Sunday, September 12, 2010

Underestimating the importance of D&C section 6

Recently I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants in section 6 and I was struck by some of the language in the section that has never been pointed out or emphasized in any class, manual or lesson I have ever had. The heading for section 6 says that it is a "[r]evelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet and Oliver Cowdery, at Harmony, Pennsylvania, April 1829....The Prophet inquired of the Lord through the Urim and Thummim and received this response." Because of this the way that this section has always been presented in my seminary and institute classes is that Joseph and Oliver were sitting in a room and Joseph asked a question by looking through the Urim and Thummin and then was inspired and proceeded to dictate the following response now known as section 6, with Oliver acting as scribe. In other words, every seminary, institute and Sunday School teacher I have ever had has presented section 6 as being received by Joseph Smith and he dictated it to Oliver Cowdery. But as I was reading through the section I got a very different sense, especially when I got to the final verse in the section.

Every time I have read section 6 I had the image in my mind of Joseph dictating the revelation to Oliver, but when I was reading it recently I was struck by the language of the last verse which states, "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."

As I thought about this verse my mind was drawn to the first part where it says, "Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet". When I reread the verse I thought, "How could Oliver Cowdery "Behold the wounds which pierced [Christ's] side, and also the prints of the nails in [Christ's] hands and feet" if Christ was not literally standing there. Because if Christ was not standing there in person, then why would He tell Oliver to "behold" the wounds in His side and the prints of the nails in His hands? The more I thought about it, if this were a case where someone was commanded to "behold" the wounds and the nail marks, and Christ was not literally there, then that would be very odd because that would mean that this particular experience was somehow different from every other recorded instance where someone was told to behold the wounds in Christ's side and the nail marks in His hands. So this made me wonder why of all of my seminary and institute teachers over the years (and Sunday School teachers) none of them had ever pointed this out, and why some of them even stated that for this particular revelation Joseph was dictating the revelation to Oliver. But if we go back and reread this revelation with the thought that Christ is literally standing there talking to Oliver then suddenly it becomes much richer and full of meaning.

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