Friday, September 9, 2011

None Else Save God Knowest

In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe in modern revelation; that is to say that we believe that God speaks to men and women on earth today. The ninth of thirteen articles of faith, written to outline the pillars of the LDS faith by Joseph Smith in 1842, states:

We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.

Revelation may come in visions, blessings or angelic manifestations, but much more often comes through thoughts and impressions of the Holy Ghost to our minds and hearts. Revelation can provide needed guidance, information, comfort, or warnings. When revelation comes to a prophet for the benefit of the people of God, it is often recorded as scripture.

Given the nature of revelation, consider its ability to guide and protect us as we observe the case of Oliver Cowdery.

In the beginnings of the Church in this dispensation, Oliver Cowdery was among its most prominent members. He worked diligently on the translation of the Book of Mormon and was one of twelve witnesses to the reality of the golden plates from which it was translated. Oliver was the second elder of the Church, like an associate president. He experienced visions, revelations, and many other intensely religious experiences that came as a part of the restoration of the gospel and authority of Christ in our day.

In 1838, Oliver Cowdery resigned from the Church ahead of a hearing that would have questioned his membership. Though he would never deny the spiritual experiences he had, including his witness to the Book of Mormon, Oliver "disagreed with the Prophet [Joseph Smith]'s economic and political program and sought a personal financial independence [from the] Zion society".

After his resignation, Oliver lived primarily in Ohio and Wisconsin and practiced law. He wrote on several occasions between 1838-1848 of his regret of the differences that existed between himself and the Church and his hope to move West to Salt Lake. He expressed his firm belief in Christ, the Book of Mormon and the Church, and that he was hurt by the rejection of the Church. As early as 1842, Oliver Cowdery also sought reconciliation.

Reconciliation eventually came and Oliver Cowdery was baptized back into the Church on November 12, 1848. He died in March 1850.

Oliver Cowdery's experience outside the fellowship of the Church he helped to restore, caused primarily by disagreements with Joseph Smith on various topics including consecration, the role of priesthood leaders and plural marriage, could have been prevented. A decade before any problems arose, Oliver was warned and admonished by the Lord in a revelation given to Joseph Smith and recorded in scripture as Doctrine and Covenants section 6.

This section of scripture is addressed to Oliver Cowdery in 1829. The Lord tells Oliver:

Seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion; Seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold, the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto you (v. 6-7).

If thou wilt do good, yea, and hold out faithful unto the end, thou shalt be saved in the kingdom of God (v. 13).

There is none else save God that knowest the thoughts and the intents of thy heart. I tell thee these things as a witness unto thee--that the words or the work which thou has been writing are true. Therefore be diligent; stand by my servant Joseph, faithfully, in whatsoever circumstances he may be for the word's sake. Admonish him in his faults, and also receive admonition of him (v. 16-19).

Behold, thou art Oliver, and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God (v. 20).

The Lord knew how Oliver would be tested and warned him well in advance how he needed to prepare. Had Oliver been willing to stand by Joseph Smith "in whatsoever circumstances," it is easy to speculate a very different outcome for his life. Perhaps Oliver Cowdery would have also been martyred in Carthage in 1844; or perhaps Oliver Cowdery would have succeeded Joseph Smith as the second president of the Church. In any event, nearly a decade of regret could have been avoided.

As with Oliver Cowdery, so it is with us. The Lord warns us and forewarns us of challenges that are coming our way. He doesn't often tell us what is coming, but rather tells us how to prepare. We exercise our faith in Christ by acting upon the warnings and guidance that come from God through the Holy Ghost.

Our patriarchal blessings are a special revelation given to us much like D&C 6 was given to Oliver Cowdery. None else save God knowest the thoughts and desires of our hearts, and he will warn and admonish us to avoid pitfalls and tragedies that may be ahead.

God lives. He speaks to prophets on the earth today; he also speaks to each of us, his children, through various means. We should be familiar with the warnings and guidance God has given to us. We should review them often and be humble enough to act upon the revelation given for us. As with Oliver, the Lord has many blessings in store for us if we will be faithful and diligent in our response to revelation.

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