Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 6

/ Doctrine & Covenants 6 / Commentary

Find helpful commentary on the verses below to better understand the message of this revelation.

Verses 1-6

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Doctrine and Covenants 6 is the beginning of a series of lessons on personal revelation for Oliver Cowdery. The Lord gently guides Oliver through a series of sometimes painful lessons about how to hear and recognize the voice of revelation. He begins here by using some of the words found in other early revelations to important figures in the work, such as Joseph Smith Sr. (D&C 4), Hyrum Smith (D&C 11), Joseph Knight Sr. (D&C 12), David Whitmer (D&C 14), John Whitmer (D&C 15), and Jacob Whitmer (D&C 16). In all of these revelations the Lord invites the recipient to join the work of bringing souls to Christ in the latter days. A common theme among all of the revelations is the Lord’s invitation to ask questions, with a promise that answers will be given. Early on in the work, the Lord establishes the democratic nature of revelation, with the matters of individual importance requiring no mediator between the Lord and His disciples. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 7-13

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In verses 7–13, Oliver is told that he “shall be the means of doing much good in this generation” (D&C 6:8). Oliver’s estrangement from the Church in 1838 and his decade-long absence from the faith has caused the modern Church to overlook how crucial he was in the early period of the Restoration. When the Church was organized, the Lord designated Oliver as the “second elder” (D&C 20:3), which placed his authority behind only Joseph Smith’s in importance. Oliver also acted as the second witness when the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods were restored (D&C 13; 27:12; 128:21). He beheld Jesus Christ, Moses, Elias, and Elijah when they appeared in the Kirtland Temple and received the keys of this dispensation along with Joseph (D&C 110). Oliver was also effectively the Church’s first mission president, leading the first missionaries “unto the Lamanites” (D&C 28:8). Later he played a key role in the selection of the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in this dispensation, delivering the first apostolic charge (Minute Book 1, 159). Every person who exercises priesthood authority in the Church owes a debt of gratitude to Oliver Cowdery for his work in the early Restoration. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 14-19

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Oliver had already received a revelation before Joseph inquired of the Lord on his behalf. Prior to his arrival in Harmony, Oliver spent a year boarding with the Smith family in Palmyra, where he served as a local schoolteacher. While staying with the Smiths he was introduced to the work Joseph was engaged in. The Prophet’s 1838 history states, “After we had received this revelation [D&C 6] he [Oliver Cowdery] stated to me that after he had gone to my father’s to board, and after the family communicated to him concerning my having got the plates, that one night after he had retired to bed, he called upon the Lord to know if these things were so, and that the Lord had manifested to him that they were true” (JS History, vol. A-1, 13, JSP). In his 1832 history, Joseph wrote that the “Lord appeared unto a young man by the name of Oliver Cowdery and shewed unto him the plates in a vision and also the truth of the work and what the Lord was about to do through me his unworthy servant” (History, circa Summer 1832, 6, JSP).


It appears that Joseph Smith Sr. also played a key role in helping Oliver find his role in the work. Lucy Mack Smith recorded, “One day, Oliver came home from school in quite a lively mood; as soon as he had an opportunity of conversing with Mr. Smith [Joseph Smith Sr.] he told him that he [Oliver] had been in deep study all day and it had been put into his heart that he would have the privilege of writing for Joseph when the term of school which he was then teaching was closed” (Lucy Mack Smith History, 1844–1845, bk 8, 1, JSP). It appears the Lord manifested himself to Oliver in a number of ways to enlist his services in the work. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 20-24

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

One of the most difficult lessons to learn about revelation is how to recognize it when it comes. Though Oliver received numerous witnesses from visions and righteous counsel from trusted people in his life, the Lord still had to point out to him that another witness came in the simple form of peace to his mind. Revelation comes with great frequency to men and women, but it often goes unrecognized. The peace of the Spirit is often not seen as the confirmation of divine will that it represents. Because we believe in a caring and involved God, we believe that revelation comes constantly, but it usually comes in a more subtle way than we would expect. Setting aside the daily distractions that take us away from peaceful moments of pondering can help us recognize the promptings and gifts we are continually given. In Oliver’s case, he had already received multiple witnesses of the truth of the work, yet he sought additional clarification from Joseph. There was nothing wrong with seeking an additional witness, but in this case the revelation pointed not to Oliver’s future, but to his past, showing Oliver that the Lord had already provided him with multiple experiences confirming the divine nature of his calling. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 25-27

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

Oliver Cowdery is second only to Joseph Smith in his importance in the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. In verses 25–27, the Lord recognizes Oliver’s desire to possess the same gift as Joseph does, specifically the power to translate. This desire is more fully explored in the events linked to Doctrine and Covenants 8 and 9, when Joseph and Oliver directly petition the Lord to grant Oliver the ability to translate. As a scribe, Oliver plays a key role in not only the Book of Mormon but also the early stages of the new translation of the Bible that the Prophet was directed to undertake. At the same time, the Lord is gently emphasizing that Oliver needs to recognize his own gifts, which may be different from those held by Joseph. Each of us is given different gifts in order to accomplish the work of the Lord, and while we may have our own perspective on what we want to happen, our gifts often take the form of unexpected blessings and new directions. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 28-37

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In what is essentially Joseph and Oliver’s first meeting together, revelation through Joseph begins to speak of the importance of two or three witnesses to establish the work. In the years following, Oliver serves not only as one of the three chosen witnesses of the Book of Mormon but also as the crucial second witness of the Restoration. In this role he never falters. While it is true that Oliver was estranged from the Church for a time, at the end of his life he came back to the faith. In the intervening years he never denied his testimony of the work. He still plays a leading role in the remarkable “little flock” that the Lord gathered around the Prophet during the translation of the Book of Mormon. The personal language the Savior uses in speaking with each of these early witnesses speaks of their importance not only in proving the truth of the Book of Mormon but also as witnesses of Jesus Christ. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)