In the year 1820 there was a great religious revival in America, known as the Second Great Awakening. During this period there were many seeking spiritual truth and guidance that received personal revelation and visitations from God. One such visitation was received in the spring of that year by a young boy named Joseph Smith Jr. The others that had had similar experiences as Josephâ€™s first vision had been forgiven of their sins, but then went back to normal life making personal changes to be more Christ like. Some occasionally became Preachers, commonly Evangelical, wanting to promote the gospel. Joseph Smithâ€™s experience was different because the Lord had a great work for him to do. At the time the Lord only revealed to Joseph his call to translate and bring forth the publication of the Book of Mormon for the benefit of all mankind. Joseph did not know this early in his life that he would eventually become the Lordâ€™s Prophet, establish the Gospel back to the earth, and lead itâ€™s church.
In the process of fulfilling the Lordâ€™s command to bring forth the Book of Mormon Joseph was simultaneously receiving revelations from the Lord. Section three in the Doctrine and Covenants is the first of these recorded revelations. What is unique about this first recorded revelation is that Joseph is the first and only to document a revelation verbatim that had been given from the Lord since ancient times. His act of recording the revelation was an audacious move. It set him apart from others because he was following the examples of the great prophets like Paul and Isaiah. He was recording revelations just like the Prophets of old. This was one of the first steps that began his development of becoming a Prophet of God.
This first revelation as section three in the Doctrine and Covenants from the Lord is chastising Joseph for the loss of the first 116 pages he had just translated by the Lordâ€™s power from the golden plates. The loss of the pages had not been intentional, but the work of the devil is powerful and manipulative when he seeks to destroy the Lordâ€™s plan. When learning of the lost pages it is important to know the background of the situation.
A scribe was necessary while Joseph translated the words of the Book of Mormon from the gold plates. The scribe that assisted Joseph in this beginning process was Martin Harris. Martin Harris was a wealthy prominent man in times where most worked to barely get by. Joseph was included in this group of poor society, thus Martin was a valuable asset in carrying out the great work of the Lord. During this time, the idea of publishing a book was much more complicated and impractical than it is now. The expense of paper and ink alone to be used just for copying down the translation was beyond what a man of Josephâ€™s means could pay for. Once beyond that stage Joseph would then need somehow to finance the publishing and all that entails after it had been translated. Joseph also had no way of paying someone to spend countless hours scribing for him. Most that would have helped could not afford the time, without pay, when they needed to be spending it making money to live. Martinâ€™s help was vital and he assisted greatly. He provided the funds necessary as well as gave his time to carry out the work. Without Martin, Joseph could not have succeeded in starting the translation of the Book of Mormon.
The first 116 pages that Joseph had translated had a very powerful effect on Martin. He knew that whosoever would read the writings would be convinced of their truthfulness. They would know that a man such as Joseph with no education could not have had any influence on such majestic words. Martin desired to take the pages home for his wife to read so she too would become converted and have a change of heart. She, as well as many others, was giving Martin a rough time for doing what they thought was a waste of time and money. Martinâ€™s wife even thought that Joseph was stealing her husband away from her and their fortune for a blasphemous cause. Once the translation of those first pages were completed Martin asked Joseph if he could take the pages to prove to his wife and friends that he was assisting in a noble cause. Joseph prayed to the Lord and received the answer that the pages must not go. Martin was frustrated with this answer. He had done so much that without him the translation could not have happened. Joseph being subject to all this man had done was impelled to ask the Lord again if Martin could take the pages. The Lord finally allowed it, but knew how this mistake would play out. The devilâ€™s scheme to thwart Godâ€™s plan was set once the pages were out of Josephs protection. When Joseph sought out Martin after a lengthy period of time he discovered that the pages had been lost. He was filled with much sorrow and fear for disobeying the Lord. Doctrine and Covenants 3 is the Lordâ€™s response to the disaster.
The Lord rebukes Joseph for fearing man, such as Martin, rather than God. Though the intention of Martin was not evil, his actions resulted in aiding the Devil in his plan to ruin the Lordâ€™s work. The lord reveals that the pages were in the hands of evil men inspired by Satan to change and use against Joseph if he were to retranslate that section of the Book of Mormon. Thus, the Lord forbids him to retranslate that first section. The lord also admonishes Joseph and reminds him of the promise that if Joseph had done all he could to protect the book then the Lord would take care of the rest. However, because Joseph failed at protecting the book there was nothing the Lord could do to save them. He tells Joseph that if he doesnâ€™t repent he will find another to do the work. The Lord gave Joseph the power to translate and the Lord can take it away. Although the Lord chastises Joseph in the revelation, he also shows his mercy and reminds Joseph that he can be forgiven and continue in the Lordâ€™s great cause.