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I'm not aware of any reference predating Phelps' identification, although Phelps, reading Hosea chapter three, equated Urim and Thummim with Teraphim and "sacred spectacles or declarers" in the July 1832 Evening and Morning Star. But, yes, Bitton and Arrington are guilty of following the later accounts.

Regarding the nature and function of the Urim and Thummim, FARMS scholars often cite Cornelis Van Dam, The Urim and Thummin: A Means of Revelation in Ancient Israel (Eisenbrauns, 1997). I haven't read it, so I cannot comment further.

Matthew Roper discusses it, however, here.

By happy coincidence, I'm also breezing through Saints Without Halos (Signature Books, 1982), another Arrington and Bitton work, where I stumbled across this passage written by Joseph Knight, Sr., concerning his conversation with Joseph Smith, Jr., the morning of September 22, 1827, when the latter returned from his eventful evening. Joseph told him:

It is ten times Better then I expected. Then he went on to tell the length and width and thickness of the plates and, said he, they appear to be gold. But he seamed to think more of the glasses or the urim and thummim than he Did of the plates for says he, I can see anything. They are Marvelous.
But again, no footnote giving the source, only a short ten-line bibliographical note covering the whole chapter on Knight. I would guess this quote is taken from a referenced Dean C. Jessee article, "Joseph Knight's Recollections of Early Mormon History," BYU Studies 17 (Autumn 1976): 29-39.

If Knight's statement were from a journal entry written by Knight in 1827, it would be very supportive of the statement made by Arrington and Bitton in The Mormon Experience that the eyeglasses were termed "Urim and Thummim" when they were actually used, rather than retrospectively. But I suspect Knight's words are from his own later recollections of those events, colored by the post-1832 use of the term "Urim and Thummim." In fact, that is hinted at by his use of two terms for the interpreters, "glasses or the urim and thummim," in line with the original description of them as glasses or eyeglasses and a later identification of them with the Old Testament "Urim and Thummim."

Knight's account was written sometime between 1833 and 1847, according to Dean Jessee. So it's a late source.

Dave,

I picked this up at our library on account of your review. I am finding it a good companion to our Gospel Doctrine study this year. Good stuff.

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