Oliver Cowdery

One of the three witnesses 
to the Golden Plates

What was Olivery Cowdery doing before he joined the church? What was he like? What did others think of him? Why did he leave the church? And did he ever deny his testimony of seeing the golden plates?

In the following documents and accounts you will see the different aspects of Oliver Cowdery. Note that the word "bogus" during this time was a machine uksed to make counterfeit coins.

  • Oliver was a Rodsman (used a divining rod)
  • Had close connections with the View of the Hebrews author
  • Accused Joseph Smith of having an affair with Fanny Alger
  • Excommunicated for various reasons
  • He "united a gang" 
  • Stole and burned property
  • Threatened mobs and made attempts to bring mobs
  • Lied & cheated
  • Made and sold counterfeit bills and coins
  • Instituted vexatious lawsuits
  • Set up a false pettifogger's office
  • Destroyed the reputations of many
  • Rejoined the church
  • Denied his testimony of the Book of Mormon (at least twice)
  • Later accused of adultery

The View of the Hebrews 
& Oliver Cowdery

From The CES Letter by Jeremy Runnells, pg. 20:

"Reverend Ethan Smith was the author of View of the Hebrews. Ethan Smith was a pastor in Poultney, Vermont when he wrote and published the book. Oliver Cowdery – also a Poultney, Vermont resident – was a member of Ethan’s congregation 38 during this time and before he went to New York to join his distant cousin 39 Joseph Smith. As you know, Oliver Cowdery played an instrumental role in the production of the Book of Mormon. 

This direct link between Joseph and Oliver and View of the Hebrews demonstrates that Joseph is very likely to have been aware of the theme and content of that book. It gives weight to all the similarities described in the preceding comparison chart. Apologists may point out that the Book of Mormon is not a direct, word-for-word plagiarism of View of the Hebrews, and indeed that is not the claim. Rather, the similarities should give any reader pause that two books so similar in theme and content would coincidentally be connected by Oliver Cowdery."

"The gift of working 
with the sprout"

April 1829

Some time during the translation process, Oliver Cowdery inquired of Joseph if he might try and translate a portion of the golden plates. In a later canonized (and altered) revelation, Joseph Smith says that Oliver had "the gift of working with the spourt." This is another way of saying that Oliver Cowdery believed in divining rods.

"for thou hast another gift which is the gift of working with the sprout Behold it hath told you things Behold there is no other power save God that can cause this thing of Nature to work in your hands for it is the work of God & therefore whatsoever ye shall ask to tell you by that means that will he grant unto youthat ye shall know"

[Link to original source] 

Gift of working 
with the rod

1833 Book of Commandments

This same revelation was changed from its intial version to instead read: "for you have another gift, which is the gift of working with the rod: behold it has told you things: behold there is no other power save God, that can cause this rod of nature, to work in your hands, for it is the work of God; and therefore whatsoever you shall ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, that you shall know."

[Link to original source]

The gift of Aaron

June 1839-1841

At some point between the Book of Commandments and the History of the Church being written, this revelatoin was once again changed to now read:

"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;"

[History of the Church source]
[1844 Times and Seasons]
[1844 Doctrine & Covenants] 

Fanny Alger

Highly qualified and motivated professionals

 Mormon Historian, Todd Compton places Joseph Smith's union with Fanny Alger in early 1833. 

An illegal marriage to Fanny Alger, which was described by Oliver Cowdery as a “dirty, nasty, filthy affair."

William McLellin reported a conversation he had with Emma Smith in 1847, which account is accepted by both LDS and non-LDS historians, describing how Emma discovered her husband’s affair with Fanny Alger: “One night she [Emma] missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!!! She told me this story too was verily true.”

Oliver Cowdery 
Excommunication Letter

Far West, Missouri, April 12, 1838.

Dear Sir: — I received your note of the 9th inst.,on the day of its date, containing a copy of nine charges preferred before yourself and Council against me, by Elder Seymour Branson.

I could have wished that those charges might have been deferred until after my interview with President Smith; but as they are not, I must waive the anticipated pleasure with which I had flattered myself of an understanding on those points which are grounds of different opinions on some Church regulations, and others which personally interest myself.

The fifth charge reads as follows: "For selling his lands in Jackson County contrary to the revelations." So much of this charge, ''for selling his lands in Jaekson County," I acknowledge to be true, and believe that a large majority of this Church have already spent their judgment on that act, and pronounced it sufficient to warrant a disfellowship; and also that you have concurred in its correctness, consequently, have no good reason for supposing you would give any decision contrary.

Now, sir, the lands in our country are allodial in the strictest construction of that term, and have not the least shadow of feudal tenures attached to them, consequently, they may be disposed of by deeds of conveyance without the consent or even approbation of a superior.

The fourth charge is in the following words, "For virtually denying the faith by declaring that he would not be governed by any ecclesiastical authority nor revelation whatever in his temporal affairs."

With regard to this, I think I am warranted in saying, the judgment is also passed as on the matter of the fifth charge, consequently, I have no disposition to content with the Council; this charge covers simply the doctrine of the fifth, and if I were to be controlled by other than my own judgment, in a compulsory manner, in my temporal interests, of course, could not buy or sell without the consent of some real or supposed authority. Whether that clause contains the precise words, I am not certain — I think however they were these, "I will not be influenced, governed, or controlled, in my temporal interests by any ecclesiastical authority or pretended revelation whatever, (contrary to my own judgment." Such being still my opinion shall only remark that the three great principles of English liberty, as laid down in the books, are "the right]of personal security, the right of pergonal liberty, and the right of private property." My venerable ancestor was among the little band, who landed on the rooks of Plymouth in 1620 — with him he brought those maxims, and a body of those laws which were the result and experience of many centuries, on the basis of which now stands our great and happy government; and they are so interwoven in my nature, have so long been inculcated into my mind by a liberal and intelligent ancestry that I am wholly unwilling to exchange them for anything less liberal, less benevolent, or less free.

The very principle of which I conceive to be couched in an attempt to set up a kind of petty government, controlled and dictated by ecclesiastical influence, in the midst of this national and state government You will, no doubt, say this is not correct; but the bare notice of these charges, over which you assume a right to decide, is, in my opinion, a direct attempt to make the secular power subservient to Church direction — to the correctness of which I cannot In conscience subscribe — I believe that principle never did fail to produce anarchy and confusion.

This attempt to control me in my temporal interests, I conceive to be a disposition to take from me a portion of my Constitutional privileges and inherent right — I only, respectfully, ask leave, therefore, to withdraw from a society assuming they have such right.

So far as relates to the other seven charges, I shall lay them carefully away, and take such a course with regard to them, as I may feel bound by my honor, to answer to my rising posterity.

I beg you, sir, to take no view of the foregoing remarks, other than my belief in the outward government of this Church. I do not charge you, or any other person who differs with me on these points, of not being sincere, but such difference does exist, which I sincerely regret.

With considerations of the highest respect, I am, your obedient servant,

[Signed.] Oliver Cowdery.

Rev. Edward Partridge, Bishop of the Church of Latter-day Saints.

of Oliver Cowdery

Wednesday, April 11 Elder Seymour Brunson preferred the following charges against Oliver Cowdery, to the High Souncil at Far West. 

To the Bishop and Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, I prefer the following charges against President Oliver Cowdery :

First — For persecuting the brethren by urging on vexatious law suits against them, and thus distressing the innocent.

Second — For seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith, Jun., by falsely insinuating that he was guilty of adultery.

Third — For treating the Church with contempt by not attending meetings.

Fourth — For virtually denying the faith by declaring that he would not be governed by any ecclesiastical authority or revelations whatever, in his temporal affairs.

Fifth — For selling his lands in Jackson county, contrary to the revelations.

Sixth — For writing and sending an insulting letter to President Thomas B. Marsh, while the latter was on the High Council, attending to the duties of his office as President of the Council, and by insulting the High Council with the contents of said letter.

Seventh — For leaving his calling to which God had appointed him by revelation, for the sake of filthy lucre, and turning to the practice of law.

Eighth — For disgracing the Church by being connected in the bogus business, as common report says.

Ninth — For dishonestly retaining notes after they had been paid; and finally, for leaving and forsaking the cause of God, and returning to the beggarly elements of the world, and neglecting his high and holy calling, according to his profession.''

The Bishop and High Council assembled at the Bishop's office, April 12, 1838. After the organization of the Council, the above charges of the 11th instant were read, also a letter from Oliver Cowdery, as will be found recorded in the Church record of the city of Far West, Book A. The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th, and 9th charges were sustained. The 4th and 5th charges were rejected, and the 6th was withdrawn. Consequently he (Oliver Cowdery) was considered no longer a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.* Also voted by the High Council that Oliver Cowdery be no longer a committee to select locations for the gathering of the Saints.

Congressional Document 189

14 February, 1841

The testimony given before the judge of the fifth judicial circuit of the State of Missouri, on the trial of Joseph Smith, jr., and others, for high treason, and other crimes against that State.

After Oliver Cowdery had been taken by a state warrant for stealing, and the stolen property found in the house of William W. Phelps; in which nefarious transaction, John Whitmer had also participated. Oliver Cowdery stole the property, conveyed it to John Whitmer, and John Whitmer to William W. Phelps; and then the officers of law found it. While, in the hands of an officer, and under arrest for this vile transaction, and, if possible, to hide your shame from the world, like criminals (which indeed you were), you appealed to our beloved presidents, Joseph Smith, jr. and Sidney Rigdon, men whose characters you had endeavored to destroy by every artifice you could invent, not even the basest lying excepted; and did you find them revengeful? No; but notwithstanding all your scandalous attacks, still such was the nobleness of their character, that even vile enemies could not appeal to them in vain. They enlisted, as you well know, their influence, to save you from your just fate; and they, by their influence, delivered you out of the hands of the officer. While you were pleading with them, you promised reformation; you bound yourselves by the most solemn promises that you would never be employed again in abusing any of the citizens of Caldwell; and by such condescensions did you attempt to escape the work house. But now for the sequel. Did you practice the promised reformation? You know you did not; but, by secret efforts, continued to practise your iniquity, and secretly to injure their character, notwithstanding their kindness to you. Are such things to be borne? You yourselves would answer that they are insufferable, if you were to answer according to the feelings of your own hearts. As we design this paper to be published to the world, we will give an epitome of your scandalous conduct and treachery for the last two years. We wish to remind you, that Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer were among the principal of those who were the means of gathering us to this place, by their testimony which they gave concerning the plates of the Book of Mormon, that they were shown to them by an angel, which testimony we believe, now, as much as before you had so scandalously disgraced it. You commenced your wickedness by heading a party to disturb the worship of the saints in the first day of the week, and made the house of the Lord, in Kirtland, to be a scene of abuse and slander, to destroy the reputation of those whom the church had appointed to be their teachers, and for no other cause only that you were not the persons.

"The saints in Kirtland, having elected Oliver Cowdery to be a justice of the peace, he used the power of that office to take their most sacred rights from them, and that contrary to law.

"He supported a parcel of blacklegs, and disturbing the worship of the saints; and when the men whom the church had chosen to preside over their meetings endeavored to put the house to order, he helped (and by the authority of his justice's office, too) these wretches to continue their confusion; and threatened the church with a prosecution for trying to put them out of the house; and issued writs against the saints for endeavoring to sustain their rights; and bound themselves under heavy bonds to appear before his honor; and required bonds which were both inhuman and unlawful; and one of these was the venerable father, who had been appointed by the church to preside -- a man upwards of seventy years of age, and notorious for his peaceable habits. Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Lyman E. Johnson, united with a gang of counterfeiters, thieves, liars, and blacklegs of the deepest dye, to deceive, cheat, and defraud the saints out of their property, by every art and stratagem which wickedness could invent, using the influence of the vilest persecutions to bring vexatious law suits, villainous prosecutions, and even stealing not excepted. In the midst of this career, for fear the saints would seek redress at their hands, they breathed out threatenings of mobs, and actually made attempts with their gang to bring mobs upon them. Oliver Cowdery and his gang (such of them as belonged to the church) were called to an account by the church for their iniquity. They confessed repentance, and were again restored to the church; but the very first opportunity they were again practising their former course. While this wickedness was going on in Kirtland, Cowdery and his company were writing letters to Far West, in order to destroy the character of every person that they thought was standing in their way; and John Whitmer and William W. Phelps were assisting to prepare the way to throw confusion among the saints of Far West. During the full career of Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer's bogus money business, it got abroad into the world that they were engaged in it, and several gentlemen were preparing to commence a prosecution against Cowdery; he, finding it out, took with him Lyman E. Johnson, and fled to Far West with their families; Cowdery stealing property, and bringing it with him, which has been, within a few weeks past, obtained by the owner, by means of a search-warrant; and he was saved from the penitentiary by the influence of two influential men of the place. He also brought notes with him, upon which he had received pay, and made an attempt to sell them to Mr. Arthur, of Clay county. And Lyman E. Johnson, on his arrival, reported that he had a note of one thousand dollars, against a principal man of the church; when it was a palpable falsehood, and he had no such thing; and he did it for the purpose of injuring his character. Shortly after Cowdery and Johnson left Kirtland for FarWest, they were followed by David Whitmer; on whose arrival a general system of slander and abuse was commenced by you all, for the purpose of destroying the characters of certain individuals, whose influence and strict regard for righteousness you dreaded; and not only yourselves, but your wives and children, led by yourselves, were busily engaged in it. Neither were you content with slandering and vilifying here, but you kept up a continual correspondence with your gang of marauders in Kirtland, encouraging them to go on with their iniquity; which they did to perfection, by swearing falsely to injure the character and property of innocent men; stealing, cheating, lying; instituting vexatious lawsuits; selling bogus money, and also, stones and sand for bogus; in which nefarious business, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmar, and Lyman E. Johnson, were engaged while you were there. Since your arrival here, you have commenced a general system of that same kind of conduct in this place. You set up a nasty, dirty, pettifogger's office, pretending to be judges of the law, when it is a notorious fact, that you are profoundly ignorant of it, and of every other thing which is calculated to do mankind good, or if you know it, you take good care never to practise it. And, in order to bring yourselves into notice, you began to interfere with all the business of the place, trying to destroy the character of our merchants, and bringing their creditors upon them, and break them up. In addition to this, you stirred up men of weak minds to prosecute one another, for the vile purpose of getting a fee for pettifogging from one of them. You have also been threatening continually to enter into a general system of prosecuting, determined, as you said, to pick a flaw in the titles of those who have bought city lots and built upon them -- not that you can do any thing but cause vexatious lawsuits.

"And, amongst the most monstrous of all your abominations, we have evidence (which, when called upon, we can produce,) that letters sent to the post office in this place have been opened, read, and destroyed, and the persons to whom they were sent never obtained them; thus ruining the business of the place. We have evidence of a very strong character, that I you are at this time engaged with a gang of counterfeiters, coiners, and blacklegs, as some of those characters have lately visited our city from Kirtland, and told what they had come for; and we know, assuredly, that if we suffer you to continue, we may expect, and that speedily, to find a general system of stealing, counterfeiting, cheating, and burning property, as in Kirtland -- for so are your associates carrying on there at this time; and that, encouraged by you, by means of letters you send continually to them; and, to crown the whole, you have had the audacity to threaten us, that, if we offered to disturb you, you would get up a mob from Clay and Ray counties. For the insult, if nothing else, and your threatening to shoot us if we offered to molest you, we will put you from the county of Caldwell: so help us God."

The above was signed by some 84 Mormons.

[Senate Document 189 -photocopies]
[Senate Document 189 - webpage]

Times and Seasons

John H. Johnson 
15 July, 1841

Amazed with wonder: I look around
To see most people in our day,
Reject the glirous gospel sound,
Because te simple turn away.
Or does it prove there is no time,
Because some watches will not go?
But does it prove there is no crime
Because not punished here below?
Or can it prove no gems remain,
Because some fools throw their's away?
Or can it prove no king can reign
Because some subjects wont obey?
Or prove the gospel was not true
Because old Paul the Saitns could kill?
Because the Jews its author slew,
And now reject their Saviour still?
Or prove that Christ was not the Lord
Because that Peter cursed and swore?
Or Book of Mormon not his word
Because denied, by Oliver?
Or prove, that Joseph Smith is false
Because apostates say tis so?
Or prove that God, no man exalts
Because from priests such doctrines flow?
O, no! the wies will surly say;
No proof unto the man that's wise,
Then O! dig deep, ye wise to-day;
And soon the truth will be your prize,
Not like the fool who chanc'd to see, 
The Saint forsake his heavenly course,
And turn to sin and vanity-
Then cries your "scheme is all a farce."

Oliver Cowdery

19 April 1843

Write to Oliver Cowdery and ask him if he has not eaten husks long enough? If he is not almost ready to return, be clothed with robes of righteousness, and go up to Jerusalem? Orson Hyde hath need of him. (A letter was written accordingly.)

[History of the Church, Period I, vol. v, p. 368] 

Lucy Mack Smith


Lucy Mack Smith was a close observer to the Book of Mormon translation process. It is worthy to note that she and Oliver Cowdery were third cousins. 

 Soon after we returned there came a man into our neighborhood by the name of Lyman Cowdray he went to Hyrum (as he was one of the principle trustees) and applied for the school. It was settled that he should have it and the terms were agreed upon- But the next day he brought his brother Oliver and requested them to receive him in the place of himself as buisness had arisen that would oblige him to disapoint them but he would warrant the prosperity of and Good conduct of the school in oliver's hands if the trustees would accept of his services-. All parties were satisfied and Oliver requested my husband to take him as a boarder at least for a little while untill he should become acquainted with his patrons in the school. He had not been in the place long till he began to hear about the plates from all quarters and immediately he commenced importuneing Mr. Smith upon the subject. but he did not succeed in eliciting any information from him for a long time- At length however he gained My husbands confidence so far as to get a sketch of the facts which related to the plates

   one day, Oliver came home from school in quite a lively mood and; as soon as he had an oppertunity of conversing with Mr Smith he told him that he (Oliver) had been in a deep study all day and it had been put into his heart that he would have the priviledge of writing for Joseph. and he had concluded that when the term of school which he was then teaching was closed, he could hit upon some plan that would be enable him to go and pay Joseph a visit after he should mature the matter more fully in his own mind- The next day was so very stormy as to render it almost impossible to travel the road between the school house and our place the rain fell in torrents all the evening so I suposed that Oliver would certainly stop with some neighbor that lived nearer the school house than we did but he was not to be deterred from coming, by any common dificulty for his mind was now fully set upon a subject which he could not converse upon anywhere else. When he came he said that I have now resolved what I will do for the thing which I told you seems working in my very bones insomuch that I cannot for a moment get rid of it- My plan is this:- My term of school will be out in march and I want Hyrum as he is one of the trustees to manage to have my school money ready for me as soon as the school closes that I may be able to set off for Penn. immediately upon making the necessary preparations. And as I understand that samuel is going to stay with Joseph through the spring I will endeaver to be ready to start by the time he recovers his health again. I have made it a subject of prayer and I firmly believe that it is the will of the Lord that I should go and that there is a work for me to do in this thing and I am determined to if there is to attend to it We told him that we thought it was his priviledge to know whether this was the case and advised him to seek for a testimony concerning it he did so and received the wittness spoken of in the book of doctrine and covenants from this time Oliver was so entirely absorbed in the subject of the record that it seemed impossible for him to think or converse about anything else...

   In april all Mr. Cowdray's affairs being arranged according to his mind he and Samuel set out for Penn. The weather had for some time previous been very wet and disagreeable occasionally freezing nights this made the roads almost impassible particularly in the middle of the day but Mr Cowdary was determined not be detained by wind or weather and persvered untill they arrived at Joseph's house although Oliver frozes his feet and suffered much on the road from fatigue as well as the inclemency of the weather

When they arived there Joseph was not at home he had been so hurried with buisnes and writing &c that he could not proceed with the work as fast as it was necsary for him to do and Emma had so much of her time taken up with her work that she could not write but little for him accordingly 2 or 3 days before the arrival of Oliver and Samuel he feeling it his priviledge to lay hold of the promise of the angel that the Lord would send him a scribe he called upon the His Heavenly Father for the promised assistance and was informed that the same should be forthcoming in a few days. As soon Oliver was introduced to him he said Mr Smith I have come for the purpose of writing for you This was not at all expected to Joseph for although he had never seen Mr Cowdray before he knew that the Lord was able to perform and that he had been faithful to fulfill all his promises. They then sat down and conversed togather untill late bed time and Joseph told Oliver His entire history as far as it was necessary for his information in those things which concerned him. They soon deeply engaged in the work of writing and translation, and progressed rapidly;

[Link to original source]

William Lang

July 1880

In his book History of Seneca County, from the Close of the Revolutionary War to July, 1880, William Lang gives an overview of some of the individuals and events of Seneca County. 

Near the end of the Mormon Bible is added the testimony of Oliver Cowdery as to the " Golden Plates."

He was one of the brightest minds amongst the leaders of the Mormons, and the history of the order would have been a better one had his counsel and advice prevailed.

Mr. Cowdery was born in the state of Vermont, on the 3d day of October, 1804. After he had acquired a good common school education, he applied himself with great industry to the study of the dead languages and became very proficient in the Greek and Chaldee. He came to Ohio when he was a young man and entered the law office of Judge Bissel, a very distinguished lawyer in Painsville, Lake county, as a student, and was admitted to practice after having read the requisite length of time and passed an examination. His unfortunate association with the Mormons blasted the high hope and bright prospects of an otherwise promising career, and planted a thousand thorns along the wayside of a life that was as pure and undefiled as that of the best of men. Cowdery had more to do with the production of the Mormon Bible than its history had ever given him credit for. He was the best scholar among the leaders. While others advocated the doctrine of polygamy, Cowdery opposed it, not only on moral grounds, but also, and principally because it was contrary to the great principles of Christianity, and above all, because it was opposed not only to the great demands of civilization but to the spirit of the free institutions of our country. This opposition to polygamy brought Cowdery into conflict with the other leaders, and especially with Joe Smith; and while Cowdery gathered around himself the better and most intellectual element among the Mormons, Joe Smith became the leader of the coarser forces, with whom his great force of character soon made him very popular. The conflict came and Cowdery had to flee for his life, leaving his wife and two children behind him. Mrs. Cowdery's maiden name was Whitmer, and a sister of one of the Whitmer's who figured as a leader. She was a beautiful woman, whose quiet nature, sweet temper and kind disposition won her friends wherever she was known.

Mr. Cowdery came back to Kirtland. In the spring of 1840, on the 12th day of May, he addressed a large Democratic gathering in the street, between the German Reformed church of Tiffin and the present residence of Hez. Graff. He was then on a tour of exploration for a location to pursue his profession as a lawyer, having entirely abandoned and broken away from all his connections with the Mormons. In the fall of the same year he moved with his family to Tiffin and opened a law office on Market street.

Mr. Cowdery was an able lawyer and a great advocate. His manners were easy and gentlemanly; he was polite, dignified, yet courteous. He bad an open countenance, high forehead, dark brown eye, Roman nose, clenched lips and prominent lower jaw. He shaved smooth and was neat and cleanly in his person. He was of light stature, about live feet, five inches high, and had a loose, easy walk. With all his kind and friendly disposition, there was a certain degree of sadness that seemed to pervade his whole being. His association with others was marked by the great amount of information his conversation conveyed and the beauty of his musical voice. His addresses to the court and jury were characterized by a high order of oratory, with brilliant and lorensic force. He was modest and reserved, never spoke ill of any one, never complained.

He left Tiffin with his family for Elkhorn, in Wisconsin, in 1847, where he remained but 'a short time, and then moved to Missouri, where he died in 1848. [He actually died March 3, 1850, at the age of 43.]

The writer read law with Mr. Cowdery in Tiffin, and was intimately acquainted with him, from the time he came here until he left, which afforded me every opportunity to study and lave his noble and true manhood.

[Link to original source]

David Whitmer

5 June 1881

On 5 June 1881, an article was published in the Kansas City Journal by David Whitmer. It was called MORMONISM Authentic Account of the Origin of This Sect from One of the Patriarchs. Discovery of the Plates, And the Translation of the Book of Mormon—Polygamy an Excresence.

I first heard of what is now termed Mormonism in the year 1828. I made a business trip to Palmyra, New York, and while there stopped with one Oliver Cowdery. A great many people in the neighborhood were talking about the finding of certain golden plates by one Joseph Smith, Jr., a young man of the neighborhood. Cowdery and I, as well as others, talked about the matter, but at that time I paid but little attention to it, supposing it to be only

of the neighborhood. Cowdery said he was acquainted with the Smith family, and he believed that there must be some truth in the story of the plates, and that he intended to investigate the matter. I had conversations with several young men who said that Joseph Smith had certainly golden plates and that before he attained them he had promised to share with them, but had not done so and they were very much incensed with him. Said I, 'how do you know that Joe Smith has the plates?' They replied, 'we saw the plates [place] in the hill that he took them out of just as he described it to us before he obtained them.' These parties were so positive in their statements that I began to believe there must be some foundation for the stories then in circulation all over that part of the country. I had never seen any of the Smith family up to that time, and I began to inquire of the people in regard to them, and learned that one night during the year 1827 Joseph Smith, jr., had a vision, and an angel of God appeared to him and told him where certain plates were to be found, and pointed out the spot to him, and that shortly afterward he went to that piece and found the plates which were still in his possession. After thinking over the matter for a long time, and talking with Cowdery, who also gave me a history of the finding of the plates, I went home, and after several months Cowdery told me he was going to Harmony, Pa.-whither Joseph Smith had gone with the plates on account of persecutions of his neighbors-and see him about the matter. He did go and on his way stopped at my father's house and told me that as soon as he found out anything either

he would let me know. After he got there he became acquainted with Joseph Smith, and shortly after, wrote to me telling me that he was convinced that Smith had the records and that he (Smith) had told him that it was the will of heaven that he (Cowdery) should be his scribe to assist in the translation of the plates. He went on and Joseph translated from the plates and he wrote it down. Shortly after this Cowdery wrote me another letter in which he gave me a few lines of what they had translated, and he assured me that he knew of a certainty that he had a record of a people that inhabited this continent, and that the plates they were translating gave a complete history of these people. When Cowdery wrote me these things and told me that he had revealed knowledge concerning the truth of them I showed these letters to my parents, and brothers and sisters. Soon after I received another letter from Cowdery, telling me to come down to Pennsylvania and bring him and Joseph to my father's house, giving me a reason therefore that they had received a commandment from God to that effect. I went down to Harmony, and found everything just as they had written me. The next day after I got there they packed up the plates [did not say "packed up the plates"] and we proceeded on our journey to my father's house where we arrived in due time, and the day after we [he, Smith] commenced upon the translation of the remainder of the plates.

[Link to the source]

George Q. Cannon

“History of the Church,” Juvenile Instructor, September 15, 1881

But in the work of God there is a right time at which to perform works of this kind, and if they are not performed then, they are wrong. Men should await the time of the Lord.

For instance, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Joseph in an early day, some points connected with the "doctrine of celestial marriage. He was told that it was to obey God's will that His ancient servants had taken more wives than one; and he probably learned, also, that His servants in these days would be commanded to carry out this principle.

 The Prophet Joseph, however, took no license from this. He was content to await the pleasure and command of the Lord, knowing that it was as sinful to enter upon the practice of a principle like this before being commanded to do so, as it would be to disobey it. when required to carry it into effect.

Not so with Oliver Cowdery. He was eager to have another wife. Contrary to the remonstrances of Joseph, and in utter disregard of his warnings, he took a young woman and lived with her as a wife, in addition to his legal wife.

Had Oliver Cowdery waited until the Lord commanded His people to obey this principle, he could have taken this young woman, had her sealed to him as his wife, and lived with her without condemnation. But taking her as he did was a grievous sin, and was doubtless the cause of his losing the Spirit of the Lord, and of being cut off from the Church.

[Link to original source]

Fasley Accused 
of comitting adultery?

According to Dr. Bill Smith, the rumors that Oliver Cowdery was engaged in "spiritual wifery" (that is, engaging in the practice of polygamy without consent) were not true. Dr. Smith, points out that Oliver Cowdery was only engaged to Elizabeth Whitmer when he left on his Lamanite mission to Missouri, asked another woman to marry him instead, returned home, and decided that he would marry Elizabeth as he originally wanted. Dr. Smith says he believes that there was no "hanky panky" involved, making this incident nothing like polygamy. Dr. Smith says that the rumors of Oliver's "affair" did not really happen until the Utah era. [Gospel Tangents - Was Oliver Cowdery a Polygamist?] All of this makes sense as "adultery" was never listed in the offenses comitted by Oliver Cowdery when he was excommunicated nor was it listed in the crimes from the United States Senate and the first piece of evidence of this rumor that I have been able to find happened in 1881.

Clark Braden
E. L. Kelly


From the following exerpt it is clear that, among many things, Braden and Kelly also believed that Oliver Cowdery was guilty of adultery. As is later shown that there is but little evidence that Oliver Cowdery was guilty of adultery, and it is a fact that he later joined the Church and died in Missouri, one might read this excerpt with some amount of scrutiny. It should also be noted that the other sources that are given that 
are indeed accurate.

We will now take up Oliver Cowdery. David Stafford testifies that " Oliver Cowdery proved himself to be a worthless fellow, not to be trusted or believed when he taught school in this neighborhood." Danford Booth says he was a low pettifogger, a cat's-paw of the Smiths to do their dirty work. Imposter Joe is constantly warning him in revelations of his selfishness, his ambition, his desire to be some big person. In a pretended revelation of November, 1831, Imposter Joe bears this testimony to Oliver's character: "Hearken unto me, saith the Lord your God, for my servant Oliver Cowdery's sake: It is not wisdom that he be entrusted with the moneys which he shall carry into the land of Zion unless some one shall go with him who shall be true and faithful." In Vol. I. of Times and Seasons, Hiram Smith charges Oliver Cowdery with forging a note against himself (Hiram Smith), robbing his father (Joseph Smith, Sr.,) and plundering Joseph Smith's house. Pages 22-3, Vol. I, Times and Seasons, Hiram Smith says:

Persons came to my house while I was in prison and ransacked it and carried oflf money and my valuables. Among those who treated me thus I cannot help making particular mention of Lyman Cowdery, who in connection with his brother Oliver Cowdery took from me a great many things, and to cap the climax of his iniquitv compelled my aged father, by threatening to bring a mob upon him, to deed over to him or his brother Oliver about 160 acres of land to pay a note which he said I had given to Oliver for $165. Such note! confess I was. and am, entirely entirely ignorant of, and after mature consideration I have to say that I believe it wast be a forgery.

Witness Oliver a robber, a thief, a forger! 

Joseph Smith says, in Times and Seasons, Vol. 1, page 80:  "About this time there were several persons living in the Far West who wore cut off from the church. These characters were studiously engaged in circulating false and slanderous reports against the Saints to stir up our enemies to drive us from our homes and enjoy the spoils together. They are as follow: Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, etc."

These liars plotting robbery are witnesses to the Book of Mornion.

In a circular letter addressed to Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and others, signed by Sidney Rigdon and 84 other leading Mormons — a circular that was authenticated in a District Court before Judge King, and which is further authenticated in a report of a committee of the United States Senate and published in the report by authority of the United States Government, constituting Congressional Document 189, A. D. 1841, Oliver Cowdery is charged with stealing, lying, perjury, counterfeiting, and that he was a leader of a gang of scoundrels of the blackest dye. After he abandoned Mormonism he openly declared his testimony was a lie. In a piece of poetry published in the Times and Seasons, occur these lines:

"Or prove that Christ was not the Lord 
Because that Peter cursed and swore, 
Or Book of Mormon not his word 
Because denied by Oliver."

In this doggerel the Mormons themselves declare he repudiated his testimony. He committed adultery with a hired girl in Kirtland. He lived in adultery also in Nauvoo. Such is the Apostle Cowdery — witness Cowdery. He died an apostate, a drunken sot, a beastly wreck.

David Whitmer


It is recorded in the American Cyclopaedia and the Encyclopaedia Britannica, that I, David Whitmer, have denied my testimony as one of the three witnesses to the divinity of the Book of Mormon ; and that the other two witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and Martin Harris, denied their testimony to that Book. I will say once more to all mankind, that I have never at any time denied that testimony or any part thereof. I also testify to the world, that neither Oliver Cowdery or Martin Harris ever at any time denied their testimony. They both died reaffirming the truth of the divine authenticity of the Book of Mormon. I was present at the death bed of Oliver Cowdery, and his last words were, "Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Booh of Mormon." He died here in Richmond, Mo., on March 3d, 1850. Many witnesses yet live in Richmond, who will testify to the truth of these facts, as well as to the good character of Oliver Cowdery. The very powers of darkness have combined against the Book of Mormon, to prove that it is not the word of God, and this should go to prove to men of spiritual understanding, that the Book is true. To show the reader Avhat I have had to contend with, I give you below a copy of a leaflet which I had printed and distributed in March, 1881.

[An Address to All Believers in Christ, Whitmer, pg. 8]

Latter-day Saint 
Biographical Encyclopedia

Andrew Jenson, 1901

COWDERY, Oliver, one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon and the first General Church Recorder, was born Oct. 3, 1806, in the town of Wells, Rutland county, Vermont. He was principally raised in the town of Poultney, Rutland county, whence his father removed when Oliver was only three years old. About the year 1825, Oliver removed to the State of New York, where his elder brothers were married and settled, and about two years later his father also moved to that State. Oliver was employed as clerk in a store until the winter of 1828-29, when he taught the district school in the town of Manchester, Ontario county, N. Y., nine miles from his father's house. 

There he first became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, sen. (father of the Prophet), who was one of those who sent children to the school, and Oliver went to board awhile at his house. During that time the family related to him the circumstances of young Joseph having received the plates of the Book of Mormon. Oliver became deeply interested and determined to find out the particulars about this womierful event. He also prayed to the Lord to enlighten his mind, and one night, after he had retired to rest, the Lord manifested to him, that he had been told the truth in relation to the finding of the plates. He then concluded to pay Joseph Smith a visit, in order to learn more about it, which he did, and on April 5, 1829, he first met the Prophet at his temporary home in Harmony. Penn., whither he had removed because of the persecutions to which he had been subjected in the State of New York. This meeting of Joseph and Oliver was not only providential for the latter, but also for the Prophet himself, who had already been the custodian of the plates of the Book of Mormon for some time, but had been unable to proceed with the translation for the want of a scribe. In Oliver he saw the proper person to assist him in his work, and two days after his arrival. Joseph Smith "commenced to translate the Book of Mormon," with Oliver Cowdery as scribe. A few days later a revelation was given to Oliver Cowdery through Joseph Smith. (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 6.) 

While engaged in the work of translating, Oliver became exceedingly anxious to have the power to translate bestowed upon him, and in relation to his desire two revelations were given to him through the Prophet Joseph (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 8 and 9). On various other occasions he was favored with the words of the Almighty direct through the Prophet, with whom he for a number of years afterwards was very closely connected in his administrations in the Priesthood and official duties generally. (See Doc. and Cov., Sec. 7, 13, 17. 18, 23, 110, etc.) May 15, 1829, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, which they found mentioned in the record. While engaged in prayer, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and laying his hands upon them, he ordained them, saying: "Upon you, my fellowservants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; and this shall never be taken again from the earth, until the sons of Levi do offer again an offering unto the Lord in righteousness." This heavenly messenger said that this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. He also told them that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the New Testament, and that he acted under the direction of Peter, James and John, who held the keys of the Priesthood of Melchisedek, which Priesthood he said would in due time be conferred on them, when Joseph should be the first and Oliver the second Elder in the Church. The messenger also commanded them to go and be baptized and ordain each other, and directed that Joseph should first baptize Oliver, and then Oliver baptize Joseph. This they did, after which Joseph laid his hands on Oliver's head and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood. Oliver then laid his hands on Joseph and ordained him to the same Priesthood. 

Early in June Joseph Smith and wife and Oliver Cowdery removed to Fayette. Seneca county, N. Y., where the translation lation of the Book of Mormon was continued and finished. John Whitmer,one of the sons of Peter Whitmer, sen., assisted considerably in the writing. It was some time during the month of June of this year (1829) that the plates were shown to the three witnesses; and not long afterwards Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were ordained to the Melchisedek Priesthood by Peter, James and John. A revelation directed principally to Oliver Cowdery was also given, making known the calling of Twelve Apostles in the last days. (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 18.) TVhen the Church was organized in Fayette, April 6, 1830, Oliver Cowdery was one of the original six members, and was on that occasion ordained by Joseph Smith to be the second Elder in the Church. April 11th, Oliver preached the first public discourse delivered by any Elder in this dispensation. The meeting in which this took place was held in Mr. Whitmer's house, in Fayette. In the following June, Oliver accompanied the Prophet to Colesville, Broome county, where a large branch of the Church subsequently was raised up, amidst considerable persecution. 

In October, 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, jun., and Ziba Peterson were called to go on a mission to the Lamanites in the wilderness! These missionaries took leave of their friends late in October of the same year, and started on foot. After traveling for some days, they stopped and preached to an Indian nation near Buffalo, N. Y., and subsequently raised up a large branch of the Church in Kirtland, Ohio. Among the converts at the latter place was the famous Sidney Rigdon, who afterwards became so prominent in the Church.

In the beginning of 1831, after a very hard and toilsome journey in the dead of winter, the missionaries finally arrived in Independence, Jackson county, Missouri, about fifteen hundred miles from where they started. This was the first mission performed by the Elders of the Church in any of the States west of New York. Oliver Cowdery and Parley P. Pratt commenced a prosperous mission among the Delaware Indians across the frontier line, but they were finally ordered out by the Indian agents, accused of being disturbers of the peace. Being thus compelled to cease their work among the Lamanites for the time being, the Elders commenced preaching to the whites in Jackson county, with considerable success. In February, 1831, Elder Pratt was sent back to the East, while Elder Cowdery and his other companions remained in Missouri until the arrival of the Prophet Joseph and many other Elders from the East, in July following, when Jackson county was designated as a gathering place of the Saints and dedicated for that purpose. When the Temple site was dedicated, Aug. 3, 1831, Elder Cowdery was one of the eight men present. He subsequently returned to Kirtland, Ohio, with the Prophet, where they arrived Aug. 27th. The next day (Aug. 28, 1831) he was ordained a High Priest by Sidney Rigdon.

In the following November he and John Whitmer were sent back to Missouri with the revelations, which were to be printed there by Wm. W. Phelps. Jan. 22, 1832, in Kaw township, Jackbson county, Mo., Oliver Cowdery married Elizabeth Ann Whitmer, a daughter of Peter Whitmer, sen.; she was born in Fayette, Seneca county, N. Y., Jan. 22, 1815. On the Prophet's secodn visit to Missouri, in 1832, Oliver Cowdery was appointed one of a committee of three to review and prepare such revelations as were deemed necessary for publication. He was also one of the High Priests apointed to stand at the head of affairs relateing to the Church in Missouri. After the destruction of the printing press and the troubles in Jackson county, in July, 1833, Oliver Cowdery was sent as a special messenger from the Saints to Kirtland, Ohio, to confer with the First Presidency. He arrived there in the latter part of August. At a council held in Kirtland, Sept. 11, 1833, he was appointed to take charge of the pritning office to be established at that place, and there he subsequently recommenced the publication of the "Evening and Morning Star." When the press was dedicated, Dec. 18, 1833, the Prophet records the following concerning Elder Cowdery: "Blessed of the Lord is Brother Oliver; nevertheless there are two evils in him that he must needs forsake, or he cannot altogether forsake the buffetings of the adversary. If he forsake these evils, he shall be forgiven, and he shall be made like unto the bow which the Lord hath set in the heavens; he shall be a sign and an ensign unto the nations. Behold, he is blessed of the Lord for his constancy and steadfastness in the work of the Lord; wherefore, he shall be blessed in his generation, and they shall never be cut off, and he shall be helped out of many troubles; and if he keeps the commandments, and hearken unto the counsel of the Lord, his rest shall be glorious."

At the organization of the first High Council in the Church, at Kirtland, Feb. 17, 1834, Elder Cowdery was elected a member. He acted as clerk of the Council for a number of years, and subsequently acted as president of the Council. When the Prophet, with Zion's Camp, started for Missouri in May following, Oliver, together with Sidney Rigdon, was left in charge of the Church in Kirtland. In the evening of Nov. 29, 1834, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery united in solemn prayer and made a covenant with the Lord, that if he would prosper them in certain things, they would give a "tenth to be bestowed upon the poor of his Church, or as he shall command." This was the first intorduction of the paying of tithing among the Latter-day Saints. In February, 1835, the Three Witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, and Martin Harris, chose three men from the Elders of the Church, to officiate as the Twelve Apostles. In blessing them and giving them instructions Oliver Cowdery took a prominent part. He was also one of the trustees of the school in Kirtland where he studied Hebrew and other languages, in connection with the Prophet and other Elders. Sept. 14, 1835, he was appointed to act as Church Recorder. He had previously acted in the same capacity from April, 1830, to June, 1831. Elder Cowdery was present at the dedication of the Temple in Kirtland, and took an active part in giving the assembled Elders their washings and annointings. 

April 3, 1836, together with the Prophet, who committed nto them the keys necessary for the furtherance of the work of the great latter-day dispensation. (Doc. and Cov., Sec. 110.) Sept. 3, 1837, at a conference held in Kirtland, Elder Cowdery was appointed assistant counselor to the First Presidency. Some time during that year he removed to Far West, Caldwell county, Mo., where he acted as clerk of the High Council and Church Recorder. He was also a member of a committee appointed to select locations for the gathering of the Saints.

April 11, 183S. Elder Seymour Brunson preferred thg following charges against Oliver Cowdery before the High Council of Far West: 1st. For persecuting the brethren by urging on vexatious lawsuits against them, and thus distressing the innocent. 2nd. For seeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith jun., by falsely insinuating that he was guilty of adultery, etc. 3rd. For treating the Church with contempt by not attending meeting. 4th. For virtually denying the faith by declaring that he would not be governed by any ecclesiastical authority or revelations w'hatever, in his temporal affairs. 5th. For selling his lands in Jackson county, contrary to the revelations. 6th. For writing and sending an insulting letter to President Thomas B. Marsh, while on the High Council, attending to the duties of his office as president of the Council, and by insulting the High Council w-ith the contents of said letter. 7th. For leaving his calling, in which God had appointed him by revelation, for the sake of filthy lucre, and turning to the practice of law. 8th. For disgracing the Church by being connected in the bogus business, as common report says. 9th. For dishonestly retaining notes, after they have been paid; and, finally, for leaving or forsaking the cause of God, and returning to the beggarly elements of the world, and neglecting his high and holy calling , according to his profession."

The following day (April 12th) the Bishop of Far West and High Council examined his case. "The 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 7th, 8th and 9th charges were sustained. The 4th and 5th charges were rejected, and the 6th was withdrawn. Consequently he (Oliver Cowdery) was considered no longer a "member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

After his excommunication, Oliver Cowdery engaged in law business and practiced for some years as a lawyer in Michigan, but he never denied the truth of the Book of Mormon. On the contrary he seems to have used every opportunity to bear testimony of its divine origin. While practicing law in Michigan, a gentleman, on a certain occasion, addressed him as follows:

"Mr. Cowdery, I see your name attached to this book (Book of Mormon). If you believe it to be true, why are you in Michigan?" The gentleman then read the names of the Three Witnesses and asked. "Mr. Cowdery, do you believe this book?" "No, sir," was the reply. "Very well," continued the gentleman, "but your name is attached to it, and you declare here (pointing to the book) that you saw an angel, and also the plates, from which the book purports to be translated; and now you say you don't believe it. "Which time did you tell the truth?" Oliver Cowdery replied with emphasis, "My name is attached to that book, and what I there have said is true. I did see this; I know I saw it, and faith has nothing to do with it, as a perfect knowledge has swallowed up the faith which I had in the work knowing, as I do. that it is true."

At a special conference held at Kanesville, Iowa, Oct. 21, 1848, and presided over by Apostle Orson Hyde. Oliver Cowdery was present and made the following remarks: "Friends and Brethren, — My name is Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery. In the early history of this Church I stood identified with her. and one in her councils True it is that the gifts and callings of God are without repentance; not because I was better than the rest of mankind was I called; but, to fulfill the purposes of God. He called me to a high and holy calling. I wrote, with my own pen, the entire Book of Mormon (save a few pages) as it fell from the lips of the Prophet Joseph Smith, as he translated it by the gift and power of God, by the means of the Urim and Thummim, or, as it is called by that book, 'holy interpreters.' I behei'" with my eyes, and handled with my hands, the gold plates from which it was transcribed. I also saw with my eyes and handled with my hands the 'holy interpreters.' That book is true. Sidney Rigdon did not write it; Mr. Spaulding did not write it: I wrote it myself as it fell from the lips of the Prophet. It contains the everlasting gospel, and came forth to the children of men in fulfilment of the revelations of John, where he says he saw an angel come with the everlasting gospel to preach to every nation, kindred, tongue and people. It contains principles of salvation; and if you, my hearers, will walk by its light and obey its precepts, you will be saved with an everlasting salvation In the kingdom of God on high. Brother Hyde has just said that it is very important that we keep and walk in the true channel, In order to avoid the sand-bars. This is true. The channel is here. The holy Priesthood is here. I was present with Joseph when an holy angel from God came down from heaven and conferred on us, or restored, the lesser or Aaronic Priesthood, anl said to us, at the same time, that it should remain upon the earth while the earth stands. I was also present with Joseph when the higher or Melchisedek Priesthood was conferred by holy angels from on high.

This Priesthood we then conferred on each other, by the will and commandment of God. This Priesthood, as was then declared, is also to remain upon the earth until the last remnant of time. This holy Priesthood, or authority, we then conferred upon man>', and is just as good and valid as though God had done it in person. I laid my hands upon that man — yes. I laid my right hand upon his head (pointing to Brother Hyde), and I conferred upon him this Priesthood, and he holds that Priesthood now. He was also called through me, by the prayer of faith, an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ."

In the early part of November following Elder Hyde called a High Council in the Log Tabernacle, to consider the case of Oliver Cowdery. Having been cut off by the voice of a High Council, it was thought that, if he was restored, he should be restored by the voice of a similar body. Before this body Brother Cowdery said: "Brethren, for a number of years I have been separated from you. I now desire to come back. I wish to come humbly and to be one in your midst. I seek no station. I only wish to be identified with you. I am out of the Church. I am not a member of the Church, but I wish to become a member of it. I wish to come in at the door.  I know the door. I have not come here to seek precedence. I come humbly and throw myself upon the decisions of this body, knowing, as I do, that its decisions are right, and should be obeyed." Brother George W. Harris, president of the Council, moved that Brother Cowdery be received. Considerable discussion took pl^ce in relation to a certain letter which, it was alleged, Brother Cowdery had written to David Whitmer. Brother Cowdery again rose and said: "If there be any person that has aught against me, let him declare it My coming back aiid humbly asking to become a member through the door, covers the whole ground. I acknowledge this authority." Brother Hyde moved that Brother Oliver Cowdery be received into the Church by baptism, and that all old things be dropped and forgotten, which was seconded and carried unanimously. Soon afterwards he was re-baptized. fElder Samuel W. Richards relates the following:

"The arrival of Oliver Cowdery and his family at Council Bluffs from the east in the winter of 1848-49 was an interesting event in the history of the Church. With his famiIv, he was on his way to the body of the Church located in Utah, but as some time must elapse before emigrant trains could venture upon the plains, he determined to visit his wife's friends, the Whitmers, in Missouri.

While making that journey, a severe snow storm made it convenient for his family to spend several days with Elder Samuel W. Richards and family, who were temporarily residing in upper Missouri, awaiting the opening of the emigration season. That favorable opportunity was made the most of to discuss all matters of interest connected with the early history of the Church, with which Elder Cowdery was personally acquainted and Elder Richards was not.

His relation of events was of no ordinary character, maintaining unequivocally all those written testimonies he had furnished to the Church and world in earlier days. Moroni, Peter, James and John, and other heavenly messengers, who had ministered to him in connection with the Prophet Joseph Smith, were familiarly but sacredly spoken of, and all seemed fresh upon the memory as though but events of yesterday.

His language was considerate, precise and forcible — entirely free from lightness or frivolity— such as might be expected from one who had been schooled with angels and taught by Prophets; more of the heavenly than the earthly. His only ambition seemed to be to give himself and the remainder of his life to the Church; declared he was ready and willing, if desired, to go to the nations of the earth and bear his testimony of that which God and angels had revealed — a testimony in his personal experience of many thing's which no other living person could bear. His hopes were buoyant that such might be his future lot as cast with the Church, in the body of which he declared the Priesthood and its authority were and must continue to be An overruling Providence saw fit to order otherwise. Soon after arriving among his relatives in Missouri, he was taken sick and died, in full faith and fellowship of the latter-day work, desiring the world might know that his testimony was of God." ("Contributor," Vol. 5, page 446.)

Oliver Cowdery died March 3, 1850, at Richmond, Ray couhty. Mo. Elder Phineas H. Toung, who w^as present at his death, says: "His last moments were spent in bearing testimony of the truth of the gospel revealed through Joseph Smith, and the power of the holy Priesthood which he had received through his administrations." Oliver Cowdery's half-sister, Lucy P. Young a widow of the late Phineas H. Young, relates that Oliver Cowdery just before breathing his last, asked his attendants to raise him up in bed, that he might talk to the family and his friends, who were present. He then told them to live according to the teachings contained in the Book of Mormon, and promised them, if they would do this, that they would meet him in heaven. He then said, "Lay^ me down and let me fall asleep." A few moments later he died without a struggle. David Whitmer testified to Apostles Orson Pratt and Joseph F. Smith in 1878, as follows: "Oliver died the happiest man I ever saw. After shaking hands with the family and kissing his wife and daughter, he said, 'Now' I lay me down for the last time: I am going to my Savior;' and he died immediately with a smile on his face." ("Millennial Star." Vol. 40, p. 774.)

In an article published in the "Millennial Star," Vol. 48, page 420, Elder Edward Stevenson gives the following testimony in relation to Oliver Cowdery: "I have often heard him bear a faithful testimony to the restoration of the gospel by the visitation of an angel, in whose presence he stood in company with the Prophet Joseph Smith and David Whitmer. He testified that he beheld the plates, the leaves being turned over by the angel, whose voice he heard, and that they were commanded as witnesses to bear a faithful testimony to the world of the vision that they were favored to behold, and that the translation from the plates in the Book of Mormon was accepted of the Lord, and that it should "go forth to the world, and no power on earth should stop its progress. Although for a time Oliver Cowdery absented himself from the body of the Church, I never have known a time when he faltered or was recreant to the trust so sacredly entrusted to him by an angel from heaven."

[Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia, Andrew Jenson, 1901, pg.  247-251]

G. J. Keen

14 April 1885

G. J. Keen was a long time citizen of Seneca County, Ohio
 one of "our oldest citizens, is a respectable man, and is highly esteemed." He was a political friend of Olivery Cowdery and belonged to the same church, i.e. the Methodist Church.

County of Seneca.

Personally appeared before me, the undersigned, a Notary Public within and for said county, G. J. Keen, a resident of said county, to me well known, and being sworn according to law makes oath and says:

I was well acquainted with Oliver Cowdery who formerly resided in this city, that sometime in the year 1840 Henry Cronise, Samuel Waggoner and myself, with other Democrats of this county, determined to establish a Democratic newspaper in this city to aid in the election of Martin Van Buren to the Presidency, and we authorized Henry Cronise, Esq., to go East and purchase a suitable press for that purpose. Mr. Cronise went East, purchased a press and engaged Oliver Cowdery to edit the paper. Mr. Cowdery arrived in Tiffin (O.) some time before the press arrived. Some time after Mr. Cowdery s ar rival in Tiffin, we became acquainted with his (Cowdery s) con nection with Mormonism.

We immediately called a meeting of our Democratic friends, and having the Book of Mormon with us, it was unanimously agreed that Mr. Cowdery could not be permitted to edit said paper.

Mr. Cowdery opened a law office in Tiffin, and soon effected a partnership with Joel W. Wilson.

In a few years Mr. Cowdery expressed a desire to associate himself with a Methodist Protestant church of this city.

Rev. John Souder and myself were appointed a committee to wait on Mr. Cowdery and confer with him respecting his connection with Mormonism and the Book of Mormon.

We accordingly waited on Mr. Cowdery at his residence in Tiffin, and there learned his connection, from him, with that order, and his full and final renunciation thereof.

We then inquired of him if he had any objection to making a public recantation.

He replied that he had objections; that, in the first place, it could do no good; that he had known several to do so and they always regretted it. And, in the second place, it would have a tendency to draw public attention, invite criticism, and bring him into contempt.

"But," said he, "nevertheless, if the church require it, I will submit to it, but I authorize and desire you and the church to publish and make known my recantation."

We did not demand it, but submitted his name to the church, and he was unanimously admitted a member thereof.

At that time he arose and addressed the audience present, admitted his error and implored forgiveness, and said he was sorry and ashamed of his connection with Mormonism.

He continued his membership while he resided in Tiffin, and became superintendent of the Sabbath-school, and led an ex emplary life while he resided with us.

I have lived in this city upwards of fifty-three years, was auditor of this county, was elected to that office in 1840.

I am now in my eighty-third year, and well remember the facts above related.

(Signed) G. J. KEEN.

Sworn to before me and subscribed in my presence, this 14th day of April, A.D. 1885. 
Notary Public in Seneca, O.

[The True Origin of the Book of Mormon, by Shook, pg. 58-59]

The Improvement Era

January 1969

A late recollection of Oliver's Methodist affiliation alleged that he was willing to renounce Mormonism, but what this meant to him is much too vague to imply a denial of his testimony— at his excommunication from the Church he had resigned from membership while stating that he did not disbelieve basic doctrines. Thomas Gregg asked Cowdery's colleague in the law, William Lang, whether the former Mormon leader had "openly denounced Mormonism." The answer was that he kept this subject entirely to himself: "He would never allow any man to drag him into a conversation on the subject."

One of the few exceptions to this calculated silence is Oliver Cowdery's courtroom testimony of the Book of Mormon. Evidently it did not violate his conscience to be an inactive witness, but he would not accept the role of a denying witness in a direct confrontation where silence would strongly imply a denial. The courtroom incident is widely questioned by informed people, because it is related by a secondary source that inaccurately describes him as a prosecuting attorney (an office that he sought but failed to get) and erroneously locates his law practice in Michigan (a violation of his continuous residence out of the Church in Ohio and Wisconsin).

This version of the courtroom scene comes from Charles M. Nielsen, who frequently described his missionary experiences in the Midwest and the conversion in 1884 of Robert Barrington, who some 40 years before had heard Oliver Cowdeiy's testimony at a trial. The fact that Barrington lived in Michigan at this supposed contact is inconsistent with Cowdery's known law practice in Ohio at that time. Furthermore, the first version that Barrington gave Nielsen (recorded in 1884 in his missionary journal) was that he had been impressed with Mormonism not by Cowdery but through one Richard Cox, a Latter-day Saint who had lived in his area but moved to California. At some stage in the telling Barrington evidently created the erroneous impression that he had heard Cowdery, so the Nielsen account is probably thirdhand instead of secondhand. Yet history is filled with examples of authentic incidents not very accurately described, and the Nielsen account is perhaps a distant recollection of this historical incident.

The earliest known statement concerning Oliver Cowdery's courtroom testimony is from Brigham Young, who in 1855 publicly reported that Oliver was "pleading law" when he was confronted with his written testimony and asked directly about its truth. According to Brigham Young, his answer emphasized that his testimony was not a matter of belief but knowledge: ". . . what I have there said that I saw, I know that I saw. . . ." Although this account wrongly places him as practicing law in Michigan, there is more to this story than first meets the eye. First, it is told within five years of his death, when the knowledge of his life was relatively vivid. Next, the fact that this story comes from the Young family is most significant. The person who did most to bring about his reconciliation to the Church was Phineas Young, who married Oliver's half-sister. In the decade that his brother-in-law was out of .the Church, Phineas kept up a constant correspondence and regular visits, reporting Cowdery's actions favorably to his blood brother Brigham in an attempt to bring about Oliver's reinstatement.

Other members of the Young family had details of the courtroom incident. Seymour B. Young was 11 years of age when Cowdery returned to the Church, and remembered meeting him personally then at the home of Phineas at Kanesville. He related that Oliver had been ridiculed in court by opposing counsel for his Book of Mormon testimony and that he rose "with tears streaming down his face" and simply responded that he still believed in Mormonism, though "through my own weakness I have been disfellowshipped by that people."

[Improvement Era, January 1969]

"Such characters as McLellin, John Whitmer, David Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, and Martin Harris, are too mean to mention; and we had liked to have forgotten them."

History of the Church vol. 3, pg. 232

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