Commentary on Doctrine & Covenants 8

/ Doctrine & Covenants 8 / Commentary

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

Verses 1-5

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In verses 1–5, the Lord outlines the basic requirements for a person to receive a revelation, specifically faith, an honest heart, and belief that the Lord will answer. In the revelation recorded in section 8, he declares several gifts given to Oliver, the first being the gift of revelation. Revelation can come in a number of ways, and by telling Oliver he will receive it in his mind and his heart, the Lord suggests two of the major avenues of revelation—through the intellect and through the emotions. Joseph Smith once described revelation as “pure Intelligence flowing unto you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas that by noticing it you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon” (JS History, vol. C-1, 9, JSP).


While revelation can come as a flow of ideas, it may also be experienced through feelings, such as the peace Oliver felt when he received his first witness (D&C 6:23). At the same time, we should recognize that the Lord is not seeking to limit our conception of revelation to merely ideas or emotions. Rather, He is seeking to help us understand that revelation comes in a number of different ways. It can manifest itself through the still, small voice (1 Kings 19:12), through the words of inspired leaders, through uplifting art, or through edifying conversations with trusted friends. Revelation can bring unconventional solutions to problems, such as when Moses was inspired to lead the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground. In a later revelation to Joseph Smith, the Lord compares the flow of revelation to the Missouri River, one of the largest and most majestic waterways in North America (D&C 121:33). Revelation from God is ever flowing; the key for us is simply learning to recognize it when it comes. (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)

Verses 6-12

Casey Paul Griffiths (LDS Scholar)

In the earliest version of the revelation, Oliver is told that his second gift is “working with the sprout” (Revelation, April 1828-B, 13). As the revelation was prepared for publication, “the sprout” was changed to “the rod” and was eventually published in the Book of Commandments as the “rod of nature” (see Revelation Book 1, 13; Book of Commandments, 1833, 19). Scholars have speculated that Oliver may have used divining rods to locate water or minerals. Like Joseph’s use of seer stones, using divining rods was a common practice in the culture that both men grew up in. The revelation confirmed that this gift was from God and used it as an example of Oliver’s potential to be a receptacle for divine revelation.


When the Doctrine and Covenants was published in 1835, the phrase the “rod of nature” was changed to the “gift of Aaron” and has remained in this form ever since (Doctrine and Covenants, 1835, 161). This change in wording is another example of the Lord’s teaching that He speaks to His “servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding” (D&C 1:24). In this case, the Lord spoke to Joseph and Oliver, giving them revelations through the world of folk magic in which they were raised, gradually and gently leading them to a more universal world of religious experience.


The Lord’s promise to Oliver of the “gift of Aaron” was fulfilled in multiple ways in the following years. Oliver was present at critical points, such as the restoration of the Aaronic and Melchizedek Priesthoods, the organization of the Church, and the visitation of Jesus Christ, Moses, Elias, and Elijah in the Kirtland Temple. Acting as a spokesperson for the Church, Oliver delivered the first public discourse for the Church on April 11, 1830, to a large number of people (History, 1838–1856, vol. A-1, 39). Oliver also acted as spokesperson in delivering the charge to the original Quorum of the Twelve (Minute Book 1, 155). (Doctrine and Covenants Minute)