Guest Post by Dr. Steven Harper – the Story Behind D&C 6

by | Jan 26, 2021

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Managing Church Historian for the “Saints” book series.

Dr. Harper was a great sport during last Sunday night’s interview. Here is an excerpt from his new blog. If you would like to read about D&C 7, 8 and 9 – click the link at the end of this article. Dr. Harper will be writing some novel-like stories about each section, and following the Come Follow Me schedule. Subscribe to his blog and enjoy the drama from behind the scenes.

History for Section 6

Early in 1829, Joseph’s father-in-law was about to evict him. Joseph “cried unto the Lord that he would provide for me to accomplish the work whereunto he had commanded me.”[1] This prayer was answered on a Sabbath evening when Joseph’s younger brother Samuel arrived with a twenty-two-year-old school teacher named Oliver Cowdery.  

Oliver had learned about the marvelous work from Joseph’s family. He had prayed to know the truth of the matter and the Lord showed him the Book of Mormon plates in a vision, and told him of the translation Joseph had begun.[2] Oliver probably brought with him some money for Joseph to use to make a payment to his father-in-law.  

On the second day after his arrival, Oliver began scribing as Joseph translated the Book of Mormon. Oliver had a normal inclination to fear and doubt things that had been revealed to him before. He wanted to know if he could believe what he was seeing and experiencing. The Lord responded with the reassuring revelation in section 6.

Speaking through Joseph but to Oliver, the Lord assures him that his gifts are indeed divine, and that the revelation he received before was too. This has the effect of convincing Oliver once and for all that Joseph, however unrefined or lacking in literacy, is the Lord’s chosen seer, for out of Joseph’s mouth came words of Jesus Christ, telling Oliver things Jesus knew but Joseph didn’t. Oliver wrote to David Whitmer saying that Joseph had “told him secrets of his life that he knew could not be known to any person by himself, in any way other than by revelation from the Almighty.”[3] 

Section 6 foreshadows sections 7 and 8 by telling Oliver about records that have been kept hidden due to wickedness and that Oliver can have the gift to translate if he desires it.  The revelation foreshadows martyrdom, but it is encouraging and empowering to Oliver.

It also bears a beautiful autobiographical witness of Christ, perhaps even in a visual way for Joseph and Oliver, the two young seers. The Lord invites them to “look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet” (36-37).  Like Peter, beholding the risen Christ gives Joseph and Oliver apostolic courage.  

What we have in Section 6, then, is a document of the Lord’s lovingly employed omniscience.  He is not the arbitrary sovereign Oliver’s ancestors imagined him to be.[4]  He uses his limitless power to address the needs of those who desire and ask. He proves to Oliver that Joseph Smith, whatever his “faults” (v. 19), is the Lord’s chosen seer. The revelation not only says those things. By its delivery through Joseph and its secrets known only to the Lord and Oliver, it illustrates them.

Go directly to Dr. Harpers new blog!

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