“The plates could not have been used directly in the translation process. The Prophet, his face in a hat to exclude exterior light, would have been unable to view the plates directly even if they had been present during transcription.
“A mental picture of the young Joseph, face buried in a hat, gazing into a seer stone, plates out of sight, has not been a generally held view since the early days of the Church. The view raises some difficult questions. Why, for example, was such great care taken to preserve the plates for thousands of years if they were not to be used directly in the translation process?”
~Richard Van Wagoner and Steve Walker, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought – Summer 1982 15:53 “Joseph Smith: ‘The Gift of Seeing’”~