I recently had the privelage of talking with a former general authority. He was a seventy and has been released but since has joined with FAIR and the Neal A Maxwell Institute in fighting the good fight (allbeit off the record) and helping those who have strayed by confounding them. We had a great chat at his home and he was very non-contentious. We discussed many things from the first vision to American politics. One thing he brought up that was not actually one of my questions was the issue some people have about Joseph Smith translating the book with his face stuck in a hat. This thing was new to me until recently and I never really thought about it. It seemed kind of odd and it really makes the founding prophet look like more of a goofball than a respected translator, but until the apologist brought it up, it had not occured to me that it was anything but an oddity.
"Sure he translated that way! Sure he did! That is the only way he could see the stones properly. Why do people have such a problem with this. It should be common knowledge but there are people who have left the church over this."
He tried to pass it off as just part of the process, insignificant really. What matters is the truthfulness of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ brought forth in the latter day by a prophet of God called and chosen.
Is it significant?
Number one, it is significant enough that it is left out of the history. It is not taught by missionaries. It is not taught in Sunday school, yet it is the manner in which the most correct book on Earth was brought forth. To what significance do we hold the actual manners in which holy writ is brought to us? The fact that this part of the process of translation has been omitted from our history is compelling enough for me to ask more questions.
What use are the plates?
If he had to keep his face buried in the hat to shut out the light so he could read the interpreters, then what use were the gold plates? I have read that for most of the time the plates were not present and when they were they were not visible. If the characters on the plates were never looked at and translated by Joseph, then why did he even need them? Nobody saw them. The witnesses only saw with spiritual eyes and we don't even have their witnesses but a draft Smith wrote and had them sign.
So here we sit with the conclusion that the face in the hat thing is true. He did that. How did most of us learn that though? An episode of South Park. Yup. Of course it was probably dismissed as bunk because it was on South Park, but those guys aint dumb. They did not misrepresent what was going on as far as the hat went.
Does it matter?
Does the way in which the true gospel was restored in this dispensation matter? Does stuff like this being kept from us matter?
When I talked to the former GA I got the sense that he was trying to make it seem like I should have known this thing about the hat already. Crafty. " What? Oh you didn't know about the hat? Oh funny, we thought you knew about that. Common knowledge. Shouldn't raise concern. We are all cool with it so why can't you be."
For me it is just one of those things that is water off a duck's back. There are so many other things that raise more alarm that I could care less about piddling my britches over Joseph mumbling to Martin with his face in a tophat, but to pass it off as insignificant is just a device to deal with the issue without facing the problems that it creates.