Volume 1 Chapter 4 | BYU Studies

Volume 1 Chapter 4


Chapter 4

Oliver Cowdery Becomes the Prophet's Scribe—the Translation of the Plates Continued.

Oliver Cowdery.

[Page 33]

On the 5th day of April, 1829, Oliver Cowdery 1 came to my house, until which time I had never seen him. He stated to me that having been teaching school in the neighborhood where my father resided, and my father being one of those who sent to the school, he went to board for a season at his house, and while there the family related to him the circumstance of my having received the plates, and accordingly he had come to make inquiries of me. 2 Two days after the arrival of Mr. Cowdery (being the 7th of April) 3 I commenced to translate the Book of Mormon, and he began to write for me, which having continued for some time, I inquired of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim, and obtained the following:

Revelation given April, 1829, to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, Jun. 4

1. A great and marvelous work is about to come forth unto the children of men.

2. Behold, I am God; give heed unto my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two-edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow, therefore give heed unto my words.

3. Behold, the field is white already to harvest; therefore, who so desireth to reap, let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts, that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom of God.

4. Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God.

5. Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.

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;

7. Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold he that hath eternal life is rich.

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.

9. Say nothing but repentance unto this generation; keep my commandments, and assist to bring forth my work, according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.

10. Behold thou hast a gift, and blessed art thou because of thy gift. Remember it is sacred and cometh from above—

11. And if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know mysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, convince them of the error of their ways.

12. Make not thy gift known unto any save it be those who are of thy faith. Trifle not with sacred things.

13. If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no gift greater than the gift of salvation.

[Page 34]

14. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, blessed art thou for what thou hast done; for thou hast inquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired, thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.

15. Behold, thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the spirit of truth;

16. Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart.

17. I tell thee these things as a witness unto thee—that the words or the work which thou hast been writing are true.

18. Therefore be diligent; stand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever difficult circumstances he may be for the words' sake.

19. Admonish him in his faults and also receive admonition of him. Be patient; be sober; be temperate; have patience, faith, hope and charity.

20. Behold, thou art Oliver, and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desire; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.

21. Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the same that came unto mine own, and mine own received me not. I am the light which shineth in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

22. 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.

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

24. And now, behold, you have received a witness; for if I have told you things which no man knoweth, have you not received a witness?

25. And behold, I grant unto you a gift, if you desire of me, to translate, even as my servant Joseph.

26. 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;

27. And now I command you, that if you have good desires—a desire to lay up treasures for yourself in heaven—then shall you assist in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity.

28. And now, behold, I give unto you, and also unto my servant Joseph, the keys of this gift, which shall bring to light this ministry; and in the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.

[Page 35]

29. Verily, verily, I say unto you, if they reject my words, and this part of my gospel and ministry, blessed are ye, for they can do no more unto you than unto me;

30. And even if they do unto you even as they have done unto me, blessed are ye, for you shall dwell with me in glory.

31. But if they reject not my words, which shall be established by the testimony which shall be given, blessed are they, and then shall ye have joy in the fruit of your labors.

32. Verily, verily, I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold, there will I be in the midst of them—even so am I in the midst of you.

33. Fear not to do good, my sons, for whatsoever ye sow, that shall ye also reap; therefore, if ye sow good ye shall also reap good for your reward.

34. Therefore, fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail.

35. Behold, I do not condemn you; go your ways and sin no more; perform with soberness the work which I have commanded you.

36. Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.

37. Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

Witness of the Spirit to Cowdery.

After we had received this revelation, Oliver Cowdery stated to me that after he had gone to my father's to board, and after the family had communicated to him concerning my having obtained the plates, that one night after he had retired to bed he called upon the Lord to know if these things were so, and the Lord manifested to him that they were true, but he had kept the circumstance entirely secret, and had mentioned it to no one; so that after this revelation was given, he knew that the work was true, because no being living knew of the thing alluded to in the revelation, but God and himself.

The Mission of John the Apostle.

During the month of April I continued to translate, and he to write, with little cessation, during which time we received several revelations. A difference of opinion arising between us about the account of John the Apostle in the New Testament, 5 as to whether he died or continued to live, we mutually agreed to settle it by the Urim and Thummim and the following is the word which we received:

[Page 36]

Revelation, given to Joseph Smith, Jun., and Oliver Cowdery, in Harmony, Pennsylvania, April, 1829, when they desired to know whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried on earth or died. Translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself. 6

1. And the Lord said unto me: John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if you shall ask what you will, it shall be granted unto you.

2. And I said unto him: Lord, give unto me power over death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee.

3. And the Lord said unto me: Verily, verily, I say unto thee, because thou desirest this thou shalt tarry until I come in my glory, and shall prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.

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 desiredst that thou mightest speedily come unto me in my kingdom.

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.

6. Yea, he has undertaken a greater work; therefore, I will make him as flaming fire and a ministering angel; he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell on the earth.

7. And 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.

8. Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both joy in that which ye have desired.

Oliver Desires to Translate.

Whilst continuing the work of translation, during the month of April, Oliver Cowdery became exceedingly anxious to have the power bestowed upon him, and in relation to this desire the following revelations were obtained:

Revelation, given April, 1829. 7

1. Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily, I say unto you, that assuredly as the Lord liveth, who is your God and your Redeemer, even go surely shall you receive a knowledge of whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you shall receive a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, which are ancient, which contain those parts of my scripture of which has been spoken by the manifestation of my Spirit.

[Page 37]

2. Yea, behold, 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.

3. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.

4. Therefore this is thy gift; apply unto it, and blessed art thou, for it shall deliver you out of the hands of your enemies, when, if it were not so, they would slay you and bring your soul to destruction.

5. Oh, remember these words, and keep my commandments. Remember, this is your gift.

6. Now this is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things;

7. Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you.

8. Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away out of your hands, for it is the work of God.

9. And, therefore, whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, and you shall have knowledge concerning it.

10. Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not.

11. Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you.

12. Behold, it is I that have spoken it; and I am the same that spake unto you from the beginning. Amen.

Revelation, given to Oliver Cowdery, April, 1829. 8

1. Behold, I say unto you, my son, that because you did not translate according to that which you desired of me, and did commence again to write for my servant, Joseph Smith, Jun., even so I would that ye should continue until you have finished this record, which I have entrusted unto him.

[Page 38]

2. And then, behold, other records have I, that I will give unto you power that you may assist to translate.

3. Be patient, my son, for it is wisdom in me, and it is not expedient that you should translate at this present time.

4. Behold, the work which you are called to do is to write for my servant Joseph.

5. And, behold, it is because that you did not continue as you commenced, when you began to translate, that I have taken away this privilege from you.

6. Do not murmur, my son, for it is wisdom in me that I have dealt with you after this manner.

7. Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

8. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

9. But if it be not right, you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me.

10. Now, if you had known this you could have translated; nevertheless, it is not expedient that you should translate now.

11. Behold, it was expedient when you commenced; but you feared, and the time is past, and it is not expedient now;

12. For, do you not behold that I have given unto my servant Joseph sufficient strength, whereby it is made up? and neither of you have I condemned.

13. Do this thing which I have commanded you, and you shall prosper. Be faithful, and yield to no temptation.

14. Stand fast in the work wherewith I have called you, and a hair of your head shall not be lost, and you shall be lifted up at the last day. Amen.

Chapter 4 - Notes

1. Oliver Cowdery was born in the town of Wells, Rutland county, Vermont, Oct. 3, 1806. He married Elizabeth Ann Whitmer, in Kaw township, Jackson county, Missouri, Dec. 18, 1832. She was born in Fayette, Seneca county, New York, January 22, 1815.

2. Previous to joining the Prophet Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery had met David Whitmer at Palmyra, and conversed with him concerning the rumors rife in that vicinity about the finding of the Book of Mormon plates. This chance meeting resulted in a friendship between the young men, and finally when Cowdery determined to visit the Prophet in Harmony, he went via the Whitmer residence, at Fayette, which was near the town of Waterloo, at the head of Seneca lake, Seneca county, New York; and promised his friend David Whitmer that after visiting the Prophet he would write him his impressions as to the truth or untruth of Joseph Smith's having an ancient record. (See statement of David Whitmer in Kansas City Journal, June 5th, 1886; also statement of the same to Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith, in 1878. Millennial Star, vol. 11, pp. 769-774.)

3. This date, 7th of April, and the one above, 5th of April, 1829, in the History of Joseph Smith, published in the Millennial Star, are given as the 15th and 17th of April, respectively. The dates in the Star, however, are typographical errors, as in the original MS of the History the dates are as given in the text. See also Cowdery's letters to W. W. Phelps, published in Messenger and Advocate, 1834, where the dates are also given as in the text above—5th and 7th of April.

4. D&C 6.

5. John 21:22.

6. D&C 7.

7. D&C 8.

8. D&C 9.