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TitleUrim and Thummim
Publication TypeEncyclopedia Entry
Year of Publication1992
AuthorsHoskisson, Paul Y.
Secondary AuthorsLudlow, Daniel H.
Secondary TitleEncyclopedia of Mormonism
Place PublishedNew York
KeywordsSeer; Seer stone; Translation; Urim and Thummim
Citation Key615

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Urim and Thummim

Author: Hoskisson, Paul Y.

The Urim and Thummim is mentioned in the Bible and, with added details about its use and significance, in latter-day scriptures. It is an instrument prepared by God through which revelation may be received. Abraham learned about the universe through the Urim and Thummim (Abr. 3:1-4). The Prophet Joseph Smith "through the medium of the Urim and Thummim translated the [Book of Mormon] by the gift and power of God" (HC 4:537; D&C 10:1; JS-H 1:62). Servants of God who are allowed to use the Urim and Thummim have been known as seers (Mosiah 8:13), among whom were Abraham, Moses, the brother of Jared, Mosiah 2, Alma 1, Helaman 1, Moroni 2, and Joseph Smith.

In Antiquity at least two different Urim and Thummim existed, and possibly three. Chronologically, the brother of Jared received the first known one (D&C 17:1). This same set came into the hands of Mosiah 2 and other Book of Mormon prophets, subsequently being deposited with the gold plates (JS-H 1:35). The fate of the second set, given to Abraham (Abr. 3:1), remains unknown. Unless Abraham's Urim and Thummim had been passed down, Moses received a third set mentioned first in Exodus 28:30. The Urim noted in 1 Samuel 28:6, probably an abbreviated form of Urim and Thummim, was most likely the one possessed by Moses (cf. Num. 27:18-21). What happened to this one is also unknown, though certainly by postexilic times the Urim and Thummim were no longer extant (Ezra 2:63; Neh. 7:65).

Joseph Smith described the Urim and Thummim as "two transparent stones set in the rim of a [silver] bow fastened to a breast plate" (HC 4:537; JS-H 1:35). Biblical evidence allows no conclusive description, except that it was placed in a breastplate over the heart (Ex. 28:30; Lev. 8:8).

Urim and Thummim is the transliteration of two Hebrew words meaning, respectively, "light(s)" and "wholeness(es)" or "perfection(s)." While it is usually assumed that the -im ending on both words represents the Hebrew masculine plural suffix, other explanations are possible.

The Urim and Thummim to be used during and after the Millennium will have a functional similarity to the Urim and Thummim mentioned above. God's dwelling place is called a Urim and Thummim; and the white stone of Revelation 2:17is to become a Urim and Thummim for inheritors of the Celestial Kingdom (D&C 130:8-10).