guess, since the interpreters are in a breastplate, and the Nephites had temples, that it's their version of the OT "breastplate of judgement" with Urim and Thumim. Also, I am dumb. It says Urim and Thummim in D&C 10:1, so that association is done very early by Jesus. – kutschkem Nov 27 '20 at 14:14
  • There's a lot of question marks in your post and one of the reasons to close a question is that there's more than one. Which question do you want answered? Why the Urim and Thummim are called such is a very different question compared to why Joseph Smith used the names and when their association with him began. – JBH Nov 29 '20 at 23:07
  • @JBH Hmm for me "Why are they called Urim and Thummim?" and "Why did Joseph Smith call them Urim and Thummim?" are the same question, do you disagree? And the question of when seems very connected to the why. Even then, there are three question marks, and I would argue at most two questions. The other ones are just to mark where I have assumptions that might be wrong and therefore invalidate the question. – kutschkem Nov 30 '20 at 7:07
  • Why they're called Urim & Thummim is a question from Old Testament and Hebrew history. Why Joseph called them that is irrelevant, he used the name for them they'd already been given (it's like asking "why was a pencil named a pencil" and "why do we call them pencils today?") On the other hand, when their association with Joseph began is a different question. (And the VTC reason doesn't care how many question marks there are, if there are more than one....) – JBH Nov 30 '20 at 15:41

Well, a simple search would have revealed that the association is (contrary to the question claiming otherwise) made in D&C 10:1:

1 Now, behold, I say unto you, that because you delivered up those writings which you had power given unto you to translate by the means of the Urim and Thummim, into the hands of a wicked man, you have lost them.

And even earlier, Moroni himself in Joseph Smith - History 1:35:

35 Also, that there were two stones in silver bows - and these stones fastened to a breastplate, constituted what is called the Urim and Thummim [...]

I also found this question on BH.SE which has the following insights which are somewhat consistent with Joseph's Urim and Thummim:

  • the OT's Urim and Thummim were on or in a breastplate
  • they could give complex answers, and in one case also no answer
  • some views say they were actually the twelve stones and illuminated to give answers, some more exotic views even speaking of letters moving on the stones

But all in all, it's not clear what they were, the Bible doesn't tell much about them, just that they were in some relation to the breast plate of the high priest and were used to inquire God.

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