From mid-April to mid-June 1828, the Prophet Joseph Smith was translating the gold plates while living in Harmony, Pennsylvania. A wealthy farmer and businessman named Martin Harris was acting as scribe while Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. Martin was 22 years older than Joseph and had given Joseph and Emma $50 (which was a substantial amount of money at that time) to relocate to Harmony, where Emma’s family lived, thus helping to support Joseph while he translated the plates. In February 1828, Joseph allowed Martin to take copies of characters from the plates to be authenticated by two professors in New York City (see Joseph Smith—History 1:63–65). Lucy Harris, Martin’s wife, had become increasingly concerned about Martin’s interest and financial involvement in the translation of the plates. She and others began to pressure Martin for evidence of the plates’ existence. To satisfy their concerns, in mid-June Martin requested that Joseph allow him to take the 116 pages of manuscript they had completed to show as evidence.
Think of situations when you might be tempted to listen to a friend rather than follow the counsel or commandments of Heavenly Father. For instance, you might be tempted to allow a friend to copy your homework or be tempted to watch an inappropriate movie or video on the Internet with your friends. Why is it sometimes difficult to resist friends when they ask you to do something you know is wrong?
By mid-June 1828, the Prophet Joseph Smith, with Martin Harris as scribe, had translated 116 pages of manuscript from the gold plates. Martin asked Joseph to allow him to take the manuscript to “read to his friends that [perhaps] he might convince them of the truth” (Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844, vol. 1 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers , 15). Joseph approached the Lord with Martin’s request but was told not to let the manuscript out of his possession. Martin convinced Joseph to ask again—which resulted in a second refusal from the Lord. Martin prevailed upon Joseph to ask once more and, on this third request, the Lord gave permission for Martin to take the manuscript if he agreed to show the manuscript only to his wife and a few select family members. However, Martin broke his oath and the manuscript was lost. Because Joseph had not accepted the Lord’s initial counsel but delivered “that which was sacred into the hands of a wicked man” (D&C 3:12), Moroni took the plates and the Urim and Thummim from the Prophet. However, Joseph was told that he could receive them again if he would be “humble and penitent” (Lucy Mack Smith, History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, ed. Preston Nibley , 134).
Considering what you know about Martin Harris and all that he had done for Joseph Smith, why do you think Joseph persisted in asking God if Martin could take the manuscript even though God had already given a clear answer the first two times he asked?
After the loss of the 116 pages, the Prophet experienced great anguish of soul. In July 1828, Moroni temporarily returned the Urim and Thummim to Joseph for the purpose of receiving the revelation found in Doctrine and Covenants 3. Read Doctrine and Covenants 3:1–3, and mark a truth God revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith in those verses.
From these verses we learn that the purposes of God cannot be frustrated. It may help you to understand that, as used in Doctrine and Covenants 3:1, the word frustrated means prevented from being accomplished.
In your scripture study journal, write how this truth could have been comforting to Joseph Smith at that time. Why do you think it is important for those engaged in the Lord’s service to also understand that God’s purposes cannot be frustrated?
Although the Lord reassured Joseph, He also wanted His young prophet to understand the mistakes he had made and the consequences of those mistakes. Read Doctrine and Covenants 3:4–6, and identify words and phrases that might have been hard for Joseph Smith to hear.
Now read Doctrine and Covenants 3:12–15, and look for why Joseph’s actions were so serious in the eyes of the Lord. It may be helpful to understand what is meant by the Lord referring to Martin Harris as a “wicked man” (D&C 3:12). Martin was not a man who enjoyed sin and was unrepentant or immoral. Rather, he was a man who sinned by yielding to weakness within himself, including pride. In Doctrine and Covenants 3:13, notice the reasons the Lord gave explaining how Martin was wicked.
The Lord reminded Joseph what he should have done when he was under pressure from Martin Harris. Read Doctrine and Covenants 3:7, and complete the following truth based on the Lord’s counsel to Joseph Smith: We should fear God more than . You may want to mark the words or phrases in verse 7 that teach this principle.
The following explanation from Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles can help you better understand this truth:
“There are many places in the scriptures that counsel mankind to fear God. In our day we generally interpret the word fear as ‘respect’ or ‘reverence’ or ‘love’; that is, the fear of God means the love of God or respect for Him and His law. That may often be a correct reading, but I wonder if sometimes fear doesn’t really mean fear, as when the prophets speak of fearing to offend God by breaking His commandments. …
“… We should so love and reverence Him that we fear doing anything wrong in His sight, whatever may be the opinions of or pressure from others” (“A Sense of the Sacred” [Church Educational System fireside for young adults, Nov. 7, 2004], 6–7).
In your scripture study journal, explain how fearing, meaning loving and reverencing and fearing to offend God, as Elder Christofferson explained, can help us make right decisions even when we feel pressure from others.
Joseph Smith was told what God would have done if Joseph had listened to His first answer to Martin Harris’s request. Mark this reassurance in Doctrine and Covenants 3:8.
From what you learn in Doctrine and Covenants 3:8, complete this “if–then” principle in your scripture study journal: If we are faithful to the Lord’s commandments, then …
Think about a time or times when you chose to follow the Lord’s commandments rather than the persuasions or influence of other people. In what ways have you seen this promise fulfilled in your life?
At the beginning of this lesson you were asked to think about situations when you might be tempted to listen to a friend instead of being obedient to Heavenly Father. In your scripture study journal, explain how the truth you learned in Doctrine and Covenants 3:8 might help you when you are tempted or feel pressure to do something you know is not right.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 3:9–11, and look for the promise the Lord gave to Joseph Smith despite the seriousness of the mistakes he had made. Think about how this promise applies to us when we sin or make mistakes.
In Doctrine and Covenants 3:16–20 the Lord’s purposes for the Book of Mormon are explained. Read these verses, and find why the work Joseph Smith was doing was so important to the Lord and His people.
Some time after the Book of Mormon plates and the Urim and Thummim were returned to him, the Prophet Joseph Smith received direction from the Lord about what to do about the portion of the plates corresponding to the manuscript pages that were lost. The Lord commanded Joseph not to retranslate that portion, and He revealed Satan’s plot to destroy the work of God. He then commanded Joseph to translate the small plates of Nephi that would be used to replace the material from the 116 pages that were lost and explained the purpose of the Book of Mormon and its role in establishing His Church.
In Doctrine and Covenants 10:1–2 the Lord reminded Joseph why the power to translate was taken from him and what happened as a result of his mistake. Read Doctrine and Covenants 10:3–4, and look for counsel the Lord gave to Joseph Smith as he began to translate again.
How might Joseph’s remorse regarding the loss of the manuscript have affected his desire to work harder in his translation efforts? The Lord knew that Joseph Smith had other priorities in life, such as caring for his wife and earning a living, and counseled him not to labor or to translate more than he had strength. How might the counsel to not run faster than you have strength guide you?
How could a snare or a trap like the one pictured represent Satan’s intentions toward us?
Complete the following principle based on what Doctrine and Covenants 10:5 teaches about the blessings that can come from prayer: As we pray always, . You may want to mark the words and phrases in Doctrine and Covenants 10:5 that teach this principle.
The Lord warned Joseph of a trap Satan had set to destroy the Prophet and the work of God. Read Doctrine and Covenants 10:6, 10–19, and identify the plan of the wicked individuals who were then in possession of the manuscript that Martin Harris had taken home.
In Doctrine and Covenants 10:20–29 the Lord spoke about Satan’s influence on the people who stole the 116 pages of manuscript. He also revealed Satan’s purposes. From these verses we learn that Satan desires to destroy the work of the Lord and our souls.
How can being aware of Satan’s intentions and methods help you avoid and escape his traps? In your scripture study journal, write a plan of what you can do to avoid or escape his traps, such as avoiding viewing immoral images if they suddenly appeared before you or going places you know you should avoid.
In Doctrine and Covenants 10:30–37 we learn that because of those wicked people’s plan to destroy the work of God and Joseph Smith’s reputation, the Lord commanded the Prophet not to retranslate the portion of the plates that was on the lost pages.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 10:38–42, and look for what the Lord told the Prophet Joseph Smith to translate instead of the portion of the plates that had been translated on the lost manuscript.
The lost document contained the translation of the book of Lehi, which was in Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates of Nephi (covering 600 B.C. to 130 B.C.). Nephi had been inspired to write the small plates of Nephi and Mormon had been inspired to include the small plates of Nephi with his record for “a wise purpose,” which at the time they did not completely understand (see 1 Nephi 9:5; Words of Mormon 1:3–7). The small plates of Nephi covered approximately the same time period (from 600 B.C. to 130 B.C.) as the book of Lehi.
How does knowing that God prepared a way to compensate for the 116 lost manuscript pages thousands of years before they were lost help you more fully trust in Him?
In Doctrine and Covenants 10:46–70 we learn that the Lord answered the faithful prayers of His Nephite disciples by preserving and bringing forth the Book of Mormon in our day. The Lord taught the Prophet Joseph Smith that the Book of Mormon “bring[s] to light the true points of [His] doctrine” (D&C 10:62). Building upon those points of doctrine, the Savior established His Church in the last days.
Reread Doctrine and Covenants 10:5, and then write in your scripture study journal about a time when prayer has helped you to gain victory over Satan.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: