Section 10: God's Wisdom "Is Greater Than the Cunning of the Devil"

Doctrine and Covenants Student Manual, (2002), 20–21

Historical Background

“As soon as the 116 pages of manuscript had been lost through the carelessness of Martin Harris, the Urim and Thummim was taken from the Prophet. The sacred instrument was restored after a short time, and the Revelation in Section 3, especially rebuking Martin Harris, was received. Then both the plates and the Urim and Thummim were removed for a few days. It was necessary that the young Prophet should learn the lesson that he was entirely dependent on the Lord. When they were restored, he received the Revelation in Section 10, containing instructions to himself with regard to the lost portion of the manuscript.” (Smith and Sjodahl, Commentary, p. 49.)

Concerning the circumstances that surrounded the reception of this revelation, Joseph Smith wrote: “After I had obtained [Doctrine and Covenants 3], both the plates and the Urim and Thummim were taken from me again; but in a few days they were returned to me, when I inquired of the Lord, and the Lord said thus unto me: [D&C 10]” (History of the Church, 1:23).

Lucy Mack Smith

Lucy Mack Smith, mother of the Prophet

Notes and Commentary

D&C 10:2. “Your Mind Became Darkened”

Lucy Mack Smith gave a vivid description of the darkness her son Joseph felt when he learned that the 116 pages were lost:

“I besought him not to mourn so, for perhaps the Lord would forgive him, after a short season of humiliation and repentance. But what could I do to comfort him, when he saw all the family in the same situation of mind as himself; for sobs and groans, and the most bitter lamentations filled the house. However, Joseph was more distressed than the rest, as he better understood the consequences of disobedience. And he continued pacing back and forth, meantime weeping and grieving, until about sunset, when, by persuasion, he took a little nourishment.

“The next morning, he set out for home. We parted with heavy hearts, for it now appeared that all which we had so fondly anticipated, and which had been the source of so much secret gratification, had in a moment fled, and fled forever.” (History of Joseph Smith, p. 129; see also Historical Background for D&C 3.)

D&C 10:4. Why Would the Lord Warn Joseph Not to Run Faster Than He Was Able?

Now that the Prophet Joseph Smith had again received the Urim and Thummim and the plates, perhaps he felt that he needed to make up for lost time. The Lord, however, counseled him not to “run faster or labor more” than he had strength (D&C 10:4).

The same counsel was given by King Benjamin in the Book of Mormon. After giving his people an extensive discourse on the attributes of a Saint, he said, “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.” (Mosiah 4:27.) In the Lord’s counsel to the Prophet Joseph Smith and in King Benjamin’s to the Nephites, the emphasis is on diligence and direction rather than on speed in climbing the path to exaltation (see also D&C 84:43). Overzealous effort without wisdom and patience leads to errors.

D&C 10:5. How Does a Person “Pray Always”?

Sometimes prayer is thought of only as vocal petitions to God. President Joseph F. Smith counseled: “It is not the words we use particularly that constitute prayer. Prayer does not consist of words, altogether. True, faithful, earnest prayer consists more in the feeling that rises from the heart and from the inward desire of our spirits to supplicate the Lord in humility and in faith, that we may receive his blessings.” (Gospel Doctrine, p. 219.)

Because prayer involves one’s feelings toward God, would not the command to “pray always” involve a condition of feeling that one has for God? The Apostle Paul wrote: “Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17–18.) Could not a feeling of gratitude and love for Heavenly Father and a constant yearning to live to please Him be considered a way to pray always? Amulek gave similar counsel when he said, “Let your hearts be full, drawn out in prayer unto him continually for your welfare, and also for the welfare of those who are around you” (Alma 34:27; italics added).

The benefit comes from an ongoing prayerful attitude coupled with regular formal prayers. Prayer is the source of the power necessary to overcome Satan and his servants.

D&C 10:6. How Did These Men Seek to Destroy Joseph Smith?

From the text it appears that the men who had taken the manuscript (see vv. 8–27) and who had allowed themselves to fall under the power and influence of Satan were seeking to show that Joseph Smith was not a prophet but a fraud and that the Book of Mormon was false. Thus they would destroy Joseph Smith’s claim to be a prophet and destroy, or bring to naught, his influence among men. Similarly, by “showing” that the Book of Mormon was false, they would also destroy that part of the work of the Lord in the latter days. So, in verse 6, “destroy” means to negate or to bring to naught. The same meaning is given in verses 7, 12, 19, 23, 25, 43, 52, and 54. “Destroy” in verse 27 and “destruction” in verse 22 mean to bring about spiritual death and the eventual destruction of the soul.

Because Martin Harris lost the manuscript of the first part of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith was not allowed to translate for a time (see D&C 3:12–14). It appears that Martin Harris later wanted to view the plates themselves, but the Lord denied him permission until he humbled himself (see D&C 5:1–3). He was then permitted to see the plates as one of the Three Witnesses. Even though Martin Harris was not intentionally trying to destroy the Prophet and his work, his actions helped those who were seeking his destruction.

D&C 10:12, 23–29, 63. Satan Is Extremely Well Organized and Has Devised a “Cunning Plan”

Section 10 gives a partial list of some of the methods Satan uses to attack the truth.

Verse 20. He stirs up the wicked to iniquity against the righteous.

Verse 24. He inspires the wicked to anger against God’s work.

Verses 25–36. He uses deceptions, lies, and flattery. Many sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were given to help the Saints detect the deceptions of Satan (see D&C 28, 43, 45, 46, 49, 50, 52). The subject of avoiding deception is dealt with at length in Enrichment J in the Appendix.

Verse 63. He encourages contention over doctrine. Jesus upbraided the Nephites for this problem (see 3 Nephi 11:28–29). The Lord warned Joseph that Satan would use this method among the members of the Church.

D&C 10:23. “I Will Require This at Their Hands”

The Lord says He would hold accountable those who sought to destroy His work. Though Satan is behind it, men have their agency either to reject or to follow the promptings of the adversary and therefore are held accountable before the Lord. (See also D&C 93:31–32.)

D&C 10:25. Satan Is the Father of Lies and Deception

President Joseph F. Smith explained how Lucifer functions: “By every possible means he seeks to darken the minds of men and then offers them falsehood and deception in the guise of truth. Satan is a skillful imitator, and as genuine gospel truth is given the world in ever-increasing abundance, so he spreads the counterfeit coin of false doctrine. Beware of his spurious currency, it will purchase for you nothing but disappointment, misery and spiritual death. The ‘father of lies’ he has been called, and such an adept has he become through the ages of practice in his nefarious work, that were it possible he would deceive the very elect.” (“Witchcraft,” Juvenile Instructor, Sept. 1902, p. 562.)

Elder Spencer W. Kimball said that Satan “will use his logic to confuse and his rationalizations to destroy. He will shade meanings, open doors an inch at a time, and lead from purest white through all the shades of gray to the darkest black.” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, p. 152; see also Moroni 7:17.)

D&C 10:33. What Was Satan’s Purpose in Seeking Joseph’s Downfall?

This verse is the Lord’s warning to the Prophet Joseph Smith. Why was Satan so concerned about Joseph Smith’s testimony and about the coming forth of the Book of Mormon? He, of course, has opposed the work of God in all dispensations, but in this last dispensation the forces restored by Joseph Smith (including the Book of Mormon, the priesthood powers, and the establishment of the kingdom) will roll forth until they fill the whole earth (see Daniel 2:44). Zion will be established, and Babylon (Satan’s dominions) will be utterly overthrown. Satan himself will be bound and have no power for a thousand years (see Revelation 20:1–2; 1 Nephi 22:22–26). Is it any wonder that Satan sought from the beginning to destroy Joseph and to overthrow the work? The Prophet Joseph Smith’s mission signaled the eventual triumph of God’s kingdom over Satan’s.

D&C 10:38–45. God’s Foreknowledge

Centuries before the Prophet Joseph Smith was born, Nephi testified that God had commanded him to make two sets of plates (the large plates of Nephi and the small plates of Nephi), the purpose of which Nephi did not understand (see 1 Nephi 9:5–6). Mormon, who lived almost a thousand years after Nephi, included the small plates of Nephi with his abridgment, admitting that he did not understand why, save the Lord had commanded him to do it (see Words of Mormon 1:3–7).

The loss of the 116-page manuscript makes it apparent why the Lord commanded Nephi and Mormon to do what they did. Joseph was told to leave the portion he had already translated from the large plates and start again with Nephi’s record.

Knowing that God sees the end from the beginning should give us confidence in Him as we live in the present and work toward the future. To better understand the foreknowledge of God see Isaiah 42:9; 48:3; Jeremiah 1:4–5; Acts 2:23; 17:26; Romans 11:2; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 Nephi 20:3; Alma 13:3, 7; 40:10; Helaman 8:8; Moroni 7:22; D&C 1:17; 38:2; Moses 1:6; Abraham 2:8.

D&C 10:55. Will Every Church Member Be Saved in the Kingdom of God?

An important insight that every student of the scriptures should have is that the Lord uses certain terms in a special way. He has a definition and meaning different from those used every day. Obviously many baptized members of the Church are not going to inherit the “kingdom of heaven” unless they change their ways. So why does the Lord say “whosoever belongeth to my church need not fear"? The answer is clear. Later in this section the Lord describes those who actually constitute His Church. It is not simply those who receive baptism who become true members, but rather "whosoever repenteth and cometh unto me, the same is my church” (D&C 10:67). By this definition of Church, all members of His Church will inherit the kingdom of heaven, and all such who endure to the end “will I establish upon my rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against them” (D&C 10:69).

D&C 10:57–70. Some Purposes of the Book of Mormon

In these verses the Lord outlined the important purposes of the Book of Mormon in bearing witness of the Savior.

Verse 60. It shows that the Lord has other “sheep” and that they are of Israel (see John 10:16; 3 Nephi 15:21–24).

Verse 61. The Book of Mormon will present the marvelous works the Book of Mormon peoples did in His name.

Verse 62. It will bring to light true doctrine.

Verse 63. It will help stop contention over doctrine.

Verse 65. It foretells the gathering of Israel to the true Church in the last days.

Verses 67–68. It helps establish the doctrine of Christ.