Thursday, January 28, 2016

Study it Out in Your Own Mind

When the Lord called Joseph Smith as His Prophet for this Last Dispensation, and formed His Church, the new organization needed steadfast and unwavering leaders who had been trained in the ways of the Lord. One such leader was Oliver Cowdery, a capable young man eager to do the work of God.
Among his many worthwhile characteristics, he had one major flaw and that was the fact he was not content merely to assist in the work of translating by serving as Joseph’s scribe—he wanted to translate just like Joseph. However, the Lord’s desire was for Oliver to continue to serve as scribe and then seek for greater gifts (D&C 9:2-3). But like many of us who are not satisfied with a lesser role, Oliver was impatient to move beyond the mundane. So the Lord gave him the opportunity in the form of a teaching lesson.
    The fact that he failed and why is well documented in Section 9. President Joseph Fielding Smith pointed out that “it seems probable that Oliver Cowdery desired to translate out of curiosity, and the Lord taught him his place by showing him that translating was not the easy thing he had thought it to be. In a subsequent revelation (Sec. 9), the explanation was made that Oliver’s failure came because he did not continue as he commenced, and the task being a difficult one, his faith deserted him. The lesson he learned was very necessary, for he was shown that his place was to act as scribe for Joseph Smith and that it was the latter who was called and appointed by command of the Lord to do the translating. There must have been some desire on the part of Oliver Cowdery to be equal with the Prophet and some impatience in having to sit and act as scribe, but when he failed to master the gift of translating, he was then willing to accept the will of the Lord” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:50–51.)
    The Lord assigned Oliver’s failure to translate to the fact that he did not translate according to that which he desired of the Lord (D&C 9:1). Evidently, Oliver needed to learn that translating as Joseph Smith was doing was by the gift and power of God. It seems that Oliver had received sufficient instruction, but instead when given the chance, went his own way, using his own wisdom and did not rely on the Lord, who told him: “Because you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate…” (D&C 9:5). The Lord’s Will was for Joseph to translate and Oliver to scribe (D&C 9:4) and stopped Oliver from translating. After all, there was much for Oliver to learn, though the assertive young man did not realize it at the time.
Still, the Lord was not displeased with his zeal. He said to Oliver through Joseph Smith, “Be patient, my son, for it is wisdom in me, and it is not expedient that you should translate at this present time…do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner” (D&C 9:6). Like all of us, we are here to serve the Lord, not make demands of him, nor try to run faster than we can walk. It is a learning experience for us all, and Oliver shows us exactly why we are not given callings or assignments we may want, but are beyond our ability at the moment.
    The Lord told Oliver “Other records have I, that I will give unto you power that you may assist to translate” (D&C 9:2), and the Book of Mormon teaches us that there are many records of God’s dealings with His children yet to come forth (2 Nephi 27:7-8; 3 Nephi 26:6-11; Ether 3:22; 4:5-7). As an example, several years after this revelation was given, the records from which the book of Abraham was translated fell into Joseph Smith’s hands. Perhaps this was one of those other records which the Lord had in mind. It should also be remembered that a portion of the gold plates was sealed. These too shall come forth some time in the future and may have been among those referred to in this statement by the Lord.
    President Joseph Fielding Smith indicated how both Oliver Cowdery and the general Church membership contributed to the failure of the Saints to have these records today: “It is possible that some of them might have been translated had the people received the Book of Mormon with full purpose of heart and had been faithful to its teachings. This was the promise the Lord made through Mormon. He said he would try the faith of the people and if they were willing to accept the lesser things (i.e., the Book of Mormon) then he would make known to them the greater things.”
Except in the time of Enoch, it has always been thus that man has not quite reached the level God had in mind for his people. When Moses came down off the Mount the first time he had the New and Everlasting Covenant (JST Exodus 34:1-2l; D&C 84:23-24); but Aaron and Israel wanted a golden calf to worship and Moses smashed the plates and eventually went back up and received the schooling Ten Commandments.
    As Joseph Fielding Smith added, “That we have failed in this is very apparent, we have not accepted the revelations in the Book of Mormon, neither in the Doctrine and Covenants, with that faith and willingness to know the will of the Lord which would entitle us to receive this greater information. Oliver Cowdery was a party to this failure by turning away from the Church for a number of years when it needed his service. He therefore lost his privilege to translate through his own disobedience, and the people have lost the privilege of receiving the ‘greater things’ spoken of by the Lord to Mormon (3 Nephi 26:8-11) until the day shall come when they are willing to be obedient in all things and will exercise faith such as was had by the brother of Jared. It should be remembered that such faith has rarely been seen on the earth. It appears, therefore, that we must wait until the reign of unrighteousness is at an end before the Lord will give to the people these writings, containing ‘a revelation from God, from the beginning of the world to the ending thereof.’ (2 Nephi 27:7)” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:52–53.)
    Obviously, the Lord knew in 1829 that Oliver would eventually leave the Church. Some have thought this was why the Lord said, “It is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner” (D&C 9:6); however, the Lord, does not punish people for sins they have not yet committed, even though He knows that they will commit them sometime in the future. Oliver had demonstrated by his present insufficient faith that it was better for him to wait for a season before he translated. Also, Joseph needed a scribe, and Oliver’s impatience at being only a scribe had been satisfied since he had learned that translation was not nearly as simple a task as it first appeared. It was therefore wisdom in God to have Oliver wait and Oliver was willing to do so for now.
    The important thing is to understand what mistake Oliver made in attempting to translate. Since both spiritual and mental effort is required in order to translate, Oliver was simply not prepared to do so any more than many of us are not ready to receive the blessings we desire because of the work and effort required first before we can receive what we desire.
    Oliver Cowdery thought that all he needed to do in order to translate was to ask the Lord, but here he is told that he must also ‘study it out’ in his mind as well as to ask the Lord whether or not it is right. The Lord also gives Oliver a key so that he will know when the translation is right: his bosom shall burn within him” This was not instruction just for Oliver, but for the entire Church membership.
If you desire to know something, “You must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right” (D&C 9:8). Though the principle of studying something out in one’s mind and seeking confirmation through the burning of the bosom or a stupor of thought was given to Oliver Cowdery to use in translating the Book of Mormon, this process of receiving revelation can be of value to all Saints. President Joseph Fielding Smith explained that “a similar privilege is given to any member of the Church who seeks knowledge in the spirit of prayer and faith. The Lord will cause the feeling of security and truth to take hold of the individual and burn within the bosom, and there will be an overwhelming feeling that the thing is right.
"Missionaries have felt the manifestation of this gift while laboring in the field; when searching the scriptures; when speaking before congregations on the streets and in public gatherings. When you have been listening to some inspired speaker who has presented a new thought to you, have you not felt that burning within and the satisfaction in your heart that this new thought is true? On the other hand, have you experienced the feeling of stupor, gloom, or uneasiness when some thought has been presented which was in conflict with the revealed word of the Lord, and you have felt by this manifestation of the Spirit that what was said is not true? It is a great gift, which all may receive, to have this spirit of discernment, or revelation, for it is the spirit of revelation.” (Church History and Modern Revelation, 1:51).
There is another reason why Oliver (and we) failed and that was because, as the Lord told him, “you feared” (D&C 9:11). Fear is the result of a lack of faith and an unwillingness to follow through. Had Oliver continued as he commenced, the gift of translation would have been his. As it was, he feared and consequently lost the proffered gift.

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