Joseph Smith Seer Stones: Doctrine and Covenants 6-9 Insights (Part 2)

Dr. Tyler Griffin

Dr. Tyler Griffin

Source Expert

Dr. Tyler Griffin’s career in education started with six years teaching seminary in Brigham City. He then spent seven years instructing at the Logan LDS Institute and helped launch the online seminary program. Currently, he’s a professor at BYU with over ten years of experience. Dr. Griffin co-founded the BYU Virtual Scriptures Group and holds degrees in Electrical Engineering, Instructional Technology (Master’s and PhD). He has authored and co-authored several religious books.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

Section 6 tells you that this was given to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in April of 1829. So, it’s very shortly after he’s arrived when this revelation comes to Oliver. And it opens, you’ll notice, by the way, that it opens using a similar phrase that we heard back in section 4, and it’s going to be used over and over again in subsequent sections: “A great and marvelous work is about to come forth unto the children of men”.

And notice the context, verse 2: “Behold, I am God…”. I love those three words: “I am God”. This is the Lord Jesus Christ speaking directly to Joseph and Oliver, making very clear, I’m God, and I have a work that I’m going to bring forth, and you two are going to be instruments using the instruments like the seer stones that I have given you, that I’m going to use in bringing this forth. But let’s keep it clear, I’m God. It’s, in my mind, it’s the nicest way he has of saying, I know what I’m doing. You’ve got to trust me completely here. I know how to do this work, even if you’re struggling, wondering about how you’re going to pay bills, or how you’re going to provide for your physical needs. Trust me as you do this great and marvelous work.

Notice he then goes on to verse 4: “…whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God.” Now look at the qualifier in verse 5: “Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.” Verse 6 informs us: you already have asked, so let me give you an answer. I’m going to help you receive something right here. Look at verse 6: “Now, as you have asked, behold, I say unto you, keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion…” Did you notice that? They’ve asked the question, and his answer is, yes, seek to bring forth my kingdom and establish the cause of Zion. That’s the answer. Brothers and sisters, that’s the answer for all of us, if we really ask, it’s the same thing. Look at verse 7: “Seek not for riches but for wisdom…”

These two men, and Emma as well, wondering about how to even pay bills, and here’s God yet again reminding them, don’t worry about the riches but for wisdom. Brothers and sisters, what do you think Brother Joseph and Brother Oliver would say if they could speak directly with you today? Would they say, let me tell you how frustrating it was to be so poor so long, and always struggling with lack of funds? Do you think they would mention anything about money today, as they look back on their life? Or do you think they would say, oh, trust that the Lord will provide for the needs, as you do the best. It doesn’t mean that we ignore it, it doesn’t mean that we don’t try to provide for our needs. It just means that if you seek for wisdom for example through the seer stones, “…the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you and then shall you be made rich. Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich”.

It’s a world that we live in that is very, very enticing to pull our attention towards the things that money and power can give us. And here the Lord’s reminding us, that’s all very fleeting. Look at verse 8: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.” And that is not fleeting. That doesn’t go away when you die. That doesn’t just fade into oblivion. That’s work that stays done, and we are the beneficiaries of exactly that kind of work that these two accomplish.

Oliver has been blessed with a gift from God and counseled to not make it known to many.

Look at verse 10: “Behold thou hast a gift, and blessed art thou because of thy gift. Remember it is sacred and cometh from above–“. Now, brothers and sisters, there’s a section here, verse 10, 11, 12, where he talks about the gift, and don’t make it known unto any, don’t trifle with sacred things, and there’s a lot there that seems difficult to understand. And it’s going to come up again in section 8, and even a little in section 9, this idea that Oliver Cowdery has a rod, similar, that’s compared to the rod of Aaron, or the rod of Moses, through which great miracles are performed, and revelation is given. I’m going to talk a little bit about that in section 8, but there’s not a lot written about it, and there’s not a lot that Oliver is going to say about it. Why? He’s told, don’t make these things known. Don’t talk about them a lot, and so he doesn’t.

God can use a variety of means and objects to bring about revelation in our personal lives.

Yes, if we look specifically at verse 12, it says: “Make not thy gift known unto any save it be those who are of thy faith. Trifle not with sacred things.” So, let’s consider

 other objects that God has used as means of revelation. We have the Urim and Thummim. We have seer stones. We have the Liahona that God prepared. So, this is not unusual for God to make use of objects to reveal his will. We have the scriptures today. They are an object, and they are means to reveal God’s will. So, God will use means to convey his will to us. We have modern-day prophets who will speak to us, and on a regular basis, they speak God’s will to us. And second of all, we have the opportunity to have God’s Spirit in our lives. As we promise to keep the commandments at the sacrament, the return promise from God is we’ll always have his Spirit to be with us, which is a form of having revelation continually with us. So, whether it’s Aaron’s rod, or the Liahona, or the seer stones, God will work with us, if we are willing to listen, to guide us with the revelation that we need for where we’re at in our life and times.

And by the way, some people have looked at whether it’s the rod of Aaron, and now we talk about the rod with Oliver Cowdery, or the Urim and Thummim anciently, or the Urim and Thummim, or the seer stones with Joseph. Some would say, in our modern culture, they would say that’s ridiculous. How can you believe that something like a stone can shine forth in the darkness, that the writing can change from time to time depending on the need? If even man can figure out how to do this, I think God can make all kinds of things work. And, by the way, in this translation process with seer stones, there are a lot of questions that come up regarding the mechanics of it, and Oliver is now participating in that process for the first time.

It’s fascinating that whenever Joseph Smith was asked to describe the translation process, he never went into great detail. He never told people the exact mechanics of how it worked. His answer was always the same: the Book of Mormon was “translated by the gift and power of God”. In other words, he keeps removing himself from taking any kind of credit. He doesn’t say, it was translated by the gift and power of my intellect, or my incredible ability with Reformed Egyptian or ancient languages. He never takes any of the credit for himself. He always says it was “translated by the gift and power of God”. Consequently, there are some who wonder about the hat, for instance, that you’ll hear in Church history stories, or you can read it in the Church’s gospel topic essays. And a lot of paintings will depict Joseph looking through the Urim and Thummim like glasses, like spectacles, looking down at the plates, and seeing the English words come through that way.

I love a more balanced approach to this. One of my colleagues at BYU, Tony Sweat, painted a beautiful depiction, one depiction of the translation process, with Joseph looking into the hat.
And I asked him about that, and this whole question of the translation process, and I loved his answer. He said if we’re not careful, we’re going to swing the pendulum too far to one side or the other. We have first-person witness accounts that talk about Joseph looking in the hat, with the Urim and Thummim or seer stones, and we have other accounts that talk about him just looking at the seer stones, and perhaps even at the plates, through them. And so I love the fact, like Taylor is saying, that God can use a variety of means to help bring us revelation. And in this case, some people have wondered, well, is the hat magical? Is there something fantastical about this hat? I think it’s really simple. I don’t think there’s anything special about the hat, other than if I’m looking at a stone that’s shining forth in the darkness, and if it’s kind of bright, what do I do? I put that in a place that’s a little darker, that makes it a little easier for my eyes so there’s less eye strain to be able to read the words clearly that are written on that stone, so to speak.

By Dr. Tyler Griffin, Source Expert

Dr. Tyler Griffin embarked on his professional journey by teaching seminary courses for a period of six years in Brigham City, Utah. Following that, he dedicated the subsequent seven years to instructing at the Logan LDS Institute, located adjacent to Utah State University. Alongside his participation in the Seminary Preservice program, he spearheaded and supervised the implementation of the online seminary program. Dr. Griffin has been an educator at BYU for well over a decade and holds a co-founding position within the BYU Virtual Scriptures Group. His undergraduate degree is in Electrical Engineering, while both his master’s and doctorate degrees center around Instructional Technology. Dr. Griffin is the exclusive author of “When Heaven Appears Distant” co-author of “Come Unto Me: Illuminating the Savior’s Life, Mission, Parables, and Miracles” and co-editor of “Millions Shall Rediscover Brother Joseph.”

Fact Checked by Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

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