What is “the gift of Aaron” referred to in D&C 8:6-8?
The revelations given to Joseph Smith were often edited prior to publication in order to clarify their application to the Church members who would read them. The original revelation to Oliver Cowdery referred to “the gift of working with the sprout”, later edited to “working with the rod”. Cowdery was apparently able to channel revelations through a divining rod earlier in his life.
One of the problems with these “folk-magical” means of revelation like divining rods and seer stones was that they could be easily co-opted in order to produce revelations that were not of divine origin – see, for example, D&C 28, which concerns revelations an early church member claimed to receive through a seer stone. As the Church moved away from these particular means of revelation and relied more on direct inspiration from the Lord, the phrase “gift of working with the rod” was eventually modified to “gift of Aaron”, in reference to the Biblical figure who had a rod through which God’s power was shown but was more popularly remembered as a spokesman for and ardent supporter of Jehovah’s appointed prophet Moses.