To every man [and woman] is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby.Doctrine and Covenants 46:11
When God called Moses to free his people from slavery in Egypt, the task seemed unfathomable. Although Moses had been raised by one of Pharaoh’s daughters, he was now living in exile, tending sheep, and living in the home of his father-in-law, Jethro.
His response reflected the enormity of the challenge: “Behold, they will not believe me, nor hearken unto my voice: for they will say, The Lord hath not appeared unto thee” (Exodus 4:1). The Lord responded with assurances that He would send signs as evidence of Moses’s calling.
Moses then began to think about his own deficiencies: “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither heretofore, nor since thou hast spoken unto thy servant: but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue” (Exodus 4:10). The Lord responded in two ways: by promising to help him know what to say, and by giving him a spokesman—his brother, Aaron. Here is how the Lord said they would work together:
Thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth: and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.
And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people: and he shall be, even he shall be to thee instead of a mouth, and thou shalt be to him instead of God.Exodus 4:15-16
Moses would receive messages from God. Aaron would help him communicate those messages to the people clearly and effectively. Aaron wouldn’t do all of the talking. God would help them both communicate effectively as they fulfilled their roles in this important work.
Years earlier, the Lord had told Joseph, one of the twelve sons of Israel, about the future roles of Moses and Aaron:
I will raise up a Moses; and I will give power unto him in a rod; and I will give judgment unto him in writing. Yet I will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for I will not make him mighty in speaking. But I will write unto him my law, by the finger of mine own hand; and I will make a spokesman for him.2 Nephi 3:17
Then, the Lord explained to Joseph that the roles of Moses and Aaron were analogous to the roles of two people who would be chosen at a later time:
I will raise up unto the fruit of thy loins; and I will make for him a spokesman. And I, behold, I will give unto him that he shall write the writing of the fruit of thy loins, unto the fruit of thy loins; and the spokesman of thy loins shall declare it.2 Nephi 3:18
Who was this “fruit” of Joseph’s loins? It was Joseph Smith. And who was the “spokesman” who would help him? Oliver Cowdery.
About two months after the loss of the 116 pages, Joseph Smith was permitted to begin translating again. “Emma writes for me,” he told his mother, “but the angel said that the Lord would send me a scribe, and I trust his promise will be verified” (Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1845, page 138).
Oliver Cowdery, a schoolteacher, was boarding with Joseph’s parents at the time in Palmyra, New York. At the end of the school year, Oliver traveled to Joseph’s home in Harmony, Pennsylvania, and began to serve as Joseph’s scribe. Joseph translated out loud, and Oliver wrote the words which Joseph spoke.
Not long after they started, Oliver asked if he could also translate. In response, the Lord confirmed that Oliver was capable of receiving revelation just as Joseph was. He said that the Holy Ghost was “the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”
But then he added:
This is not all thy gift; for you have another gift, which is the gift of Aaron; behold, it has told you many things;
Behold, there is no other power, save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be with you.
Therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God; and you shall hold it in your hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away out of your hands, for it is the work of God.Doctrine and Covenants 8:6-8
Just as Aaron helped Moses communicate the truths God revealed to him, Oliver helped Joseph communicate the translation of the Book of Mormon by serving as the scribe. It might have seemed like a minor role to be the scribe, to be the one who wrote the words which Joseph spoke. But as the Lord made clear in this passage, Oliver’s role in the translation process was significant. His writing ability and his sensitivity to the Spirit enabled him to fulfill his role well. Like Moses and Aaron, Joseph and Oliver were both important contributors to this important work.
Today, I will be grateful for my gifts and my roles. As I work with others who have different responsibilities and different talents, I will appreciate the unique contributions we can each make. Like Oliver and like Aaron, I will recognize that my contribution matters, even when it is less visible than the contributions of others.