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Our Whitmer family has now entered the scene. David Whitmer is a friend of Oliver Cowdery, and Oliver has been writing to David about his experience helping in the translation of The Book of Mormon. Persecution is growing in Harmony where Joseph and Oliver are currently translating, and Emma’s family is becoming less supportive. Oliver reaches out to David for help, and the Whitmers welcome Joseph, Emma, and Oliver into their home so Joseph can finish the translation in peace.
The Whitmer family becomes increasingly involved. They help with providing for the three adults as well as playing scribe when Oliver needs a break. Some of the Whitmer sons ask Joseph for a revelation, David being one of them. David Whitmer (one of the sons) goes on to become one of the three witnesses. An angel appears to him, Joseph, and Oliver and shows them the plates and declares that the plates are of God. The angel likewise commands David and Oliver to stand as witnesses.
The stories from this week are riddled with tender mercies. Let’s talk about the different ways tender mercies can be manifest and how we can receive them.
Tender Mercy 1: David asked
Section 14 was the revelation that was given to David Whitmer through Joseph Smith. Now, Section 14 was received before David became a witness, and verse 8 has a lot to teach us when we combine it with the back story.
Doctrine and Covenants 14:8 And it shall come to pass, that if you shall ask the Father in my name, in faith believing, you shall receive the Holy Ghost, which giveth utterance, that you may stand as a witness of the things of which you shall both hear and see, and also that you may declare repentance unto this generation.
I learned something new when I reread the story this time. David asked to be one of the three witnesses. Joseph recorded that David, Oliver, and Martin approached him and asked him to inquire whether they could be the three witnesses. For some reason, I had never realized before now that they asked to be the three witnesses. I suppose I always unconsciously assumed that the Lord just revealed it to Joseph, but this was not the case. They asked.
So verse 8. The Lord tells David that if he asks the Father, he can receive the Holy Ghost and stand as a witness of the things which he shall hear and see.
The bible dictionary teaches us many things about prayers, but there are two specific principles that apply very directly here.
“The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.”
I had some specific situations occur this week that were not necessarily easy to handle. I found myself drowning a little bit, and I reached out to one of my sisters who had experienced similar situations. She responded around the time I was reading about David asking to be a witness, and she asked me the question, “What do you feel like you need?” As I read her text, I felt the Spirit ask me the same question. What do I feel like I need?
There are scenarios in our lives where we pray for strength to get through whatever we need to be doing. There are times where we pray for increased charity, humility, or patience. We pray that we’ll be able to grow.
Other times, the Lord does want us to ask for our desires. What do you need to help your situation whatever it may be? Pray specifically. Picture your best case scenario. What are the details? Were there moving parts that came together? Were different, conflicting needs miraculously met?
Sometimes my daughter needs nutrition to grow, and sometimes we need opposition to grow. Other times, my daughter asks me for some of her Christmas candy, and there are times that I love to indulge her and enjoy a “tender mercy” with her. It is true that we came to this earth to grow, but that doesn’t mean the Lord doesn’t love to indulge us sometimes.
The Bible Dictionary teaches a second principle that applies here.
“We pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ—when His words abide in us.”
We’re supposed to pray in Christ’s name, and that means more than just closing in His name. It means that our wishes have become His wishes. David sought revelation, and his revelation says that he needs to ask in faith so that he can witness of things he will hear and see. The Lord’s words were abiding in David. David wanted to ask to be a witness, and the Lord wanted David to ask.
As you’re praying for the best case scenario, remember to do so quietly enough that you can hear the Spirit override you in case the Lord has a better solution for you. It takes practice to learn to pray as guided by the Spirit, but the Lord loves the process of practice. We don’t need to be discouraged if we’re not good at it right at the beginning.
David received a tender mercy; he received a very special witness. This came because he prayed for his sincere desire to be a witness, and his mind was the mind of Christ.
Tender Mercy 2: Mary and Moroni
And then there are some tender mercies that simply come even if we didn’t ask for them. There are times I give candy to my daughter just to surprise and delight her because I love her reaction.
Mary Whitmer was David Whitmer’s mother and the matriarch of eight children. The labor she must have already been performing to maintain her family must have been immense. She welcomed three new adults into her home that she hardly knew, and then she proceeded to take care of them as well. The history in “Saints” tells us that Mary found herself with extra chores and labor, but that she didn’t complain.
One day, as she was out by the barn, Moroni appeared to her. He told her that she was being faithful and diligent in her work, and he assured her that the extra work would not last forever. He also showed her the plates.
So what are the principles here? First, the Lord loves to bless us because He really loves us. He especially loves to bless us when we’re not complaining. Sometimes my daughter is having a hard day and it manifests in her behavior. I try to be a good enough mom that I help her fix her day. But then there are times when Evelyn is being an angel and going out of her way to be good, and that just makes it all the more fun to surprise her with something she wasn’t expecting. The Lord feels the same. He is patient with our weaknesses, but He sure has a fun time blessing us when we’re not entitled.
Another principle. Moroni helped Mary understand her role in the work. He showed her the plates and helped her understand that Joseph was a prophet. There are plenty of times when we have to perform extra labor for the church, and it’s not easy. However, it is that much easier when we understand that our role may seem small but it’s still significant. Mary was doing nothing glamorous. I’m sure some of the labor was back-breaking, but her efforts assisted more than she understood. Moroni helped her know that she was important, and that is a tender mercy.
The last principle from this particular story that I’m going to talk about is that Moroni reminded her that the work would not last forever. That is one of the biggest tender mercies I can think of. Our mortal lives are relatively short compared to the eternities; whatever you may be experiencing, this too shall pass. Just hold on tight for a little bit longer.
Tender Mercy 3: Martin Harris as a witness
When Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris went into the woods to pray for a witness, nothing happened. They took turns for a while praying, but still, nothing happened. It wasn’t until Martin withdrew himself that Moroni came and gave Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer the witness they had been seeking.
All during that time, Martin prayed and still nothing occurred. After participating with Oliver and David, Joseph found his way over to Martin and they prayed together again. After a short period of time, Moroni came and gave the same witness to Martin.
We don’t know the exact circumstances as to why Martin needed to leave the circle and pray for a while longer. There are many reasons the Lord calls for these kinds of experiences in our own lives. Perhaps Martin needed to finish repenting for the lost manuscript. Perhaps he needed to make that motion of humility by acknowledging that he needed to leave. That takes a ton of humility. Or perhaps Martin just needed some more prayer time in order to be fully prepared to receive the witness. We don’t actually know.
What we do know is that the biggest tender mercy the Lord has given us is repentance. He gives us opportunities to acknowledge our own weaknesses humbly without losing out. Martin might not have been prepared in that exact moment, but he didn’t miss out. He received the same experience, and it didn’t matter to the Lord that it happened after David and Oliver.
Tender mercies come in a million forms. Sometimes they come as a result of prayer; sometimes the Lord likes to surprise us. Sometimes the biggest tender mercies are Heavenly Father’s nudgings for us to grow to become like Him. The bottom line is the fact that Heavenly Father is a perfect parent who blesses us like a loving, tender parent.