Oliver obtained manifestation even before he met the prophet

Next to Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery is arguably the most prominent personality connected with the earliest days of the restoration of the gospel. It was he who, along with Joseph Smith, received the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthood. He was Joseph's scribe in the translation of much of the Book of Mormon.

Sections 6 and 7 of the Doctrine and Covenants are directed to Joseph and Oliver together, while 8 and 9 are directed only to Oliver.Andrew Jenson in LDS Biographical Encyclopedia, gave this information about Oliver Cowdery's early life:

He was born Oct. 3, 1806, in Wells, Rutland County, Vt., and principally raised in the town of Poultney. About 1825, he moved to New York, where his elder brothers were married and settled. Oliver worked as a store clerk until the winter of 1828-29, when he taught the district school in Manchester, Ontario County, N.Y. There he taught the children of Joseph Smith Sr. and thus became acquainted with the family. While he was boarding with them, they related to him the circumstances of Joseph Smith having received the plates of the Book of Mormon.

"Oliver became deeply interested and determined to find out the particulars about this wonderful event," Jenson wrote. "He also prayed to the Lord to enlighten his mind, and one night, after he had retired to rest, the Lord manifested to him that he had been told the truth in relation to the finding of the plates. He then concluded to pay Joseph Smith a visit, in order to learn more about it, which he did, and on April 5, 1829, he first met the Prophet at his temporary home in Harmony, Pa., whither he had removed because of the persecutions to which he had been subjected in the state of New York."(Vol. 1:246.)

Of their first meeting, Oliver wrote the following in a letter he sent from Norton, Ohio, in 1834. The letter was published in the Messenger and Advocate. Part of it is given in a footnote to Joseph Smith - History in the Pearl of Great Price:

"Near the time of the setting of the sun, Sabbath evening, April 5th, 1829, my natural eyes, for the first time beheld this brother. . . .On Monday, the 6th, I assisted him arranging some business of a temporal nature, and on Tuesday, the 7th, commenced to write the Book of Mormon. These were days never to be forgotten - to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of Heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom. Day after day I continued, uninterruptedly to write from his mouth, as he translated with the Urim and Thummim, or as the Nephites, would have said, `Interpreters,' the history, or record, called the Book of Mormon."

In D&C 6:22-24, the Lord reminds Oliver of the night he received a spiritual witness that the things he had heard from the Prophet's family were true.


Promise to Martin Harris shows Joseph had plates

In D&C 5, the Lord promised Martin Harris he would have the privilege to view the plates on condition he humble himself and be willing to bear testimony to the world.

"This is a remarkable revelation," commented Reynolds and Sjodahl in Doctrine and Covenants Commentary. "It furnishes an irrefutable proof that the Prophet Joseph actually had the plates. He promised that Martin Harris, on certain conditions, which he could easily comply with, should obtain a view of them. Such a promise, if the records had not been in existence would have been impossible to redeem. It would have been mere buffoonery. The fraud would have been detected at once. The promise was repeated a few months later (Section 17) to two more witnesses. Joseph had the plates and the Urim and Thummim, and this Revelation proves the truth of that assertion."

Applying the scriptures

Faith, effort needed for answer to prayer

Unschooled and inexperienced as he was in matters of the Spirit, Oliver Cowdery desired to translate the Book of Mormon but failed. He had not yet learned the proper manner of receiving revelation from God.

"Perhaps Oliver Cowdery's experiences were recorded for us to understand how to pray and how to recognize answer to prayer," commented Elder Richard G. Scott of the Council of the Twelve in the October 1989 general conference.

Quoting D&C 8:1-2, Elder Scott said:

"When we receive an impression in our heart, we can use our mind either to rationalize it away or to accomplish it. Be careful what you do with an impression from the Lord."

He then quoted D&C 8:10-11, pertaining to asking for blessings in faith.

" `Ask in faith' means ask with confidence in our holy Father. Like many of us, Oliver did not recognize the evidence of answers to prayers already given by the Lord. To open his, and our, eyes, this revelation was given through Joseph Smith:

" `Blessed art thou for what thou has 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.

" `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.' (D&C 6:14-15; italics added.)"

In Section 9, one learns that Oliver was not able to translate because he had not done all in his power (i.e. studying it out in his mind) to bring about the answer to his prayer.

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