Sunday School

What Greater Witness

In Your Mind and In Your Heart

The historical events and ensuing revelations covered in this week’s Come, Follow Me lesson offer profound insights into personal revelation. As you study the experiences of Oliver Cowdery and read Doctrine and Covenants 6-9, think back to your own experiences with revelation:

  • What do you understand about revelation now that was not clear to you when you first sought answers to your prayers?
  • What missteps did you take along the way?
  • What attitudes or attributes helped you receive revelation?
  • What would you like to understand about revelation today?

In 1828 – while the prophet Joseph was in Harmony – a schoolteacher named Oliver Cowdery heard about gold plates and angelic messengers while teaching the Smith family in their Manchester home. Over the course of that winter, Oliver heard many stories of the marvelous work unfolding around him. By the end of the school term, Oliver had decided that he would help the translation effort in any way he could. Before committing fully, Lucy and Joseph Smith Sr. urged to Oliver to ask the Lord if his decision was correct.

Retiring to his bed, Oliver prayed privately to know if what he had heard about the gold plates was true. The Lord showed him a vision of the gold plates and Joseph’s efforts to translate them. A peaceful feeling rested over him, and he knew then that he should volunteer to be Joseph’s scribe.

Oliver told no one about his prayer. But as soon as the school term ended, he and Joseph’s brother Samuel set out on foot for Harmony, more than a hundred miles away.

Saints, Volume 1 Chapter 6

Together, Joseph and Oliver translated day after day for weeks. Joseph dictated the translation as Oliver served as scribe, writing out the manuscript of the Book of Mormon. Still, Oliver had many questions for the Lord about his role in the work. The revelation Joseph sought for Oliver is found in Doctrine and Covenants 6. To show the personal nature of revelation, the Lord reminded Oliver of his first inquiry:

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.

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

Doctrine and Covenants 6:22-23

The answer received in revelation through Joseph Smith surprised Oliver, “[He] was astonished. He immediately told Joseph about his secret prayer and the divine witness he had received. No one could have known about it except God, he said, and he now knew the work was true” (Saints, Volume 1 Chapter 6).

Soon Oliver desired to try his hand at translating the plates. Although he had received permission from the Lord (Doctrine and Covenants 8), his attempt at translating failed. Frustrated, he sought another revelation from the Lord to understand why he was not successful (Doctrine and Covenants 9). As you study Doctrine and Covenants 8-9, how do you see yourself in Oliver?

If you are currently feeling discouraged with your own efforts to receive answers to prayers, consider the following promises from two Latter-Day prophets:

In my life I have learned that sometimes I do not receive an answer to a prayer because the Lord knows I am not ready. When He does answer, it is often ‘here a little and there a little’ [2 Nephi 28:30] because that is all that I can bear or all I am willing to do.

Waiting upon the Lord: Thy Will be Done, Robert D. Hales

What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior’s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. … When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.

Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer, Richard G. Scott

Fear Not, Little Flock

While the revelations in Doctrine and Covenants 6, 8, and 9 primarily focus on learning to hear the Lord’s voice, these sections also contain words of comfort to the Joseph and Oliver during the hardships of translation and the fears of mounting opposition.

Search the following verses in Doctrine and Covenants 6 one at a time and ponder how you can find peace in your own hardships and fears.

Verse 27Verse 30Verse 33
Verse 34Verse 36Verse 37

Optimism, courage, even charity come from a heart not burdened by troubles or turmoil. President Nelson, who is “optimistic about the future,” has reminded us, “If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelation.”

To receive personal revelation, we must place priority on living the gospel and encouraging faithfulness and spirituality in others as well as ourselves.

Take heart, brothers and sisters. Yes, we live in perilous times, but as we stay on the covenant path, we need not fear.

Be Not Troubled, Ronald A. Rasband

Additional Resources

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