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Mormon Church Publishes Never-Before-Seen Photos Of “Seer Stone" Used By Joseph Smith

Pictures of the "seer stone" were released Tuesday as part of an effort by the Mormon church to be more transparent.

Posted on August 4, 2015, at 5:35 p.m. ET

Rick Bowmer / AP

It's a small, brown rock that's roughly the size of an egg, but to Mormons it's also a sacred relic used by the church's founder, Joseph Smith, to translate the word of God.

The never-before-seen image of the "seer stone" was released Tuesday by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as part of a book containing photos of the first manuscript of the Book of Mormon, the text that is the basis for the religion.

"The picture brings a kind of tangibility to something that has been previously been talked about just in words," Richard Turley, a church historian, told the Salt Lake Tribune.

Rick Bowmer / AP

According to Mormon theology, Joseph Smith used the stone and other tools in 1829 to translate gold plates engraved with ancient script he found buried in upstate New York. The translated work became the Book of Mormon, a text Mormons believe tells of Jesus Christ's time in North America.

According to the church, the stone was passed down from Smith to Brigham Young, the second president of the church, whose wife donated it to the church upon his death.

The church says it is working to make every document produced by Smith or his scribes available to the public.