Fayette Lapham wrote that Joseph used 'spectacles' to translate and to see the past, present, and future.

May 1870
Fayette Lapham
2nd Hand

Fayette Lapham, "The Mormons," Historical Magazine, 2d ser., 7 (May 1870), 307-8

Historical Magazine
Martin Harris, Fayette Lapham, Joseph Smith, Jr.
Reading Public

Under the first plate, or lid, he found a pair of spectacles, about one and a half inches longer than those used at the present day, the eyes not of glass, but of diamond. On the next page were representations of all the masonic implements, as used by masons at the present day. The remaining pages were closely written over in characters of some unknown tongue, the last containing the alphabet of this unknown language. Joseph, not being able to read the characters, made a copy of some of them, which he showed to some of the most learned men of the vicinity.

. . .

Returning home, he one day tried the spectacles, and found that, by looking through them, he could see everything—past, present, and future—and could also read and understand the characters written on the plates. Before proceeding to translate the characters, Joseph was directed to choose twelve Apostles, who must be men who believed in the supernatural.

. . .

Joseph succeeded in finding the requisite number of believers, among them Martin Harris, who was chosen Scribe. . . . [H]e and Martin went to Harmony, in Pennsylvania, where they would be less persecuted, and where Joseph, with spectacles on, translated the characters on the gold plates, and Harris recorded the result.

After thus translating a number of plates, Harris wanted to return to Palmyra, taking a part of the writings with him; but the Lord objected, for fear that Harris would show them to unbelievers, who would make sport and derision of them. But Harris finally obtained leave to take them, on condition that he should let no one see them, except those who believed in them: in this he was indiscreet, and showed them to some one that he ought not to. When he next went to his drawer to get them, behold! they were not there; the Lord had taken them away. Joseph and Harris returned to Harmony, and found the plates missing—the Lord had taken them also. Then Joseph put on the spectacles, and saw where the Lord had hid them, among the rocks, in the mountains. Though not allowed to get them, he could, by the help of the spectacles, read them where they were, as well as if they were before him. They were directed not to re-translate the part already gone over, for fear the new work would not correspond, in every particular, with the old; their enemies might take advantage of that circumstance, and condemn the whole. But they could begin where they left off, and translate until they were directed to stop; for, in consequence of their indiscretion, they would not be allowed to translate the whole, at present. At some future time, they would be allowed to translate the whole; and then their translation, the gold plates, the gold hilt, ball and pointers could all be circulated together, each a witness of the others.

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