At the start of Chapter 7, the translation of the Book of Mormon is progressing rapidly due to an unseasonably cold and wet spring which delayed the planting season. But in the process of translation, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery read of the Savior’s strong emphasis on baptism. Joseph had not been baptized and so he sought to learn how to receive the ordinance by properly.
The unfolding appearance of John the Baptist is familiar to us. But the significance of this event should not be underestimated. A divine messenger appeared to Joseph but also to Oliver Cowdery. Is this the first visit of divine visitation in the unfolding Restoration that was simultaneously experienced by more than one person? I imagine Joseph must have felt relief at the fact that another person had experienced a divine vision with him. And the authority that John the Baptist gave them was nothing less than the power to act in the name of God.
While Harmony had temporarily been a place of refuge, persecution now intensifies. Emma, Joseph, and Oliver relocate to the Whitmer home. The Whitmer’s willingness to invite them into their home is remarkable. David Whitmer had learned about the translation process from Oliver, but did not yet know the Smiths. Yet the Lord knew David, and he helped to make sure that David could help in the translation process. That is very reassuring to me.
David is the Whitmer that we hear the most about, but not the only one who sacrificed much for the restoration. I loved Saints description of David’s mother Mary who was required to take care of her eight children and also serve her three visitors as she has a remarkable
Mary had little time to relax herself, and the added work and the strain placed on her were hard to bear.
One day, while she was out by the barn where the cows were milked, she saw a gray-haired man with a knapsack slung across his shoulder. His sudden appearance frightened her, but as he approached, he spoke to her in a kind voice that set her at ease.
“My name is Moroni,” he said. “You have become pretty tired with all the extra work you have to do.” He swung the knapsack off his shoulder, and Mary watched as he started to untie it.
“You have been very faithful and diligent in your labors,” he continued. “It is proper, therefore, that you should receive a witness that your faith may be strengthened.”20
Moroni opened his knapsack and removed the gold plates. He held them in front of her and turned their pages so she could see the writings on them. After he turned the last page, he urged her to be patient and faithful as she carried the extra burden a little longer. He promised she would be blessed for it.
The old man vanished a moment later, leaving Mary alone. She still had work to do, but that no longer troubled her.
I have also always loved the story that is told in this chapter of Joseph needing to ask Emma for forgiveness after a fight before he could once again begin to translate. That is such a good example of how our personal righteousness and relationships can impact our ability to receive revelation and inspiration.
Similarly, the chapter depicts Martin Harris’s inability at first to see the angelic visit and witness of the Book of Mormon. I am so sympathetic to Martin for his faith struggles. He was asked to believe in something he had not seen. Yet, he was able t summon the courage to pray until he as able to be a full participant. We often vilify or mock Martin Harris, but we can learn much from his example when we struggle with doubt and uncertainty.