In April 1829, Oliver Cowdery began assisting the Prophet Joseph Smith with the translation of the gold plates by acting as scribe. Because the Lord had offered Oliver the gift to translate if he so desired (see D&C 6:25), Oliver “became exceedingly anxious to have the power to translate bestowed upon him” (Joseph Smith, in History of the Church, 1:36). In response, the Lord said that He would give Oliver the ability to translate, according to Oliver’s faith.
Before class, write the following questions on the board. Leave room under each question to write principles that students will identify during the lesson.
Refer students to the questions on the board.
Why do you think it is important to understand the answers to these questions?
Explain that Doctrine and Covenants 8 contains a revelation the Lord gave to Oliver Cowdery through Joseph Smith. In this revelation we can find instructions from the Lord that help answer the questions on the board.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 8:1 silently, looking for how the Lord instructed Oliver to pray.
What instruction did the Lord give to Oliver about how to pray?
What do you think it means to “ask in faith, with an honest heart”?
Under the first question on the board, write the following: If we pray , we can receive .
Based on Doctrine and Covenants 8:1, how would you complete this sentence? (Although students may express it differently, their answers should reflect the principle that if we pray with faith and an honest heart, we can receive knowledge from God. Using their words, complete the sentence on the board.)
Why do you think our faith and sincerity affect our ability to receive knowledge from God?
Invite students to ponder a time when they experienced blessings as they prayed with faith and a sincere heart.
To help students gain insights into the second question on the board, invite a student to briefly recount the story of Moses leading the children of Israel out of slavery with the Egyptian army in pursuit (see Exodus 14).
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3 aloud. Encourage the class to look for how God revealed to Moses that he should bring the children of Israel through the Red Sea.
How did God inspire Moses to part the Red Sea? (By the spirit of revelation.)
What truth do we learn from these verses about how the Lord may speak to us? (Students should express that the Lord speaks to our minds and hearts by the power of the Holy Ghost. Write this truth under the second question on the board.)
Draw the accompanying diagram on the board. Add arrows pointing to the mind and the heart.
In what ways does the Lord speak to our minds? In what ways does He speak to our hearts?
To help students better understand how to feel the influence of the Holy Ghost, invite a student to read aloud the following statement by President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“You can learn now, in your youth, to be led by the Holy Ghost.
“As an Apostle I listen now to the same inspiration, coming from the same source, in the same way, that I listened to as a boy. The signal is much clearer now” (“Prayers and Answers,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, 21).
Then ask another student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:
“An impression to the mind is very specific.
“Detailed words can be heard or felt and written as though the instruction were being dictated.
“A communication to the heart is a more general impression. The Lord often begins by giving impressions. Where there is a recognition of their importance and they are obeyed, one gains more capacity to receive more detailed instruction to the mind. An impression to the heart, if followed, is fortified by a more specific instruction to the mind” (“Helping Others to Be Spiritually Led” [address to CES religious educators, Aug. 11, 1998], 3–4, LDS.org).
You may want to explain that, for some, impressions to the heart can be just as specific as impressions to the mind.
Why is it important to understand and recognize how the Lord communicates with us individually?
Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals about (1) a time when Heavenly Father spoke to their minds and hearts through the Holy Ghost or (2) a time when they felt the influence of the Holy Ghost. You might consider asking a few students to share what they have written if they feel comfortable doing so. You also might want to share an experience in which you recognized that the Lord was speaking to you.
Explain that the ability to seek and receive personal revelation is available to all of God’s children.
Draw students’ attention to Doctrine and Covenants 8:4. Read the following portion of the verse aloud to the class: “Therefore this is thy gift; apply unto it, and blessed art thou.” Explain that in this verse, the word gift refers to Oliver’s ability to receive revelation.
What do you think it means to “apply unto” the spirit of revelation? (To seek the guidance of the Holy Ghost.)
Ask students to ponder how they can better apply unto the spirit of revelation in their lives. Write the following on the board: If we apply unto the spirit of revelation, .
Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 8:4–5 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what the Lord promised Oliver if he would “apply unto” the gift of revelation. After students respond, suggest that one way to complete the sentence might be: If we apply unto the spirit of revelation, we can be delivered from evil and harm. Complete the statement on the board.
How has the Lord used the power of revelation to protect you or someone you know from evil or harm?
Invite students to list on the board some ways that we might better “apply unto” the gift of revelation in order to receive protection from evil. Ask them how their suggestions can increase our ability to receive and recognize revelation. Encourage them to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a goal to follow one of these suggestions.
You might want to share your testimony of the importance of striving for the spirit of revelation and tell students how doing so has blessed your life.
Summarize Doctrine and Covenants 8:6–9 by telling students that the Lord blessed Oliver Cowdery with gifts that would help him fulfill his role in the Restoration of the gospel. Among these gifts was the “gift of Aaron,” with which, the Lord told Oliver, he would do “marvelous works.” We do not know exactly what the “gift of Aaron” entails. Remind students that Aaron was the brother of Moses in the Old Testament and that he helped Moses fulfill his prophetic responsibilities.
Invite students to read Doctrine and Covenants 8:7–8 silently, looking for the power behind all spiritual gifts. Explain that whenever the Lord calls or commands us to do a certain work, He will bless us with the gifts and abilities to accomplish it.
Direct students’ attention to the principle written on the board: “If we pray with faith and an honest heart, we can receive knowledge from God.” Invite a student to read Doctrine and Covenants 8:10–12 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for additional insights about prayer. After students report what they have discovered, ask the following question. Suggest that students ponder the question for a moment before they answer:
If you were in Oliver’s situation, how do you think this counsel would help you?
Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals a few questions for which they are earnestly seeking answers. They may also want to write some specific changes they want to make in the way they pray for those answers.
Testify of God’s love for the students and His eagerness to answer their prayers and give them revelation. Encourage them to ask Heavenly Father their questions with faith and an honest intention to act on the answers they receive.