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Mormon Discussion: 317: Dowsing Rods, Banded Jasper, and Gizzard Stones

Today we tell a story.  This story involves the Seer Stone used for the translation of the Book of Mormon but a story you likely have never heard.  We set all the messiness of Mormonism aside and instead focus deeply on the Seer Stone itself.  This small rock has a history of its own and that history runs billions of years into the past.  Find out today on Mormon Discussion how Dowsing Rods, Banded Iron Jasper, and Gizzard Stones all play a major role in Joseph Smith finding perhaps the most unique stone on planet Earth!


Dan Vogel – Chapter 4 Slippery Treasures

The Surprising Geology of Joseph Smith’s Brown Seer Stone


14 thoughts on “Mormon Discussion: 317: Dowsing Rods, Banded Jasper, and Gizzard Stones”

  1. If this stone is so special, then why don’t the other Q15 who are alive use the thing? They wait to be commanded?…but to be commanded they need to use the stone?

    Perhaps that is why there hasn’t been any revelation for so long….

  2. Bill, You totally lost me in this episode. I couldn’t tell if you were being a straight-up believer, or if you were being sarcastic about this story? I don’t mean for this to come across as overly critical. I’ve listened to you for years and love your perspective. But you talked in the podcast about these water magicians being very dramatic in their presentation, and yet I felt like that’s exactly how you were presenting this story—talking in an over-dramatic voice about the details, almost like you were reading a fictional novel to a class. In the preface you said (paraphrasing) “I have something today that’s going to bring you back in”. Are you saying that this story about the seer stone is bringing more belief to you about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon? And bringing you back to church? Because for me, it was interesting, but did nothing. It only added more mental gymnastics to the equation. I also couldn’t tell if the episode was a reading of something you wrote? Or if you were reading the magazine article to which you were referring? I kept waiting for your conversational commentary at then end, where you recap how you feel about these details. But then it was just this weird audio “and now you know the facts”….which made me think the whole podcast was sarcastic?
    Maybe I’m alone here, but I honestly don’t know how to interpret this.
    On the flip side, thank you as always for sharing on your podcast. I’m happy to support it and really value the ways you’ve helped me navigate my own Mormonism. Just trying to make sense of this one.
    Thanks from Texas,

    1. The story is a faithful story. It encourages belief. I have my own biases but didnt want those to get in the way. So I told the facts and emphasized the charlatan nature of those aspects that indicate a treasure digging scam and emphasized the extreme coincidenceness (likely not a word) of those aspects that are and yet should not have been. I have always tried to be honest and not withhold data simply because it doesn’t fit my current ground. I told this story in its fullest and am proud of this episode as it demonstrates by objectiveness

  3. Ah… the seer stone (BoM) how rare a possession.

    Talking about imbuing a stone with magical properties. No wonder we were able to get the BoM out of the seer stone. Just the scientific explanation alone is dumbfounding.

  4. See several of the comments by geologists in the Meridan article. This story about the nature of the stone– outside it being banded iron jasper– is not credible. I have a similar stone in my room. No words or other messages received. But, still a fun story– a flight of fancy.

    1. it seemed the two who claimed expertise were both critical of the certainty but at least one had no better idea of what it was without “testing it”

      1. Occam’s Razor Bill. These skeptical geologists are highly likely to be right. I also noted that this type of stone has deposits just north of New York and was likely deposited by glacial activity then rounded by water flow (streams or glacial melt). Much more believable than the marathon dinosaur theory.

  5. Hi Bill,

    Thankyou for your excellent group of podcasts.

    I would like to challenge you to rethink your assumptions. At no point in this version of events do the brothers Smith seem to exhibit their expertise in conning people. Likewise, there is no evidence the rock was unearthed from the depths described.

    If the fabulous brothers Smith are self aware enough to realize they can’t detect water with a y shaped stick, I think we should not denigrate their intelligence by assuming they do not have a plan B.

    In another episode you describe a plausible narrative of events surrounding the gold plates story. Were the Smith’s just too lazy to have a plan B for the well digging money venture?

    For the sake of rethinking the narrative, just assume the dinosaur ultra marathon you describe didn’t actually happen. Doesn’t that lead to a much simpler explanation?

    Best regards

  6. This episode was bizarre and confusing…and life-altering for me. I couldn’t tell if you were being sarcastic or if you were becoming a true believer again. I had waves of panic as I thought I was hearing you change your position. Your podcast (along with others) has been my lifeline and has put words to my frustrations with the Mormon church in a way that I couldn’t do on my own. This episode was so important for me. What I realized while listening is that I will never go back. I don’t believe it—and even if my trusted sources double down and go back, I will not. I can’t. I don’t miss it, rather, I felt dread and FEAR thinking that I was trying to be persuaded by this episode to believe. THANK YOU!! Whatever your intent was with this episode, it was monumental for me, personally. Keep up the good work! I look forward to the release of each new podcast.

    1. You stated the very words I felt as I recorded this. The evidence and the unhealthiness is so severe and monumental that even a dynamic faith promoting story here or there does the argument little good.

  7. I couldn’t help but notice the similarities in the unlikely journey of the triceratops which led to the the depositing of that so-called gizzard stone, and the incredible (but unlikely) journey Moroni would have had to make to deposit the gold plates in western NY.
    I am not sure what you were trying to get across, but it makes me wonder if the the rock which the LDS church shows is actually the same one Joseph was reported to have, or if it is a more modern relic. I wouldn’t put it past the leadership to invent something to “promote faith”. Thanks for the episode!

  8. I recently came across your podcast and am just starting to go through some of your shows. Most recently I listened to “Mormon Discussion: 317: Dowsing Rods, Banded Jasper, and Gizzard Stones” which I enjoyed for its new perspective on the origins of ‘seer stones’ in Mormon history, esp. the Willard Chase stone.

    I have some issues with parts of your narrative that I would like to review with you.

    Firstly: New York state and the upper American mid-west were covered by the Laurentide Ice Sheets thousands of feet thick that periodically advanced and withdrew. Over millennia these north-south glacial movements gouged out the Finger Lakes region, much of the Great Lakes, and left dozens/hundreds of large glacial drumlins as recently as 10,000 years ago. The Hill Cumorah being just one of them. The glaciers left deep deposits hundreds of feet thick of mixed gravels and assorted soils.

    The geologic periods and eras of the New York State area are well known along with the types of deposits each era left behind.

    Thus “Most of New York State is underlaid by sedimentary rocks: sandstone, shale, limestone, and conglomerate. This tells us that much of geologic history, of the state was under water, especially during the Paleozoic Era between 500 to 300 million years ago.”

    The Chase seer stone, as you noted, is a banded jasper of a type commonly found far to the west of New York State. I’m not aware of formations of this kind in NY state, although it might be possible. Banded jasper deposits typically occur in Montana, parts of Wyoming and Nebraska. As others have noted the shape of the Chase stone does not have the faceting one would expect from a glacial cobble. Rather, the smooth surface texture is what one would find from a stream bed where running water smoothly erodes the stone.

    This is an example of a smooth jasperized banded iron stone from the Seminoe Mt area of Wyoming smoothed by water erosion:

    True gastroliths, on the other hand, are typically found in clusters, and in association with appropriate fossils. Neither of these essential conditions are met with the Chase stone.

    In reality we know nothing of the actual provenance of the Chase stone. All we have is a dubious, self-serving story involving a stone from the midwest, being found 15ft deep in ground-up glacial debris, but is itself perfectly smooth and polished with nary a scratch.

    Glaciers advanced and receded in a north-south direction. Believers must explain how a stone travels 1500 miles, west to east, to end up 15ft down in a glacial tumulus, in pristine condition, to be precisely found millenia later by a convicted ‘glass-looker’?
    At what point does credulous gullibility become an option??

    So what is an alternate hypothesis for the origin of the Chase stone that meets reasonable tests of possibility? I propose the following:

    1. It is well known that for millenia Indian tribes maintained extensive trade routes, often foot trails, that criss-crossed the country and extended into Meso America.

    2. One day an Indian is exploring along the Platt River and notices a beautiful striped stone in the river. Similar stones are found there today:

    The Indian retrieves the stone, recognizes its value, and trades it with other tribes. The stone makes its way across the country and perchance ends up in the NY State area.

    3. J. Smith is noted for his lifetime fascination with all things Indian. Somewhere Smith acquires the stone, perhaps buying it from local Indian tribes passing through. Now he just has to set up a magical discovery scene complete with witnesses.

    4. Enter Mr. Chase who, in 1822, wants a well dug (some statements assert it was in reality a treasure dig). A well may only accommodate one digger at a time. Willard digs for awhile, gets tired, and comes up for a rest. Joseph goes down the ladder to relieve Willard taking with him his newly acquired seer stone in his pocket. He digs around for awhile and ‘plants’ the stone under some loose dirt. Willard goes back down, and Eureka!, he finds the magic stone –
    And the rest, as they say, is history!

    I submit the above as a more plausible explanation for the origin of Willard’s stone than gastroliths and witching rods, and since the church won’t allow independent microscopic examination of the stone we’ll have to be content with maybe never knowing for sure.

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