“Unit 3: Day 4, Joseph Smith—History 1:66–67; Doctrine and Covenants 6–7,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2017)
“Unit 3: Day 4,” Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Study Guide
In the spring of 1829, the Prophet Joseph Smith felt a sense of urgency about the translation of the Book of Mormon. He had found his time to translate severely limited because of the need to work to support his family. Emma and Joseph’s brother Samuel helped by acting as scribes, but they could not do this full time. Joseph had been entrusted with the plates for more than a year and a half and, with the loss of the 116 manuscript pages, had only a few pages of translated material to show for it. Joseph prayed that the Lord would send someone who could assist him in the work of translation. In response to Joseph’s prayer, the Lord sent Oliver Cowdery to serve as a scribe.
The revelations in Doctrine and Covenants 6–7 were given shortly after Oliver Cowdery’s arrival. Doctrine and Covenants 6 contains counsel to Oliver concerning his role in the Lord’s work. Doctrine and Covenants 7 contains a translated version of some writings by John the Beloved, teaching that the Lord granted John’s desire to live and bring souls to Jesus Christ until the Second Coming.
Revelation from God is sometimes compared to light. If revelation from God or an answer to prayer is like light, compare the following descriptions and think about which best represents how it has felt when you have received revelation or answers to your prayers:
The immediate light that comes when you turn on a lightbulb
The gradual light that comes from a sunrise
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles used this analogy to teach about personal revelation:
“A light turned on in a dark room is like receiving a message from God quickly, completely, and all at once. Many of us have experienced this pattern of revelation as we have been given answers to sincere prayers or been provided with needed direction or protection, according to God’s will and timing. Descriptions of such immediate and intense manifestations are found in the scriptures, recounted in Church history, and evidenced in our own lives. Indeed, these mighty miracles do occur. However, this pattern of revelation tends to be more rare than common.
“The gradual increase of light radiating from the rising sun is like receiving a message from God ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ (2 Nephi 28:30). Most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time and is granted according to our desire, worthiness, and preparation. Such communications from Heavenly Father gradually and gently ‘distil upon [our souls] as the dews from heaven’ (D&C 121:45). This pattern of revelation tends to be more common than rare” (“The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 88).
- Ponder times when the Lord has answered your prayers immediately and times when He has answered gradually. Write in your scripture study journal about one of your experiences.
As you study Doctrine and Covenants 6, look for truths that will help you recognize when God is giving you revelation.
Read Joseph Smith—History 1:66–67, and look for how Oliver Cowdery came to know about the Prophet Joseph Smith and the work that he was doing. Oliver traveled from Palmyra, New York, to meet Joseph in Harmony, Pennsylvania, more than 140 miles away (see Church history map 1, “Northeastern United States”).
Shortly after Oliver began acting as scribe for Joseph, Joseph received a revelation in which the Lord spoke to Oliver. This revelation addressed Oliver’s desires and apparently answered questions he had prayed about but had not expressed to Joseph. Read Doctrine and Covenants 6:5–6, 8, and look for indications that the Lord knew Oliver’s desires.
- In your scripture study journal, answer the following question: What do Doctrine and Covenants 6:5–6, 8 and Oliver Cowdery’s effort to journey 140 miles tell us about him?
Ponder whether you have ever received an answer from God and then later experienced concerns or confusion regarding the answer.
In Doctrine and Covenants 6:10–13 we see that the Lord told Oliver Cowdery that Oliver had the gift of revelation. Read Doctrine and Covenants 6:14–17, 20, and mark what the Lord taught Oliver about receiving and recognizing revelation.
- In your scripture study journal, write two or three truths you identified in Doctrine and Covenants 6:14–17, 20 that can help you understand how to receive or recognize revelation.
Compare what you wrote in your scripture study journal to some of the following truths that are contained in these verses:
As we seek answers from Heavenly Father, He will give us instruction (see D&C 6:14). “Instruction” can refer to ideas or understanding that comes to our minds as well as experiences that can lead us, prepare us, or help us reach the proper decision.
The Lord will enlighten our minds through the Holy Ghost. The phrase “enlighten thy mind” (D&C 6:15) means that through the Holy Ghost, the Lord will give us ideas and understanding. You may want to mark this phrase in your scriptures.
God knows our thoughts and the intents of our hearts (see D&C 6:16).
When we have received revelation, we should treasure it up in our hearts. To “treasure up” the Lord’s words (D&C 6:20) means to value the Lord’s words—to study, ponder, and act on the things the Lord reveals and to trust the revelation we receive.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 6:21–24, and search for another way the Lord communicates with us.
Fill in the blank with what you found: The Lord speaks to our minds as a witness of truth. You might want to mark the phrase that teaches this truth in Doctrine and Covenants 6:23.
Ponder the following question: How might we sometimes overlook or dismiss the Lord’s answers to our prayers?
Elder Bednar expanded on the analogy of the sunrise to help clarify how communication from the Lord often comes:
“Sometimes the sun rises on a morning that is cloudy or foggy. Because of the overcast conditions, perceiving the light is more difficult, and identifying the precise moment when the sun rises over the horizon is not possible. …
“In a similar way, we many times receive revelation without recognizing precisely how or when we are receiving revelation” (“The Spirit of Revelation,” 89).
It was not until after the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 6 was received that Oliver Cowdery told the Prophet about “the night” that the Lord referred to in verse 22. Joseph Smith recorded, “After we had received this revelation, Oliver Cowdery stated to me that after he had gone to my father’s to board, and after the family had communicated to him concerning my having obtained the plates, that one night after he had retired to bed he called upon the Lord to know if these things were so, and the Lord manifested to him that they were true, but he had kept the circumstance entirely secret, and had mentioned it to no one; so that after this revelation was given, he knew that the work was true, because no being living knew of the thing alluded to in the revelation, but God and himself” (in History of the Church, 1:35).
- Think about times in your life when you have felt your mind enlightened or felt peaceful about something you were praying about. Write about an experience in your scripture study journal; then consider writing some of these memories down in your personal journal.
Consider how remembering these experiences and trusting in the personal revelation you have received in the past can help you in the future when you are in need of revelation or guidance.
In Doctrine and Covenants 6:25–31 we learn that the Lord told Oliver Cowdery that if he desired, he could have the gift of translation. The Lord also called him to stand with the Prophet Joseph Smith and “bring to light this ministry” as a second witness of the Restoration. If you were Oliver, what feelings might you have had as you heard the responsibility the Lord was placing upon you?
Think about situations when you may have felt doubtful or fearful about something the Lord wanted you to do, such as when you were sitting on the stand in a Church meeting and waiting to give a talk, feeling prompted to share the gospel with a friend, or knowing you needed to apologize to a family member for something you did or said.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 6:32–37, and search for the counsel the Lord gave Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery concerning doubts and fears in doing the work they were called to do.
One principle we can learn from this counsel is that as we look unto Jesus Christ, we can overcome doubt and fear. (Doctrine and Covenants 6:36 is a scripture mastery passage.)
- In your scripture study journal, write a short (less than one page) talk based on Doctrine and Covenants 6:36. You might describe practical ways to follow the counsel in this scripture mastery passage. You could use sources such as the Topical Guide or Guide to the Scriptures, True to the Faith, or even family members to help you write your talk. Include a personal example of the Savior helping you overcome doubt or fear. Ask your parents if you can share the talk you prepared during a family home evening.
Sometime during April 1829, while Oliver Cowdery was helping the Prophet Joseph Smith with the translation of the Book of Mormon, he and Joseph had “a difference of opinion … about the account of John the Apostle, mentioned in the New Testament [see John 21:20–23; where the Savior referred to John’s request to remain upon the earth until the Second Coming], as to whether he died or continued to live” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 1:35–36).
Beyond what is described in these verses, nothing has been revealed about the specifics of John’s ministry, whereabouts, or achievements as a translated being, so it is not appropriate to speculate about them.