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 desired it (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.
As Oliver made an attempt to translate, he apparently started well but “did not continue as [he had] commenced” (D&C 9:5). The Prophet received the revelation in Doctrine and Covenants 9, which explains why Oliver’s efforts to translate were unsuccessful. The Lord instructed Oliver that it was no longer expedient for him to translate. Instead, Oliver should focus on his role as a scribe for Joseph. Doctrine and Covenants sections 8–9, along with section 6, are foundational revelations regarding the Holy Ghost and ways we can seek for and recognize revelation from the Lord.
Have you ever wondered how to recognize when God is speaking to you or answering your prayers?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 8:1 to see how the Lord instructed Oliver Cowdery to pray. Then read Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3, and mark phrases that describe how the Lord said He would answer Oliver’s prayers. Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3 is a scripture mastery passage. You may want to mark it in a distinctive way so you can locate it in the future.
In your scripture study journal, make two columns. Label the first column Seeking Revelation from God. Label the second column Receiving Revelation from God. In the first column, write at least one principle you learn from Doctrine and Covenants 8:1 about ways to seek for revelation. In the second column, write a truth the Lord taught in verses 2–3 about how He speaks to us.
Do you remember the story of Moses parting the Red Sea? The Lord had commanded Moses to free the enslaved children of Israel. Later, with the Egyptian army in pursuit, Moses found himself and his people trapped on the shores of the Red Sea. According to Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3, how did the Lord inspire Moses to part the Red Sea?
One truth we learn from these verses is that the Lord speaks to our minds and hearts by the power of the Holy Ghost. Think about times when the Lord has spoken to you in this way.
In the following statements, President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described how God speaks to them.
President Packer said:
“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).
Elder Scott taught:
“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 Church Educational System religious educators, Aug. 11, 1998], 3–4; si.lds.org).
To help you remember how the Lord will speak to your mind and your heart, write the passage in Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3 on a card or paper. Work on memorizing these verses by reciting the passage each morning and evening before you say your personal prayers. Once you have memorized it, you may want to share it with a friend or family member and explain what it means to you.
Write in your scripture study journal about a time when Heavenly Father has spoken to your mind and heart through the Holy Ghost.
What are some significant decisions you will be making in the next year? In the next 5 or 10 years? Ponder why you might want guidance from the Lord in making these significant decisions.
In Doctrine and Covenants 9 the Lord explained why Oliver Cowdery had struggled to translate the plates. The Lord’s explanation can help you understand how to seek and receive guidance for the decisions you will make in your life.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 9:1–4, and look for the work the Lord instructed Oliver to focus on instead of translating. Then read Doctrine and Covenants 9:5–6, 11, and mark the reasons Oliver was not successful when he attempted to translate.
President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “Oliver’s failure came because he did not continue as he commenced, and the task being a difficult one, his faith deserted him” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 2 vols. , 1:51).
What can we learn from Oliver Cowdery’s experience about what we need to do to receive revelation from the Lord? What are some ways that fear, or a lack of faith, could prevent us from receiving or acting on revelation from the Lord?
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles explained:
“In the process of revelation and making important decisions, fear plays a destructive, sometimes paralyzing role. To Oliver Cowdery, who missed the opportunity of a lifetime because he didn’t seize it in the lifetime of the opportunity, the Lord said, ‘You did not continue as you commenced.’ Does that sound familiar to those who have been illuminated and then knuckled under to second thoughts and returning doubts? …
“… After you have gotten the message, after you have paid the price to feel His love and hear the word of the Lord, go forward. Don’t fear, don’t vacillate, don’t quibble, don’t whine. … With the spirit of revelation, dismiss your fears and wade in with both feet” (“Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence,” Ensign, Mar. 2000, 10).
Think about a time you needed to exercise faith in order to seek for or act on an answer from the Lord. What can you do in seeking an answer?
Read Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–8, looking for another reason Oliver struggled to receive the Lord’s help in his efforts to translate. What do you think it means to “study it out in your mind”?
One lesson we can learn from these verses is that receiving and recognizing revelation require effort on our part. You may want to add this truth to the list of ways to seek revelation from the Lord that you made in your scripture study journal for assignment 1. Remember that we should ask the Lord if our conclusions are correct after the process of studying out our decisions.
Answer the following question in your scripture study journal: Why does the Lord require us to personally ponder and study a matter and then bring Him our decisions for confirmation instead of simply asking Him to make our decisions for us?
Ponder how the individuals described below could use the truths in Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–8 to receive revelation concerning their circumstances.
A young man is not sure whether he should attend college or find a job and train in a vocation.
A young woman is trying to decide how to withdraw from her friends who have a negative influence on her.
A young returned missionary is thinking about marriage and wonders if a specific person is an appropriate marriage partner.
Read Doctrine and Covenants 9:8–9, looking for how Oliver Cowdery could know whether his decision was right or wrong. What can we learn from verse 8 about how the Lord will answer us when we ask if a decision we are making is correct?
The burning in the bosom promised to Oliver Cowdery is only one way the Holy Ghost might confirm a correct choice. Confirmations from the Spirit can come in a variety of ways that are personal and profound.
Elder Richard G. Scott spoke about a way the Lord might cause us to “feel that it is right” (D&C 9:8): “The feeling of peace is the most common confirming witness that I personally experience. When I have been very concerned about an important matter, struggling to resolve it without success, I continued those efforts in faith. Later, an all-pervading peace has come, settling my concerns, as He has promised” (“Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 10).
Elder Scott also explained how an answer that his decision is not right feels to him: “That [stupor of thought], for me, is an unsettling, discomforting feeling” (“Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” 10).
You may want to write Elder Scott’s second statement in the margin of your scriptures beside Doctrine and Covenants 9:9 or in your scripture study journal.
In Doctrine and Covenants 9:10–14, the Lord assured Oliver that He had not condemned him for failing to translate. The Lord instructed Oliver to continue writing for the Prophet and “stand fast in the work” the Lord had called Oliver to do (D&C 9:14). The Lord promised Oliver that continued diligence and obedience would bring eternal life.
Using what you have learned in Doctrine and Covenants 8–9, in your scripture study journal, outline a two-to-three-minute talk on receiving revelation from the Lord. Include counsel on what we must do to seek revelation from the Lord and instruction on how He communicates with us.
Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied Doctrine and Covenants 8–9 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: