Why was Oliver Cowdery chastened by the Lord?

Why was Oliver Cowdery chastened by the Lord?

Question

 

Dear Gramps,

In D&C 8, the Lord gives Oliver Cowdery the power to translate the Gold Plates.  The Lord directs him four separate times in verses 1, 9, 10 and 11 to ask Him for the translation he needs.  In D&C 9, we find out that Oliver was perfectly obedient to these directions to ask, yet he failed and is chastened by the Lord because he did not “study it out in his mind”.  Why would the Lord tell him four times in section 8 to ask, and yet say nothing about studying it out in his mind?

Robert

 

Answer

 

Robert,

The answer to your question is found in Section 9:

5 And, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you.

Now it seems very likely that before Oliver Cowdery asked for permission, he did ponder it and study it.  When he asked, the Lord gave him the missing pieces; permission and instructions to ask in faith.

Apparently Oliver, like many of us focused on the new stuff and neglected the actions and behaviors that got him there in the first place.  This can be an all too common failing.

Of course God, being God, knew that this would happen, so why didn’t He intervene to correct it?  That is simply another form of the question of ‘Why does God not stop bad things from happening?’  We simply have to have faith that God knows what He is doing, and what He is doing is for the best.

That leaves us with speculation.  In this case I would speculate that God did not need Oliver to translate (Joseph was called for that), but he did need to teach Oliver how to receive answers from God.  Now, God is a master teacher, and I know that sometimes I learn the most from my failures, and not necessarily as much from my successes.  Maybe that is what Oliver needed in order to to learn?

Also Oliver was a School Master by trade who shouldn’t have needed to be advised that some measure of intellectual rigor would be necessary to undertake the work of translation. Hence the absence of any “study-it-out-in-your-mind” injunction in D&C 8.  It’s what I perceive to be a general, gentle tone of “you-should-have-known-better.” In D&C 9 it becomes clear that whatever process Oliver used lacked any real intellectual effort on his part.

I do know that because of Oliver’s request and struggles we have Doctrine and Covenants sections 8 and 9.  This allows all of us who read and ponder the words and instructions to also learn the lessons that God was teaching Oliver.  How many hundreds or thousands of people have also been taught because of these events?  While my thoughts are speculative, it is not really that hard for me to think of some very good reasons that God might have had to let this happen.

Anyway, for those interested, the Church has posted an article covering the events in question here.  You can read here.

 

Gramps

 

 

Why is the Doctrine and Covenants not arranged in chronological order?

Why is the Doctrine and Covenants not arranged in chronological order?

Question

 

Dear Gramps,

What is the rhyme or reason behind how the Doctrine and  Covenants is arranged?  They are not organized in chronological order.  Neither are they arranged topically or by priority as far as I can tell.  There must be some logical reason for why they have been placed that way.

Robert

 

Answer

 

Hi Robert,

The sections of the Doctrine and Covenants are arranged chronologically, with some exceptions. The first and most obvious exception is Section 1, which was put first by divine commandment:

Behold, this is mine authority, and the authority of my servants, and my preface unto the book of my commandments, which I have given them to publish unto you, O inhabitants of the earth.

(The original publication of revelations that we call The Doctrine and Covenants was originally titled The Book of Commandments.)

The other notable exceptions occur at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants, starting with Section 133:

  • Section 133: This section was originally an appendix to the Book of Commandments. It was later assigned a section number at the (then-current) end of the revelations.
  • Section 134: This is not a revelation, but a statement of belief accepted at a general assembly of the Church in 1835 and originally intended to be included at the end of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Sections 135 and 136 continue the chronology established through Section 132, and were placed at the very end of the book. Section 135 is the announcement of the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, and Section 136 is the will of the Lord given by revelation to Brigham Young. Until 1981, Section 136 was the last numbered section in the Doctrine and Covenants.

  • Section 137: This is a marvelous vision the Prophet Joseph Smith received in 1836, but which for some reason was not included in earlier compilations of the Doctrine and Covenants. Along with Section 138, this was officially added to the Doctrine and Covenants in 1976 as an appendix; Gramps remembers well the small booklet with a sticky strip designed to insert these into our then-current copies of the D&C. In 1981, when the special footnoted edition of the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price was released to match the 1979 LDS edition of the King James Bible, these two revelations were assigned regular section numbers at the end of the sections.
  • Section 138: A magnificent and important vision by President Joseph F. Smith. Its addition to the D&C is discussed in the paragraph above on Section 137. This section along with Section 136 and the two Official Declarations constitute the only four revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants that were not received or dictated by the Prophet Joseph Smith.

The “Official Declarations” have been retained as the last part of the Doctrine and Covenants, though Official Declaration 1 was actually made by President Wilford Woodruff before the revelation in Section 138 was received by President Joseph F. Smith.

Other than the cases mentioned above, the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants were intended to be in strictly chronological order. In a few cases (such as Section 74, Section 94, and Section 99), incorrect record-keeping or simple ignorance of the exact date of the revelation resulted in the revelations being out of order.

The Church leadership has determined that the non-chronological ordering will be kept to preserve the familiar section numbering.

 

Gramps

 

 

What is D&C 13:1 saying?

What is D&C 13:1 saying?

Question

 

Gramps,

The scripture found in D&C 13:1 says,

1 Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness.

What is this scripture talking about?

Scott

 

Answer

 

Scott,

This is a great question because, in this single sentence, there are multiple, fascinating items of great doctrinal significance. The restoration of the Aaronic Priesthood took place on 15 May 1829. Oliver Cowdery related that, immediately before this time, Joseph and he completed the translation and transcription of the Savior’s appearance to the Nephites. If you will recall, there was a moment in that narrative when the Lord of Glory called Nephi forward and gave him authority to baptize believers into the Church. Cowdery related how this prompted them to consider their own standing before God, once it occurred to them that the authority to baptize might not be upon the earth. Oliver wrote:

 “After writing the account given of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent, it was easy to be seen, as the prophet said it would be, that darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the minds of the people. On reflecting further it was as easy to be seen that amid the great strife and noise concerning religion, none had authority from God to administer the ordinances of the Gospel. For the question might be asked, have men authority to administer in the name of Christ, who deny revelations, when His testimony is no less than the spirit of prophecy, and His religion based, built, and sustained by immediate revelations, in all ages of the world when He has had a people on earth? If these facts were buried, and carefully concealed by men whose craft would have been in danger if once permitted to shine in the faces of men, they were no longer to us; and we only waited for the commandment to be given ‘Arise and be baptized’ (Joseph Smith—History).

Oliver gives a vivid description of the encounter with John the Baptist.

This was not long desired before it was realized. The Lord, who is rich in mercy, and ever willing to answer the consistent prayer of the humble, after we had called upon Him in a fervent manner, aside from the abodes of men, condescended to manifest to us His will. On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance. What joy! what wonder! what amazement! (Joseph Smith-History).

When we learn about the restoration of the priesthood, our Sunday School and seminary teachers don’t usually mention the fact that the Lord spoke to Joseph and Oliver at this moment, but Oliver related that the “voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us.” The heading for Section 13 also tells us that John claimed that he was acting under the direction of Peter, James, and John. To me, these details outline the way the order of the priesthood operates. The apostleship operates under keys given by the Savior and directs the work of salvation. The Melchizedek Priesthood holds the rights of presidency and directs the Aaronic Priesthood as an appendage to its mission. Joseph and Oliver’s experience is a lesson in the administration of heaven in this regard.

Oliver mentions that John the Baptist restored the “keys of the gospel of repentance.” After they were ordained by the heavenly messenger, Joseph and Oliver were sent to baptize one another for the remission of sins. It is interesting to note that they were not ordained to an office in the Aaronic Priesthood; the priesthood only was conferred upon them. This is because the offices of the Aaronic Priesthood are office of the Church, which would not be restored until April of the following year. There was no Church yet in which they could hold a priesthood office.

Along with the keys of the gospel of the remission of sins was included a special spiritual gift: the ministering of angels. Many saints have wondered why this marvelous gift is given to the Aaronic Priesthood expressly, but is not mentioned as part of the Melchizedek Priesthood. This is necessary for the protection of gospel ministers who act without the benefit of the greater priesthood’s authority. D&C 107:18-20 teaches us:

 18 The power and authority of the higher, or Melchizedek Priesthood, is to hold the keys of all the spiritual blessings of the church–

19 To have the privilege of receiving the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, to have the heavens opened unto them, to commune with the general assembly and church of the Firstborn, and to enjoy the communion and presence of God the Father, and Jesus the mediator of the new covenant.

20 The power and authority of the lesser, or Aaronic Priesthood, is to hold the keys of the ministering of angels, and to administer in outward ordinances, the letter of the gospel, the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, agreeable to the covenants and commandments.

Aaronic Priesthood holders may rely upon angelic ministrants to protect them as they preach the gospel. In the 19th century, it was common for priests to travel on missions, usually (but not always) in the company of Elders. Doctrine and Covenants Section 128, verse 20 relates that Michael, the archangel, appeared as a ministering angel on the banks of the Susquehanna River and detected Satan, who apparently appeared as an angel of light and tried to deceive Joseph and Oliver. We have no other official record of this event, but it mentions in the sequence of various visions and appearances, the appearance of Peter, James, and John immediately after this reference. If the reader desires more information on the circumstances of the restoration of the Melchizedek priesthood, the following Ensign article contains some additional, fascinating information:

The Restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods

Finally, the words of John the Baptist leave us with an enticing question. What does he mean when he says the priesthood will not be taken from the earth until the sons of Levi offer an offering in righteousness? We immediately think of Aaronic Priesthood offerings in John’s time, which would have involved animal sacrifices. We wonder, will the Aaronic Priesthood eventually be taken from the earth? If animal sacrifice ended with the shedding of the Savior’s blood which it symbolized, what will the offering be?

In the Bible, the sons of Levi included Moses and his brother, Aaron.  D&C 84:31 and 34 tell us that the modern sons of Levi are those who hold the Melchizedek and Aaronic Priesthoods. What is the offering they will offer? Joseph Smith answers this question in D&C 128:24,

 … [A]nd he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Let us, therefore, as a church and a people, and as Latter-day Saints, offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; and let us present in his holy temple, when it is finished, a book containing the records of our dead, which shall be worthy of all acceptation.

The vast genealogical work of the Church, under the direction of the Priesthood, is the book containing the records of our dead, to be presented to the Lord as an offering when He returns. If this work was not underway when He returns, the earth would be smitten with a curse (See Malachi 4:6). This work will continue throughout the Millennium, thus the work of the Aaronic Priesthood will continue right up until the end of the thousand years, when its mission will be fulfilled as a preparatory priesthood and a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (D&C 84:26,Galatians 3:24).

In a single short verse of scripture, a marvelous outpouring of light from an angelic messenger connects us to many other brilliant facets of gospel truth from the restoration.

 

Gramps

 

 

What is meant by “wings of healing?”  Did Christ have wings?

What is meant by “wings of healing?” Did Christ have wings?

Question

What is meant in 3 Nephi 25:2 when it says Christ will heal us with his wings of healing? Did Christ have wings?

Rick
 

Answer

Dear Rick,

When the Savior visited the Nephites, He wanted them to have the significant prophecies of Malachi. The Old Testament text that we have today has one small difference: it speaks of the “Sun of righteousness” (not “Son”). This creates the image of the sun flying across the sky in a fixed course healing everything its light touches (compare this with the earth’s “wings” in modern revelation). The Nephite version of this verse takes a more literal rendering so hearers know that the Son of God will be the one travelling across the world to heal the nations. Modern scripture (D&C 77:4) also explicitly describes the purpose of the wing symbol, “wings are a representation of power, to move, to act, etc.” So in this specific case, the Son of righteousness has the power to heal, and is free to move across the earth to act in the favor of those that fear his name.

 Gramps

What is meant by “chosen by the body” in the selection of the First Presidency?

What is meant by “chosen by the body” in the selection of the First Presidency?

Question

Dear Gramps,

D&C 107:22 says that the First Presidency of the Church should be “chosen by the body”. Does this refer to the general membership of the church, or how are we to interpret this verse? It seems these brethren are chosen by God, and we as members have no input on the matter. So how are we to interpret this? Thanks for your time and effort on this wonderful web site. I try to read it every day.

Robert (more…)

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