Saturday, January 30, 2021
January 25-31: D&C 6-9
The events revolve around Oliver Cowdery.
As you read and discuss these sections, notice the interaction between Oliver, Joseph and the Lord. In Palmyra, the Lord spoke directly to Oliver, prompting him to go to Harmony, Pennsylvania. When he arrived there, the Lord gave him further revelation through Joseph Smith.
This pattern demonstrates the relationships between us and God, us and the Church, and God and the Church. Each relationship has a purpose.
As D&C 6 teaches, we have a direct relationship with Christ.
Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind;
But the Lord also speaks to us through the prophets, as shown in the rest of these verses:
and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth;
Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.
I tell thee these things as a witness unto thee—that the words or the work which thou hast been writing are true.
(Doctrine and Covenants 6:15-17)
Another important aspect of these sections involves the translation of the plates. Note this significant verse:
25 And, behold, I grant unto you a gift, if you desire of me, to translate, even as my servant Joseph.
26 Verily, verily, I say unto you, that there are records which contain much of my gospel, which have been kept back because of the wickedness of the people;
27 And now I command you, that if you have good desires—a desire to lay up treasures for yourself in heaven—then shall you assist in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity.
(Doctrine and Covenants 6:25–27)
Here, we see that Oliver had a gift to translate "even as" Joseph did. In section 8, the Lord elaborated at little more:
you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit.
2 Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
(Doctrine and Covenants 8:1–2)
This teaches us that Oliver would receive a knowledge of the engravings, which suggests learning the language on the plates. He would learn the language in his mind and in his heart, which "is the spirit of revelation."
Key point #1: the Lord did not say or imply that Oliver would read English words that appeared on a seer stone.
Instead, Oliver would learn the language by revelation, using his mind and his heart. This parallels the later revelations that we should "seek learning, even by study and also by faith."
(Doctrine and Covenants 88:118)
In Section 9, after Oliver failed to translate, the Lord explained further, re-emphasizing that the translation required effort and involved by the mind and the heart.
7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
(Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–8)
What could Oliver study if not the "engravings" mentioned in Section 8?
Apparently, Oliver had thought the English words would be provided if he merely asked. That's the way the "sprout" or divining rod works (see below). That's the way the "stone in the hat" worked.
But that's not how the translation took place.
Joseph explained that after he got the plates, he studied the characters or engravings: "immediately after my arrival there [in Harmony] I commenced copying the characters off the plates. I copied a considerable number of them, and by means of the Urim and Thummim I translated some of them..."
(Joseph Smith—History 1:62)
Oliver had a "gift... to translate, even as my servant Joseph." He would have had to do as Joseph did; i.e., study the character on the plates. Instead, he thought he could translate by merely asking, which didn't work. This is another indication that no actual translation was accomplished by simply reading words that appeared on a stone.
Section 9 includes another important insight when the Lord told Oliver, "because you did not translate according to that which you desired of me, and did commence again to write for my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., even so I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record, which I have entrusted unto him.
2 And then, behold, other records have I, that I will give unto you power that you may assist to translate."
(Doctrine and Covenants 9:1–2)
Here, the Lord discusses two separate records.
"This record" consists of the abridged plates that Joseph and Oliver were translating. These are the plates that Joseph obtained from Moroni's stone box on the Hill Cumorah.
"Other records" are not specified here, but were to come in the future. Oliver would "assist to translate" them.
As we'll see next week, these "other records" were the plates of Nephi that Joseph would receive in Fayette.
Key point #2: Joseph translated the abridged plates in Harmony, from the first plate (the Book of Lehi, which was on the 116 pages Martin Harris lost) to the last plate (the Title Page). Joseph returned those plates to the "messenger" (never identified as Moroni) before moving to Fayette. In Fayette, the messenger gave Joseph the plates of Nephi (which we call the "small plates") which Joseph translated in the Whitmer home.
As indicated in D&C 9:2, Oliver did assist to translate the "other records" of the plates of Nephi, although there were other scribes in Fayette as well, including Emma and the Whitmer brothers John and Christian.
Note on Oliver's gift. In Section 8:6, the Lord recognized that Oliver had "another gift, which is the gift of Aaron." The first version of this revelation said this was the "gift of working with the sprout," referring to a divining rod.
A divining rod, or sprout, works by asking a question and holding the rod so it can point in a direction or bow down. Such rods are commonly used even today by farmers and wilderness workers to find water. Some use them to find other objects as well.
It is a completely different gift from the gift of translation. Neither Joseph nor Oliver could translate simply by asking--or by simply reading English words on a stone in a hat.
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