Sunday, January 31, 2021

Doctrine and Covenants 10-11

Hearing the Voice of the Lord

It’s time to play “Jeopardy” again!  It will be like the American TV game show, except the questions are not trivial.  Here's how the game goes: You give an answer, and your family members or class members have to guess what the question is. If they can't figure it out, give them the reference so they can look it up. The first answer tells us our topic.

Answer: According to the Bible Dictionary, without it, all would be guesswork, darkness, and confusion.
Question: What is revelation?

“Continuous revelation from God to his saints…makes possible daily guidance along true paths and leads the faithful soul to complete and eternal salvation in the celestial kingdom… Without revelation, all would be guesswork, darkness, and confusion.”  (Bible Dictionary, p. 762)

Answer: Quoting Joseph Smith, “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even [this person] may know all things as he is able to bear them.”  (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 149)
Question: Who is the least saint?

You and I are the least saints.  We are able to receive as much revelation as we can prepare for.  The topic of this game is one that we need to understand or we really will be in spiritual jeopardy! That topic is how to prepare to receive revelation.

Answer: In 1991, he said, “No one of us can survive in the world of today, much less in what it soon will become, without personal inspiration.”  (Conference, Oct ’91)
Question: Who is Boyd K. Packer?

Our lesson outlines six steps to take us from confusion to revelation.

1. Study the matter in your mind

Answer: According to Joseph Smith, this man became “exceedingly anxious to have the power to translate bestowed upon him.”
Question: Who is Oliver Cowdery?

Section 8 is the Lord’s answer to Oliver’s request to translate.  He said yes.  Read aloud D&C 8:1, 10-11.  What happened with Oliver Cowdery and his desire to translate?  (He was not able to do so immediately, so he gave up and went back to being scribe.  The Lord then took away the gift from him, without his ever having learned how to exercise it.  The Lord did not criticize him, but used the incident to teach him about revelation.)

The Lord had told him that according to his faith it would be done.

Oliver had faith!  Oliver Cowdery had a testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet.  He knew that God had answered the question in a glorious way.  He had the faith to inquire of God himself.

He went to Pennsylvania to meet Joseph and found himself immediately acting as a scribe for him, having only known Joseph for a matter of days.  What he did not know about was the other half of faith: all the work Joseph had exercised along with his belief. 

In Joseph Smith-History, Joseph describes the prayer that initiated the Restoration in 2 verses (JS-H 1:15-16).  In 4 verses he describes the answer he received – the First Vision (JS-H 1:17-20).  But he spends 8 verses describing the time spent studying the problem in his mind (JS-H 1:8-15). 

Point out these words: serious reflection, great uneasiness, I attended…as often as occasion would permit, in process of time, at length…he even thought ahead about what place would be the best place to offer his prayer.

When it came to translating the golden plates, Oliver came into the picture at the point where Joseph was translating so fast that Oliver hardly had time to dip his pen in the ink.  It looked so easy.  But he had not been there to see the months that Joseph had spent learning to translate, poring over the characters, looking for similar ones, doodling with them on paper, struggling to learn what they meant. (More on that below.)  It’s like going to a concert and hearing a great violinist play a masterwork.  We may say, “I’d give half my life to play like that,” when that, in fact, is what the violinist has done.  We don’t see the preparation, the work, the frustration, the years of lessons.  We just see how easy it looks now.


Read aloud D&C 9:7-10.

The Lord kindly took away the gift from him without his having learned how to use it, and left in its place a great lesson for him and for all of us.

The scripture said,“If you had known this…”  So why didn’t the Lord tell him when he started to translate?

To answer this question, I'll tell a story. When our daughter, Camille, was six, she wanted to use a Bible flannel board kit we had bought for her part of family night.  However, she wanted to use some of the pictures that had not been cut out yet.  And she wanted to cut them out herself.  I knew that those flannel board figures were really hard to cut out.  But I also knew Camille.  I knew that it would do no good to tell her that it was too hard for her.  So I just let go ahead and try.

She cut out about two or three little pieces and discovered for herself that it was really hard.  She was no longer anxious to do it.

When Oliver saw how hard it was, like Camille with the flannel board figures, like us with a great concerto, he decided he really didn’t want to do it that badly, and he went back to being a scribe.

Our manual tells us the Lord expects us to be active, not passive, as we seek revelation from Him.  We grow as we use the gifts and resources he has provided to help us study matters out in our minds.

2. Ponder on the scriptures and words of prophets

Answer: Dallin H Oaks said, “[It] may … lead to current revelation on whatever [subject] the Lord wishes to communicate to the reader at that time.”
Question: What is scripture reading?

Elder Oaks says further, “We do not overstate that point when we say that the scriptures can be a Urim and Thummim to assist each of us to receive personal revelation.

“Because we believe that scripture reading can help us receive revelation, we are encouraged to read the scriptures again and again.  By this means, we obtain access to what our Heavenly Father would have us know and do in our personal lives today.  That is one reason Latter-day Saints believe in daily scripture study” (Dallin H. Oaks, "Scripture Reading and Revelation," Ensign, Jan. 1995, 8).

Answer: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given unto him.
Question: What is James 1:5?

Elder Boyd K. Packer says, “No message appears in scriptures more times, in more ways than, ‘Ask, and ye shall receive.’”  (Conference, Oct. ’91)

3. Inquire of the Lord in faith

Answer: The act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other (Bible Dictionary, 752).
Question: What is prayer?

“The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them.  Blessings require some work or effort on our part before we can obtain them.  Prayer is a form of work” (BD, 753).

4. Be obedient and serve God

Answer: Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught that this is the way to revelation.
Question: What is righteousness?

He also said, “We cannot have the companionship of the Holy Ghost – the medium of individual revelation – if we are in transgression or if we are angry or if we are in rebellion against God’s chosen authorities” (Dallin H. Oaks, "Teaching and Learning by the Spirit," Ensign, Mar. 1997, 9).

5. Be meek and humble

Answer: The state of mind in which Joseph found he could not translate “a single syllable.”
Question: What is anger (or pride)?

David Whitmer recalled that one morning when Joseph Smith was getting ready to resume translating the Book of Mormon, “something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it.  Something that Emma, his wife, had done.  Oliver and I went upstairs and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation but he could not do anything.  He could not translate a single syllable.  He went downstairs, out into the orchard, and made supplication to the Lord; was gone about an hour – came back to the house, and asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came upstairs where we were and then the translation went on all right.  He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful” (B. H. Roberts, Comprehensive History of the Church, 1:131).

6. Focus on the things of God rather than the things of the world

Answer: According to Elder Boyd K. Packer, inspiration comes more easily in this type of setting.
Question: What is peaceful?

“[The] trend to more noise, more excitement, more contention, less restraint, less dignity, less formality is not coincidental nor innocent nor harmless …

“The first order issued by a commander mounting a military invasion is the jamming of the channels of communication of those he intends to conquer.

“Irreverence suits the purposes of the adversary by obstructing the delicate channels of revelation in both mind and spirit” (Conference, Oct. 1991).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said, “Divine guidance is so crucial … that we need to go out of our way to put ourselves in a situation in which such special help can be given” (Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward, Deseret Book, 121).

A Timeline of the Marvelous Translation of the Book of Mormon

(Follow this link for a painting of Joseph Smith Translating by Anthony Sweat)

Joseph Smith had the spiritual gift of translation of an unknown language in order to give the world the gift of the Book of Mormon.  He was given the gift of translation when he was given the plates, but he had to develop that gift.  It is a fascinating and instructive example of the work required by the Lord of one who receives a spiritual gift. Oliver Cowdery came into the process of translation near the end. He didn't observe the year and a half of time and effort that had gone into the training of Joseph Smith's gift. Hence, he was surprised when he could not translate as easily.

Draw a timeline dating from September 1827 to June 1829, with individual months marked above the timeline.  As you read about each event below, mark an X on the timeline.

  • Sept. 27, 1827: Joseph Smith received the plates.  For three months he almost daily dug them up and reburied them to keep them hidden from his enemies until he found a safe situation.
  • Dec. 1827:  For the next three months, he practiced translating, until he finally had some characters figured out.
  • Feb. 1828:  Martin Harris took the finished characters to Professor Charles Anthon in New York City for verification of the translation.
  • Apr. 12, 1828:  The translation began in earnest with Martin as the scribe.  In two months and two days, the Book of Lehi was completed.
  • June 14, 1828:  Martin Harris took the Book of Lehi (116 pages) to show his wife. They were stolen.  The gift of translation was removed from Joseph Smith, as were the plates themselves and the Urim and Thummim.
  • Sept. 22, 1828:  After a three month period of repentance, all was restored to Joseph Smith, but there were no fruits to the effort so far.  Joseph started back at ground zero re-developing and relearning the gift for six months (twice as long as before).
  • Apr. 7, 1829:  Oliver Cowdery began as scribe and translation once again began in earnest, probably at the Book of 1 Nephi. (Alternatively, he could have picked up at the Book of Mosiah, where he left off. Mosiah is obviously missing the first couple of chapters of the original record, since it does not start with a heading or an introduction, as do all the other books. This alternative chronology is noted in parentheses.)
  • May 15, 1829:  Mosiah 18:8-10 (or 3 Nephi 11) was reached, and in answer to prayer regarding the passage, John the Baptist appeared to Joseph and Oliver and they were baptized.
  • June 1, 1829:  Joseph had moved to Fayette, NY and reached Ether 5 (or if he started over, 2 Nephi 27) where he read about the importance of three witnesses, whereupon he prayed for witnesses to the Book of Mormon, and his prayer was answered.
  • June 11, 1829:  The Book of Mormon was finished and the copyright was obtained.  Joseph had translated the entire book in 60-65 days, a rate of 3,100 words per day!  Although Oliver Cowdery had excellent penmanship, you can see from the photograph below that he had to write sloppily because of the great speed required as Joseph dictated.

Joseph Smith asked Oliver Cowdery to make him a copy.  It took Oliver three times as long to copy it as it took for Joseph Smith to dictate it.

(Sources: Bruce Woolley, lecture, Campus Education Week, Brigham Young University, August 19, 1999, personal notes 4:31; John W. Welch, Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations 1820-1844, chapter 3; Paul Wheeler, personal study notes given to author.)

We, Too, Can Hear the Voice of the Lord

12 And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.

13 Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;

14 And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive.

Quoting Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley, “Of all the great and wonderful and inspiring promises I have read, the most reassuring to me are the words of the Savior: ‘Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’ (Matthew 7:7) … Let us never forget to pray.  God lives.  He is near.  He is real.  He is our Father.  He is accessible to us’” (Ensign, Jan. 1994, p. 2).

President Russell M. Nelson has made the clarion call in his time as prophet to be that we learn to hear the voice of the Lord in our own lives. Here is his personal message to all of us: Hear Him!

Bonus Story: “Turn Here!”

This story from the February 2001 Ensign, pp. 35-37, illustrates how each of the steps (except scripture reading) were used by a police officer who was a member of the Church in his amazing rescue of an accidentally kidnapped infant.


Nicole said...

I have been following your blog for several months, but have found this lesson especially excellent. Thanks for sharing!

Donna said...

Just found your blog, enjoyed the lesson and the insight and help it gave in teaching my own lesson but yet still staying right along with the manual...

Anonymous said...

"Although the context of D&C 9 has to do with Oliver Cowdery’s attempt to translate the Book of Mormon, the principles also apply to other revelation." quoted from the gospel doctrine manualfor all those who think section 9 doesnt apply to them.

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for sharing!

Sally Spurgeon said...

is there an app for phones or is this just for computers?