D&C 6 Oliver Cowdery and You
In 1829 Joseph and Emma Smith were living near Emma’s parents in Harmony, Pennsylvania. Almost 300 miles away, 22-year-old Oliver Cowdery became acquainted with the Smith family in New York, and learned about Joseph and the gold plates. Oliver prayed and gained a great desire to go to Harmony to meet Joseph. He arrived April 5, 1829. At this point—after the loss of the 116 pages the previous summer—Joseph had essentially nothing to show for his role as translator, even though it had been 18 months since he first obtained the plates. Two days after Oliver’s arrival he began serving as Joseph’s scribe, as the translation of the gold plates commenced once again. They completed the translation less than three months later, at the end of June 1829.
Verse 6 begins, “Now, as you have asked…” and the Lord gives a revelation full of instructions, accompanied by sublime promises.
- Find in verses 6-7, 9, 18-20, 33-37 the things the Lord told Oliver (and sometimes Joseph, as well) to do. Which of these things do you feel can apply in your life?
- Find the Lord’s promises in verses 7-9, 13, 20, 32-34, 37. Which of these promises have particular meaning for you?
While still in New York, Oliver had received an answer from God about the truth of Joseph Smith’s calling. Now in Harmony, he was seeking greater confirmation and testimony, and the Lord kindly offered more. Read the Lord’s beautiful, sweet words to Oliver (and to us) in verses 14-17, 21-24.
- What do you learn from these verses about revelation from God?
- What evidence do you see of the Lord’s patience and love?
The Lord promised Oliver more than a dozen blessings in this section, which were to be conditional, based upon Oliver’s faithfulness (see verses 7, 9, 13, 20, 30, 33). But in 1838 Oliver left the Church. In 1848 he returned and sought to be re-baptized. The Lord and His leaders accepted Oliver’s repentance and he was baptized. Two years later he died in the faith. Although Oliver had a period of being untrue to the Lord’s words and work, he came back and was received with loving arms. This can be true for any who return from their spiritual wanderings.
D&C 6:32-27 Fear Not
Section 6 ends with these tender, transcendent utterances from the Lord to these two choice young men:
- “I [am] in the midst of you” (verse 32).
- “Fear not to do good, my sons” (verse 33).
- “Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail” (verse 34).
- “Look unto me in every though; doubt not, fear not” (verse 36).
- “Keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven” (verse 37).
Do you feel that the Lord is in your “midst”? Does it sometimes feel like “earth and hell” are against you? How does the Lord help you to “fear not”? What does it mean to you to “look unto [the Lord] in every thought”?
D&C 7 “As Flaming Fire and a Ministering Angel”
Read the section heading and John 21:20-23. In response to Jesus’s question, the Apostle John asked if he could remain alive on earth, so that he could continue to “bring souls” to the Lord (see D&C 7:1-2). The Lord granted John’s request, saying he would “tarry until I come in my glory,” (verse 2; meaning until the Second Coming; this is also the case with the translated Three Nephites; see 3 Nephi 28:4-32, 37-40). In addition to bringing souls to Christ, the Lord revealed other things John would do, and that he presumably continues to do in our day:
- “Thou shalt prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people” (verse 3; see also Revelation 10:11; no explanation is given of how, when, or where this has been or will be fulfilled).
- John would do “a greater work among men than what he has before done” (verse 5; again, we are left without specifics).
- He would “minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on earth” (verse 6; apparently referring to John’s role as a helper of some nature to Church members and others on earth).
- With Peter and James, John would be given “power and the keys of this ministry until I come” (verse 7; perhaps a reference to the role of these three meridian-day apostles in the restoration of the priesthood to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery—which happened within the next month or two—as well as other roles in the latter-day work).
As with the nine Nephites (see 3 Nephi 28:1-3), Peter had asked the Lord to take him into His kingdom after his (Peter’s) death (see D&C 7:6). It is interesting that the Lord did not point out to Peter (nor to the nine Nephites) that his request was not as altruistic as John’s desire; He simply said, “ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired” (verse 8). God, in His perfect love, does not compare, condemn, nor chastise Peter; he simply grants him his righteous desire, because it was a source of joy to Peter.
D&C 8 “Whatsoever Thing You Shall Ask”
Section 8 is another example of the Lord’s willingness to give us what we ask for in righteousness—always according to His will and timing. Thus, He gave Oliver Cowdery the opportunity to attempt to translate the gold plates. Some of the principles in this section may only apply only to the translation of “old records” (verse 1), but other principles appear to pertain to all gifts of the Spirit, including personal revelation. For example:
- “Surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith” (verse 1).
- “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost” (verse 2).
- “Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith” (verse 10).
We see that faith in God is a prime principle for gaining revelation, as the Lord uses the words “faith,” “believing,” and “doubt not” six times in this section.
D&C 9 “Be Patient, My Son”
After the Lord gave permission in Section 8, Oliver attempted to translate, but failed. The Lord told him in 9:3 that “it is not expedient that you should translate at this present time.” This prompts the question, So why did the Lord allow Oliver to try? Sometimes the Lord gives us what we ask, allowing us to learn along the way.
According to verses 5-11, what else did the Lord teach Oliver about this experience? What do you see in these verses that can apply to your life?
The “burning of the bosom” and “stupor of thought” (verses 8-9) appear to pertain to the process for translating ancient records, and may not apply to us as we seek to make inspired decisions or to receive spiritual answers.
President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “We hear the words of the Lord most often by a feeling. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings” (Ensign, April 1988, p. 4). People have varying ways in which they feel the Spirit. Surely it is wise to “study things out in our minds” and then ask the Lord “if it is right” (verse 8), but again, answers come differently, depending on the person and the circumstance. However, a constant principle throughout the scriptures is the importance of feeling peace.
D&C 9:10-14 “Neither of You Have I Condemned”
As we saw in Section 7 with John the Beloved and Peter, these verses in Section 9 also reflect the Lord’s gentle treatment of His imperfect children. After Oliver failed in his attempt to translate, the Lord didn’t tell Oliver that he was wrong to ask, nor did He use belittling language as he sought to further educate Oliver. He simply said:
- “It is not expedient that you should translate now” (verse 11).
- “I have given unto my servant Joseph sufficient strength…. And neither of you have I condemned” (verse 12).
- “Do this thing which I have commanded you [to serve as a scribe], and you shall prosper” (verse 13).
- “Stand fast in the work wherewith I have called you … and you shall be lifted up at the last day” (verse 14).
Without this experience, Oliver may have continued in his desire to translate, perhaps even becoming distracted, discouraged, or resentful. But the Lord allowed Oliver to learn by experience, then continued to use him as a beloved, trusted, faithful servant. How does the Lord lovingly tutor you along your way?