Lesson 6: “I Will Tell You in Your Mind and in Your Heart” #DandC2017

This week’s lesson is a continuation of the aborted Oliver Cowdery translation attempt. Bummer for you teachers who rotate weeks with another teacher; there’s a BIG overlap in chapters here with both this week and last week’s lesson focusing on the same three sections of the Doctrine & Covenants: 6, 8, and 9. This one throws section 11 in the cart, but really, the majority of the lesson is still focused on the same material as last week. You’re the loser who drew the short straw because your rotating cohort got first dibs on the good stuff.

The first “attention activity” is the suggestion to bring a radio to class. Apparently, a radio is an old-timey electronic device that was used to receive transmitted sound waves from the air. People used to use these devices to listen to talk show programs as well as music, all interspersed with housewives gushing about the newest dish washing soap and doctors recommending their favorite brand of cigarette “for your health.” Radios were also used in the Netflix series Stranger Things to communicate with the Upside Down. Since it’s probably impractical to drive your car into the classroom, perhaps there are some functional portable radios at the Desert Industries or in your grandfather’s attic you could pick up for your object lesson. [1]

“How can listening to the Holy Ghost be compared to finding a radio station?”

Acceptable Answers:

  • Both are obsolete in our modern era.
  • Young people especially (those darn millenials!) are increasingly finding both to be irrelevant.
  • We should only listen to the Holy Ghost on long car rides when streaming is unavailable.
  • You tune in for the music (comfort), but end up listening to ads (answers to questions you didn’t even ask).

This is kind of a pointless activity anyway, because the lesson then goes on to explain that lesson 5 was about “receiving” personal revelation, but lesson 6 is about “recognizing” personal revelation. So last week we received it, but didn’t know what it was. Now we’re going to recognize that thing we received last week. Suspense ended.

So what is revelation? The lesson lists lots of things with caveats for each:

  • Visions and dreams happen, but they are very rare.
  • A still small voice, but it’s usually not heard, just felt.
  • New ideas (caveat to come) or flashes of insight.
  • Burning in the bosom, but it’s a metaphorical burning.
  • Peace to your mind – hey, no caveat on this one!
  • Answers will come, but in the Lord’s own time, not yours.

When is it not revelation?

Acceptable Answers:

  • When you try to shake hands with it, but it refuses.
  • When flaming swords are involved.
  • When it’s what you secretly want anyway.
  • When you found it on The Drudge.

Dallin Oaks said:

“But when one person purports to receive revelation for another per-son [sic] outside his or her own area of responsibility—such as a Church member who claims to have revelation to guide the entire Church or a person who claims to have a revelation to guide another person over whom he or she has no presiding authority according to the order of the Church—you can be sure that such revelations are not from the Lord”

I don’t know why “per-son” is written that way, but it is. [2]

The good news is that the creepy guy at BYU who said he had a revelation you were supposed to marry him was just a stalker and his revelations were not binding on you. Whew! Hopefully he won’t turn you over to the Honor Code Office for giving him impure thoughts.

This might coincide with another thing identified as not revelation by the lesson:

Sometimes what we think is a revelation may be a projection of our own desires.

Since the election, a lot of the news has been about fake news or alternate facts. Ben Park wrote a fantastic OP on why alternate facts are de rigeur for Evangelicals and other fundamentalists (which likely includes some Mormons). From his article:

A particular segment within the Evangelical community, especially those with a fundamentalist bent, worked to establish competing realms of intellectual authority. When faced with new challenges from “secular” truths regarding history, biology, psychology, and other fields, charismatic leaders developed alternate realms that reaffirmed more conservative “truths.” Those who pushed things like evolution could therefore be tactically disarmed because their arguments were based on a different set of values: their ideas were not “anointed” by God, and thus dismissed.

The result of this were the rise of anti-intellectual, populist, and charismatic leaders who, though lacking in credentials and credibility, could draw an immense following. . . These and other individuals capitalized on this artificial bubble that shields them from actual research, peer-review, and criticism. They have made a successful career selling “alternative facts.”

The lesson refers to Oliver’s failed attempt to translate:

D&C 9: 7 Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind;

So revelation and intuition should be sought after study and learning, not instead of them.

The lesson cautions against just believing a thing because it’s comfortable, familiar, comes from a religious or other authority, or we’ve personally failed to do the heavy lifting. Don’t fall prey to the fake news or “alt facts” of personal revelation, as it were. Sometimes you have to crack a book before you are ready to receive revelation.


[1] OK, fine, I’m sure some of you have actual radios. I’m sure some of you sit around listening to them, even when you’re not in your car. Let’s not make this entire discussion about that, shall we?

[2] It’s probably one of the church’s Key Performance Indicators for success. Maybe it’s one point for every son a family has.


  1. I guess I misunderstood what these BCC weekly lessons were going to be about. The first 4 were fantastic resources of information, and deeply thought provoking. Last week’s portion on revelation wasn’t as deep as others…but at least offered reflections and insight on how we think about revelation, and this week is reduced mostly to snark.

    I get that the manual sucks (been teaching GD for the last few years)…and I doubt anyone here needs reminding of just how much they suck.

    Based on the first 4 lessons…I was hoping that these would focus less on snarky responses to just how bad the manuals can be (you’re preaching to the choir on that topic)….and would instead bring about a different or better frame of reference for the material, to actually provide something deeply constructive to add to the lesson while teaching or commenting.

  2. On reviewing Lesson 6, I missed how it “cautions against just believing a thing because [it] comes from a religious … authority…” Did you mean a religious authority other than the prophet/president of the Church? Maybe there is something here that is worth considering how to bring into a class discussion (likely best without the snarkiness, though I got some good laughs out of it).

    BTW, and on a related tangent, has anyone reading this found a way to apply the study-it-out-in-your-mind/the Lord-will-tell-you-in-your-mind-and-in-your-heart method described to Oliver to Joseph’s translation of the Book of Mormon by reading English words that appeared on his seer stone? To some, they seem to be very different processes. I have no helpful response to their question.

    And on another tangent, what of those for whom there comes no warm, peaceful comfort [burning in the bosom?] that what has been studied out is right, AND no stupor of thought? Do these instructions to Oliver really apply to personal revelation generally, or are they directed primarily to Oliver?

    As applied to others and not Oliver: Could it be that the comfortable, peaceful, warm feeling [assuming it’s more than personal thought or desire] has more to do with what is then currently best for its individual recipient to believe and act upon than with ultimate truth or God’s ultimate will? If not, how does one explain inconsistent revelations? Does John 3:8 have any application here? What if it is in fact “what you secretly [or not] want anyway”? If that were the test for non-revelation, then perhaps SWK’s 1978 revelation wasn’t one.

    It sometimes seems that the considerations and caveats outlined in Lesson 6 should prevent comfort (or at least certainty) that revelation has been received rather than help us recognize when it has. Some of us are much better at uncertainty than others who demonstrate great confidence in their knowledge or “revelation.” Some of the latter group (whether conservative or liberal) may be “often wrong, but never in doubt.”

    Can these issues and other questions on recognizing personal revelation be raised in GD class without snarkiness and without unproductively challenging others’ faith or unfairly derailing the teacher’s approach?

  3. Bylines, people, check the bylines! Though if the end of the first paragraph didn’t clue you in, you need a new sarcasm detector.

    Snark aside, the basic message of the post is a good one. Faith does not mean throwing one’s brain out the door. After all, the LDS Church was founded because a man refused to stop asking questions.

  4. Nepos – if you’re referring to my comment…I was very aware it was sarcasm from the first paragraph and beyond. That’s my point. There’s so many other interesting things that could be explored with this lesson, instead of showing that 99% of the time, object lessons suck.

    I did laugh at the “shake its hand” bit.

  5. I don’t believe that important spiritual insights and some light-hearted snark are mutually exclusive.

  6. dk: I don’t mind constructive criticism. I’ll work on that for my next one in a month or so. We are all different authors taking our own approach. You’re never going to get a Stapley or Barney treatment from me, unfortunately. I love their lessons too, and when I have to sub I always read them first.

    One thing I was going to explore but didn’t really get into is that it seems to me that in our congregations we tend to freely trash Oliver’s attempt to translate. “What an idiot! He thought he could just read it like a book! He wasn’t prepared!” But as I was reading through it, I was also struck by the idea that he expressed his interest in translation as an act of faith in Joseph’s abilities (the Revelations in Context material focuses on his doubts, but acting when you doubt is what faith is) and Joseph didn’t really give him much in the way of instruction. Why not? Two possibilities: 1) Joseph wasn’t really that aware of his own translation process, and 2) people in general aren’t usually that good at teaching what comes naturally to them. In any case, if I were teaching, I’d spend a little time redeeming Oliver’s attempt for the act of faith that it was. Oliver doesn’t get enough credit in my opinion. He was a good egg. To me, he’s the everyman of the Doctrine & Covenants. He would be played by Tom Hanks if the D&C were a movie.

    I also should have pointed out the Revelations in Context material for this lesson. I’ll expand on that more the next time. This particular lesson was simply quite repetitive to last week’s, covering the same material, so I took the snark route.

  7. Please keep the snarky! The snarky brings a helpful critical view to the material. I am sure you will bring useful insights as the lessons have them. Thanks

  8. orangganjil says:

    For what it’s worth, I enjoyed the snark.

  9. ” Oliver doesn’t get enough credit in my opinion. He was a good egg.”

    I agree so much with this. We have a tendency to play him as a tragic figure who lacked faith and suffered for it–probably due to his later falling out with Joseph Smith and leaving the church. His being outside the church also helps rhetorically to bolster the argument that the three witnesses couldn’t have been lying because they all left the church and even then stuck by their testimony, so I think that also pushes us to sometimes focus a lot on his outsider status. I think this is unfortunate, because it leads us to see him as a sort of minor sidekick, which inflates Joseph Smith to nearly an omniscient prophet that just had to patiently put up with his doubting, stumbling scribe. But the reality is that they relied on each other a lot. There’s no question that Joseph Smith would pretty quickly emerge as THE prophet, and Oliver would play second fiddle, but for while there, they were more like co-presidents–equal partners with non-overlapping roles (Joseph as the seer with the spiritual gift, and Oliver as the spokesman with the writing and speaking and leadership ability). Even after it became clear that Joseph took precedence, that second elder bit was no empty title. He was really the co-founder of Mormonism.

  10. And in a way, with Oliver’s superior education, you could say JS looked up to him before he eventually took precedent. The mento has become the manatee.

  11. JKC – I also don’t think they are mutually exclusive, so I’m glad you clarified that. I do hope my original comments didn’t come off too harsh.

    Angela – Loved your follow up, and yes, that’s the kind of stuff I was thinking about. I’m not looking for a Stapley style post from everyone…but I love hearing that truly human aspect of Oliver and Joseph that you mentioned. I brought up a similar point last week in my class, and tried to show the parts that were really beautiful about Oliver’s attempt, and I appreciate the added insight you provided.

    Looking forward to future posts!

  12. Thanks, this will guide my own study for the next day or two, as I look desperately for diversion from the awful aspects of reality that don’t involve illicit substances.

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