Doctrine and Covenants 8-9: Receiving and Recognizing Revelation

Doctrine and Covenants and Church History Student Study Guide, (2005), 21


The great blessing of receiving personal revelation through the Holy Ghost is available to the faithful. InDoctrine and Covenants 6, Oliver Cowdery was promised the gift of revelation, in particular, the power to translate ancient records. As Oliver found out, however, receiving revelation often requires more effort than simply asking. Elder S. Dilworth Young, who was a member of the Seventy, taught: “I can testify to you that there will be none of you have any adventure greater, more thrilling, and more joyful than finding out how to interpret the Spirit which comes into you bearing testimony of the truth. … We have to find out the technique by which the Spirit whispers in our hearts. We have to learn to hear it and to understand it and to know when we have it, and that sometimes takes a long time” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1959, 59). As you readDoctrine and Covenants 8–9, notice what Oliver Cowdery was told he must do in order to have the power to translate and why he was not able to continue. Notice also what these revelations teach about your efforts to receive personal revelation.

Understanding the Scriptures

Doctrine and Covenants 8

At the Prophet’s dictation(section heading)While the Prophet spoke 
Supplication(section heading)Prayer 
Assuredly(v. 1)As certainly 
Trifle not(v. 6)Do not take lightly 
Moses and the Red Sea

Doctrine and Covenants 9

Admonished(section heading)Counseled 
Commence(v. 1)Begin 
Expedient(vv. 3, 10–11)Appropriate, desirable 
Stupor(v. 9)Confusion, doubt 

Doctrine and Covenants 8:6–8—“The Gift of Aaron”

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught: “There was another gift bestowed upon Oliver Cowdery, and that was the gift of Aaron. Like Aaron with his rod in his hand going before Moses as a spokesman, so Oliver Cowdery was to go before Joseph Smith. Whatever he should ask the Lord by power of this gift should be granted if asked in faith and in wisdom. Oliver was blessed with the great honor of holding the keys of this dispensation with Joseph Smith, and, like Aaron, did become a spokesman on numerous occasions. It was Oliver who delivered the first public discourse in this dispensation” (Church History and Modern Revelation,1:52).

Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–9—Does the Spirit Always Cause a Burning in the Bosom?

Elder Dallin H. Oaks, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, explained:

“Being taught by the Spirit is not a passive thing. Often the Lord’s communication does not come until we have studied matters out in our own minds. Then we receive a confirmation.

“The Lord explained that process to Oliver Cowdery in another revelation received at Harmony, Pennsylvania, in April 1829. The Lord was describing why Oliver had not been able to translate the Book of Mormon:

“‘Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

“‘But, behold, I say unto you, thatyou must study it out in your mind;then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore,you shall feel that it is right’(D&C 9:7–8; emphasis added).

“This may be one of the most important and misunderstood teachings in all the Doctrine and Covenants. The teachings of the Spirit often come as feelings. That fact is of the utmost importance, yet some misunderstand what it means. I have met persons who told me they have never had a witness from the Holy Ghost because they have never felt their bosom ‘burn within’ them.

“What does a ‘burning in the bosom’ mean? Does it need to be a feeling of caloric heat, like the burning produced by combustion? If that is the meaning, I have never had a burning in the bosom. Surely, the word ‘burning’ in this scripture signifies a feeling of comfort and serenity. That is the witness many receive. That is the way revelation works.

“Truly, the still, small voice is just that, ‘still’ and ‘small’” (“Teaching and Learning by the Spirit,”Ensign,Mar. 1997, 13).

Studying the Scriptures

Do activity A and activity B or C as you studyDoctrine and Covenants 8–9.

Activity A Scripture Mastery iconScripture Mastery—Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3

Boyd K. Packer

Elder Boyd K. Packer, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “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” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 30; orEnsign,Nov. 1979, 21).

  1. 1.

    StudyDoctrine and Covenants 8:1–3and explain what happens when the Holy Ghost speaks to our minds ( alsoEnos 1:10).

  2. 2.

    What feelings come when the Holy Ghost speaks to one’s heart? ( also1 Nephi 17:45).

  3. 3.

    What do you learn fromDoctrine and Covenants 8:1that might explain why the voice of inspiration became clearer for Elder Packer?

Activity B iconSummarize the Doctrine

  1. 1.

    According toDoctrine and Covenants 6:23, how did the Lord speak to Oliver Cowdery?

  2. 2.

    What more did the Lord teach him about how revelation comes inDoctrine and Covenants 8:2–3?

  3. 3.

    What did Oliver Cowdery learn inDoctrine and Covenants 9:7–9about getting answers while translating?

  4. 4.

    Write a paragraph summarizing what you learned about the process of revelation from these passages ( also the “Understanding the Scriptures” section).

Activity C iconWrite a Moral to the Story

  1. 1.

    Summarize what the Lord promised Oliver Cowdery inDoctrine and Covenants 8and what the Lord said inDoctrine and Covenants 9about why he was not allowed to continue translating.

  2. 2.

    Write a one-sentence summary of the lesson we can learn from this revelation.

  3. 3.

    How might your summary apply to anyone who ks inspiration from the Lord?