Cover image: Joseph Smith Translating the Book of Mormon by Del Parson.

By the end of September of 1828, the Prophet Joseph had repented of his sins in succumbing to the pressures of Martin Harris. The Angel Moroni had restored the Plates and the Urim and Thummim back to him and he was ready to begin translating again. He was promised by the angel that a scribe would be sent to assist in this work.  We don’t always know or understand the Lord’s timing, because a scribe would not be sent for nearly seven months.

Maurine

Just a few months after the 116 manuscript pages of the Book of Lehi were lost, a young man arrived in Manchester, New York.  He was five feet five inches tall, with dark brown eyes, a slight build, a prominent lower jaw, high forehead and, as one described, a roman nose.  He was hired to be a teacher in New York’s Joint District 11. The small frame schoolhouse was located just about a mile south of the Joseph and Lucy Mack Smith Farm on Stafford Road. In this first teaching job, he had 107 little “scholars.”  Little did he know he would become a teacher for millions yet unborn. His name…was Oliver Cowdery.

Welcome dear friends to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me Podcast. This is Maurine Proctor and Scot is not with us today because he is in the hospital with COVID. Our thoughts and prayers are with him. In his place is our daughter Mariah Proctor Scoresby, the associate editor of Meridian Magazine. Welcome Mariah. This week’s lesson is entitled “This is the Spirit of Revelation” and includes Doctrine and Covenants sections 6-9. In order to understand these marvelous sections, we have to understand the backstory of how they were received.

Mariah

By the end of September of 1828, the Prophet Joseph had repented of his sins in succumbing to the pressures of Martin Harris. The Angel Moroni had restored the Plates and the Urim and Thummim back to him and he was ready to begin translating again. He was promised by the angel that a scribe would be sent to assist in this work.  We don’t always know or understand the Lord’s timing, because a scribe would not be sent for nearly seven months.

As Oliver was living in Manchester—and especially with the Smith family, he could not help but hear numerous stories about Joseph.  The more he heard, the more curious he was. He could not stop thinking about the plates and about this growing desire to be a scribe for the translation process.

We learn from Joseph’s personal writings this amazing insight: “The Lord appeared unto a young man by the name of Oliver Cowdery and shewed unto him the plates in a vision and also the truth of the work and what the Lord was about to do through me his unworthy servant; therefore, he was desirous to come and write for me to translate.” (A History of the Life of Joseph Smith, in Dean C. Jessee, comp. and ed., Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, rev. ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2002), p. 14.)

Maurine

We know that Oliver had turned to the Lord in fervent and secret prayer and pled to know what he should do and if this whole matter was true. He made this announcement to the Smith family one evening: “I have now resolved what I will do, for the thing which I told you seems working in my very bones insomuch that I cannot for a moment get rid of it.” (Lucy Mack Smith, Preliminary Manuscript, p. 432) “I have made it a subject of prayer and I firmly believe that it is the will of the Lord that I should go. If there is a work for me to do in this thing, I am determined to attend to it.” (Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Edited by Scot Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1996, p. 182)

Mariah

During this time, Oliver had become acquainted with one Fayette, New York man: David Whitmer, who was also very curious about this work of Joseph Smith and the talk of an ancient record engraved upon gold plates.  Before Oliver went the 130 miles south to Harmony, he talked once more with David Whitmer and promised that he would keep him informed and let him know if this work had any merit and if it was true.

Lucy Mack Smith also recorded about Oliver before he left Manchester: “From this time, Oliver was so entirely absorbed in the subject of the record, that it seemed impossible for him to think or converse about anything else.” (Smith, Preliminary Manuscript, p. 434.)

Maurine

As soon as Oliver finished his term with the school district, he, with Samuel Harrison Smith, immediately left on the five-day journey to Harmony. The weather was horrendous with incessant, cold spring rains. By the time they made it to Harmony, Oliver was suffering from a frost-bitten toe.

They arrived on Sunday evening, April 5, 1829. Joseph had been expecting Oliver’s arrival—because the angel had promised that the Lord would send a scribe.  Joseph and Oliver stayed up together that first night very late as Joseph gave Oliver detailed accounts of his history, the finding of the plates, the revelations that he had received, his interactions with the Angel Moroni and the work that lay before them. 

That Monday, April 6, 1829 was a day of taking care of lots of business and practical items. Then, on Tuesday morning, April 7, 1829 the great work of translation began in earnest.

Mariah

I love how the Lord prepares certain people to be of help when help is needed. Joseph and Emma had practically no money, and no food and yet the commandment had been given to do this great work.  Who should show up on the scene, but Joseph’s dear friend, Joseph Knight, Sr.

We learn this from Joseph’s Knight’s writings:

“Now Joseph and Oliver came up to see me and asked if I could help them buy some provisions, they having no way to buy them. When they arrived I was not there. I was in the Catskills. But when I came home my folks told me what Joseph wanted. I had engaged to go to the Catskills again the next day and I went, but I did buy a barrel of mackrel and some lined paper for writing. When I returned home, I bought some nine or ten bushels of grain and five or six bushels of taters and a pound of tea. I left to see them and they were in want. Joseph and Oliver were gone seeking employment for provisions, but they found none. They returned home and found me there with the provisions and they were glad for they were out. Their family consisted of four, Joseph, and his wife, Oliver, and Samuel Smith. They went back to work and had provisions enough to last until the translation was finished.” (Backman, Milton V., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration, Deseret Book Company: Salt Lake City, 1983, p. 118, emphasis added)

Maurine

The Lord has everything in His hands, in perfect orchestration. We saw a remarkable example in our own lives.

Many years ago we went with CHOICE humanitarian to build a school in a small village called Vudumudi in Andre Pradesh in India. To have a high school in his village was the dream of a boy who had grown up there, been able to get an education, and become a teacher in Washington DC. His name was Dr. Samuel and he had faithfully put aside part of his paycheck every week for years and years to build this school. What a story of diligence and loyalty.

Our team brought many resources and was able to help to nearly complete this beautiful school, but it became event as we moved along that we would need the support of the government for accreditation and other needs.

Yet, in India, there is so much red tape to get help with a school. Without that support you are dead in the water, but to get that support often requires under-the-table money—which CHOICE, of course, was not willing to pay. This shell of a school could end up sitting there for years and not be able to be used.

Mariah

We needed a Joseph Knight Sr. to step in and help us! So, I know you remember this, Maurine, your mother took us and all of our siblings and their spouses to Banff, Alberta, Canada. This was just a few months after our trip to India.  Early one morning we got on the shuttle bus near Lake Louise to go take a gondola ride. Eleven of our family got on that shuttle that morning and just one other man, clearly from India. We slid over to talk to him because we didn’t want him to feel outnumbered and unattended.

Since we had been working in India we wanted to let him know how much we loved his country and what we had just been doing in Andre Pradesh with the school.  We talked to him on that brief shuttle ride and told him that we needed government support to get the school finished and how difficult that was going to be.

Maurine

He looked at us and he said, “I can help you with that. My father is the minister of education for India. We can help.” AND HE DID! Within weeks we had all the paperwork and the required documents for the school and the full support of the government there.

What are the chances that on this shuttle ride in Banff, Alberta Canada, so many thousands of miles away from India, that we would just so happen to sit down by this man who could solve the challenge of getting government support for this school in Vudimudi? India has 1.3 billion people, and we happened to sit down by the right man, in the right place, at the right time. Those are needle in a haystack chances—except for the Lord’s intervention.

The Lord knows how to move people to the places they need to be at just the right time.  

Mariah

We will see this kind of thing happening over and over and over again in the early days of the Restoration. And I love how the Lord just uses everyday people to answer our prayers. Joseph and Polly Knight had befriended the prophet four years earlier and were his loyal and faithful friends. We will see this with Brother John Benbow in England, Vienna Jaques in Kirtland, John Tanner and many others arriving just when they were needed with the right gifts for the kingdom of God to roll forth. And there is no greater feeling than to know that the Lord is using you as an instrument in His hands to do some good work.

Wouldn’t you have loved to be a fly on the wall to observe that translation process in Harmony in Joseph and Emma’s small cabin? These were wondrous days, or as Oliver recorded, “These were days never to be forgotten—to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he translated, with the Urim and Thummim, or as the Nephites would have said, “Interpreters,” the history, or record called the Book of Mormon.” (Messenger and Advocate 1, (October 1834): 14)

We do have some contemporary descriptions so that we can get a sense of how things happened.

Maurine

Here’s Emma’s description:


“[During the translation] the plates often lay on the [table in our home], without any attempt at concealment, wrapped in a small linen tablecoth, which I had given him [Joseph] to fold them in. I once felt . . . the plates, as they thus lay on the table, tracing their outline and shape. They seemed to be pliable like thick paper, and would rustle with a metalic sound when the edges were moved by the thumb, as one does sometimes thumb the edges of [a] book. . . . I did not attempt to handle the plates, other than [through the linen cloth] . . . I was satisfied that it was the work of God, and therefore did not feel it to be necessary to do so. I knew that he [Joseph] had them, and was not specially curious about them. I moved them from place to place on the table, as it was necessary in doing my work. . . . Oliver Cowdery and . . . [Joseph] wrote in the room where I was at work.” (Backman, Milton V., Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration, Deseret Book Company: Salt Lake City, 1983, p. 107)

Scot, we need to remember that this small cabin in Harmony was just that: Small! There is no way that Emma and Samuel were not aware of every part of the translation process. They certainly must have felt the Spirit daily as this sacred work was going on.

Mariah

In an interview with her son, Emma also gave these insights into the translation process:

I wrote for Joseph Smith during the work of translation, as did also Reuben Hale [Emma’s brother] . . . and Oliver Cowdery. . . . The larger part of this labor was done [in] my presence and where I could see and know what was being done . . . During no part of it [the work of translation] did Joseph Smith have any mss. or book of any kind from which to read or dictate except the metalic plates which I knew he had. . . . Joseph Smith could neither write nor dictate a coherent and well-worded letter, let alone dictate a book like the Book of Mormon. . . . The Book of Mormon is of divine authenticity—I have not the slightest doubt of it. I am satisifed that no man could have dictated the writing of the manuscripts unless he was inspired; for, when acting as his scribe, your father would dictate to me hour after hour; and when returning after meals, or after interruptions, he would at once begin where he had left off, without either seeing the manuscript or having any portion of it read to him. This was a usual thing for him to do. It would have been improbable that a learned man could do this; and, for one so ignorant and unlearned as he was, it was simply impossible.” (Backman, Eye-Witnesses, p. 127)

Maurine

So, the work of translation moved forward in marvelous ways.

Naturally, Oliver wanted to know more about his own role in this work and he asked the Prophet Joseph to seek revelation in his behalf.  Section 6 of the Doctrine and Covenants was given and this became very personal for Oliver.

14 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.

This deeply touched Oliver, but there was much more in verses 22 and 23:

22 Verily, verily, I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of these things.

23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?

Mariah

This is one of our favorite verses and it teaches us a very powerful principle. Sometimes we may have questions. Sometimes we may slip into doubts. Sometimes we may wonder about where we are right now spiritually. What great counsel this is to remember the things that you already know—”cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart…” All of us have had some interactions with the Holy Ghost teaching us various truths—whether we recognize them or not. It is a wonderful practice to reflect back on the things that we absolutely know to be true.

Maurine

And these verses were very personal for Oliver Cowdery because, as Joseph recorded: 

“After we had received this revelation, he [Oliver Cowdery], stated to me that after he had gone to my father’s to board, and after the family communicated to him concerning my having got the plates, that one night, after he had retired to bed, he called upon the Lord to know if these things were so and that the Lord manifested to him that they were true, but that he had kept the circumstance entirely secret and had mentioned it to no being, so that after this revelation having been given, he knew that the work was true, because no being living knew of the thing alluded to in the revelation but God and himself.” (Backman, Eye-Witnesses, p. 104)

So, this is the powerful question: What greater witness can you have than from God?

In a world that absolutely puts down spiritual experiences and revelation and inspiration from God, it is necessary that we remember that there are NO greater witnesses than that which we receive from God.  This is encouraging to me.  I am often reflecting upon the things I know by the Holy Spirit and as I review those things, I just feel stronger and stronger and better and better.

Mariah

Let’s explore that process of revelation as we are taught in Sections 8 and 9—sections specifically given to Oliver Cowdery but they apply to each one of us.  First of all, Section 8, verses 2 and 3—Let’s define the Spirit of Revelation: “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation.

So, He first tells us in our mind. Sometimes we leave our minds out of the equation. We cannot do this. Have you ever had a thought that pops into your mind and then as you ponder it, it begins to grow and feel good to you? Well, remember: It started in your mind.

Maurine

So the Lord tells us in our mind and in our heart. What is it like? Could we be receiving revelation and not realize it?

When Loren Dalton was a mission president he gave a talk to his missionaries about following the Spirit, and, he said, “To my surprise, my talk did not bring the results I had anticipated.  Rather than have lots of missionaries reporting back to me about their miracles from following the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, I had a number of missionaries scheduling interviews with me.  One after another, they would come in and, with tears in their eyes, they would say, ‘President…I don’t think I have ever had a prompting of the Spirit in my whole life.’  After a lot of very similar interviews, hearing these wonderful and worthy young men and women feeling terrible because they thought that the Lord didn’t think enough of them to ever communicate to them, it hit me that I had skipped a very important “first step” in teaching our missionaries how to act on the promptings of the Spirit. Before they could ask for and act on them, they needed to be taught how to recognize these whisperings of the Holy Ghost. “

Mariah

President Dalton told his missionaries that they needed to recognize three important facts.

FACT #1:  The Holy Ghost is a Spirit. 

FACT #2:  We also have a Spirit.

FACT #3:  When the Holy Ghost talks to us, it is one spirit (the Holy Ghost) talking to another spirit (our Spirit). 

“These facts seem straightforward and easy to understand.  However, the problem is that we have been in our earthly tabernacles for so long, that we have forgotten how spiritual beings communicate. So, in order to understand how it works, we need to understand it in a “PHYSICAL” way.  It is as simple as this.  When the Holy Ghost talks to us, his prompting (or whisper) pops into our head like a good idea.”

Maurine

President Dalton said, “I like to call it a ‘BING!’ moment.  Of course, we know that God could appear to us or send an angel to talk to us, but, as we learn in Alma 37:6-7, it is usually by “small and simple means” that He works with us.  Why would He appear to us when He can accomplish the same thing by sending us a prompting to our minds (a “BING!”)? 

“The problem is that, all too often, when these ideas pop into our minds, we think the idea or thought that just popped into our heads is OUR OWN thought and, as a result, we don’t give as much credence to it.  We usually feel like, ‘Sure. That is a good idea.  I will do it later when I am done with this thing I am doing now.’  But, when we finish with that thing we are currently doing, we have forgotten about the ‘BING’ and, as a result, we never act on it.  However, we don’t feel badly about not doing it, because we think it was just our thought.”

Mariah

In Section 9, the Lord tells Oliver that after he studies something out in his own mind, “then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7-9).

Often we think that a burning in our bosom or a stupor of thought is the only way God talks to us, but it is important to recognize that the Spirit’s whispers to you may not always be so dramatic.

Maurine

Joseph Smith 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 sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto 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 in Christ Jesus.”

Mariah

In Doctrine and Covenants 11:13, the Lord says, “I will impart unto you of my Spirit which shall enlighten your mind.” This means that thoughts will pop into your head, ideas formulate, a little urgency to do something. An idea will rest in your mind and begin to grow. It will sound like your own voice, but notice that Joseph Smith says to notice the “first intimations”

Maurine

We have been seeking daily to notice the Lord’s voice in our lives and not just discount it as our own idea—or take credit for it either. Just this past week, it weighed on my mind several times to call a friend of mine, but the time didn’t seem just right because I had so many things to do. At any given moment, it didn’t seem that I had time for a conversation. But what do you know, I saw her this weekend and she said she’d been sick and had a really bad week. The Spirit had been talking to me, all along. I just didn’t respond. I thought it was my own idea.

Another day recently, I woke up in the morning with a list of things to do, but the idea occurred to me that I needed to write an article for Meridian Magazine on a particular topic, and I also knew just what I wanted to say. This time, I did pay attention and re-outlined my day so that I could create this article that had just popped into my head. I realized only later that the Spirit had been speaking to me.

Mariah

Our friend and ministering brother, Lincoln Watkins said, “My prayers are answered in a somewhat frustrating way. I don’t pray over a problem or a question or situation and then get an answer in the near future. It’s never really worked that way for me. I recognize the answers to my prayers by looking in the rear-view mirror. When I look back over my life and consider the twists and turns, the events, the joys, the successes, the unimaginable blessings which I’ve received, I can see the pattern of answers to my prayers by a loving Heavenly Father. “

Maurine

We can grow in our ability to recognize revelation and act upon it. It is a most important spiritual skill—and it is a learned skill. We love those exceptional moments when we feel a cascade of light in our souls that brings tears to our eyes. We love those moments of revelation when “ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand” (Alma 32:34). This is delicious when you feel this expansion of mind and soul.

Mariah

It is also important to know that revelation falls in a broad range of experiences.  Before Christ came to the Nephites, “they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a small voice it did pierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn (3 Nephi 11:3.)

Piercing them to their very soul. Sometimes a revelation can be that profound. The Lord’s voice is “not a voice of thunder, neither [is] it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it [is] a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper”(Helaman 5;30).

Maurine

Sometimes revelation has no words to it, but is just a feeling of calm and soothing peace that comes over us. It is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 111 that when Joseph Smith went to Salem, Massachusetts, he was told this: “And the place where it is my will that you should tarry, for the main, shall be signalized unto you by the peace and power of my Spirit, that shall flow unto you” (D&C 111:8).

So revelation comes in many ways and in many intensities to us, but most often the Lord tells us in our minds and in our hearts. We have to learn to trust these thoughts and act on them.

Mariah

There is this mysterious addition to that definition in Doctrine and Covenants 3, so that it’s perfectly clear:

“…behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”

Now, what does that mean?

Maurine

I think we see a laser insight into one of the classic miracles of the history of the Hebrew Nation. There is Moses up against a seemingly impossible situation. Moses looks one way and there are the powerful armies of Pharaoh bearing down on them with the intent to destroy all the Hebrews. Moses looks the other way and there is the Red Sea.

Now, here the Lord is teaching us about the Spirit of Revelation: “This is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”

Perhaps the message is this:  In this impossible situation, Moses cried to the Lord with all of his heart for mercy, for protection. Perhaps he cried: SAVE US! And into his mind came a thought, “If the Lord could help me part these waters with the Rod of God, we could cross this Sea and escape from the Egyptians forever.

Mariah

And as Moses pondered on this thought, the Holy Ghost came upon him and dwelt in his heart. Then the voice of God came to Moses: “But lift up thy rod, and stretch out thine hand over the sea, and divide it: and the children of Israel shall go on dry ground through the midst of the sea.” (Exodus 14:16)

“And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” (Exodus 14:21)

Can you imagine how much courage this took on the part of Moses? There is a lesson here for each of us to put our trust in the Spirit of the Lord and the thoughts that come into our minds by the power of the Holy Ghost.

Maurine

For me, this idea of speaking to our heart goes like this: the idea that has come to our mind, feels good. It feels right. It feels grounded and consistent. It may not be what you initially thought you would do with your day. It might be a surprise or suggest you do something you hadn’t planned on. It might be just an odd passing impression. It might be just a sense of peace and assurance around an idea. To me that is feeling it in your heart.

It reminds me of something funny that happened once. Scot and I were riding through southern Utah talking about what our next book project would be. We had done a series of big photographic books with text and so we were brainstorming on the next. It started to rain and it came to us that it might be fun to do a book called “When the Desert Rains.” We thought we could talk about hope and flowers that bloom out of barren spots in our lives. We chattered about it for a couple of hours, and thought it was an interesting possibility, but the next morning when we woke up we thought, what was that idea we were talking about yesterday? We could hardly remember. We’d lost all passion and interest about it through the night—and thus, When the Desert Rains, was never born. We had felt it in our minds a little bit, but finally in our hearts—not all. Sometimes we laugh. “Is this going to be another When the Desert Rains idea—in other words—not an impression from the Spirit but a lame idea that was lost very quickly when our hearts just didn’t respond.

Mariah

So we practice now to receive revelation. It is our privilege as children of God and covenant people with the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Joseph Smith said, “God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him … from the least to the greatest [see Jeremiah 31:34].”

Learning how to receive this gift is worth a lifetime of effort.

Maurine

That’s all for today. This has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Next week we’ll study Doctrine and Covenants Sections 10 and 11, “That You May Come Off Conqueror.” Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and for Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces this show. See you next week.