Some Important Principles, Doctrines, and Events
John the Baptist restored the Aaronic Priesthood to the earth, conferring it upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who then baptized and ordained each other (see Joseph Smith—History 1:68–72; see also Hebrews 5:4; D&C 13section heading; 13:1; 27:8; 84:18, 26–28).
The Holy Ghost enables prophets to prophesy of things to come and can help us understand the meaning and intention of the scriptures (see Joseph Smith—History 1:73–74; see also Genesis 40:8; Numbers 11:25; Daniel 2:28; Luke 1:67; 2 Peter 1:20–21; 1 Nephi 22:2; D&C 107:56).
The testimony of Oliver Cowdery at the end of Joseph Smith—History is a second witness from a man who was involved in many of the early events of Church history. Oliver’s testimony helps establish the truthfulness of the account of the Prophet Joseph Smith (see Joseph Smith—History endnote; see also Matthew 18:16; 2 Nephi 11:3; Ether 5:4; D&C 6:20–28; 17:1–9; 18:1–5; 24:10–12; 28:1).
Suggestions for Teaching
Joseph Smith—History 1:67–68. The Translation of the Book of Mormon
Read to students the following description of the translation of the Book of Mormon (you may also want to refer to the commentary for Joseph Smith—History 1:67in the student manual, p. 64):
“When Joseph Smith began translating in 1827, he evidently started with the book of Lehi from Mormon’s abridgment of the large plates of Nephi (see heading to D&C 10). After the loss of the 116 pages of manuscript, Joseph apparently started with the book of Mosiah, also found on the large plates. He had just begun the book of Mosiah when Oliver Cowdery was sent to him in early April of 1829. Five weeks later, 15 May 1829, they were on 3 Nephi and the Savior’s sermon on baptism to the Nephites. Not until arriving at the Whitmer residence in Fayette did Joseph translate the small plates of Nephi, which contain 1 Nephi through the Words of Mormon. The Prophet was commanded to translate the small plates to replace the 116 lost pages (see D&C 10:43–45)” (in Church History in the Fulness of Times,59).
Invite students to read what the Lord said about the work of translating the Book of Mormon in Doctrine and Covenants 1:29; 3:12; 17:6; 20:8, and what other witnesses said about it in “The Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “The Testimony of Eight Witnesses” in the front of the Book of Mormon. Testify of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon and invite students to share their testimonies of it.
Joseph Smith—History 1:68. “A Messenger from Heaven”
Ask students who they think are some of the greatest prophets of all time, and why. Then have students read Joseph Smith—History 1:68, 72and list what they learn about this “messenger.” To learn more about John the Baptist and to help students understand why he was chosen to restore the Aaronic Priesthood, briefly review Luke 1:5–25, 57–66; 3:1–20and Doctrine and Covenants 84:26–28(see also Bible Dictionary, “John the Baptist”). Read what the Savior said about John the Baptist in Matthew 11:11and ask students why they think John the Baptist should be on their lists of the greatest prophets.
Joseph Smith—History 1:68–72. The Aaronic Priesthood
List and discuss what we learn about the Aaronic Priesthood in Joseph Smith—History 1:68–72. (Answers might include the keys that belong to the Aaronic Priesthood, the power that does not belong to the Aaronic Priesthood, the direction the Aaronic Priesthood functions under, and so forth.) Ask students who hold the Aaronic Priesthood to raise their hands. (If any who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood do not raise their hands, ask them why they did not; and if any Melchizedek Priesthood holders do raise their hands, ask them why. Remind students that all those who hold the Melchizedek Priesthood also have authority to function in the Aaronic Priesthood.)
Joseph Smith—History 1:73–74. The Holy Ghost
Have students find and mark what Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were able to do because of the Holy Ghost. Ask students if Joseph and Oliver were members of the Church yet. (They were not, because the Church was not yet organized.) Had they received the gift of the Holy Ghost? (They had not, because it is only given by Melchizedek Priesthood holders when confirming people as members of the Church.) Help students understand the difference between receiving the influence of the Holy Ghost and receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost (see also Bible Dictionary, “Holy Ghost”).
Joseph Smith—History Endnote. Oliver Cowdery’s Testimony
Invite each student to imagine the following: You have just been in a traffic accident. It was clearly not your fault, but the driver of the other car is blaming you. The policeman does not know who to believe. How can the policeman learn the truth? Now imagine that a witness steps forward and establishes the truthfulness of your description of the accident. How would you feel toward that witness? Tell students that the endnote that follows Joseph Smith—History is an additional witness to the early events of Church history from someone who was there. Invite students to read this testimony of Oliver Cowdery (or you may want to read it together as a class). Have students search for and share information from Oliver’s account that is not contained in Joseph Smith—History. Discuss how Oliver felt about these experiences. Invite students to tell what impresses them most in Oliver’s account, and why.