In the spring of 1829 the Prophet Joseph Smith felt a great 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 labor to support his family. Emma and Joseph’s brother Samuel helped by acting as scribes, but they could not write for him full-time. Joseph had been in possession of 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 and 7 were given shortly after Oliver’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.
Draw a lightbulb and a sunrise on the board.
How is turning on a lightbulb different from watching a sunrise? (Students may suggest several differences, but point out that with one, you see light immediately, and with the other, you see it gradually.)
Explain that Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles used this analogy to teach about personal revelation. He taught that sometimes revelation happens “quickly, completely, and all at once [like turning on a light in a dark room]. … [But] most frequently, revelation comes in small increments over time” (“The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 88). Invite students to ponder times when the Lord has answered their prayers immediately and times when He has answered gradually. As they study Doctrine and Covenants 6 today, encourage them to look for truths that will help them recognize when God is giving them revelation.
To help students understand the historical context for this revelation, invite a student to read aloud the first paragraph of the introduction to this lesson. Then invite all students to read Joseph Smith—History 1:66–67 silently and identify how Heavenly Father helped Joseph in his efforts to translate more quickly.
What did the Lord do in response to Joseph’s plea for someone to help him translate?
After students report what they have found, explain that Oliver Cowdery came from Palmyra, New York, more than 140 miles away, to meet Joseph in Harmony, Pennsylvania (see Church History Maps, Map 1, “Northeastern United States”), and that he arrived just a few days after Joseph had prayed for help.
Explain that 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. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 6:5–6, 8 silently and look for indications that the Lord knew Oliver’s desires.
What do these verses and Oliver’s effort to journey 140 miles to help Joseph tell us about Oliver?
Ask students to ponder the following question:
Have you ever received an answer from God and then later experienced concerns or confusion regarding the answer? (Invite a few students to share their experiences. You could also share an experience of your own. Remind students that some experiences are too sacred or personal to share.)
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 6:10–13 by explaining that the Lord told Oliver Cowdery that Oliver had a gift of revelation. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 6:14–17, 20 silently, looking for what the Lord taught Oliver about receiving and recognizing revelation.
What truths did the Lord teach Oliver about receiving and recognizing revelation?
Students may mention the following principles. You may want to write them on the board as students identify them. You may also want to suggest that students mark phrases that are meaningful to them in these verses.
As we seek answers from Heavenly Father, He will give us instruction.
The Lord will enlighten our minds through the Holy Ghost.
God knows our thoughts and the intents of our hearts.
When we have received revelation, we should treasure it up in our hearts.
Why is it important for us to know that the Lord hears and answers our prayers?
What do you think it means that the Lord will “enlighten” our minds? (You may want to explain that through the Holy Ghost, the Lord will give us ideas and understanding.)
Why is it important to know that only God knows our thoughts and the intents of our hearts?
What do you think it means to “treasure up” the Lord’s words? (To study, ponder, and act on the things the Lord reveals and to trust the revelation we receive.)
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 6:21–24 aloud, and ask students to search for another way the Lord communicates with us.
What can we learn from these verses about another way the Lord speaks to us? (The Lord speaks peace to our minds as a witness of truth. You might want to suggest that students mark the phrase “peace to your mind” [D&C 6:23].)
From your experience, what does it feel like to have the Lord speak peace to our minds?
To help students better understand how revelation may come to them, point out that recognizing when the Lord is speaking to us can sometimes be challenging. Explain that Elder Bednar carried the analogy of the sunrise one step further to clarify how communication from the Lord often comes. Invite a student to read the following statement aloud:
“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).
How might we sometimes overlook or dismiss the Lord’s answers to our prayers?
What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn how to better recognize when the Lord is speaking to him or her?
Explain that it was not until after this revelation was received that Oliver told Joseph about “the night” that the Lord referred to in Doctrine and Covenants 6:22. Invite a student to read what the Prophet Joseph learned after receiving the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 6:
“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” (History of the Church, 1:35).
Invite students to recall times when God has enlightened their minds or given them peace. Consider inviting them to write down some of these memories. Encourage them to trust in the personal revelation they have received in the past. Explain that the next two lessons will help them learn to recognize answers to their prayers.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 6:25–31 by explaining that the Lord told Oliver that if he desired, he could have the gift of translation and stand with Joseph as a second witness of the Book of Mormon.
If you were Oliver, what feelings might you have had as you heard the responsibility the Lord was placing upon you?
Ask students to think about times when they have felt doubtful or fearful about something the Lord wanted them to do. Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 6:32–37 silently and search for how the Lord counseled Joseph and Oliver to overcome doubt and fear as they continued in His work.
What truths or principles from this counsel can we apply in our lives? (Students may suggest a variety of principles, but be sure to emphasize that as we look unto Jesus Christ, we can overcome doubt and fear.)
What are some examples of how a person might look to Christ in every thought?
Invite a few students to share experiences they have had when their knowledge of the Savior has helped them overcome doubt or fear. You might also want to share an experience of your own.
Note: Nothing has been revealed about the specifics of John’s ministry as a translated being. Do not speculate about John’s whereabouts or achievements.
Explain that sometime during April 1829, while Oliver was helping Joseph with the translation, 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] … , whether he died, or whether he continued [to live]” (Histories, Volume 1: 1832–1844, vol. 1 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers , 284).
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 7:1–3 to discover the answer to Joseph and Oliver’s question. (If students have trouble identifying the answer, you might suggest that they read the section summary for Doctrine and Covenants 7:1–3.)