Joseph Smith Seer Stones: Doctrine and Covenants 6-9 Insights (Part 4)

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

Now, section 7 is very unique, because what it is — it’s brought on by a discussion, I guess we could probably even say a disagreement, that Joseph and Oliver had regarding John chapter 21 verse 22. And, by the way, if you’ll look back in section 6 verse 26, the Lord informed them: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, that there are records which contain much of my gospel, which have been kept back because of the wickedness of the people;”. It’s interesting that the very next section is going to reveal just a little, teeny fragment, a parchment fragment of a writing that had been lost, or had been hidden, had been kept back, written by John the Beloved, or John the Revelator, the brother of James; Peter, James, and John — that apostle. The question that became kind of an argument between Joseph and Oliver was, did John actually die, or was he translated, and is he still alive today? And the discussion got to the point where they decided to ask God the answer to that question. And in this vision that they had, they see this parchment, and then with the aid of the Urim and Thummim the seer stones, they’re able to translate that parchment.

Now just as a side note, you’ll notice your cross-reference here is John chapter 21 verse 22, which is ambiguous at best in the King James Version of the Bible, leaving you open to argue either side if you want, regarding John’s translated state, or whether he died. John would have been writing his gospel and all of his writings in Greek. We have no record of Joseph ever, at this time in 1829, having studied Greek, and yet he’s translating. Now once again, we need to make this clear. We use the word translation today to refer usually, traditionally, a translator is somebody who is gifted and fluent in two languages. He or she reads or hears something in one language, and then they can translate it into this other language that they know. The thing that makes Joseph’s work so remarkable is the fact that technically, he’s really not fluent, so to speak, or extremely articulate at this stage, in any language. Even Emma, his wife, said, he could hardly dictate a coherent letter when I first married him. She gives this way later in life on looking back on this translation process. She said he struggled to even write well, or to speak well. So, what you get is the gift and power of God making it so that Joseph doesn’t know Greek, but he doesn’t need to know Greek, because God knows Greek perfectly. And he knows what John wrote perfectly, and it’s lost.

Certainly, here’s the transcript polished up:

So, through this Urim and Thummim the seer stones means, Joseph is able to take it and render it in English for us, and then from there, we can translate it into all the other languages of the world. So, what you get here is a lost portion of the writings of John being restored to us. And it’s amazing, especially if you look at the word “desire”, or “desired”, “desiredst”, because it comes up multiple times in this section. I’m only going to point out a couple of things here. Look at verse 4: “And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter: If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? For he desired of me that he might bring souls unto me, but thou desirest that thou mightest speedily come unto me in my kingdom.” You both got what you desired. Why are you struggling with this, Peter? Verse 5: “I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire; but my beloved has desired that he might do more, or a greater work yet among men than what he has before done.” I love the fact here that Jesus, in this particular segment that we no longer have in our Bible, explains this concept of, please don’t spend so much time comparing. Don’t look at what you have compared to what somebody else has, and say, well I want what he has. Any comparisons should be with God and with the Savior, not horizontally. He says, Peter, look, you got exactly what you desired. John is getting what he desired. It’s not a problem. Look at verse 8: “Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.” It’s a good question. What does your heart desire? And I hope it’s not the things that the people around you have. I hope it’s the things that the Lord Jesus Christ has to offer you. We’re told multiple times in these sections, if you have righteous desires, “Ask, and you shall receive; knock, and it shall be opened unto you”. Section 7 tells us, shows us, gives us evidence that is true, and we don’t need to compare and say one person’s better than the other, or less than, but we can find joy in the fulfillment, or the accomplishment, of our righteous desires. So, let your heart be full and brimming with righteous desires, and just pursue those righteous desires, and let God work out great good in your life. Like the translation of the scriptures through seer stones. Why priesthood keys and the restored Church are essential to our progression on the covenant path.

I also want to just point out with this section, something that’s quite significant that we might miss, back here in verse 7: “I will make thee to minister for him and for thy brother James; and unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry until I come.” So, in Joseph Smith’s day, the Protestant revolution had, or the Protestant Reformation, had swept Europe, had come into America, and we had all these different Christian denominations who were basing their faith on scripture. And there’s a Latin phrase called sola scriptura, which means that our faith is centered in what we can find in the word of God, in scripture. It’s a powerful doctrine, a beautiful doctrine, but on its own, it is insufficient. The scriptures cannot save us. And what I love here is that God is laying out, giving some indicators that the Priesthood will be revealed, and that the Priesthood ultimately, the power of God, has to be on earth in order for salvation to be accessible. So yes, we love the scriptures. But the keys of the Priesthood are what unlocks the power of salvation in our lives, and we will see, in the upcoming sections and upcoming months in Joseph’s life, that the Priesthood was revealed through the translation through seer stones. The keys of God’s power through the Priesthood were redelivered to the earth, and have unlocked the Restoration, and now the ordinances of God are available to all who will put their faith in Jesus Christ, that they can come unto him and experience salvation. You know, that’s a really powerful concept in an age where we’re being told that you really don’t need a church; you really don’t need prophets; we’re enlightened now, we don’t need these things. Brothers and sisters, you’re looking at how much effort God is putting into establishing his church, establishing priesthood keys that unlock doors and that seal things on earth and in heaven. It’s vitally important that we recognize more than just knowledge as required for us to be able to move forward on the covenant path. We need God’s prophets. We need those ordinances, and the keys that they hold, to help us progress on this covenant path, and to take opportunities to receive the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ more fully. D&C 8: The role of Jesus Christ as your Savior and Redeemer.

Now, shift over to section 8. You’ll notice he begins here, calling him by name, again: “Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer…”. By the way, that’s one of my favorite changes in the new version of the temple recommend questions, when it says question number 2: “Do you have a testimony of the atonement of Jesus Christ and of his role as your Savior and Redeemer?” I love that addition, that it’s not just as the Savior and Redeemer, but it’s as your Savior and Redeemer. And notice what he says here: “…who is your God and your Redeemer…”. And then he tells him: you will “receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive…”. And now, one of the most powerful verses of the scriptures regarding revelation. Look at verse 2: “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart…” and we’ll pause there. Who is the “I”? “I will tell you.” We’re told repeatedly, especially by President Nelson, “Hear Him!”. We’re listening for the words of Jesus Christ. You’ll notice Heavenly Father has delegated the kingdom into the hands of Jesus Christ. He’s the one who’s doing the talking here in section 8, as well as most of the Doctrine and Covenants, which, by the way, as we’ve, here we are in this new year. This has been one of the rewarding aspects for me, as I’ve studied these sections deeper, is to feel more connected to a person, to a being, to a God named Jesus Christ, to hear his voice more clearly, speaking not just to Joseph and Oliver and Martin and Joseph, Senior and others, but speaking to Tyler, and to you, and to my family today, and all of us. You’ll notice, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart…”. Can I just say that if you look at that phrase, what would you think might be one of the most important words in all of what we’ve talked about in verse 2? For me, it’s a word that’s kind of insignificant to most. The translation was a blessing through seer stones to bring us this knowledge.  
It was years ago when I first heard this from a good friend and colleague many years ago, Randy Bott, who said to him, the most important word there was “and”. I love that. The point here is: revelation will flow to the mind and the heart. You’ll notice the word isn’t “or”. He doesn’t separate the two. Christ loves combining. It’s the devil who loves dividing, and in creating divisions. So, “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart”. It’s beautiful, thoughts that are so clear that they can even be written down at times. Elder Scott, Richard G. Scott spoke about this multiple times from multiple angles, the process of revelation, and how you have feelings and impressions, and gentle tugs to go certain directions, and then thoughts will come very specifically at times, and other times it’s just a flash across your mind. And the question that many people end up asking over and over again is, was that just me or is that the Holy Ghost? I love the fact that if it’s a good thing, if it persuades you to believe in God, or to come unto him, or to serve people, or to love God’s children, then you can be assured that it’s a good thing to do. And you can spend less time worrying about, was that just me or the Holy Ghost, and recognize that the Holy Ghost is going to work with what I have, like Taylor was talking about earlier. He’s going to work with my resources to communicate with me, using those channels, which means, often, I will think, wait, that was just me? When, in fact, it is Jesus Christ, speaking to us through the Holy Ghost in those simple ways.

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.

About Mormonism Explained

Mormonism Explained is a resource that was designed to provide objective and factual information about Mormonism, its history, doctrines, and policies. Our team of researchers consults experts and primary sources to present factual information on a variety of topics relevant to the Mormon Church.