Sunday, February 21, 2021

February 15-21: D&C 14-17

This week's lesson covers revelations given to David, John and Peter Whitmer, Jr., as well as the revelation to the Three Witnesses. We'll discuss those below.

First, though, the lesson mentions the move from Harmony to Fayette. In the section of the manual shown below, the manual says "Oliver reached out to" David Whitmer because he felt that Harmony was no longer safe.

Maybe Oliver felt that way, but Lucy Mack Smith says Joseph received a revelation through the Urim and Thummim to contact David Whitmer. 

I find it astonishing that the manual (as well as the Saints book and other references) omit this critical part of the history. It's inexplicable to me because the lesson quotes from Lucy Mack Smith's history several times.

One explanation could be that Lucy describes Joseph applying the Urim and Thummim to his eyes and looking on the plates. This directly contradicts the currently popular claim that Joseph used a seer stone in the hat (SITH) to translate instead of the Urim and Thummim. We have faithful LDS historians who claim Joseph didn't use the Urim and Thummim, didn't use the plates, and didn't really translate anything, but merely read words that appeared on the stone. 

Whether that narrative, or some other unknown motivation, prompted the lesson manual to omit Lucy's account, I can't tell. But it is an important part of Church history so I include it below.

Here is an image from the manual.

Here is what Lucy reported.

In the mean time Joseph was 150 miles distant and knew naught of the matter except an intimation that was given through the urim and thumim for as he one morning applied them to his eyes to look upon the record instead of the words of the book being given him he was commanded to write a letter to one David Whitmore [Whitmer] 

this man Joseph had never seen but he was instructed to say him that he must come with his team immediately in order to convey Joseph and his Oliver [Cowdery] back to his house which was 135 miles that they might remain with him there untill the translation should be completed for that an evil designing people were seeking to take away Joseph’s life in order to prevent the work of God from going forth among the world 

This was accordingly done and the letter received and Mr Whitmore showed it to his Father mother sisters and brothers and asked their advice as to what it would be best for him to do 

This is a completely different narrative from the one we read in the manual and the Saints book. Instead of Oliver Cowdery taking the initiative out of fear for safety, the Lord warned Joseph through the Urim and Thummim that people were plotting to kill Joseph. 

And instead of reading words off a stone in a hat, Joseph was looking on the plates with the Urim and Thummim, just as he and Oliver (and the scriptures) claimed all along.

Sections 14, 15 and 16 are revelations for individuals comparable, in a way, to our patriarchal blessings. These sections are generic enough to apply to each of us, yet they are specific in terms of what we should all be doing.

4 Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God.
5 Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.
6 Seek to bring forth and establish my Zion. Keep my commandments in all things.
(Doctrine and Covenants 14:4–6)

Latter-day Saints could revolutionize the world if we each sought "to bring forth an establish my Zion." Everyone in the world seeks for Zion, but they don't know where to find it. Most don't even have the idea that a Zion society is possible. I'm not sure many Latter-day Saints think that, actually. 

The October 2020 General Conference discussed aspects of Zion that we haven't heard in a long time. I've blogged about that on my Zion blog:


Section 17 is intriguing.

1 Behold, I say unto you, that you must rely upon my word, which if you do with full purpose of heart, you shall have a view of the plates, and also of the breastplate, the sword of Laban, the Urim and Thummim, which were given to the brother of Jared upon the mount, when he talked with the Lord face to face, and the miraculous directors which were given to Lehi while in the wilderness, on the borders of the Red Sea.
2 And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old.
3 And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them, by the power of God;
(Doctrine and Covenants 17:1–3)

Here, the Lord commands the Three Witnesses to testify of "them," presumably referring to the artifacts listed in verse one. However, the Testimony of the Three Witnesses mentions only the plates. 

Why is that?

Lucy's account, which she describes with detail and indicia of reliability and credibility, mentions only the plates.

The next morning after breakfast was over we repaired to the setting room and after attending the morning service Joseph approached  with a solemnity which thrills through my veins to this day whenever it comes to my recollection. 

 said he you have got to humble yourself before your God this day and obtain if possible a forgiveness of your sins and if you will do this it is his will that you and  and  should look upon the plates, 

soon after this these four left and went into a grove a short distance from the house— here they continued in earnest supplication to God untill he permitted an angel from his presence to bear to them a message declaring the truth of the pretensions which Joseph made with regard to the plates which were at the same time shown to them by the angel

They returned to the house it was betweeen 3 & 4 o’clock 

 &  and  were sitting in a bedroom I sat on the bedside when Joseph came in he threw himself down beside me !— !— said he you do not know how happy I am 

The Lord has caused the plates to be shown to 3 more besides me who have also seen an angel and will have to testify to the thuth [truth] of what I have said for they know for themselves that I do not go about to deceive the people and I do feel as though I was relieved of a dreadful burden which was almost too much for me to endure, but they will now have to bear a part and it does rejoice my soul that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world. 

Much later (after Lucy dictated her history), at different times and places, the Three Witnesses testified in various ways that they had seen these other artifacts. Oliver saw them when he and Joseph entered the depository of Nephite records in the Hill Cumorah in New York. David claimed these objects were laid on a table when they saw the plates in Fayette. Martin Harris was more vague, but made at least one statement to the same effect.

It's possible that all three witnesses saw all the artifacts listed in verse 1 at the same time they saw the plates, but that doesn't explain why they violated the commandment to testify about those things or why Lucy didn't mention them, why Joseph didn't mention them to her, etc.

Maybe Joseph and the witnesses didn't mention the other artifacts because they wanted to deter treasure hunters, but the plates alone were plenty of incentive for the "adventurers from Rochester" who sought the plates. 

Another possibility is that these men saw the artifacts on another occasion, together or separately, maybe after they signed the Testimony of Three Witnesses. That would explain the absence of the artifacts from the official testimony and Lucy's failure to mention them. 

The original version of this revelation is not extant. We know that some of the revelations were changed after they were initially recorded, so it's possible this one was, too. Maybe the original revelation mentioned only the plates, with those listed after "and also" added later after their additional experiences.

With current information, we cannot tell what happened or when. Multiple working hypotheses remain possible. 

The end. 

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