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Principle One: Embrace the desire to change the world
Oliver has now become very involved in the Restoration. He left his job in Manchester and travelled to Joseph because he wanted to be a part of this great work. He wanted to make a big difference. If this truly was going to be a Restoration of the church of Christ, Oliver didn’t want to miss it. He wanted to be in the middle of it. Oliver did get involved and received revelations from the Lord directly through Joseph. Here is one of the verses that Oliver received.
Doctrine and Covenants 6:8 Verily, verily, I say unto you, even as you desire of me so it shall be unto you; and if you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation.
We all know that despite his apostasy, Oliver Cowdery made huge contributions to the work of the Restoration. Have you ever felt a desire to participate in that way? I hope you have. I hope you have felt some kind of stirring that pushes you to want to change the world.
Perhaps you have squashed this stirring. It’s intimidating to think of yourself as someone who could change the world. In some odd ways, it feels prideful to assume that you could make any kind of difference. Perhaps you have squashed it by immersing yourself in unimportant distractions.
This work is real. Christ is who He says He is, and President Nelson is His spokesperson. This is the entire purpose of the earth, and you have it in your hands. You have been given this knowledge. Stop squashing those feelings within you. No matter how old you are, how lost you’ve been previously, how inexperienced you may find yourself, the Lord owns this world and He can change it through you if you let Him. He wants to change it through you.
If we could only recognize the power we have to bring about the Second Coming alone, we would marvel. The Lord needs us to be righteous enough to build Zion. We can be righteous enough to build Zion. In Section 7, the Lord says He has more records (like The Book of Mormon) that He wants to bring forth to us, but it’s being held back because of the wickedness of the people. The Lord is waiting on us.
You have a role to play in this work. If you didn’t, the Lord wouldn’t have placed you in a position where you would be taught the gospel. He has things that He needs you to do; you made promises that you would do them. Please hear me. One day, you will stand before your Savior and He will want to know if you have fulfilled your promises. Do not stand before Him unprepared.
Oliver has just begun his journey in helping out with the Restoration and the kingdom of God. Many of us have not begun, some of us are on the path, and some of us are fulfilling those things the Lord would have us do. Regardless of where we’re at in our own journey’s, there are principles here that we can learn from Oliver. There are patterns we can follow that will help us do the work the Lord has for us. And when we do the work the Lord has for us, we will literally change the world more than we’ll ever know.
The first principle we’ve already talked about. Stop squashing the desire to serve and change the world. The power is within you to do so.
Principle Two: It will look different than what you’re expecting.
Perhaps you have a view in mind of how you’d like to contribute to the work of the Lord. You know what you like to do and what you’re generally good at it. You already have a small idea of how you want to serve. The Lord takes your desires into account. You had the same desires before you came to the earth because you were pretty much the same person (just with less experience), and so you probably made promises that aligned with some of those desires. Once again, we can look at Oliver. He wanted to help translate; he didn’t want to just play scribe. He wanted to play a bigger part. And the Lord granted Oliver the gift of translation.
Doctrine and Covenants 6:27 And now I command you, that if you have good desires—a desire to lay up treasures for yourself in heaven—then shall you assist in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden because of iniquity.
The Lord tells Oliver that if he wants to serve, he can help bring scriptures to light that were previously hidden because of the wickedness of the people.
The Lord does take our desires into account; they matter to Him. However. Do not expect things to look exactly like the view in your mind (especially in the beginning!). Oliver was given the gift of translation, but because he wasn’t quite ready for it, the Lord wanted him to act as scribe. Oliver was not able to help translate The Book of Mormon, but the Lord told Oliver that he could help out with future translations if he remained faithful.
Sometimes our contributions don’t look like the picture in our head because we’re not quite ready yet. Oliver was so new to this process; he needed to grow in spiritual stamina and ability. The Lord will lead us along if we get started and practice hearing Him.
Sometimes our contributions don’t look like the picture in our head because the Lord simply has other purposes. Joseph wasn’t a good writer, plain and simple. Perhaps Oliver could have learned to translate well, but Joseph still wasn’t good at writing. The Lord needed The Book of Mormon to come forth quickly, and so He knew He could count on Oliver to write well. In these kinds of moments, we get to swallow our own desires and contribute in the way the Lord would have us contribute. He’s wise; trust Him.
Sometimes our contributions don’t look like the picture in our head because we don’t see the big picture yet. The Jews were expecting a radical who would come in and overthrow the Romans. Instead, they received Jesus Christ. And though Jesus Christ had some radical teachings, he did not make war with the Romans. Christ was there to fight the kingdom of the devil, and He accomplished this primarily by working with one person at a time. Perhaps some of the things you feel guided to do will seem small, but think of some of the smallest stories in the New Testament. Think of the effects they had. Your small actions will ripple in unexpected ways.
Principle Three: You will contribute as part of your own growth process.
The Lord works on two purposes simultaneously. He will work on you at the same time as working on whatever work He has assigned to you.
The Lord simultaneously restored the church while He was helping Joseph grow into the role of a prophet. Joseph was only fourteen when he received the First Vision. He had so much maturing to do. The Lord did not wait for Joseph to become wise and mature. He taught Joseph to be wise and mature by having Joseph begin the process of the Restoration.
He will do the same with you. You will make mistakes, but the Lord will provide solutions for your shortcomings if you keep trying. I think about the lost 116 pages. We didn’t really miss out on anything because the manuscript was lost. The Lord provided a solution thousands of years in advance. Not only did the Lord provide for the mistake, but Joseph grew tremendously as a result of this experience. Though it was painful, Joseph took one step closer to becoming the man the Lord wanted him to be.
Oliver also found that the translation process was harder than he thought it would be, and he failed the first time he tried. We will fail, but it literally doesn’t matter. The Lord will make up the difference, and we will grow. Both are equally important processes to Him. He wants our work done, but He also wants us to become the people He knows we can be.
Principle Four: Have faith.
Doctrine and Covenants 8:10-11
10 Remember that without faith you can do nothing; therefore ask in faith. Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not.
11 Ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and receive knowledge from all those ancient records which have been hid up, that are sacred; and according to your faith shall it be done unto you.
Faith. What does faith actually look like? It can feel so abstract. Do we just sit and try really hard to believe? Is that faith?
In the instance of Oliver Cowdery, it looks like perseverance. Oliver tried to translate and when he learned that it was difficult, he gave in quickly.
What you will be asked to do will be difficult sometimes. You may be kinda bad at it at first. This can cause frustration because we feel entitled to the Lord’s help when we’re on His errand. However, we must remember that part of His errand is our personal growth.
Doctrine and Covenants 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.
If He gave it to you just because you asked, you would have a spiritual gift but you wouldn’t have really grown much. And remember, the Lord works on two purposes simultaneously: building you and building His kingdom through you.
You might be pretty bad at your responsibilities at first. Don’t give in. Don’t waver. Have faith that you’ll grow and that your efforts are pleasing the Lord. Oliver failed the first time translating, but the Lord was adamant that He did not condemn Oliver for it. When you feel your belief waver and falter, work. That is the solution to wavering faith, either in the Lord or in your ability to accomplish His work. You simply start striving.