Come Follow Me with Casey Paul Griffiths (Doctrine and Covenants 6-9) – powered by Happy Scribe
What’s it like to hear the voice of the Lord and how does personal revelation work for you? And does it work the same for every single person? Some of these things are learned and taught to us in Section six through nine of the doctrine covenants, which are the most detailed sections we have about how the translation process of The Book of Mormon worked. So let’s understand the timeline really fast. These revelations are received mostly in the spring of nineteen twenty nine in the summer before Joseph Smith and Martin Harris had lost the manuscript of the Book of Mormon.
And Joseph was so discouraged that over the next couple of months he only engaged in translation sporadically with a number of different scribes, including Emma Smith. Joseph was praying for someone to come along and assist and help him. And that person, Oliver Kountry, arrives in April of 1829. When Oliver arrives, Joseph and Oliver almost immediately begin the translation process, and less than three months later, they will have produced the entire over 500 page manuscript of the Book of Mormon.
But how did their process work and what was the revelation like? The letter received The Book of Mormon. Sometimes when we conceptualizer imagine what translation was like, we see Joseph sitting with the plates and all over the opposite side of the table. And that may have been how translation worked on some days in some ways, but the process itself is much more complicated. Part of the historical problem here is that the two people that know the most about translation both die young Joseph and Oliver, and before they die, they’re only able to record a few statements about how the translation process actually worked.
So one thing Joseph Smith wanted everybody to know is that there were plates he wrote in his history, an extensive description of the plates, saying the records were engraved on plates which had the appearance of gold each plate with six inches wide and eight inches long and not quite so thick as common. Ten. They were filled with engravings and Egyptian characters bound together in a volume as the leaves of a book with three rings running through the home. The volume was something near six inches in thickness, a part of which was sealed.
The characters on the Unseld part were small and beautifully engraved. The whole book exhibited many marks of antiquity and its construction and much skill in the art of engraving were the records was found a curious instrument which was called Yurman Thumb, which consisted of two transparent stones set on the rim of a bow fastened to a breastplate. Joseph Smith then concludes through the medium of the German thumb. I translated the record by the gift and power of God. Now, near the end of his life, Oliver Cowdrey recorded about the translation process.
When he was interviewed, he said, I wrote with my own pen the entire Book of Mormon save a few pages as it fell from the lips of the prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the human thumb, or as it is called by that book, Holy Interpreters. I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated. I also beheld the interpreters.
That book is true now. Other people witness translation. For instance, Emma Smith Act to describe part of the time. As persecution increased in his hometown, Joseph and Oliver eventually decided to relocate to Fayette, New York, and to stay with the family, called the witness who were friends with Oliver Cowdrey. Several of the witness were involved in the translation process, most chiefly John Witmer, Christian Wittmer and David Wittmer. And David Whitburn later described the translation process as followed.
He said Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat and put his face in the hat, drawing closely around his face to exclude the light. And in the darkness, the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear. And on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Now this seems to favor a tight translation, though the Lord was giving Joseph exactly the words that he wanted him to record in order to produce the text of The Book of Mormon.
David later said Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Kountry, who was the principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, it would disappear. And another character with the interpretation would appear. This seems to say that the text of the Book of Mormon comes directly from God and other people testify to the same thing. For instance, near the end of her life, Emma Smith was interviewed by her son Joseph, the third when he asked her about the Book of Mormon, she said, My belief is that the Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity.
I have not the slightest doubt of it. I’m satisfied that no man could have dictated the writing the manuscripts unless he was inspired. For one acting as described, your father would dictate to me hour after hour, and when returning after meals or after interruptions, he could at once begin where he left off without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was the usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this for one so ignorant and had learned it as he was.
It was simply impossible. Now, all along the way that this translation process is happening all over, Cowdrey is being introduced to the Gospel and taught the basic principles of revelation. So Section six, Section eight and Section nine are all revelations given to Oliver specifically to teach him how revelation works. Section six is given to Oliver shortly after he arrives in Harmony, Pa. and Oliver sought his own revelation to know what his part in the work was. One of the things introduced in Section six is the idea that we can receive a revelation.
And not know that we received a revelation. Oliver is told that the Lord had already spoken peace to his mind when he prayed and that that was the answer, that he received the Lord to talk to him. But Oliver just hadn’t recognized him now in Section eight. Oliver decides that he wants to do what Joseph Smith is doing. He wants to be the translator. And Joseph describe Joseph has no problem with this. He just decides to ask the Lord.
And the Lord also says that this is OK with him. In Section eight, Oliver is told that he can receive revelation both in his heart and in his mind and in other ways that the Lord will speak to him and that he has gifts and that he’ll be able to use these gifts to bring forth the record. So Oliver is set and ready to go to translate. But it appears that when he attempted to translate, he failed because in Section nine of the doctrine covenants, the Lord acknowledges that Oliver was only able to translate a few words because he didn’t follow the right procedures.
The Lord tells Oliver, You must study it out in your mind and in your heart. And if the things be right, I will tell you if they are right and you receive a burning within your bosom. But if it be not right, you shall receive a stupor of thought. Oliver attempted to translate, but because he hadn’t put in the necessary preparation, he wasn’t able to receive the revelation that he needed. Likewise, when we want to receive revelation from God, it’s important that we do work, that we put in the effort to find out what things are right and to reason things out in our mind and then see confirmation from the Lord as to what the correct thing is to do.
The Lord wants to speak to all of us. And one message from these sections is that everybody can receive revelation. Sometimes we receive revelation without knowing we’ve received revelation. We have the potential to receive it. But if we don’t put in the work, the Lord can’t speak to us and speak to us freely and fluidly as he would like to. Joseph Smith, talking about the process of revelation later on, said a person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation.
For instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you seven strokes of ideas, he continues. Those things that were presented under your minds by the spirit of God will come to pass, and thus, by learning the spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation until you become perfect and Christ Jesus. Now, revelation can come in as monumental a project as translating The Book of Mormon. But the Lord also wants to give you a revelation about the everyday events of your life, about the concerns and worries that you have.
But understanding revelation is a process learning revelation as a process and coming to hear and understand the voice. The Lord is something that we grow into, not something that we’re automatically able to do. The Lord will speak to us and lead us and guide us along the way. But we have to do our part and do the research necessary to find the answers so the Lord can direct us into the past that we’re supposed to go to. Just like Joseph Smith and Oliver Kountry, miraculous revelations can come to us.
And while you might not bring forth a new book of scripture, the Lord is anxious to tell you exactly what you want to know and exactly how to do what you need to do. If we’re patient, if we are studious, if we work hard, and if we do the things that the Lord asks us to do, he will speak to us and give us guidance, just like he spoke to Joseph Smith and Oliver Kountry. And the proof of that is the book that you’re studying, the record that you have in your lap, the doctrine covenants or The Book of Mormon.
All these things came to prophets through Revelation. And just like the Lord spoke to prophets, the Lord will speak to you.