D&C 17-19

  1. Introductory Comments.
    1. Pioneer writings: Solomon Chamberlin.
      1. "April 2, 1847--this day the Pioneers began to leave the Council Bluffs or Winter Quarters for the valley of the lake to make the road and hunt a place for the saints. I, being one of them and was unwell when I started, I suffered much of cold and hunger. When we got to Green River, I was taken sick with the mountain fever, the second time, and got a little better, and was taken down with the cholera, or cholera morbus, and was brought to the point of death, and for 6 days and nights I took nothing into my stomach but cold water, and that distressed me much. The road was new and rough, and we continued to travel, and it seemed I must die, and I longed for death, my fare was coarse, and scant. When we got to the valley many of us were out of provision, July 24th here we stayed about one month. August 26 we started for Council Bluffs, for my outfit to go back with, I had but 2 quarts of parch corn and 3 quarts of coarse cornmeal. I was sick all the way back, and suffered everything but death. Many times I had nothing to eat, and sometimes I had a little poor buffalo bull meat. We returned back to the Bluffs about the last of October, and found my family well." (Writings of Early Latter-day Saints ChapSolomon Chamberlain Auto, BYU pp14-16)
  2. Section 17.
    1. Historical Background.
      1. As you recall, after some miraculous happenings on the Whitmer farm, David Whitmer came to Harmony with his wagon to take Joseph & Oliver to Fayette where they could continue the translation without the threatening situation that had developed in Harmony.
        1. In Fayette, the translation continued to its conclusion without interruption.
      2. On June 11, 1829, Joseph obtained from R.R. Lansing, clerk of the northern district of New York, the copyright for the Book of Mormon.
        1. This was done two weeks prior to the completion of the translation.
        2. Only the title page of the book was required by law to receive the copyright, therefore it was not necessary for the translation to be complete.
        3. Under the laws at that time, copyrights were only granted to authors and proprietors.
          1. This explains why the title page of the Palmyra edition of the Book of Mormon reads, "By Joseph Smith, Junior, Author and Proprietor," instead of "translated by Joseph Smith, Junior," as appeared in later editions.
      3. While translating in June, Joseph & Oliver discovered the Moroni's abridgment of Ether's record the following statement by Moroni:
        1.  Ether 5:2-4: "And behold, ye may be privileged that ye may show the plates unto those who shall assist to bring forth this work; "And unto three shall they be shown by the power of God; wherefore they shall know of a surety that these things are true. "And in the mouth of three witnesses shall these things be established; and the testimony of three, and this work, in the which shall be shown forth the power of God and also his word, of which the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost bear record--and all this shall stand as a testimony against the world at the last day."
        2. About this same time Martin Harris arrived from Palmyra, desirous to learn about the progress of the translation.
        3. Oliver informed both David and Martin that there were to be three witnesses to the plates. The three then asked Joseph to implore the Lord for the privilege of becoming the special witnesses.
        4. The Prophet wrote: "...and finally they became so very solicitios, and urged me so much to inquire that at length I complied; and through the Urim and Thummim, I obtained of the Lord for them the following: [Section 17]". (DHC 1:53)
    2. Section 17.
      1. V1: The Lord grants the three the privilege of seeing the following if they rely upon the word of the Lord with full purpose of heart:
        1. The plates.
        2. The breastplate.
        3. The Urim & Thummim.
        4. The sword of Laban.
        5. The directors given to Lehi while in the wilderness.
      2. V2: "And it is by your faith that you shall obtain a view of them, even by that faith which was had by the prophets of old."
        1. WHAT A TEST! The Lord said that these men could behold the plates, but it depended on their faith.
        2. FAITH was the key that would allow the three to view the plates.
          1. QUESTION: Are we reading the Book of Mormon daily as President Benson has asked us? Have his words been revoked since he has passed away?
          2. Are we any different than the Three Witnesses? How can we obtain the blessings of such if we do not do as commanded?
            1. Among the blessings for reading the Book of Mormon:
              1. President Benson has quoted President Marion G. Romney's great words: "I feel certain that if, in our homes, parents will read from the Book of Mormon prayerfully and regularly, both by themselves and with their children, the spirit of that great book will come to permeate our homes and all who dwell therein. The spirit of reverence will increase, mutual respect and consideration for each other will grow. The spirit of contention will depart. Parents will counsel their children in greater love and wisdom. Children will be more responsive and submissive to the counsel of their parents. Righteousness will increase. Faith, hope, and charity...will abound in our homes and lives, bringing in their wake peace, joy, and happiness." (CR, Apr. 1980)
      3. V3: "And after that you have obtained faith, and have seen them with your eyes, you shall testify of them, by the power of God;"
        1. If the three are obedient to the command of the Lord in V3 he then makes the following promise in V8:
        2.  READ 17:8: "And if you do these last commandments of mine, which I have given you, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; for my grace is sufficient for you, and you shall be lifted up at the last day."
    3. The Three Witnesses view the plates.
      1. The Prophet said that a few days after Section 17 had been given the four of them (Joseph, Oliver, David, & Martin) went into the woods near the Whitmer home and began to pray.
      2. Joseph prayed first, then each of the three prayed in succession. After each took a 2nd turn and no vision had been granted the Prophet wrote: "Upon this , our second failure, Martin Harris proposed that he should withdraw himself from us, believing, as he expressed himself, that his presence was the cause of our not obtaining what we wished for. He accordingly withdrew from us, and we knelt down again, and had not been many minutes engaged in prayer, when presently we beheld a light above us in the air, of exceeding brightness; and behold, an angel stood before us. In his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of. He turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discern the engravings theron distinctly. He then addressed himself to David Whitmer, and said, 'David, blessed is the Lord, and he that keeps His commandments;' when, immediately afterwards, we heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying, 'These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God. The translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear'." (DHC 1:54-55)
      3. The Prophet says that he now left Oliver and David and went in pursuit of Martin Harris.
        1. At a "considerable" distance he found Martin "fervently engaged in prayer".
        2. Joseph joined Martin in prayer and eventually the vision was opened to Martin. Martin cried out: "Tis enough; mine eyes have beheld; mine eyes have held."
        3. He jumped up and shouted, "Hosanna" blessing God and "otherwise rejoiced exceedingly".
      4. The Prophet's mother wrote regarding the occasion: "When they returned to the house it was between three and four o'clock p.m. Mrs. Whitmer, Mr. Smith and myself, were sitting in a bedroom at the time. On coming in, Joseph threw himself down beside me, and exclaimed, 'Father, mother, you do not know how happy I am: the Lord has now caused the plates to be shown to three more besides myself. They have seen an angel, who has testified to them, and they will have to bear witness to the truth of what I have said, for now they know for themselves, that I do not go about to deceive the people, and I feel as if I was relieved of a burden which was almost too heavy for me to bear, and it rejoices my soul, that I am not any longer to be entirely alone in the world.' Upon this, Martin Harris came in: he seemed almost overcome with joy, and testified boldly to what he had both seen and heard. And so did David and Oliver, adding that no tongue could express the joy of their hearts, and the greatness of the things which they had both seen and heard." (HJS, pp. 152-153)
      5. The Three Witnesses drafted their testimony and that testimony has been placed in every Book of Mormon.
    4. The Three Witnesses and their uncompromised testimonies.
      1. If time, review The Three Witnesses - A Review.
    5. The Eight Witnesses.
      1. A short time after the vision of the three witnesses, Joseph, along with Christian, Jacob, Peter, and John Whitmer, and Hyrum Page, visited the Smiths in Manchester.
      2. The Prophet invited the above individuals, along with his father, and brothers Hyrum and Samuel to retire to the solitude of the woods. There Joseph took the plates from the cloth container and laid them before the eight men. There were no heavenly manifestations. Each of these men had a chance to handle the plates, lift them, and examine the engravings.
      3. These eight also record their testimony. None of these eight, along with the three, ever denied their testimony.
  3. Section 18.
    1. Historical Background.
      1. This revelation was given at the home of Peter Whitmer in Fayette, NY in June of 1829. It was given to Joseph, Oliver, and David as they sought more knowledge regarding the formation of the Lord's Church.
    2.  READ 18:3-5.
      1. In V4 the Lord tells Oliver that scriptures contain "all things written concerning the foundation of my church, my gospel, and my rock."
      3. I think we could reword v5 to read for us "Wherefore, if you shall build up your life, upon the foundation of my gospel and my rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you."
    3.  READ 18:10-14.
        1. He gave His life to that men might repent and return to Him.
        2. I suppose the question for us is "How great is the worth of souls to us?"
        1. To cry repentance.
        2. WHERE DO WE BEGIN?
          1. I think that we first cry repentance to ourselves.
          2. Elder Rudger Clawson: "And how are we to determine the value of souls? This matter has been determined for us also by revelation. The souls of men are so precious in the sight of God that He gave to the world His Only Begotten Son, that by the shedding of His blood He might draw all men unto Him. That is why the great Prophet of this dispensation, Joseph Smith, and these others, John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and the rest, were called to bring souls unto Christ. And if one of these men should labor all his days, and bring save it be but one soul unto Christ, and that one should be his wife, what great joy he would have with his wife in heaven. Then if he should labor all his days and bring unto Christ the souls of his wife and his children, and none else perchance, how great would be his joy in heaven with his wife and children." (CR, Apr. 1901)
    4. V20: "Contend against no church, save it be the church of the devil."
      1. Our aim is to call people to repentance and preach gospel truths, not to contend or debate.
      2. D&C Commentary says this regarding the Church of the devil: "The church of the adversary may be known by its fundamental principle of government. In the beginning he declared himself in favor of salvation by compulsion, and although he was cast out of heaven for refusing to submit to the divine Council, he has continued his agitation for that plan among the children of men ever since. His church consists of those who adopt his plan and seek to destroy the agency of man by brute force. In the Church of the Lamb of God the 'law of liberty,' which is the law of 'common consent,' prevails. The church of the adversary may also be known by contention and strife, by false doctrines, and by all manner of iniquity. A minister of the Lord makes war upon the domain of the adversary by the sword of the Spirit; not by persecution." (P.86)
        1. Elder Bruce R. McConkie: "The titles church of the devil and great and abominable church are used to identify all churches or organizations of whatever name or nature -- whether political, philosophical, educational, economic, social, fraternal, civic, or religious -- which are designed to take men on a course that leads away from God and his laws and thus from salvation in the kingdom of God." (Mormon Doctrine, pp137-138)
      3. V20 says to contend against no church except that of the devil.
          1. A key is found in v21 which reads: "Take upon you the name of Christ, and speak the truth in soberness."
          2. Joseph Fielding Smith: "All who go forth to teach should do so in wisdom and not contend with the churches or engage in profitless debates, but teach in the spirit of kindness and try to persuade people to receive the truth." (CHMR 1:38)
          3. Joseph Smith: "…the Elders would go forth, and each must stand for himself…to go in all meekness, in sobriety, and preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified; not to contend with others on account of their faith, or systems of religion, but pursue a steady course. This I delivered by way of commandment; and all who observe it not, will pull down persecution upon their heads, while those who do, shall always be filled with the Holy Ghost; this I pronounced as a prophecy, and sealed with hosanna and amen." (DHC 2:431)
    5. In V37, David and Oliver are commanded to search out the Twelve apostles.
      1. V38 provides the criteria: "by their desires and by their works".
      2. The Twelve were chosen by the 3 Witnesses in February 1835.
  4. Section 19.
    1. Historical Background: Revelation given through the Prophet in March 1830 to Martin Harris. Joseph Smith said nothing concerning the circumstances surrounding this revelation.
    2. Discussion of Section 19.
      1.  READ V1-3. The Lord describes his mission.
      2.  READ V4-5. Repent or suffer. Rather strong language..
        1. WHAT IS GOD'S PUNISHMENT? See V11,12,15
      3.  READ V16-18. The Lord suffered to pay the price for those who repent.
          1. Joseph Fielding Smith: "The punishment of physical pain coming from the nails driven in [Jesus's hands] and feet was not the greatest of his suffering, excruciating as that surely was. The greater suffering was the spiritual and mental anguish coming from the load of our transgressions which he carried. If we understood the extent of that suffering and his suffering on the cross, surely none of us would wilfully be guilty of sin. We would not give way to the temptations, the gratification of unholy appetites, and desires and Satan could find no place in our hearts." (The Restoration of All Things, p. 199)
          2. Those who do not repent must suffer from the same spiritual and mental anguish that the Lord suffered for the sins of the world.
            1. They will be suffering the burden of only their own sins, not the sins of the world, as did the Savior. But they must suffer in the same way.
      4. The Lord then gives Martin a number of commandments:
        1. V20 - Repent & confess sins.
        2. V21 - Preach nothing but repentance.
        3. V23 - Learn of the Lord & listen to his words.
        4. V25 - Covet not your neighbor's wife. Seek not thy neighbor's life.
        5. V26 - Covet not your own property, but impart it freely to the printing of the Book of Mormon.
        6. V28 - Pray vocally & in your heart, before the world & in secret.
        7. V31 - Of tenets thou shalt not talk, but declare faith, repentance, baptism, & the Holy Ghost.
        8. V33 - "And misery thou shalt receive if thou wilt slight these counsels..."
  5. Next Week.
    1. Lesson 8: Read Doctrine and Covenants 20-22.