Oliver Cowdery (1806-1850) 4

Oliver Cowdery
His Life, Character and Testimony
Excerpts from Multiple Sources
Source: Preston Nibley, comp., The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1958), pp. 33-41 taken with revisions from Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:246-51.

Oliver Cowdery, the “second elder of the Church,” and one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, was born in the town of Wells, Rutland County, Vermont, on October 3, 1806. His parents were farming people of the neighborhood. When Oliver was three years of age, he removed with his father’s family to Poultney, Vermont, and here he grew up, helping to assist his father on the farm, until 1825 when the family moved again – this time to the western part of the state of New York.

For a time after his arrival in New York, Oliver was engaged as a clerk in a store, but in the winter of 1828 and 1829 he accepted the position of teacher in a small rural school in Manchester township. Among the families who sent children to his school was that of Joseph Smith, Sr., a farmer of the neighborhood.

It was the custom of that day for the village schoolteacher to board with the families who sent children to his school. Oliver Cowdery thus became acquainted with the members of the Smith family, and for a time he made his residence with them. From them, in their quiet family circle, he heard the wonderful story of the visit of the angel Moroni to their son Joseph; the story of the finding of the sacred record, and of the efforts of the young Prophet to translate the same so that it might be given to the world.

Oliver Cowdery became deeply interested and determined to visit Joseph, who, at the time, made his home in Harmony, Pennsylvania.

It was on April 5, 1829, that Oliver arrived in Harmony, having accompanied Joseph’s younger brother Samuel on the journey. Two days later, Oliver began to write for Joseph while the latter translated the ancient characters written upon the plates.

As the interesting work progressed, Oliver became exceedingly anxious to have the gift of translation conferred upon himself. Joseph inquired of the Lord and received two enlightening revelations in regard to the matter, and pertaining to the duties of both himself and Oliver (See D&C sections 8 and 9).

After about five weeks of continuous labor, Joseph and Oliver came upon certain passages in the plates which pertained to the subject of baptism. Realizing that they themselves had not been baptized, they decided to seek information from the Lord in prayer concerning this important subject. It was on May 15, 1829, that they knelt in prayer, on the banks of the Susquehanna River, near Joseph’s home.

While thus engaged, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light and, laying his hands upon them he ordained them, saying: “Upon you my fellow servants, 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.”

The heavenly messenger said that the Aaronic Priesthood did not have power to confer the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands. He 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 Melchizedek, which priesthood he said would in due time be conferred upon them, when Joseph should be the first elder of the Church and Oliver the second elder. The heavenly messenger also instructed them to baptize each other, and directed that Joseph should baptize Oliver, and that Oliver should baptize Joseph. The brethren complied immediately with this request and the ordinance was performed in the nearby Susquehanna River. Joseph then laid his hands on Oliver and ordained him to the Aaronic Priesthood. Oliver followed with the same procedure and ordained Joseph to the same priesthood.

The exact date when the Melchizedek Priesthood was conferred by Peter, James and John is not known, but historians are generally agreed that this important event took place shortly after the bestowal of the Aaronic Priesthood.

Due to persecution which developed in the neighborhood of Harmony, Joseph felt that he and Oliver would be forced to move away. Oliver thereupon wrote to David Whitmer of Fayette township, New York, with the request that he and Joseph be permitted to finish their important work at his father’s home. Arrangements were satisfactorily concluded and about the first of June, 1829, David Whitmer arrived at Harmony with a two-horse wagon to convey Joseph, Emma, Oliver and the sacred record to Fayette.

Arriving at the Whitmer home, the work of translation was immediately resumed, and in about four weeks’ time the great and important work was concluded. From David Whitmer we have the information that the translation was finished “in the latter part of June 1829.”

The vision of the Three Witnesses, of which Oliver Cowdery was permitted to be a member, occurred a few days after the translation was completed, in a grove near the Whitmer home.

After arrangements were made by Joseph Smith and Martin Harris to have the manuscript of the Book of Mormon published, Oliver Cowdery was assigned the task of making a printer’s copy and looking after the details during publication. This work was performed in a satisfactory manner.

On April 6, 1830, the Church was organized in Fayette, New York, and Oliver Cowdery was one of the six original members. It was on that occasion that he was ordained by Joseph Smith to be the second elder of the Church. On April 11th [1830] Oliver preached the first public discourse given by any member of the Church. Thereafter he was very active as a missionary of the Church during the entire summer and fall of 1830, assisting the Prophet in every way possible.

In October 1830, Oliver Cowdery, Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Ziba Peterson were called by revelation to undertake a mission to the Lamanites residing on the western border of the United States.

Experiencing great hardships, and traveling mostly on foot, the four brethren reached Independence, Missouri, early in the year 1831. Here they began their labors and here Oliver Cowdery and two of his companions remained until the arrival of the Prophet Joseph and several companions in July following, when Jackson County was designated by revelation as the gathering place of the Saints and a site was selected and dedicated on which a temple was to be built.

In the month of August, Oliver Cowdery returned to Kirtland with the Prophet and several companions, and the day following his arrival he was ordained a high priest by Sidney Rigdon.

In November 1831, Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer were sent to Independence with the revelations, which were to be published there by William W. Phelps. Shortly after Oliver’s arrival, on January 22, 1832, he was married to Elizabeth Ann Whitmer. The marriage took place on Elizabeth’s seventeenth birthday; Oliver at the time was twenty-five years of age.

During the Prophet’s second visit to Missouri in the summer of 1832, Oliver was appointed one of the high priests to preside over the Saints in the gathering place.

When the serious trouble between the old settlers of Jackson County and the Saints broke out in July 1833, Oliver was sent as a messenger to the First Presidency at Kirtland to inform them of the disaster. Following his arrival he was asked to take charge of a publication known as the “Evening and Morning Star.” At the dedication of the press, which was held on December 18, 1833, Oliver Cowdery was present, and the same day the Prophet recorded the following blessing in his history: “Blessed of the Lord is Brother Oliver; nevertheless there are two evils in him that he must need forsake, or he cannot altogether forsake the buffetings of the adversary. If he forsakes 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 to 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 hearkens unto the counsel of the Lord, his rest shall be glorious.”

At the organization of the first high council of the Church in Kirtland, on February 17, 1834, Oliver Cowdery was selected to be a member. When the Prophet, with Zion’s Camp, started for Missouri in May following, Sidney Rigdon and Oliver were left in charge of the Church at Kirtland.

After the Prophet’s return, on the evening of November 29, 1834, he and Oliver Cowdery united in prayer, and made a covenant that of the means that came to them they would give “a tenth” to be bestowed upon the poor of the Church, “or as he shall command.” This was the first introduction of the tithing principle among the Latter-day Saints.

In February, 1835, the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris, chose twelve men from the elders of the Church, to be members of the Quorum of 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, in connection with the Prophet and other elders. On September 14, 1835, he was appointed to act as Church Recorder. He had previously held the same office from April 1830 to June 1831.

Elder Cowdery was present at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in March 1836, and took a prominent part in the proceedings. On April 3, 1836, he was with the Prophet in the Kirtland Temple when they beheld the great vision of Moses, Elias, and Elijah; and the Savior of mankind appeared before them. In September of the following year, 1837, Oliver Cowdery was appointed to be the assistant counselor to the president of the Church.

Despite his great privileges and experiences, Oliver Cowdery practically rejected the leadership of the Prophet during the latter part of 1837 and early in 1838. He opposed several important measures which Joseph Smith advocated.

As a result, the high council at Far West, Missouri, where Oliver was residing at the time, took action against him on April 11, 1838, and the following day excommunicated him from the Church.

For a period of ten years Oliver Cowdery was not connected with the organization he had so materially assisted in founding. During the years 1838 to 1848 he practiced law in Ohio and Wisconsin.

In October 1848, Oliver Cowdery, with his wife and daughter, arrived at Council Bluffs, Iowa, the gathering place of the Saints who were preparing to make the long journey across the plains to Utah. Here he requested of Orson Hyde, who was presiding over that branch at the time, the privilege of again being baptized into the Church. At a special conference of the members held on October 21st [1848], the request was granted and shortly afterwards Oliver Cowdery was baptized by Orson Hyde.

In the spring of 1849, Oliver Cowdery expressed the desire to visit with his wife’s family in Richmond, Missouri, before undertaking the long journey across the plains. Accordingly, the trip was made to that place, and there, as a guest of his father-in-law, Peter Whitmer, in whose home near Waterloo, New York, the Church had been organized, he spent several pleasant months. As the result of a severe cold, contracted sometime during 1849, he became infected with the dreaded disease known then as “consumption,” which brought about his death on March 3, 1850. Oliver Cowdery, at the time, was a few months past his 43rd birthday. Of his death, David Whitmer, who was present, relates:

“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.”

Source: John Whitmer, “Address,” M&A 2 (March 1836)

I [John Whitmer] enjoy the privilege of resigning it [editorship of Messenger and Advocate] into so good and able hands as President O. [Oliver] Cowdery whose character and standing in society need no commendation from me where he is personally known; for he is known to be a man of piety, of candor, of truth, of integrity, of feeling for the welfare of the human family, and in short, he is a man of God.

Source: William Lang, History of Seneca County (Springfield: Transcript Printing Co., 1880), pp. 364- 65.

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 3rd day of October, 1804 [1806]. 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 Painesville, 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 hopes 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 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 had an open countenance, high forehead, dark brown eyes, 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 five 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 forensic force. He was modest and reserved, never spoke ill of anyone, 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.

The writer [William Lang] 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 love his noble and true manhood.

Source: William Lang to Thomas Gregg, 5 Nov 1881, cit. Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of The Book of Mormon (Cincinnati: Standard Publishing Co., 1914), pp. 56-57.

[Joseph] Smith was killed while C [Oliver Cowdery] lived here. I well remember the effect upon his countenance when he read the news in my presence. He immediately took the paper over to his house to read to his wife. On his return to the office we had a long conversation on the subject, and I was surprised to hear him speak with so much kindness of a man that had so wronged him as Smith had. It elevated him greatly in my already high esteem, and proved to me more than ever the nobility of his nature. Cowdery never gave me a full history of the troubles of the Mormons in Missouri and Illinois.

Now as to whether Cowdery ever openly denounced Mormonism let me say this to you: no man ever knew better than he how to keep one’s own counsel. He would never allow any man to drag him into a conversation on the subject. Cowdery was a democrat and a most powerful advocate of the principles of the party on the stump. For this he became the target of the Whig stumpers and press, who denounced him as a Mormon and made free use of Cowdery’s certificate at the end of the Mormon Bible to crush his influence. He suffered great abuse for this while he lived here on that account. In the second year of his residence here he and his family attached themselves to the Methodist Protestant Church, where they held fellowship to the time they left for Elkhorn.

Source: W. H. Gibson to Thomas Gregg, 3 Aug 1882, cit. Shook, True Origin, p. 57.

In a letter to Mr. Gregg, dated at Tiffin, Ohio, August 3, 1882, Judge William Henry Gibson, an old acquaintance and friend of Cowdery, says:

Referring, now, to yours of the 13th February, making inquiries as to Oliver Cowdery, I [Judge William Henry Gibson] beg to reply, though perhaps too late for your purpose. I think that it is absolutely certain that Mr. Cowdery, after his separation from the Mormons, never conversed on the subject with his most intimate friends, and never by word or act, disclosed anything relating to the conception, development or progress of the “Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” He was an able lawyer, a fine orator, a ready debater and led a blameless life, while residing in this city. He united with the Methodist Protestant Church, and was a consistent, active member.

Source: Affidavit of G. J. Keen, 1885, cit. Shook, Book of Mormon, pp. 58-59.

I [G. J. Keen] 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 Tiffin (O.) some time before the press arrived. Some time after Mr. Cowdery’s arrival in Tiffin, we became acquainted with his (Cowdery’s) connection 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. . . .

At that time [upon his admission to the Methodist church] 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 exemplary life while he resided with us.

Source: Preston Nibley, comp., The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1958), pp. 33-41 taken with revisions from Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:246-51.

Source: Circuit Court Journal, 5 March 1850, Ray County, Missouri.

“On leave of the court the following resolutions were submitted and unanimously adopted by the Court, the members of the bar and officers of the court. And it is ordered by the court that the same be spread at length upon the record. To Wit: 1. Resolved, By the members of the bar and officers of the court, that in the death of our friend and brother, Oliver Cowdery, his profession has lost an accomplished member, and the community a valuable and worthy citizen. 2nd. Resolved, That we deeply sympathize with his afflicted widow and daughter in this their heaviest bereavement and do offer them our most sincere condolence. 3. Resolved, That in respect for our deceased brother and friend we will wear the usual badge of mourning for thirty days. 4. That the Clerk of this court furnish the widow of our deceased friend and brother with a copy of the foregoing resolutions.

“And hereupon it is further ordered that the court adjourn at three o’clock P. M. today to attend the funeral of said deceased.”


Source: Dean C. Jessee, comp. and ed., The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1984), p. 8.

. . . And it came to pass after much humility and affliction of soul I obtained them again when [the] Lord appeared unto a young man by the name of Oliver Cowdry [Cowdery] and shewed unto him the plates in a vision and also the truth of the work and what the Lord was about to do through me, his unworthy servant; therefore he was desirous to come and write for me and translate now my wife had written some for me to translate and also my Brother Samuel H. Smith, but we had become reduced in property and my wife’s father was about to turn me out of doors and I had not where to go and I cried unto the Lord that he would provide for me to accomplish the work whereunto he had commanded me. . .


Source: Oliver Cowdery ltr to W. W. Phelps in M&A l (Oct 1834):14.

Near the time of the setting of the sun, Sabbath evening, April 5th, 1829, my natural eyes, for the first time beheld this brother. He then resided in Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. On Monday the 6th, I assisted him in arranging some business of a temporal nature, and on Tuesday the 7th, commenced to write the Book of Mormon. These were days never to be forgotten–to sit under the sound of a voice dictated by the inspiration of heaven, awakened the utmost gratitude of this bosom! Day after day I continued, uninterrupted, to write from his mouth, as he # translated, with the Urim and Thummim, or, as the Nephites would have said, “Interpreters,” the history, or record, called “The Book of Mormon.”

Source: Oliver Cowdery ltr to W. W. Phelps in M&A l (Oct 1834):15.

After writing the account given of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent, . . . it was as easily to be seen, that amid the great strife and noise concerning religion, # none had authority from God to administer the ordinances of the gospel. . . .and we only waited for the commandment to be given, “Arise and be baptized.”

This was not long desired before it was realized. . . . After we had called upon him in a fervent manner, . . .the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the gospel of repentance!–What joy! what wonder! what amazement! . . . Then his voice, though mild, pierced to the center, and his words, “I am thy fellow servant,” dispelled every fear. We listened–we gazed–we admired! ‘Twas the voice of the angel from glory–’twas a message from the Most High! and as we heard we rejoiced, while his love enkindled upon our souls, and we were rapt in the vision of the Almighty! Where was room for doubt? No where: uncertainty had fled, doubt had sunk, no more to rise, while fiction and deception had fled forever!

What joy filled our hearts . . .when we received under his hand the holy priesthood, as he said, “Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah I confer this priesthood and this authority, which shall remain upon earth, that the sons of Levi may yet offer an offering unto the Lord in righteousness!”

Source: Patriarch Blessing Book, 2 Oct 1835, cit. Joseph F. Smith, “Restoration of the Melchizedek Priesthood,” Improvement Era 7 (October 1904):942.

[This statement by Oliver Cowdery was recorded under the date 2 October 1835 in the patriarchal blessing book of Joseph Smith, Sen., following one of the blessings. Oliver Cowdery was at that time the recorder.] He [Joseph Smith] was ministered unto by the angel, and by his direction he obtained the records of the Nephites, and + translated by the gift and power of God. He was ordained by the angel John, unto the lesser or Aaronic priesthood, in company with myself, in the town of Harmony, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania, on Friday, the 15th day of May, 1829; after which we repaired to the water, even to the Susquehanna River, and were baptized; he first administering unto me, and after, I to him. But before baptism our souls were drawn out in mighty prayer, to know how we might obtain the blessings of baptism and of the Holy Spirit according to the order of God; and we diligently sought for the right of the fathers, and the authority of the holy priesthood, and the power to administer the same; for we = desired to be followers of righteousness, and in the possession of greater knowledge, even the knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of God. Therefore we repaired to the woods, even as our father Joseph said we should, that is, to the bush, and called upon the name of the Lord, and he answered us out of the heavens. And while we were in the heavenly vision, the angel came down and bestowed upon us this priesthood; and then, as I have said, we repaired to the water and were baptized. After this, we received the high and holy priesthood; but an account of this will be given elsewhere, or in another place.

Source: Oliver Cowdery to Phineas Young, Tiffin, Ohio, 23 Mar 1846, Church Archives.

I have been sensitive on this subject [his character], I admit; but I ought to be so–you would be, under the circumstances, had you stood in the presence of John, with our departed Joseph, to receive the Lesser Priesthood–and in the presence of Peter, to receive the Greater, and look down through time, and witness the effects these two must produce.–you would feel what you have never felt, were wicked men conspiring to lessen the effects of your testimony on man, after you should have gone to your long length rest.

Source: “The Golden Bible,” Painesville Telegraph, 16 Nov 1830, p. 3.

The Golden Bible.–Some two or three years since, an account was given in the papers, of a book purporting to contain new revelations from Heaven, having been dug out of the ground, in Manchester in Ontario County, New York. The book, it seems, has made its appearance in this vicinity.–It contains about 500 octavo pages, which is said to be translated from Egyptian Hieroglyphics, on metal plates, by one Smith, who was enabled to read the characters by instruction from angels. About two weeks since some persons came along here with the book, one of whom pretends to have seen angels, and assisted in translating the plates. He proclaims destruction upon the world within a few years,–holds forth that the ordinances of the gospel, have not been regularly administered since the days of the apostles, till the said Smith and himself commenced the work–and many other marvelous things too numerous to mention. In the neighboring township of Kirtland, we understand that twenty or thirty have been immersed into the new order of things; many of whom had been previously baptized.–The name of the person here, who pretends to have a divine mission, and to have seen and conversed with angels, is Cowdrey [Cowdery]. We understand that he is bound for the regions beyond the Mississippi, where he contemplates founding a “City of Refuge” for his followers, and converting the Indians, under his prophetic authority.

Source: “The Book of Mormon,” Painesville Telegraph, 7 Dec 1830, p. 3.

THE BOOK OF MORMON For the Telegraph
Those who are the friends and advocates of this wonderful book [The Book of Mormon], state that Mr. Oliver Cowdry [Cowdery] has his commission directly from the God of Heaven, and that he has credentials, written and signed by the hand of Jesus Christ, with whom he has personally conversed, and as such, said Cowdry [Cowdery] claims that he and his associates are the only persons on earth who are qualified to administer in his name. By this authority, they proclaim to the world, that all who do not believe their testimony, and be baptized by them for the remission of sins, and come under the imposition of their hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, and stand in readiness to go to some unknown region, where God will provide a place of refuge for his people, called the “New Jerusalem,” must be forever miserable, let their life have been what it may. If these things are true, God has certainly changed his order of commission. When Jesus sent his disciples to preach, he gave them power against all unclean spirits, to cast them out, to heal all manner of diseases, and to raise the dead. But these newly commissioned disciples have totally failed thus far in their attempts to heal, and as far as can be ascertained, their prophecies have also failed.

Source: Journal of Ashbel Kitchell, cit. Richard L. Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book 1981), p. 55.

“Late in the fall a member of that society came to our house to visit the Believers. His name was Oliver Cowdery. He stated that he had been one who assisted in the translation of the golden Bible, and had seen the angel, and also had been commissioned by him to go out and bear testimony that God would destroy this generation. By his request we gave liberty for him to bear his testimony in our meetings . . . . He appeared meek and mild.”

Source: “Great Accession to the Van Buren Cause,” Painesville Telegraph, 20 Feb 1835, p. 3.

The Mormonites in this country, as if weary of the dull monotony of dreams and devotion, of vision and vexation – of profitless prophecies, and talking in tongues have concluded to turn their attention to political matters. A paper entitled The Northern Times has made an appearance from their press in Kirtland, bearing the name of O. Cowdery, one of their leaders and preachers, as editor. The editor breaks forth with a flood of words, filling seven columns under his editorial head — pounces upon the dead carcass of the United States Bank with Quixotic ferocity – talks about “WIGS” — praised the President — and says, the nomination of Van Buren “we still add, would meet our mind and receive our strong support.” As the editor [Oliver Cowdery] professes to have communion with the spirits of the invisible world, and certifies that he had seen an angel, and “hefted” the golden plates of the Prophet, he will be a political anomaly, if not a dangerous opponent.

Source: “Extract of a letter to the Editor of the Telegraph, dated Kirtland April 14, 1835,” Painesville Telegraph, 17 April 1835.

Mr. Editor:–It may be a matter of some little curiosity to the public to know that the band of Mormon fanatics, whose headquarter is in this town, are now publishing a political paper for the special benefit of the office seekers in this county. Since Oct. last they have issued two whole papers, and two extras, mostly filled with the lowest cant, and thread-bare hobbies of the tory prints, culled from the Kitchen Cabinet factory at Washington, down through every grade, to the brain of the moonstruck editor himself. But who is the editor of this wonderful print? His name is O. Cowdery, and may be found to a certificate in the Mormon Bible, in which he says he had seen and hefted the wonderful plates from which said bible was manufactured. He has also seen angels, who disclosed to him that the engraving upon the plates, which appeared to be of ancient workmanship, were correctly translated by Joseph Smith, Jun. He was the amanuensis of Smith, the impostor, as he says, in preparing their book of absurdities for the press. At the start of Mormonism he was dubbed an elder by Smith, and subsequently a high priest, apostle, prophet, etc.

Source: HC 3:16-17.

Wednesday, April 11,[1838]–Elder Seymour Brunson preferred the following charges against Oliver Cowdery, to the High Council at Far West:

To the Bishop and Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day 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. . .

[Footnote, page 17] The following letter from Oliver Cowdery respecting his difficulties at this time in the Church, is copied from the Far West Record of the High Council, and is an interesting document for several reasons: first, it shows the spirit of Oliver Cowdery at that time, also his misapprehensions of the policy of the authorities in the government of the Church, for it is to be noted that the two principal points covered in this letter, numbers four and five of Elder Brunson’s charges, were rejected by the Council as not being proper to be considered, and the sixth charge also is withdrawn, so that Oliver Cowdery was not disfellowshiped from the Church on the points raised in his letter at all, but on the first, second, third, seventh, eighth and ninth charges in Elder Brunson’s formal accusation, and since these charges were sustained upon testimony of witnesses, as the minutes of the High Council proceedings in the Far West Record clearly show, it is to be believed that the Church had sufficient cause for rejecting him.

Elder Cowdery’s 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 Brunson. 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 Jackson 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 contend 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 personal liberty, and the right of private property.” My venerable ancestor was among the little band, who landed on the rocks 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,


Source: George Q. Cannon, “History of the Church,” Juvenile Instructor 16 (15 Sep 1881):206.

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 those 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.

Source: Joseph F. Smith in JofD 20:29.

I [Joseph F. Smith] here declare that the principle of plural marriage was not first revealed on the 12th day of July, 1843. It was written for the first time on that date, but it had been revealed to the Prophet many years before that, perhaps as early as 1832. About this time, or subsequently, Joseph, the Prophet, intrusted this fact to Oliver Cowdery; he abused the confidence imposed in him, and brought reproach upon himself, and thereby upon the church by “running before he was sent,” so to speak, hence the publication, by O. Cowdery, about this time, of an article on marriage, which was carefully worded, and afterwards found its way into the Doctrine and Covenants without authority. This article explains itself to those who understand the facts, and is an indisputable evidence of the early existence of the knowledge of the principle of patriarchal marriage by the Prophet Joseph, and also by Oliver Cowdery.


Source: “History of Thomas Baldwin Marsh [by himself],” MS 26 (1864):406.

After making preparations I [Thomas B. Marsh] started from Far West [1838] and moved three miles out of town, ostensibly for the purpose of settling, and soon moved off to Clay County, and from thence to Richmond, Ray County, where I saw David, John and Jacob Whitmer and Oliver Cowdery, who had all apostatized.

I enquired seriously of David if it was true that he had seen the angel, according to his testimony as one of the witnesses of the Book of Mormon. He replied as sure as there is a God in heaven, he saw the angel according to his testimony in that book. I asked him, if so, why he did not stand by Joseph? He answered, in the days when Joseph received the Book of Mormon, and brought it forth, he was a good man and filled with the Holy Ghost, but he considered he had now fallen. I interrogated Oliver Cowdery in the same manner, who answered similarly.

Source: Brigham Young in JofD 2:257-58.

Do you not know others who had manifestations almost equal to those Joseph had, but who have gone by the board? Martin Harris declared, before God and angels, that he had seen angels. Did he apostatize? Yes, though he says that the Book of Mormon is true. Oliver Cowdery also left the Church, though he never denied the Book of Mormon, not even in the wickedest days he ever saw, and came back into the Church before he died. A gentleman in Michigan said to him, when he was pleading law, “Mr. Cowdery, I see your name attached to this book; if you believe it to be true, why are you in Michigan?” The gentleman read over the names of the witnesses, and said, “Mr. Cowdery, do you believe this book?” “No, sir,” replied Oliver Cowdery. “That is very well, but your name is attached to it, and you say that you saw an angel, and the plates from which this book is said to be translated, and now you say that you do not believe it. Which time was you right?” Mr. Cowdery replied, “There is my name attached to that book, and what I have there said that I saw, I know that I saw, and belief has nothing to do with it, for knowledge has swallowed up the belief that I had in the work, since I know it is true.” He gave his testimony when he was pleading law in Michigan. After he had left the Church he still believed “Mormonism;” and so it is with hundreds and thousands of others, and yet they do not live it.

Source: George Q. Cannon in JofD 22:254.

When I was a boy I heard it stated concerning Oliver Cowdery, that after he left the Church he practiced law, and upon one occasion, in a court in Ohio, the opposing counsel thought he would say something that would overwhelm Oliver Cowdery, and in reply to him in his argument he alluded to him as the man that had testified and had written that he had beheld an angel of God, and that angel had shown unto him the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated. He supposed, of course, that it would cover him with confusion, because Oliver Cowdery then made no profession of being a “Mormon,” or a Latter-day Saint; but instead of being affected by it in this manner, he arose in the court, and in his reply stated that, whatever his faults and weaknesses might be, the testimony which he had written, and which he had given to the world, was literally true.


Source: George A. Smith to Orson Pratt, 31 Oct 1848, cit. MS 11 (1 Feb 1849):14.

Oliver Cowdery, who had just arrived from Wisconsin with his family, on being invited, addressed the meeting. He bore testimony in the most positive terms of the truth of the Book of Mormon–the restoration of the priesthood to the earth, and the mission of Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the last days; and told the people if they wanted to follow the right path, to keep the main channel of the stream–where the body of the Church goes, there is the authority; and all these lo here’s and lo there’s have no authority; but this people have the true and holy priesthood; “for the angel said unto Joseph Smith, Jr., in my hearing, that this priesthood shall remain on the earth unto the end.” His testimony produced quite a sensation among the gentlemen present, who did not belong to the Church, and it was gratefully received by all the Saints. Last evening (Oct. 30th) President Hyde and myself spent the evening with Brother Cowdery. He told us he had come to listen to our counsel and would do as we told him. He had been cut off from the Church by a council; had withdrawn himself from it; stayed away eleven years; and now came back, not expecting to be a leader, but wished to be a member and have part among us. He considered that he ought to be baptized; and did not expect to return without it. He said that Joseph Smith had fulfilled his mission faithfully before God until death; he was determined to rise with the Church, and if it went down he was willing to go down with it. I saw him today, told him I was going to write you. He sends his respects to you; he says, “Tell Brother Orson I am advised by the brethren to remain here this winter, and assist Brother Hyde in the printing office, and as soon as I get settled I will write him a letter.” I remain, as ever your brother in the kingdom of patience.

(Signed) George A. Smith.

Source: Edward Stevenson, “The Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon,” MS 48 (5 July 1886):420- 22.


I [Edward Stevenson] have often heard him [Oliver Cowdery] 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 of 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.

In Nov. 1831, the Lord gave a revelation to the Prophet concerning Oliver Cowdery, and also appointing John Whitmer as historian, to be assisted by Brother Oliver Cowdery. This John Whitmer is one of the eight witnesses who was permitted to behold the plates, and he kept the faith until 1837, after which fellowship was withdrawn from him, he refusing to give up the history he had kept, which was legally the property of the Church. The history is still in existence, and transmitted to his son John, now living near Richmond, Mo. Under the direction of David Whitmer this history is held sacred at this time. I will add here, in justice to John Whitmer, that up to his death he was always true to his testimony as one of the eight witnesses. A portion of the revelation spoken of reads as follows: “Hearken unto me, saith the Lord, your God, for my servant Oliver Cowdery’s sake. It is not wisdom in me that he should be entrusted with the commandments and the monies which he shall carry unto the land of Zion, except one go with him who will be true and faithful: wherefore I, the Lord, will that my servant John Whitmer should go with my servant Oliver Cowdery, and also that he shall continue in writing and making a history of all the important things which he shall observe and know concerning my Church.”

Also in 1829, a revelation [D&C 6] was given to Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith, an abstract of which reads: “A great and marvelous work is about to come forth unto the children of men. Behold, I am God, and give heed to my word, which is quick and powerful, sharper than a two- edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints and marrow: therefore give heed to my words. . . .Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you.” This revelation was given about a year before the Church was organized, and enjoins an extra injunction upon Brother Cowdery.

Again, in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, Jun. and Oliver Cowdery in 1830 [D&C 24]: “Behold, thou wast called and chosen to write the Book of Mormon and to my ministry. . . .And thou shalt continue in calling upon God in my name, and writing the things which shall be given thee by the Comforter. . . .and they shall hear it, or I will send unto them a cursing instead of a blessing.

To Oliver Cowdery and six Elders, Sept. 1830 [D&C 29]: “Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the great I AM. . . . Verily I say unto you, ye are chosen out of the world to declare my gospel with the sound of rejoicing, as with the voice of a trump . . . .for the hour is nigh, and that which is spoken by my apostles must be fulfilled: for as they spoke so it shall come to pass: . . . . Wherefore, I the Lord God will send forth flies upon the face of the earth, which shall take hold of the inhabitants thereof, and shall eat their flesh, and shall cause maggots to come in upon them; and their tongues shall be stayed that they shall not utter against me.”

Many other revelations have been given with increased responsibilities upon Oliver Cowdery, as well as to be a witness to the Book of Mormon. I have taken great satisfaction under his testimony as one of the three witnesses, and testify to the world that he was inspired of God, and his testimony stands unimpeached by any man on earth. About the year 1849 or 1850, Oliver Cowdery called to see the Latter-day Saints in their camp at Council Bluffs, Iowa, while en route to Utah from Illinois. He became satisfied of the continued advance of the gospel, and was rebaptized and publicly bore his testimony in the meeting of the Latter-day Saints with expressed satisfaction. Soon after this he went to Richmond, Ray Co., Mo., to visit David Whitmer, where he subsequently died, and was buried alongside of father and mother Whitmer. Thus two of the three witnesses have returned to the fold and identified themselves with the true and only Church and gospel of Jesus Christ, at that time under the direction of President Brigham Young, and died in full faith and hope of a glorious resurrection, and the reign of Christ a thousand years upon this earth, when Jesus will reign as King of kings.



Source: Samuel W. Richards, “Oliver Cowdery,” Improvement Era 2 (Dec 1898):90-96.

In 1848, a yearning which Oliver Cowdery had for the society of those with whom he had once been so familiar, caused him to visit Kanesville, Iowa, where Orson Hyde, then president of the Twelve Apostles, was residing, and make application for a reunion with the Church, which was granted by his being baptized and duly admitted into the Church by Elder Hyde officiating.

Soon after this, with the view of joining the Saints in Salt Lake valley the next season, he, with his wife, desired first to visit her brother, David Whitmer, then living in Richmond, Missouri. For this purpose, in the month of January (1849), they started on the journey by team, but were overtaken by a severe snowstorm which compelled them to seek shelter, which they obtained with the writer of this article, [Samuel W. Richards] then temporarily residing in the upper part of that state. Here they found it necessary to remain some length of time on account of the great amount of snow which had fallen, completely blockading the road, and for a time preventing travel by teams.

This detention of nearly two weeks time was extremely interesting, and made very enjoyable to both parties participating in the social and intellectual feast so unexpectedly provided.

I had but the fall before returned from my first mission to the British Isles, and was in the spirit of inquiry as to all matters of early history and experiences in the Church, and soon found there was no reserve on the part of Oliver in answering my many questions. In doing so his mind seemed as fresh in the recollection of events, which occurred more than a score of years before, as though they were but of yesterday.

Upon carefully inquiring as to his long absence from the body of the Church, he stated that he had never met the Prophet Joseph, after his expulsion from the Church, while he lived, apparently feeling that the Prophet could, with equal propriety, enquire after him, as for him to visit the Prophet, and as his pride would seemingly not allow him to become a suppliant without that, it was never made; while he felt quite sure that had he ever met the Prophet there would have been no difficulty in affecting a reconciliation, as a feeling of jealousy towards him, on the part of his accusers, had entered largely into their purpose of having him removed, which he thought Joseph must have discovered after going to Missouri.

In what had now transpired with him he felt to acknowledge the hand of God, in that he had been preserved; for if he had been with the Church he would have undoubtedly been with Joseph in his days of trial and shared a like fate with him; but being spared, he now desired to go to the nations and bear a testimony of this work which no other living man could bear; and he decided to go to the presidency of the Church and offer his services for that purpose.

This indeed seemed to be his only ambition, and he was now going to visit his wife’s brother, David Whitmer, and prepare to go to the mountains and join the body of the Church the following summer and unite with them. For some cause this was not permitted, and he died in Missouri among relatives before realizing the intent and purpose he had cherished of again testifying of the great work and dispensation, which he had been instrumental, with the Prophet, in opening up to the world.

To hear him describe, in his pleasant but earnest manner, the personality of those heavenly messengers, with whom he and the Prophet had so freely held converse, was enchanting to my soul. Their heavenly appearance, clothed in robes of purity; the influence of their presence, so lovely and serene; their eyes, that seemed to penetrate to the very depths of the soul, together with the color of the eyes that gazed upon them, were all so beautifully related as to almost make one feel that they were then present; and as I placed my hands upon his head where these angels had placed theirs, a divine influence filled the soul to that degree that one could truly feel to be in the presence of something that was more than earthly . . .

Before taking his departure he wrote and left with the writer of this, the following statement, which we believe to be his last living testimony, though oft repeated, of the wonderful manifestations which brought the authority of God to men on the earth: [The following statement included in this article is in the Samuel Whitney Richards Collection, Church Archives]


“While darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the people; long after the authority to administer in holy things had been taken away, the Lord opened the heavens and sent forth His word for the salvation of Israel. In fulfillment of the sacred scriptures, the everlasting gospel was proclaimed by the mighty angel (Moroni) who, clothed with the authority of his mission, gave glory to God in the highest. This # gospel is the `stone taken from the mountain without hands.’ John the Baptist, holding the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood; Peter, James and John, holding the keys of the Melchizedek Priesthood, have also ministered for those who shall be heirs of salvation, and with these administrations, ordained men to the same priesthoods. These priesthoods, with their authority, are now, and must continue to be, in the body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Blessed is the elder who has received the same, and thrice blessed and holy is he who shall endure to the end.

“Accept assurances, dear brother, of the unfeigned prayer of him who, in connection with Joseph the Seer, was blessed with the above ministrations, and who earnestly and devoutly hopes to meet you in the celestial glory.” Oliver Cowdery. To Samuel W. Richards, January 13, 1849.

Thus, by the foregoing testimony which he bears, as his last written, and virtually his dying testimony, is secured the promise made to him by the Lord in the early part of his career, that “the gates of hell should not prevail against him; and he should be lifted up at the last day.”


Source: Andrew Jenson, Biographical Encyclopedia, 1:251.

Elder Phineas H. Young, who was present at his [Oliver Cowdery’s] death [at Richmond, Missouri, March 3, 1850] 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.” [See MS 21 (1859):545.]

Oliver Cowdery’s half-sister, Lucy P. Young, widow of 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. [See MS 40 (1880):774.]

Source: David Whitmer, Address to All Believers In Christ (Richmond: David Whitmer, 1887), p. 8.

I [David Whitmer] 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 Book 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.

Source: David Whitmer to E. R. Kelley, 3 Mar 1884, RLDS Archives.

“Oliver Cowdery never to my [David Whitmer’s] knowledge denied any part of his testimony [as written in the Book of Mormon]; on the contrary, as I have done protested against every fabrication made by designing persons and parties . . . until death which occurred in this place.”

Source: Elizabeth Cowdery to David Whitmer, 8 Mar 1887, cit. The Return 3 (Dec 1892):7.


Southwest City, Mo., March 8th, ’87.

Dear Brother David:–I, Elizabeth Cowdery, wife of Oliver Cowdery, do make the following statements: That my husband, Oliver Cowdery, bore his testimony to the truth and divine origin of the Book of Mormon, as one of the three witnesses of the Book of Mormon; as to his standing on doctrine he stood where he did when he preached the first sermon; that was preached in the last days in the Church of Christ in 1829, when the Bible and the Book of Mormon alone were the guide to the faith of the church. From the hour when the glorious vision of the Holy Messenger revealed to mortal eyes the hidden prophecies which God had promised his faithful followers should come forth in due time, until the moment when he passed away from earth. He always without one doubt or shudder of turning affirmed the divinity and truth of the Book of Mormon. “God’s promises never fail.”

From your Sister,

Elizabeth Cowdery.

Source: Milton V. Backman, Eyewitness Accounts of the Restoration (Deseret Book: Salt Lake City, 1986), p. 163.

Oliver Cowdery’s Final Testimony Reported by David Whitmer and John C. Whitmer, Son of Jacob Whitmer

I was present at the deathbed of Oliver Cowdery in 1850 . . . Oliver died the happiest man I ever saw . . . His last words were, “Brother David, be true to your testimony to the Book of Mormon, for we know that it is of God and that it is verily true.” 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 died immediately, with a smile on his face. 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. [See also Andrew Jenson, Edward Stevenson, and Joseph B. Black, “Historical Landmarks,” Deseret News (Salt Lake City), 17 Sep 1888, p. 2; and David Whitmer to E. L. Kelley, 3 Mar 1884, Whitmer Papers, RLDS Church Archives.]


Source: David Whitmer to E. R. Kelly, 3 Mar 1884, RLDS Archives.

Dear Sir:

. . . Oliver Cowdery never to my knowledge denied any part of his testimony, on the contrary, as I have done, protested against every fabrication made by designing persons and parties and emphatically testified as written in the Book of Mormon until death; which occurred in this place, his wife and child yet living furnished one of the best pictures of a living faith in what their father testified to before death as written in the Book of Mormon.

Source: John Whitmer to M. H. Forest, 5 Mar 1876, Whitmer Papers, RLDS Archives.


. . . . Oliver Cowdery lived in Richmond, Mo. [Missouri], some 40 miles from here at the time of his death. I went to see him and I was with him for some days previous to his demise.

I have never heard him deny the truth of his testimony of the Book of Mormon under any circumstances what ever.

I have no knowledge that there was any effort made to force him to deny the Book of Mormon. Neither do I believe that he would have denied at the peril of his life, so firm was he that he could not be moved to deny what he has affirmed to be a divine revelation from God.

I desire to do good when it is in my power. I have never heard that anyone of the three or eight witnesses ever denied the testimony that they have borne to the book as published in the first edition of the Book of Mormon.

There are only two of the witnesses to that book now living to wit. David Whitmer one of the three and John Whitmer one of the eight.

Our names have gone forth to all nations, tongues and people as a divine revelation from God. And it will bring to pass the designs of God according to the declaration therein contained.