When you hear the name Oliver Cowdery, you probably think of the story that culminates in the revelation that became Section 9 of the Doctrine & Covenants. This section uses Oliver as a (bad) example of how to seek and receive personal revelation. Today’s guest post is from The Teacher. Come visit The Teacher here.
But, the poor guy. I can’t help but thinking that Oliver felt a bit like the rug was pulled out from under him. In sections 6 and 8, the Lord seems very encouraging of Oliver’s desires to help with the work and even to actually translate. “If you ask of me, you will receive; if you knock it shall be opened unto you” the Lord says. (6:5). “Even as you desire of me, so it shall be done unto you” the Lord says (6:8). “If thou wilt enquire, thou shalt know mysteries,” the Lord says. (6:8). Whatsoever you shall ask me . . ., that will I grant unto you,” the Lord says. (8:9). Then, the Lord gets very specific. He tells Oliver that if he asks to translate, by his faith “it shall be done unto [him.]” (8:11).How could Oliver not feel like it was done deal? Oliver Cowdery was no slouch in the personal revelation department. He learned of the Prophet Joseph and the translation of the Book of Mormon while living with the Smith Family. He prayed for his own confirmation of the truth and saw the plates in a
vision, before he ever met Joseph. Clearly, he was a very faithful, believing person. Why else would he essentially abandon his life to go help a self-proclaimed prophet he’d never met translate the Book of Mormon?But we know the rest of the story. Oliver tries to translate, and fails. The Lord famously tells Oliver that he did not get it; it was not just going to be given to him. Oliver had to work for it. He needed to study it out and seek confirmation. (9:7-9). “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it to you when you took no thought save it was to ask me.” (9:7).
Huh? What is going on here? Despite my ironic title, I do not think God fooled Oliver Cowdery. God is by definition just and fair. But, I tell you this: I am not as faithful or diligent a person as Oliver Cowdery. If Sections 6 and 8 had been directed to me, I would have assumed that I was going to get what I wanted if I asked.
So, why did the Lord put Oliver in this situation?