Come Follow Me: D&C 2; JSH 1:27-65
In this lesson, we learn more of the early history of the Church and Joseph Smith. It had been three years since the First Vision. Joseph spend the time using a seer stone. He found the stone at the bottom of a well, after looking into someone else's stone, which only allowed him the ability to find his own stone.
This was a time when society was beginning to move from magical items to know God (such as seer stones and divining rods) to the era of Science and Reason. Over time, Joseph would learn to straddle the line between a vertical relationship with God (revelation) and a horizontal one (using reason). It was during this time that he worked for Josiah Stowe, looking for hidden treasure, and encountering his beloved Emma Hale.
His worldly life led him again to question his standing before God. He knew he again needed forgiveness of sins. At the age of 17, he pondered that divine relationship. It was while laying in bed thinking on these things that Joseph was visited by an angelic messenger, Moroni.
Moroni was the last of the prophets in the Book of Mormon. He took the compilation of scripture his father Mormon made, and kept them safe for decades, until he was able to travel from the last battle place of the Nephites (probably in Mesoamerica) to what is now upper state New York. In his forty year travel, he dedicated future temple sites, like the one now in Manti, Utah.
As he finished up his record, Moroni focused much of his writings (including the Jaredite story) on the gifts God wishes to give us. In his new book on "Moroni," David F. Holland notes:
"Moroni's theology--embodied in his ministry and expressed in his writing--unmistakably points us to the generosity of God. A giver leads us to the Giver." (Moroni: a brief theological introduction, David F. Holland, Maxwell Institute).
Now Moroni was giving the world God's greatest gifts: the eternal gospel of Jesus Christ, the Restoration, the Book of Mormon, eternal covenants, modern revelation.
Among the great gifts shared by Moroni was the promise of the return of Elijah (D&C 2). The promise of Elijah's return is found in all four volumes of Latter-day Scripture (Bible, Book of Mormon, D&C, PoGP). It is the only scripture basically quoted in all four. It would be more than a decade (1836) when this promised would be fulfilled. In a future lesson, we'll study D&C 110, where the Lord appears in the newly dedicated Kirtland temple to accept it. In a series of succeeding visions, Joseph and Oliver Cowdery would see Moses, Elisha, and Elijah, all restoring priesthood keys to the earth. Elijah's keys would be the sealing keys, which includes sealing families together for the eternities and bind them to the divine family of God. This was the door that would not only open the Celestial Kingdom (which comes through baptism of water and the Holy Ghost), but to become divine.
As Joseph would learn through the Book of Mormon and later revelations, man can become divine as children of God through Christ, by obedience and entering into holy covenant with God. In doing this, mankind would receive the greatest of all the gifts of God, eternal life (D&C 14:7).
It would take Joseph four years to obtain the plates from Moroni. The new book, "Saints, vol 1" well explains why it took so long: Joseph needed to learn strict obedience. In his first attempt, Joseph's mind was on the prospect of having gold in his possession. Shocked several times in trying to take the plates out of its stone box, Moroni had to reiterate to Joseph the importance of obedience and keeping his mind firm.
Moroni told Joseph that he could get the plates on the second trip, if he were to bring his brother Alvin. Alvin was a very serious and dedicate person. Though old enough to live on his own, he stayed to help his parents and family succeed, who had gone through many financial difficulties over the years. He was the type of person who could help Joseph protect the plates and stay focused on the divine purpose of Joseph's divine mission.
Alvin died. Joseph's hope to obtain the plates the second year were dashed. Why would God, through Moroni, give Joseph direction to bring Alvin, if Alvin wasn't going to survive? Some possibilities include:
1. Joseph needed to learn patience and diligence on his own.The death of his brother would teach Joseph to endure for another year, and gain more experience under Moroni's guidance.
2. Some believe that God does not know the future in detail, but only all things knowable up to the mom ent. Events can surprise God, but not frustrate his eternal purposes, as he can be as a master chess master and prepare several paths to success, in case circumstance and agency occur differently than he expected. It may be that Alvin got sick and died, simply because many people unexpectedly get sick and die.
3. Alvin's unexpected death would cause Joseph much wondering and pondering over the years. Later, he would see a vision of the heavens, wherein he would see Alvin in paradise. Marveling over this, as Alvin had not been baptized, the Lord explained that those who would have accepted the gospel in mortality but didn't get the chance, were blessed to still be saved. This would lead to more revelations on baptism for the dead, and the temple ordinances.
It would take 4 years for Joseph to obtain the plates.A few more years to have the chance to translate them. In them would be amazing stories about prophets, kings, warriors, and at its core: Jesus Christ. It is a gift that would change the lives of millions over the last 190 years. It is a second witness of Jesus Christ. In this time of pandemic and political chaos, its teachings on faith in Christ, hope, charity, forgiveness, miracles, revelation, and the dangers of contention and anger, are very needed today more than ever.