As you read the Doctrine and Covenants, section 10 seems out of place chronologically. Since it talks about Martin Harris and the translation of the 116 pages, shouldn’t it come after Section 3? What happened? We’ll tell you today.
As you read the Doctrine and Covenants, section 10 seems out of place chronologically. Since it talks about Martin Harris and the translation of the 116 pages, shouldn’t it come after Section 3? What happened? We’ll tell you today.
Welcome our dear friends to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor, and I want to thank you for your prayers and well wishes while I have been in the hospital with COVID. I am not entirely better yet, but I can talk, eat, and drink, and that is major breakthrough. And being generous, I also shared COVID with Maurine. So isn’t it good that we aren’t talking to you in person? Our lesson today is Doctrine and Covenants 10-11, “That You May Come Off Conqueror”.
The reason Section 10 is not right after Section 3 is that there has been some confusion in the past about the date the revelation was received. Originally, the date of Section 10 was listed as May 1829, putting it in between the dates for Sections 9 and 11. Yet the Prophet Joseph himself said Section 10 was the first revelation he received immediately after the plates were returned to him on 22 September 1828.
In 1921, when B.H. Roberts and the committee put together the 1921 edtion of the Doctrine and Covenants, they recognized that previous editions were based on a date miscalculation, but they left it as it was. The sections should go Section 3, Section 10 and then Section 4.
Though we’ve talked about Oliver Cowdery, we are moving back a bit in our story to when Martin Harris lost the pages. After Martin left, Lucy Mack Smith described Joseph’s emotional state.
She said, “I besought him not to mourn so, for it might be that the Lord would forgive him, after a short season of humiliation and repentance on his part. But what could I say to comfort him when he saw all the family in the same state of mind that he was? Our sobs and groans and the most bitter lamentations filled the house. Joseph, in particular, was more distressed than the rest, for he knew definitely and by sorrowful experience the consequence of what would seem to others to be a very trifling neglect of duty. He continued walking backwards and forwards, weeping and grieving like a tender infant until about sunset, when we persuaded him to take a little nourishment.”
Lucy continued, “The next morning he went home. We parted with heavy hearts, for it seemed as though all our fond anticipations, that which we had fed upon and which had been the source of so much secret gratification to us, had in a moment fled, and fled forever.”
Apparently, Joseph Smith had the urim and Thummim long enough to receive Section 3 of the Doctrine and Covenants, but then Moroni took them back for a season. Lucy said, “We never heard from our unfortunate son until two months after, when, being uneasy as to the consequences of his distress of mind, Mr. Smith and myself went down to Harmony to make him a visit. When we came within three-quarters of a mile of the house, Joseph started off to meet us, telling his wife that Father and Mother were coming, although he could not see us. He met us with a countenance blazing with delight, and it was very evident that his joy did not arise wholly from seeing us”.
Joseph explained “Immediately after I left you, I returned home. After I arrived here, I commenced humbling myself in mighty prayer before the Lord, and as I poured out my soul in supplication to him, that if possible I might obtain mercy at his hands and be forgiven of all that I had done which was contrary to his will, an angel stood before me and answered me, saying, that I had sinned in delivering the manuscript into the hands of a wicked man, and as I had ventured to become responsible for this man’s faithfulness, I would of necessity suffer the consequences of his indiscretion, and I must now give back the Urim and Thummim into his (the angel’s) hands.
“This I did as I was directed, and as I handed them to him he remarked, ‘If you are very humble and penitent, it may be you will receive them again; if so, it will be on the twenty-second of next September.'”
Notice the date when the plates and Urim and Thummim were returned. It is September 22, just as it was Sept. 22 that Moroni visited Joseph and the same date when Joseph went to the hill each year. These are exact dates following certain patterns. One thing I’ve learned over the years studying scriptures is that the Lord is much more precise than we imagine, with reasons that are sometimes unseen.
Now why Sept. 22? We can speculate. It is the fall equinox and the time of harvest. Don Bradley, who is the author of The Lost 116 pages, notes that Joseph was fulfilling the role like the biblical high priest who could only the Holy of Holies one day a year.
Bradley writes, “Joseph’s fulfillment of a role like that of the biblical high priest comes into sharper focus when we consider when he completed his acquisition of the plates: September 22, 1827. This date corresponded to “the first day of the seventh month” in the Jewish calendar and is also day one of the two-day Jewish feast known as Rosh Hashanah, or “the Feast of Trumpets,” which, despite occurring in the seventh month, was observed as new year celebration, inaugurated the fall Jewish festival season, and prepared for the Day of Atonement.While Joseph had gone to the hill on this same date, the fall equinox, each year, because the Jewish calendar is based on lunar cycles, in none of the previous years had this corresponded with the Jewish “new year.” Of all the years Joseph had visited the hill on September 22, only this year, when he was actually able to obtain the plates, was the equinox also Rosh Hashanah.
In that same light, it is interesting that Joseph Smith was born Dec. 23, in a dark winter in Vermont. Because that is near the solstice, it is the day that light begins to return to the earth—and, of course, in his role as prophet of the restoration he was the bearer of that light.
Elijah came to Joseph and Oliver in the Kirtland Temple on April 3, 1836. What may not immediately meet the eye, is that this was Passover. You remember that Jews for centuries had left an empty seat at their Passover celebrations in anticipation of Elijah’s prophesied return one day? When he came to the Kirtland Temple, he did return on Passover.
So God’s plan is precise and He is in the details more than we have eyes to see.
In Section 10 the Lord tells Joseph not to retranslate the Book of Lehi, or what we call the 116 pages. He says:
“And behold, I say unto you, that because they have altered the words, they read contrary from that which you translated and caused to be written;
“And, on this wise, the devil has sought to lay a cunning plan, that he may destroy this work” (Doctrine and Covenants 10: 10-12).
Yet, whatever Satan’s plans are, the Lord is far ahead. We learn in Section 130 “that all things past, present and future are continually before the Lord.” He is not stuck in time as we are. We experience things linearly, one thing at a time. With His vision with all things including the future, continually before Him, His purposes are never thwarted, not in the least degree. With His omniscience, He can perfectly prepare to make all things work together for our good and for the rolling forth of His plan. That is why we can have such perfect faith and trust in Him. When things are hard, sometimes we have to remember that.
Millenia before, the Lord knew what would happen with these 116 pages and perfectly prepared for it.
Nephi, writing some time between 600 and 592 BC in 1 Nephi 9, says that the Lord has asked him to make another set of plates that we call the small set of plates which, he says, “are an account of the ministry of my people”(v. 3). He was not told why to make them, nor that more than 2,000 years later the translation of the 116 pages would be stolen. I would be tempted to whine if I were Nephi and asked to make a new set of plates to engrave on. Doesn’t the Lord know that it is difficult to make plates and start an entirely new record?
Yet, Nephi shows no faithless complaints about his additional job.
He says this, “the Lord hath commanded me to make those plates for a wise purpose in him, which purpose I know not. But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning, wherefore he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men, for behold he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words. And thus it is” (1 Nephi 9: 5,6).
Because the Lord knew these 116 pages would be stolen, He also inspired Mormon as we see in Words of Mormon. We can imagine Mormon sitting in a cave of records and he has just finished the abridgement of the plates of Nephi. Then he finds the small plates, which please him, “because of the prophecies of the coming of Christ.”
These small plates, he takes and adds them to his work, without abridging them as he has everything else. This is a precious, additional record that he had not originally planned on. He says why, “I do this for a wise purpose; for thus it whispereth me, according to the workings of the Spirit of the Lord which is in me. And now, I do not know all things; but the Lord knoweth all things which are to come; wherefore he worketh in me to do according to His will.”
It is clear that it is a faithless response to the Lord to demand to know the meaning of all things. Our questions of why? Why now? Why me? are often not answered, nor could they be. We wouldn’t understand the answer if it were given. For spiritual power, we learn to trust.
So, what happened to those 116 pages and how did they come to be lost? We don’t know, but Lucy Mack Smith had an opinion. Martin had covenanted to only show the manuscript to five people, but then in vanity he got carried away.
Lucy said, “Shortly after [Martin Harris] got there, a…friend made him a visit to whom he related all he knew concerning the record. The man’s curiosity was much excited, and he earnestly desired to see the transcript. Martin was anxious to gratify his friend, although it was contrary to his obligation. But when he went to the drawer to get the manuscript, the key was gone. He sought for it some time, but could not find it. Resolved, however, to carry his design into execution, he picked the lock, and in so doing, he injured his lady’s bureau considerably. He then took out the manuscript, and after showing it to his friend, he removed it to his own set of drawers. Here he had it at his command, and passing by his oath, he showed it to any good friend that happened to call on him…
Lucy continues: “Having once made a sacrifice of his conscience, Mr. Harris no longer regarded its scruples, so he continued to exhibit the writings, until a short time before Joseph arrived, to anyone whom he regarded as prudent enough to keep the secret, except our family, but we were not allowed to set our eyes upon them.
“The manuscript has never been found; and there is no doubt but Mrs. Harris took it from the drawer, with the view of retaining it until another translation should be given, then to alter the original translation for the purpose of showing a discrepancy between them, and thus make the whole appear to be a deception.
“Martin Harris had not only lost his spiritual blessing, but a great temporal blessing also. The same day on which the foregoing circumstance took place, a heavy fog swept over Mr. Harris’s fields and blighted all his wheat, so that he lost about two-thirds of his crop, while the fields on the opposite side of the road remained untouched.”
Still, with this very heart-rending story where Martin’s weakness was so clear, it is wrong to let this be the only story. President Dallin H. Oaks, whose name is Dallin Harris Oaks, is a descendant of Emer Harris, Martin’s brother.
Then Elder Oaks, said this in General Conference, “Having a special interest in Martin Harris, I have been saddened at how he is remembered by most Church members. He deserves better than to be remembered solely as the man who unrighteously obtained and then lost the initial manuscript pages of the Book of Mormon.
“He owned a farm of over 240 acres, large for the time and place. He was an honored veteran of two battles in the War of 1812. His fellow citizens entrusted him with many elective offices and responsibilities in the community. He was universally respected for his industry and integrity. Assessments by contemporaries described him as “an industrious, hard-working farmer, shrewd in his business calculations, frugal in his habits,” and “strictly upright in his business dealings”
We know that when Joseph and Emma had to move to Harmony, Pennsylvania because of persecution in Palmyra, it was Martin who stepped forward publicly to give him $50 for the move. It was Martin, who in all the world, was chosen as one of the three witnesses, and was shown the plates and other sacred objects from the box by the Angel Moroni.
Elder Oaks continued, “One of Martin Harris’s greatest contributions to the Church, for which he should be honored for all time, was his financing the publication of the Book of Mormon. In August 1829 he mortgaged his home and farm to Egbert B. Grandin to secure payment on the printer’s contract. Seven months later, the 5,000 copies of the first printing of the Book of Mormon were completed. Later, when the mortgage note fell due, the home and a portion of the farm were sold for $3,000,”to pay the printer’s debt. (Dallin H. Oaks, The Witness: Martin Harris https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1999/04/the-witness-martin-harris?lang=eng
Where are those 116 pages today? Are they lost forever or are they in a box in someone’s attic, passed down from generation to generation, and they don’t know what they have?
The Lord tells us this much: “Therefore I say unto you, hold your bpeace until I shall see fit to make all things known unto the world concerning the matter” (vs. 37). We assume that we will know more and have more in the Lord’s due time.
Just as the Lord prepared millenia in advance for those pages to be lost by supplying the Book of Nephi, so He is also good on His promises to those who created the Book of Mormon record. I am really moved by these verses in Section 10:
“Yea, and this was their faith—that my gospel, which I gave unto them that they might preach in their days, might come unto their brethren the aLamanites, and also all that had become Lamanites because of their dissensions.
“ Now, this is not all—their faith in their prayers was that this gospel should be made known also, if it were possible that other nations should possess this land;
“And thus they did leave a blessing upon this land in their prayers, that whosoever should believe in this agospel in this land might have eternal life;
“Yea, that it might be afree unto all of whatsoever nation, kindred, tongue, or people they may be.
“And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers will I bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people. (Doctrine and Covenants 10: 48-52
What a testimony to the power of the prayers of the ancients to bless our day. Nephi with his devotion making an additional set of plates, Enos in the woods praying all day, Mormon compiling records, Moroni preserving them at all costs. The Lord is telling us these records were preserved for us because of their prayers.
This additional critical message about prayer is in Section 10: “Pray always, that you may come off conqueror; yea, that you may conquer Satan, and that you may escape the hands of the servants of Satan that do uphold his work” (vs. 5).
Take note. This phrase “that you may come off conqueror” is a military image, implying that we are war. It is the same war that we call the war in heaven, but it has been moved to a new location—right here on earth.
That’s right, where were Satan and his followers cast out? Revelation 12:9 says, “the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world, he was cast into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
The world dismisses Satan as a fictional, cartoon character which is just what he would want. You know nothing seems more dangerous than an invisible enemy, whose existence people dismiss, because then you can have no defense and do not know how to be appropriately armed and shielded.
But please make no mistake about this. You are warred upon by enemies who would terrify you if you had eyes to see. All the books of scripture not only talk about Satan, but they testify of him. Joseph Smith talked about the power of this enemy “which entirely overcame me” and “bound his tongue so that he could not speak” and “thick darkness gathered around” him before he had the First Vision.
He testifies that “I was about to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being” (Joseph Smith History 1:15,16). Of course, this was just before the heavens broke open and he saw what real heavenly power was.
But it is not to be taken lightly that we are at war and that Satan would not only like to thwart the work of God, but also destroy your soul. Life on earth is a little like being behind enemy lines, full of landmines, and in the dark with an enemy shouting at you what to do. In that circumstance wouldn’t you want all the heavenly protection, intelligence on the enemy, light and power that you could access?
An important part of that is understanding how Satan works. He is practiced in this war and knows just how to make his assaults. He has developed his war strategies perhaps for millions of years and they are perfected. What’s more he knows who you are. You have a veil dropped and have no memory of all that you have always been, but he has not that veil and remembers. His attacks on you are customized. He jumps on any little vulnerability. He loves to discourage you and tell you things are hopeless.
You leave a place open for him to attack and he will.
Look at what we read in this section: “And, behold, Satan hath put it into their hearts to alter the words which you have caused to be written (Doctrine and Covenants 10:10). So he puts things into our hearts or in other words ideas into our minds. His fiery darts are ideas, and the emotions and appetites that follow. Just as the war in heaven was a war of ideas, it continues to be here on earth. We’ve learned that false ideas can have deadly consequences.
He whispers to us, spirit to spirit, and we don’t guard ourselves against what he’s saying, because we think his ideas are our own.
Satan gets a hold of our hearts by getting a hold of our minds. “Satan stirreth them up, that he may lead their souls to destruction” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:22). He stirs up our pride, our anger, our division from one another, our blaming of others for our problems, our sense of victimhood. He loves to teach us to distrust God, to whine because we haven’t been given just what we want. To seek for glory, to seek to outdo others. We can see from this incident with the 116 pages, that he knows how to use peer pressure to destroy us.
A key word in understanding how Satan works is what the Lord told Joseph, about his ability to translate, “your mind became darkened” (Doctrine and Covenants 10:2). If truth is light, then Satan seeks to darken our minds, or in other words, fill us with lies and twisted emotions, worries and fears and self-justifications that seem to compel our choices. One dark thought can lead to another, and down a path where it becomes harder to feel or comprehend light.
I have experience with this sense of having your mind darkened and it took me some time to recognize that I was being played upon by the Adversary. There have times when I would begin to feel a darkness about me sometimes in large ways, sometimes in small. Sometimes it would be that I just felt a little blah, sometimes shadowed, sometimes unhappy, sometimes fearful. I began to notice that when I felt that way it was usually triggered by a series of thoughts in the areas where I am vulnerable. Remember Satan customizes his temptations. “You don’t do enough. Your work never measures up. You are helpless to solve this big problem. Life is fearful. Travel with stress and it will help you.”
I came to know that for me these fiery darts were introduced by Satan, and my believing them left me vulnerable for more and more. One of the ways I came to clearly see that was in a priesthood blessing one day from Scot where he cast out Satan and his minions from me and called on the Lord to protect me. Instantly I felt the darkest mantle lift off of me and I was filled with light.
I have learned to detect Satan’s influence by asking the question, “Am I believing something now that isn’t true?” It has truly changed my life and I am so much more able to detect if Satan is working on me, or back off when I start to believe a lie. He is after all the Father of Lies and that is what he traffics in.
The fiery darts Satan delivers your way will be different that mine, because they are customized for you, but step back and notice when you begin to be discouraged or stirred up or fearful and detect what he is doing.
So the Lord’s advice in Section 10 to come off conqueror is to pray always. This is to fill your mind with His words and His intelligence so you are protected and you can easily discern when Satan launches his attack.
So we learn to counsel with the Lord in all our doings so talking to Him seems natural and instinctive on our parts. In the movie Shadowlands about the life of C.S. Lewis, he is portrayed as talking to his fellow dons at Oxford about why he prays, and he gives this moving answer: “I pray because I can’t help myself. I pray because I’m helpless. I pray because the need flows out of me all the time, waking and sleeping. It doesn’t change God. It changes me.”
Alma tells us, “Cry unto God for all thy support; yea, let all thy doings be unto the Lord, and whithersoever thou goest let it be in the Lord; yea, let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord, yea let the affection of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever. Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good” (Alma 37: 36-37)
Our prayers can be a continuation of each other. In the morning we discuss the day coming with the Lord and our overall concerns. We pray for guidance, strength, safety and revelation about how to serve. We talk to Him during the day as we need his help. At night we talk about our experiences of the day and ask for insight. We repent daily and ask for His protection from the Adversary. It is an ongoing conversation. We also listen, which is something we can do all day. We may tune out our distractions so we can hear. That is how we come off conquerors.
Now Section 11 was given to Hyrum Smith, and the Lord calls him affectionately, “Hyrum, my son” (vs. 23). If ever there was a loyal son and a loyal brother, it is Hyrum Smith, who stood by Joseph, without wavering, his entire life, and died as a martyr with him in the jail at Carthage. When you think what a lonely, difficult thing Joseph was asked to do in bringing forth the restoration, he needed someone as stalwart as Hyrum to be an anchor, and the Lord gave him the perfect brother.
Here’s just a glimpse that happened when Joseph got osteomyelitis as a 7 year old and Hyrum was only 13.
He had a fever sore, and Lucy said, “As soon as this sore had discharged itself, the pain left it and shot like lightning (as he said) down his side into the marrow of his leg bone on the same side. The boy was almost in total despair and cried out, “Oh, Father, the pain is so severe! How can I bear it?”
His leg immediately began to swell and he continued in the most excruciating pain for two weeks longer. During this time, I carried him in my arms nearly continually, soothing him and doing all that my utmost ingenuity could suggest to ease his sufferings, until nature was exhausted and I was taken severely ill myself.
Then Hyrum, who was always remarkable for his tenderness and sympathy, desired that he might take my place. As he was a good, trusty boy, we let him do so, and, in order to make the task as easy for him as possible, we laid Joseph upon a low bed and Hyrum sat beside him, almost incessantly day and night, grasping the most painful part of the affected leg between his hands and, by pressing it closely, enabled the little sufferer the better to bear the pain which otherwise seemed almost ready to take his life.
And that’s the kind of brother Hyrum continued to be. I really love him for his unselfish, unwavering support of Joseph, even when they were still children.
In this marvelous revelation to Hyrum, he is promised “you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation,” (vs 8), and then is told how: ”Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, whoso desireth to reap let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God” (vs. 3). Thrusting in your sickle with all your might already makes it clear that you give your all, but then the Lord even enlarges that. “Behold, this is your work, to akeep my commandments, yea, with all your might, bmind and strength” (vs. 20).
Let me interrupt you with a quick thought here. In Section 10 the Lord told Joseph, “Do not run afaster or labor more than you have bstrength” (vs. 4). Is there a paradox here? I don’t think so. Sometimes in the Church, we think we are being judged for our eternal standing on how fast we run. We see ourselves on some kind of a holy treadmill that never lets us breathe or live or rest. I remember once I was racing another family member on a trail around a
lake in Virginia, and I was so determined to win that my shoulders and head got ahead way of my feet. I could feel my feet trying to catch up and they just couldn’t. Those flying feet stumbled, and of course, I went down and landed hard on my chin, because I was leading with my chin and running beyond my capacity.
So I think this admonition to not run faster than you have strength is just right, and at the same time as we let our whole hearts be wrapped around the gospel, our strength and gifts expand. We do thrust in our sickle with all our might, mind, and strength and our desires, might, mind, and strength all grow. I think it is running without spiritual strength that wears us out.
Hyrum is advised, “Seek not to declare my word, but first seek to obtain my word, and then shall your tongue be loosed; then, if you desire, you shall have my Spirit and my word, yea, the power of God unto the convincing of men” (vs. 21).
In some of my favorite verses, and some we memorized, the Lord explains ore about the Spirit.
“And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good —yea, to do justly to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit.
“Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy;
“And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive” (vs. 12,13,14),
How could we want anything more than the Spirit which enlightens your mind and fills your soul with joy and gives you the power of God unto the convincing of men.
With these gifts developed, and as these gifts are developing, the Lord tells Hyrum, “Say nothing but repentance unto this generation”(vs. 9). This is a message the Lord repeats in one form or another to every individual who comes to Joseph seeking inspiration about what they can do. Thrust in your sickle.
Our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson says it this way, “Gather Israel on both sides of the veil.” In a worldwide gathering to the youth of the Church, President Nelson said, “Now we would like to talk with you about the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on the earth, and we want you to be a part of it.”
He said, “These surely are the latter days, and the Lord is hastening His work to gather Israel. That gathering is the most important thing taking place on the earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty.”
He told the youth, “My dear extraordinary youth, you were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world to help gather Israel. There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that. There is nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing.”
Hyrum was called to thrust in his sickle. We are called to thrust in our sickle. How can the Lord make it more clear?
That’s all for today. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s “Come Follow Me” podcast. Next week we will study Doctrine and Covenants 12, 13 and Joseph Smith-History 1:66-75 called, “Upon You My Fellow Servants”. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces the podcast.
See you next week.