Unholy Cow, and How!--How the Mormon Church Created the Cowdery Myth ...

steve benson May 2014

--Oliver Cowdery: Supposedly Devoted Follower of Mormonism--Who Died with a Decidedly Anti-Mormon Side--

**From Partner and Producer, to Hated and Excommunicated

Cowdery was not your average Mormon “special witness.” He was Associate Church President to God's supposed prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith and co-producer of the Mormon Church.

Author Don Smith sums up Cowdery's credentials--followed by describing Cowdery's anti-Mormon crash landing: “Oliver Cowdery was considered more than just an apostle. He was second in authority in the [LDS] Church, as well as a witness. [to the Book of Mormon]. He was also one of the three who had authority to select the Twelve Apostles.” Then came his nosedive: “Yet, after he served as a prominent leader for nine years in the LDS Church, he was excommunicated because of nine offenses, of which six were sustained .” The upheld charges of the indictment were:

(1)“[P]ersecuting the brethren by urging on vexatious lawsuits against them and thus distressing the innocent.” (2) “[S]eeking to destroy the character of President Joseph Smith, Jr., by falsely insinuating that he was guilty of adultery.” (3) “[T]reating the Church with contempt by not attending meetings.” (4) “[L]eaving his calling to which God had appointed him by revelation, for the sake of filthy lucre and turning to the practice of law.” (5) “[D]isgracing the Church by being connected in the bogus business, as common report says.” (6) “[D]ishonestly retaining notes after they had been paid, and, finally, . . . 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.”

**Calling Out Skirt-Chasing Smith for Chasing Fannie's Fanny

What got Cowdery in particularly hot water with Smith was his adamant refusal to cease condemning Smith for Smith's extra-marital affair with a teenage girl named Fannie Alger. Cowdery's unbending insistence that Smith had cheated on his wife Emma infuriated the Mormon Church's “First Elder” and, as historian Fawn Brodie notes, was instrumental in Cowdery's excommunicated: “. . . Some time in 1835 it began to be whispered about that [Smith] had seduced a 17-year-old orphan girl whom Emma had taken into the family. . . .Whether or not Fannie Alger bore Joseph a child, it was clear that the breath of the scandal was hot upon his neck. . . . Oliver Cowdery knew the report of an illicit affair between the girl and the prophet to be true, for they 'were spied upon and found together.' Cowdery made no secret of his indignation and Joseph finally called him in and accused him of perpetuating the scandal. . . . [I]n a letter from Oliver Cowdery to his brother Warren A. Cowdery, dated Far West, Missouri, 21 January 1839] Oliver wrote: 'We had some conversation in which in every instance I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger's was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deserted from the truth in that matter and as I supposed was admitted by himself.' . . . Cowdery himself stoutly refused to exonerate the prophet and eventually was excommunicated from the Church for several misdemeanors, among them 'insinuating that the prophet had been guilty of adultery.'” Brodie also quotes a letter from patriarch of the Utah Mormon Church, Benjamin F. Johnson, to George S. Gibbs, in which Johnson mentions Cowdery's unflinching criticism of Smith being hot on the trail for Fannie's tail: “In 1835, at Kirtland . . . there lived then with his family (the Prophet's) a neighbor's daughter, Fannie Alger, a very nice and comely young woman about my own age [Johnson was then 17], toward whom not only myself, but everyone, seemed partial . . . . . [I]t was whispered even then that Joseph loved her. . . . And there was some trouble with Oliver Cowdery and whisper said it was relating to a girl then living in his (the Prophet's) family and I was afterwards told by Warren Parrish that he himself and Oliver Cowdery did know that Joseph had Fannie Alger as wife, for they were spied upon and found together.'” Turning up the heat on the scandal about which Cowdery steadfastly refused to budge in his condemnation, were insinuations that Smith had impregnated Fannie. Brodie reports that “C.G. Webb, Joseph's grammar teacher in Kirtland, told W. Wyle in the 1880s that 'Joseph's dissolute life began already in the first times of the Church, in Kirtland. He was sealed there secretly to Fannie Alger. Emma was furious and drove the girl, who was unable to conceal the consequences of her celestial relation with the Prophet, out of her house.'”

**Cowdery's Brutal Banishment

As noted by authors Jerald and Sandra Tanner, co-church creator Cowdery was viciously assailed by Smith's supporters (including Smith's brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon and several members of the Far West, Missouri, High Council), who accused him of lying, stealing and counterfeiting, as well as denounced him for leading a gang of "scoundrels of the deepest degree.” Ultimately Cowdery and other Church dissenters, together with their families, were driven from town under threat of death if they returned.

--Oliver Cowdery: Resolute Book of Mormon Witness vs. Wiley Magical Thinker--

LDS Church-spun claims of Cowdery's supposed life-long faith in Mormonism are highly suspect. Author Grant H. Palmer questions, for instance,. the historical accuracy of Mormon Church portrayals of Cowdery as a devoted testifier to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon: “We are told that the witnesses [to the golden plates, including Cowdery] never disavowed their testimonies, but we have not come to know [Cowdery] or investigated what else [he] said about [his] experiences.” What Palmer says we actually learn about Cowdery is that he believed in magical occultist powers that brought the Mormon Church into existence: “[Cowdery, along with the other Book of Mormon witnesses] believed in what has been called 'second sight.' Traditionally, this included the ability to see spirits and their dwelling places within the local hills and elsewhere. . . . Oliver Cowdery would later perceive Jesus, Moses, Elias and Elijah in a worship service in Ohio while the congregants discerned 'convoy after convoy of angels,' all with 'the eyes of our understanding.' [As one of the 11 witnesses to the gold plates, Cowdery] claimed second-sight abilities . . . . [He harbored] the mindset, the shared magical perspective of these men”--a fact that Palmer says is “a key to understanding their affirmations of seeing and handling the golden plates.” Yet, in the end, Cowdery's fellow witness, Martin Harris, admitted that when it came to the gold plates, Cowdery never saw or experienced what Cowdery said he did: “On 25 March 1838, Martin Harris testified publicly that NONE of the signatories to the Book of Mormon [including Cowdery] saw or handled the physical records. His statement, made at the height of Ohio's banking-related apostasy, became the final straw that caused Apostles Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson and John F. Boynton, and high priest Stephen Burnett and seventy Warren Parrish to exit the Church. . . . Burnett, in a letter dated 15 April 1838 , three weeks after this meeting, wrote to Lyman Johnson: ' . . . [W]hen I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes, only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David, etc,, also the eight witnesses never saw them and hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way; in my view our foundations w[ere] sapped and the entire superstructure fell a heap of ruins, . . . . I was followed by W. Parrish, Luke Johnson and John Boynton, all of who[m] concurred with me. [A]fter we were done speaking, M[artin] Harris arose and said . . . he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he say a city through a mountain. And [he] said that he never should have told that testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of [h]im but should have let it passed as it was . . . .'” Palmer charts the fallout at the top from Harris' stunning confession:: “Warren Parrish, like Stephen Burnett, also heard Harris say at this meeting that none of the 11 men [including Cowdery] examined physical records. On 11 August [1838], Parrish wrote in a letter [to E. Holmes]: 'Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses, has come out at last and says he never saw the plates, from which the book purports to have been translated, except in a vision and he further says that any man [that would include Cowdery] who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph [Smith] not excepted.'”

--Oliver Cowdery the Con Man: In Cahoots with Smith in Creating the Founding Fairy Tales of Mormonism--

**Oliver Cowdery and the Concoction of the First Vision

Brodie points to a noticeable omission by Cowdery--one where he failed to mention the First Vision in the initial versions of LDS Church history. Brodie explains the reason for its absence: It hadn't been made up yet by the Smith/Cowdery team: “The earliest published Mormon history, begun with Joseph's collaboration in 1834 by Oliver Cowdery, ignored [the 'First Vision'] altogether, stating that the religious excitement in the Palmyra area occurred when [Joseph Smith] was 17 (not 14). Cowdery described Joseph's visionary life as beginning in September 1823, with the vision of angel called Moroni, who was said to have directed Joseph to the discovery of hidden gold plates.”

**Oliver Cowdery Argues with Smith Over the Invented Story of John the Revelator's Whereabouts

Prior to the formal crank-up of the Mormon Church, Cowdery found himself at odds with Smith over the particulars of how to spin a tale about the supposed appearance of heavenly messengers carrying God's priesthood power back to the Earth. Palmer describes how Smith ultimately came up with a storyline to end the disagreement: “Shortly after becoming Joseph Smith's full-time scribe in April 1829, . . . a disagreement [arose] between the two men over whether John the Revelator was on earth or in heaven[.] Joseph, through a stone, 'translated' the answer from 'a record made on parchment by John and hidden up by himself' somewhere n the Middle East . . . .”

**Repeatedly Rewriting the Restoration Over the Objections of Other Mormon Leaders

For Cowdery and Smith, the story of Mormon restoration glory was ever-changing--and ever getting better. LDS Church claims of God's messengers bringing the authoritative priesthood power to Smith and Cowdery were, in fact, not in the original script but instead were added later, as needed. It was a tactic of Cowdery's and Smith's that irked other early Mormon Church leaders. As Palmer points out, the diaries from 1831 to 1836 of William E. McLellin (an early LDS convert and apostle) contain virtually no mention of Smith and Cowdery being the recipients of what Palmer calls “angelic priesthood ordination.” As McLellin noted: “I joined the Church in 1831. For years I never heard of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph and Oliver. I heard not of James, Peter and John doing so.” Palmer further reports: “McLellin provided later additional details about the absence of such stories from the early versions of Mormon Church history: 'I heard Joseph tell his experience of his ordination [by Cowdery] and the organization of the Church, probably more than 20 times, to persons who, near the rise of the Church, wished to know and hear about it. I never heard of Moroni, John or Peter, James or John.'” McLellin further noted, “ . . . [A]s to the story of John the Baptist ordaining Joseph and Oliver on the day they were baptized, I never heard of it in the Church for years, although I carefully noticed things that were said.” McLellin wasn't alone. Another skeptical assessment of the priesthood power play described by Smith and Cowdery came from another key source: David Whitmer (one of the three “special witnesses” to the Book of Mormon gold plates). Whitmer, in an 1885 interview with Zenas H. Gurley, Jr.,(an apostle with the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), politely blew the lid off Cowdery's fabrications: “. . . Oliver stated to me . . .that [he and Joseph] had baptized each other seeking by that to fulfill the command . . . . I never heard that an angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic priesthood until the year 1834, 1835 or 1836--in Ohio. . . . I do not believe that John the Baptist ordained Joseph and Oliver as stated and believed by some. I regard that as an error, a misconception.”

Palmer reinforces the suspicion that these purported events were invented additions, on account of the fact that Cowdery's own actions seemed strange for someone who supposedly had been ordained by heavenly messengers to restore God's Church. Especially odd in that regard was Cowdery's acceptance of “revelations” coming from an early LDS convert who held lower rank than Smith but, who like Smith, claimed to be able to read peepstones: “There is . .. . corroborating evidence in an episode that occurred in September 1830 when Hiram Page, who held the office of teacher, claimed to receive revelations for the Church through a seer stone. Many, 'especially the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery,' accepted Page's revelation as authoritative for 'the upbuilding of Zion, the order of the Church [speaking for God], etc., etc. ' If Cowdery's authority came literally from the hands of John the Baptist and Peter, James and John in an unequivocal bestowal of apostolic keys of priesthood succession, . . . it should have been obvious to Cowdery that Page's claims lacked comparable weight. If this restoration of authority and truth which had been lost for centuries occurred dramatically and decisively in a show of glory in 1829, then it seems unlikely that a year later Cowdery would accept Page's authority over that of Joseph Smith. “Why,” Palmer asks, “would those claiming to hold the exclusive keys of apostolic succession from Peter, James and John seek direction and revelation from one holding the office of a teacher in the Church? It seems more likely that simply and undramatic commandments were the source of these early authority claims.”

Palmer's assessment that Mormonism's founding narrative was a series of unfolding make-overs receives further weight from the fact that “[t]he first mention of authority from angels dates to 22 September 1832.” Even that mention, however, does not include any reference “to the actual physical laying on of hands by an angel, but one sees the seeds of a concept here.” Further undermining Oliver's credibility as an inspired storyteller is Palmer's observation that “an unequivocal assertion of authority by angelic ordination” did not come until “Oliver Cowdery's 7 September 1834 letter in the October issue of the 'Messenger and Advocate' [in which] Cowdery tells a highly dramatic, if poetic, version of how he and Joseph received the priesthood from an unnamed angel.” Significantly, as Palmer writes, these visiting angels finally got their names and priesthood-granting powers “[w]hen Joseph and Oliver . . . were facing a credibility crisis that threatened the Church's survival.” The affidavit-collecting activities of D.P. Hurlburt were by that time casting growing doubt over the character and motivations of Smith and Cowdery, as well as raising suspicions about their fanciful tales of Mormon origins. Hurlburt's damning affidavits were followed by devastating claims made in E. D. Howe's book, “Mormonism Unv[e]iled.” Faced with growing disillusionment among the faithful, Cowdery's initially unnamed angel miraculously morphed into John the Baptist. The pumped-up tale of Peter, James and John descending from heaven with outstretched hands to ordain Smith and Cowdery to the priesthood (together with the newly-formed John the Baptist account), were trotted out to improve the earlier, less dramatic storyline. Writes Palmer: “Thus, by degrees, the accounts became more detailed and more miraculous. In 1829, Joseph said he was called by the Spirit; in 1832, he mentioned that angels attended these events; in 1834-35, the spiritual manifestations became literal and physical appearances of resurrected beings. Details usually become blurred over time; [but] in this case, they multiplied and sharpened. These new declarations of literal and physical events facilitated belief and bolstered Joseph and Oliver's authority during a time of crisis.” Casting even more shadows on the authenticity of Smith and Cowdery's Mormon sensational storyline, Palmer points to another glaring omission: “No contemporary narrative exists for a visitation to Joseph and Oliver by Peter, James and John. In fact, the date, location, ordination prayer and other circumstances surrounding this are unknown.” Instead, “[t]he earliest statement about the higher priesthood being restored in a literal,physical way, including the naming of angels, appears in the September 1835 Doctrine and Covenants.” Palmer notes: “It may be more than a coincidence, that in February 1835 when the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was organized, the details regarding Peter, James and John were added to the revelations. It was sometime between January and May 1835 that Peter, James and John were first mentioned as the restorers of apostolic keys to Joseph and Oliver. This new link of succession undoubtedly bolstered President Smith's and Assistant President Cowdery's authority in the eyes of the new Quorum of the Twelve and the Church.”

Palmer's assessment of the ever-changing Mormon narrative does not speak well for the credibility of conman Smith and his cohort Cowdery: “As in his accounts of an angel and the gold plates, Joseph was willing to expand on another foundational narrative. The events surrounding the priesthood restoration were reinterpreted, one detail emphasized over another. A spiritual charged moment when participants felt the veil between heaven and earth was thin became, in the retelling, an event with no veil at all. The first stories about how Joseph received his authority show that, like other prophets and religions founders throughout history, he and Oliver first received their callings in a metaphysical way. Within a few years, their accounts become impressive, unique and physical.”

Palmer explains that the ultimate (and deceptive) purpose behind the Smith-Cowdery re-tooling of Mormonism's make-believe beginnings was to plant the Church roots and subsequently expand its ranks: “The foundation events [of the Mormon Church which including the First Vision; the historicity and translation of the Book of Mormon gold plates; the Angel Moroni; and priesthood restoration] were rewritten by Joseph and Oliver and other early Church officials so the Church could survive and grow. This reworking made the stories more useful for missionary work and for fellowshipping purposes.” Palmer concludes that this approach of Smith and Cowdery was fundamentally dishonest: “. . . [I]s this acceptable? Should we continue to tell these historically inaccurate versions today? It seems that, among the many implications that could be considered, we should ask ourselves what results have accrued from teaching an unequivocal, materialistic and idealized narrative of our Church's founding. . . . [I]s it right to tell religious allegories to adults as if they were literally true?”

**Cowdery Failed Attempt at Book of Mormon Translation: Not Up the the Task, Despite His Supposed Folk-Magic Powers

For someone allegedly inspired to assist Smith in the translation of the Book of Mormon, Cowdery fell far short of expectations. Palmer explains that Cowdery was accustomed to using sticks, not stones: “. . . [R]evelations given to Oliver Cowdery in April 1829 . . . explain how Oliver translated using his 'gift,' a 'rod of nature' (divining rod), rather than Joseph's use of seer stones. When Oliver was young, he was taught how to handle a divining rod and ask it questions in faith. This, when accompanied by the Spirit, caused the rod to move and means that the answer was yes. If the rod did not move, the answer was no. This process was more difficult when reading from a stone; it required patience. When Cowdery attempted to apply it to translation, he ultimately 'did not continue' (D&C) 9:3-5)”

Palmer notes that the failure on Cowdery's part to translate the Book of Mormon through use of a folk magic wonder wand occurred despite the fact that Cowdery (like Book of Mormon witnesses Hiram Page and the five Whitmer brothers) “came from a . . . background [of belief] that seers could discern things with seeing stones and dowsing sticks.” Palmer writes that Cowdery “was a treasure hunter and 'rodsman' before he met Joseph Smith in 1829. William Cowdery, his father, was associated with a treasure-seeking group in Vermont and it is from them, one assumes, that Oliver learned the art of working with a divining rod. Joseph told Oliver that he knew the 'rod of nature' Oliver used 'has told you many things.' Oliver saw 'the plates in vision' before the two men met. This means that . . . Cowdery had seen these plates in vision before Joseph prophesied that they would view them together. David Whitmer, the third of this group [of special Book of Mormon witnesses], reported in early June 1829 before their group declaration that he, Cowdery, and Joseph Smith observed 'one of the Nephites' carrying the records in a knapsack on his way to Cumorah. Several days later this trio perceived 'that the Same Person was under the shed' at the Whitmer farm.”

**Cowdery as Touted Treasure Hunter: Finding Caches in Caves

Although Cowdery couldn't get his dowsing stick to function when it came to the Book of Mormon's translation junction, he was nonetheless able to locate caves in the Hill Cumorah piled high with ancient plates. Palmer describes the “discoveries” thus: “The ability to see into hidden crevices within the local hills was not limited to Joseph Jr. and his father. Heber C. Kimball spoke of 'the vision that Joseph and others had [Joseph Sr. and Oliver Cowdery are identified] when they went into a cave in the Hill Cumorah and saw more records than 10 men could carry . . . books piled upon tables, book upon book.' [Brigham] Young named more witnesses in connection with these visits to Cumorah's cave . . . : 'Oliver [Cowdery] says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon-loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates . . . . I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it . . . . Carlos Smith . . . was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw these things, Hyrum saw a good many things but Joseph was the leader.' . . . In 1873 Brigham Young informed Elizabeth Kane and others that the plates that Cowdery saw 'were in a cave; that Oliver Cowdery . . . would not deny that he had seen [and handled] them. He had been to the cave.'” Palmer adds that “Hyrum Smith related more about [Cowdery's Cumorah spelunking) to William W. Phelps, identifying still others who made the excursion to the hill's interior. Phelps recounted: 'Joseph, Hyrum, Cowdery and Whitmer[s?] went to the Hill Cumorah. As they were walking up the hill, a door opened and they walked into a room about 16-feet square. In that room was an angel and a trunk. On the trunk lay a Book of Mormon and gold plates, Laban's sword, Aaron's breastplate.'” In this regard, Palmer adds that in another statement, Young mentioned that they saw “ 'a Messenger' who was the 'keeper of the room' and that they conversed with him.”

Palmer raises doubts that Cowdery physically located such gold-crusted caverns, noting that Brigham Young's version of “recounted statements by Cowdery [of walking into a treasure-laden cave inside the Hill Cumorah] . . . may have been misremembered [as] . . . real events rather than visionary”--serving to further underscore that Cowdery was “seeing” things with his magic stick. Palmer notes, “It appears that this cave was not a physical reality but rather something that was visited in a dream-vision” by Cowdery and others).

**Oliver Cowdery as Plagiarizer: Preaching the Writings of Others That Were Instrumental in Helping Joseph Smith Invent Mormon Cosmology

Palmer quotes LDS scholar Klaus Hansen's observations on how Smith came up with his starry-eyed ideas--he stole them: “The progressive aspect of Joseph's theology, as well as its cosmology . . . bears some remarkable resemblances to Thomas Dick's 'Philosophy of a Future State,' a second edition of which had been published in 1830. . . . Some very striking parallels to Smith's theology suggest that the similarities between the two may be more than coincidental. Dick's lengthy book, an ambitious treatise on astronomy and metaphysics, proposed the idea that matter is eternal and indestructible and rejected the notion of a creation ex nihilo. Much of the book deals with the infinity of the universe, made up of innumerable stars spread out over immeasurable distances. Dick speculated that matter of these stars were people by 'various orders of intelligences' and that these intelligences were 'progressive beings' in various stages of evolution toward perfection. In the Book of Abraham, part of which consists of a treatise on astronomy and cosmology, eternal beings of various orders and stages of development likewise populate numerous stars. They, too, are called 'intelligences.' Dick speculated that 'the systems of the universe revolve around a common center . . . the throne of God.' In the Book of Abraham, one star named Kolob 'was nearest unto the throne of God.' Other stars, in ever diminishing order, were placed in increasing distances from this center.” Palmer lays out the Smith/Cowdery connection to Dick: “Joseph Smith owned a copy of this work and Oliver Cowdery in December 1836 quoted some lengthy excerpts from it in the “Messenger and Advocate.' “ Palmer concludes that “[m]any of the astronomical and cosmological ideas found in both Joseph Smith's environment and in the Book of Abraham have become out of vogue and some of [its] Newtonian concepts are scientific relics. The evidence suggests that the Book of Abraham reflects concepts of Joseph Smith's [and, by extension, Oliver Cowdery's] time and place rather than those of an ancient world.”

**Oliver Cowdery's Personal Tie to Fiction Writer Ethan Smith: How “View of the Hebrews” Influenced the Creation of the Book of Mormon

Author Richard S. Van Wagoner maintains that Ethan Smith's “View of the Hebrews” novel “was probably a principal source . . . from which Smith and Cowdery . . . formulated the book of Mormon narrative.” Published seven years prior to the Book of Mormon, Van Wagoner observes that “[t]he similarities between the two works seem to be too substantial to be mere coincidence. The major thesis of each is to explain the origin of the American Indian: Chapters in each relate to the destruction of Jerusalem and the scattering of Israel, then predict a regathering in the Promised Land. Vast portions of the Book of Isaiah are quoted extensively in each work . . . . Both discuss polygamy, seers and prophets, and the use of breastplates and Urim and Thummim. In each account, sacred records, handed down from generation to generation, are buried in a hill,then discovered years later. The characters on the gold plates of the Book of Mormon were reportedly 'Reformed Egyptian,' whereas 'View of the Hebrews' discusses evidence of 'Egyptian Hieroglyphics.' Perhaps the most important parallel is that both Ethan Smith's and Joseph Smith's works detail in similar fashion two classes of people in ancient America, one barbarous and the other civilized. . . . Both authors identify American Indians as the 'stick of Joseph or Ephraim' (the northern Ten Tribes of Israel) that are expected to be reunited with the 'stick of Judah' (the Jews of the Southern kingdom of Judah). Furthermore, each work defines the mission of the American (Gentile) nation in the last days as calling to gather these native American remnants of the House of Israel, convert them to Christianity and bring them to the 'place of the Lord of Hosts, the Mt. Zion.' After years of intensive investigation into the Book of Mormon, particularly the possibility that much of the framework to 'View of the Hebrews' can be seen in the Book of Mormon, [LDS General Authority] B.H. Roberts in a 24 October 1927 letter asked, 'Did Ethan Smith's 'View of the Hebrews, published . . . years before Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon, supply the structural outline and some of the subject matter of the alleged Nephrite record? ' After noting 18 remarkable parallels between the two works, he commented that many others were just as 'striking.' One of the principal conclusions of Roberts' work, 'Studies of the Book of Mormon,' was that 'it is more than likely that the Smith family possessed a copy of this book by Ethan Smith, that either by reading it or hearing it and its contents frequently discussed, Joseph Smith became acquainted with its contents. . . . I say this with great confidence.'” Van Wagoner then notes that there is a tangible connection between “View of the Hebrews” and Oliver Cowdery, observing that it “was published in Poultney, Vermont, where Oliver Cowdery, principle scribe during the production of the Book of Mormon, also resided from 1803 to 1825.” Van Wagoner explains Cowdery's personal connection to Ethan Smith: “At the time Ethan Smith was writing his volume, he was minister of Poultney's Congregational church where he served from 21 November 1831 until December 1826. Cowdery's stepmother and three of his sisters ere members of the congregation, according to Poultney church records. Presumably Oliver Cowdery, a school teacher and highly literate for his day, would have been familiar with his family minister's book. The first edition, which was advertised in the 'Northern Spectator,' the local newspaper, quickly sold out.” Van Wagoner concludes that the notion that “Cowdery was unfamiliar with Ethan Smith's 'View of the Hebrews' seems improbable.”

Palmer agrees that there is both a connection between “View of the Hebrews” and the Book of Mormon, as well as one between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery. As with Wagoner, he reports that B.H. Roberts believed that the Reverend Ethan Smith's 1823 book provided “an inspiration for some of the basic structural material on which the Book of Mormon hangs . . . . He [Roberts] concluded that there was 'a great probability' that the Smith family had read or possessed a knowledge of 'View of the Hebrews.' The book was written, published and widely distributed in New England and New York where the Smith family lived, two editions rapidly selling out.” Palmer cites Roberts' assessment that Cowdery was a conduit to Smith on the “View of the Hebrews” tale: “Roberts believed that if the Smiths did not purchase a copy [of 'View of the Hebrews'], it could easily have been supplied by Oliver Cowdery . . . . Cowdery lived in the same small town as the author, Reverend [Ethan] smith, who was the Cowdery family's Congregationalist pastor from 1821 to 1826.”

**Tell It to the Judge: Cowdery's Confession that the Book of Mormon Was, In Fact, a Fabrication

As reported by author Charles Shook, after being excommunicated from the Mormon Church, Cowdery moved to Ohio, where he set up a law practice. According to his close friend and law firm colleague, Judge W. Lang, Cowdery admitted that the Book of Mormon was a hoax, manufactured from Solomon Spaulding's unpublished novel, "Manuscript Found.” In a letter from Lang to Thomas Gregg, 5 November 1881, Lang wrote: "Dear Sir: . . . Once for all I desire to be strictly understood when I say to you that I cannot violate any confidence of a friend though he be dead. This I will say that Mr. Cowdery never spoke of his connection with the Mormons to anybody except to me. We were intimate friends. The plates were never translated and could not be, were never intended to be. What is claimed to be a translation is the 'Manuscript Found' worked over by C[owdery] . He was the best scholar amongst them. Rigdon got the original at the job printing office in Pittsburgh, as I have stated. I often expressed my objection to the frequent repetition of 'And it came to pass' to Mr. Cowdery and said that a true scholar ought to have avoided that, which only provoked a gentle smile from C[owdery]. Without going into detail or disclosing a confided word, I say to you that I do know, as well as can now be known, that C[owdery]. revised the 'Manuscript' and Smith and Rigdon approved of it before it became the 'Book of Mormon.' I have no knowledge of what became of the original. Never heard C[owdery] say as to that. . . . C[owdery] never gave me a full history of the troubles of the Mormons in Missouri and Illinois, but I am sure that the doctrine of polygamy was advocated by Smith and opposed by Cowdery. Then when they became rivals for the leadership, Smith made use of this opposition by Cowdery to destroy his popularity and influence, and which finally culminated in the mob that demolished Cowdery's house the night when he fled. This Whitmer you speak of must be the brother-in-law of Cowdery whose wife was a Whitmer. . . .

“Now as to whether C[owdery] 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 C[owdery'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. . . . .”

Writer Stephen Van Eck offers this telling interpretation of Lang's account to Gregg: "Apparently Cowdery had admitted the hoax to Lang, but took all the credit for it. This is not consistent with Cowdery being the servile follower of Smith that he had been. Had Cowdery given Smith the completed manuscript, furthermore, losing the first 116 pages of the dictated 'translation' would have scarcely been a problem. Cowdery, despite his apparent boasting to Lang, can be considered a collaborator at best, but a conspirator at least."

**Oliver Cowdery's Failed Attempt to Sell the Book of Mormon Copyright for a Mess of Money: Trying to Help Joseph Smith Scrounge Up Much-Needed Cash

Palmer notes that around the time when Joseph Smith was supposedly “translating” the Book of Mormon, Smith's family was “[e]conomically . . . in dire straits. [Mother] Lucy said that when Joseph brought the plates home in September 1827, '[t]here was not a shilling in the house.'” Smith apparently saw a solution to his money woes in selling the copyright to the Book of Mormon--and decided hat Cowdery was just the man to assist in accomplishing the task. Unfortunately, Cowdery again wasn't up to it. Palmer explains: “Hiram Page wrote [to William E. McLellin] in 1848 that he, Oliver Cowdery, Joseph Knight, Sr. and Josiah Stowell received a revelation from Joseph Smith in 1829-30 to go to Canada and sell the copyright of the Book of Mormon for '8,000 dollars.' After expenses, the money was to go to the Smith family. The men tried but failed. “

--With the Cat Gone, Oliver Cowdery Played: His Pledge of Allegiance to a Local Kirtland Seeress

After Smith temporarily fled town to avoid rising discontent over a banking swindle that victimized members of his own flock, Cowdery's loyalties were tested--and found wanting. First, some background to Cowdery's disloyalty: In 1837, Smith faced the wrath of his local Kirtland following due to of his clumsy financial scheming, otherwise known as the “Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company.” The Ohio state legislature had refused Smith's request to incorporate this trash-cash creation of his but a determined Smith chose to illegally run it anyway. It soon went under and Smith, along with co-criminal Sidney Rigdon, were eventually found guilty of violating state banking laws, fined and ordered to pay court costs.

Author Richard Abanes sums up why the scam failed: “Smith actually believed that his debts, along with those of his followers, could be wiped out by merely printing . . . notes [i.e., paper currency] and using them to pay creditors. The bills, however, were practically worthless because Smith had virtually no silver/gold coinage to back up the paper he issued. His entire capital stock consisted of nothing but land valued at inflated prices. . . . He pleaded with followers to support the financial association, leading them to believe that God have given hm the idea and that it would 'become the greatest of all institutions on Earth.' To augment their confidence in the organization, Smith resorted to a rather ingenious deception: 'Lining the shelves of the bank vault . . . were many boxes, each marked $1,000. Actually these boxes were filled with “sand, lead, old iron, stone ad combustibles,” but each had a top layer of bright 50-cent silver coins. Anyone suspicious of the bank's stability was allowed to lift and count the boxes. “The effect of those boxes was like magic,” said C.G. Webb. “They created general confidence in the solidity of the bank and that beautiful paper money went like hot cakes,. For about a month it was the best money in the country.'”

Smith's financial shenanigans led to him being sued by several non-Mormon creditors, while some of his LDS followers saw their invested monies evaporate before their eyes. Brodie reports that Kirtland Saints began attacking Smith, whose “prophesy” (so described by the local LDS newspaper the “Latter-day Saint Messenger and Advocate,” which had declared that those who contracted with him on speculative land deals would get rich) was proven by events to be an uninspired flop. Half the Quorum of the Twelve went into open revolt, with Apostle Parley P. Pratt labeling Smith as “wicked,” accusing him of taking “[him]self and the Church . . . down to hell,” and threatening to sue Smith if he didn't pay Pratt what he was owed. Smith responded by counter-threatening to excommunicate any Mormon who filed suit against a fellow Church member and tried unsuccessfully to have Pratt stand trial before a divided High Council.

The hounded, debt-ridden Smith's ultimate solution to this mounting mayhem was to make himself scarce, opting to leave on a five-week proselytizing mission to Canada--a ploy which historian Brodie described as Smith's hope “that in his absence the enmity against him would be still[ed].” Smith's hopes in that regard were not realized. Brodie reports that upon returning, he discovered that while he was gone the magic-minded Cowdery had (along with fellow Book of Mormon witnesses David Whitmer and Martin Harris) become enamored with “a young girl who claimed to be a seeress by virtue of a black stone in which she read the future. . . . [Cowdery], whose faith in seer stones had not diminished when Joseph stopped using them, pledged her their loyalty, and F. G. Williams, formerly Joseph's First Counselor, became her scribe. Patterning herself after the Shakers, the new prophetess would dance herself into a state of exhaustion before her followers, fall upon the floor and burst forth with revelations.“ Brodie writes that “before long Smith effectively silenced the dancing seeress” and managed to bring Cowdery's wandering eye back into line. But Cowdery wasn't exactly the model of repentance. He (along with Whitmer) “came back into the fold half-contrite, half-suspicious and shortly thereafter went off to Missouri.”

--Cowdery Calls Out Joseph Smith on His Management Style: Quit Running a Theocratic Dictatorship--

Despite their collective collaborative interest in creating the Mormonism myth, Cowdery and Smith did not always work well together, with Cowdery accusing Smith, among other things, of a host of character flaws, including being a vindictive tyrant. Brodie describes the tension between the two-- one that was sparked by Smith's inept, dictatorial mismanagement of the financial and political affairs of the Church, along with Smith's annoying interference in the personal lives of his flock: “From the organization of the United Order to the collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society Bank, Joseph had been groping for control of the temporal as well as the spiritual life of his people. He had even dabbled hesitantly in politics by introducing a slate of Mormon candidates in the local Kirtland [Ohio] election of 1835--a move that roused a storm in the 'Painsville Telegraph.' Cowdery accused him of attempting 'to set up a kind of petty government, controlled and dictated by ecclesiastical influence, in the midst of this national and state government.'”

As reported by authors D. Michael Quinn and Richard Abanes, Cowdery's growing disaffection with Smith and his supporters led him to be demoted from Assistant Church President to assistant First Presidency counselor, then to stake clerk after his service in the Far West presidency was rejected by the High Council--and finally to be excommunicated in April 1838. One month before he was formally booted out of the Mormon Church by Smith's band of devoted and death threat-issuing defenders, Cowdery denounced Smith's newest teachings as “disorganized doctrines,” while branding Smith's loyalists as “hot-headed, power-seeking, ignorant men.”

--Oliver Cowdery's Alleged Lifelong Commitment to Mormonism: He Quits and Becomes a Methodist

Shook notes that Cowdery's law partner Lang, in a letter to Gregg, described Cowdery's departure from Mormonism in favor of Methodism: “Now as to whether C[owdery] 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 C[owdery'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. . . . .”

Cowdery, in abandoning Mormonism and converting to Methodism, cautiously expressed a willingness to a Methodist Church membership review board to take his apostasy public, if that was what was required. As Simpson rhetorically observes, why would a supposedly lifelong “special witness” for the Book of Mormon end up abandoning the Mormon Church and end up joining another one? Indeed, “[i]f Cowdery never denied his testimony,, why did he join the Methodist [Protestant] Church [of Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio] after his excommunication?”

The evidence indicates that Cowdery did, in fact, push off from the Mormon Church and climbed aboard the Methodist one. In that respect, official court documents reveal where Cowdery's true sentiments resided--and it wasn't in the house that Joe built. A sworn affidavit from C. J. Keen (a noted citizen of Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio, and close professional associate of Cowdery) sheds light on Cowdery's post-Mormon Methodist religious faith and his real feelings about the Book of Mormon. By way of background, Keen had initially decided to employ Cowdery to edit a local Democratic party newspaper; however, when it became known to the newspaper's investors that Cowdery came with Mormon baggage, the hiring process ground to a halt. Cowdery went on to set up a law practice in Tiffin, where he joined the Methodist Church and eventually came clean on the Book of Mormon---but for professional reasons wished, if possible, to keep his views on Mormon matters private. Keen swore to the details of Cowdery's journey from Mormonism to Methodism as follows: "I was well acquainted with Oliver Cowdery who formerly resided in this city . . . 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 he 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 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 [Methodist] 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 exemplary the while he resided with us. . . . "

Cowdery was later appointed,by a committee of that Methodist Church, to serve as its secretary. It seems completely incongruous that Cowdery would not have been appointed to that position had he not already been a member of the Methodist Church. As Shook observes, Cowdery would not have become a secretary for a Methodist Church committee "if he [Cowdery] was not a member of that church; and it is not at all likely that he would have been a member of that church if he had not renounced Mormonism.”

Cowdery not only became a Methodist, he apparently became a good and dedicated one. A long-time acquaintance of Cowdery, Judge W. .H. Gibson, described Cowdery as “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. “

Moreover, Cowdery's adopted daughter, Adeline M. Bernard, confirmed that after his bout with Mormonism, Cowdery renounced the Mormon Church and subsequently joined the Methodist ranks--this occurring barely 10 years after Cowdery had conspired with Joseph Smith to found the Mormon fraud: “ . . . I know that Mr. Cowdery joined the Protestant Methodist Church in 1841 . . . . W. M. Lang, of Tiffin, Ohio, . . . will search the [Methodist] Ch[urch]. records and send you a transcript of his, O[liver]. C[owdery]'s membership. . . . I don't think that any of the family connection belong to the M[ormon] C[hurch] except David Whitmer . . . who RENOUNCED M[ormonism] when O[liver] C[owdery] did. “ (emphasis added)

So, was Cowdery (as LDS “historians” insist) behaving at all like he possessed a “lifelong commitment” to Mormonism? Shook answers: ”With these facts before us, it is sheer folly for Mormonism any longer to deny that Oliver Cowdery did at one time in his history renounce the faith and did connect himself with the Methodist Protestant Church of Tiffin, Ohio.”

--Creating a Cowdery for the Cult: Mormonism's Efforts to Spin Him from Apostate to Believer--

LDS apologists have desperately attempted to dismiss Cowdery's anti-Mormon apostasy with the the spurious claim that his separation from Mormonism was neither meaningful or lasting. LDS writer Richard L. Anderson insists that while "the cessation of his [Cowdery's] activity in the [Mormon] Church meant a suspension of his role as a witness of the Book of Mormon," it did not mean "that his conviction ceased . . . ." Anderson attempts to attribute Cowdery's hiatus from being a Book of Mormon witness to Cowdery “working out a successful legal and political career in non-Mormon society and avoid[ing] its prejudiced antagonism by creating as little conflict as possible. “ In other words, Cowdery never abandoned his “special witness” faith; he understandably kept quiet about it in order to make money. Anderson shrugs off Cowdery's joining of a Methodist Church as a choice "logically associated with a Christian congregation for a time, the Methodist Protestant Church at Tiffin, Ohio,” since, Anderson argues, “faith in Jesus Christ was the foundation of his religion." Anderson attempts to portray this hypothetical explanation as having “no more inconsistency . . . than Paul, worshiping in the Jewish synagogue, or Joseph Smith becoming a Mason in order to steam prejudice.”

But Simpson counters that such a strained explanation is absurd. Cowdery did not merely “associate” with the Methodist Church; he became a member of the Methodist Church: “[The apostle] Paul did not worship in the Jewish synagogue due to excommunication from the Christian faith. Smith did not become a Mason for the same reason Cowdery joined the Methodist Church. Cowdery did not join the Methodists just to stem prejudice and protect the Mormon Church. The fact is that he had been excommunicated on serious charges. Indeed, therefore, his role as a witness to the Book of Mormon could not longer be legally sound. Oliver Cowdery did deny his testimony.”

Further contradicting the LDS line that Cowdery never repudiated his Mormon faith is a Mormon poem that appeared in the LDS Church's publication "Times and Seasons,” reflecting the views of faithful Latter-day Saints living in Nauvoo, Illinois, at the time of Cowdery's apostasy. To be sure, the poem was published during the period when Cowdery had rejected the Mormon Church in favor of joining the Methodist membership rolls. The poem, in no uncertain terms, declares that Cowdery had , in fact, denied his Mormon testimony:

"Amazed with wonder! I look round
To see most people of our day
Reject the glorious gospel sound
Because the simple turn away:
But does it prove there is no time,
Because some watches wilt not go?

"Or prove that Christ was not the Lord
Because that Peter cursed and swore,
Or prove that Joseph Smith is false
Because apostates say 'tis so?" (emphasis added)

--Oliver Cowdery Searches for a Place to Land: His Brief, Strange Association with the Strangites--

Palmer writes that as Cowdery approached the end of his life, he continued to dabble, even if on the edges, with other religious movements, until he prematurely died at age 43. Just three years before his death, Cowdery moved to Elkhorn, Wisconsin, a relatively short 12 miles from the Voree church headquarters of one James J. Strang. Strang was a disaffected Mormon who claimed to be Joseph Smith's rightful heir to the throne after Smith was assassinated in 1844. (Oliver's father, William, had converted to Strang's offshoot movement in the summer of 1846). Why the possible attraction of Oliver Cowdery to Strang's strange sect? Perhaps for Oliver familiarity bred contentment--but a contentment that still certainly did not reflect t full-bore Mormonism. Perhaps Strang's religious message appealed to Cowdery's inherently magical mindset. Palmer writes, for example, that Strang, “like Joseph [Smith], produced 11 signatories who testified that they, too, had seen and inspected ancient metal plates. . . . On 1 September 1845, he further reported that he had been visited by an angel regarding 'the record which was sealed from my servant Joseph. Unto thee it is reserved,' the angel said. Strang said he received the 'Urim and Thummim,' which revealed the location of a record of 'an ancient people.' Two weeks later, four witnesses . . . unearthed these plates under Strang's direction In a joint affirmation, the signatories reported how they found the plates and testified that they saw and examined them. The plates were covered with 'characters but in a language of which we have no knowledge.' . . . Sometime after Strang had translated these writings, he announced that it had been revealed to him where the ancient plates of Laban were buried. . . . From these records, Strang translated 47 chapters of what he called the 'Book of the Law of the Lord.' Seven signatories testified in the preface of the first edition . . . 'that James J. Strang has the plates . . . and has shown them to us. We examined them with our eyes and handled them with our hands. The engravings are beautiful antique workmanship, bearing a striking resemblance to the ancient oriental languages . . . .'” Palmer notes that while Cowdery (following his father's conversion to the Strang sect), relocated within a few miles of its Wisconsin headquarters, he (Oliver) remained “[t]he one living witness [to the Book of Mormon] who had not yet joined with Strang . . . . [I]t is unknown how close his [Cowdery's] affiliation was with th[at] church.” Palmer nonetheless adds that “Strang's leadership, angelic call, metal plates and his translation of these plates as authentic” constituted a “replication of an earlier pattern of belief [which] confirms that it must have been relatively easy for the witnesses to accept Joseph's golden plates as an ancient record. Appreciating their mindset helps us understand Mormon origins in their terms.”

--Oliver Cowdery, Mormon Believer Until the End?: A Notion That's Dead on Arrival--

Mormonism's storytellers also claim that Cowdery eventually, and faithfully, returned to the Mormon fold, citing David Whitmer's account of Cowdery's alleged death-bed revival. Whitmer (who, with Cowdery, was one of the “Three Witnesses” to the Book of Mormon and who, like Cowdery, had at one point left the Mormon Church) is reported to have told Apostles Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt the following on 8 September 1878, regarding Cowdery's demise: "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 down for the last time; I am going to my Savior,' and he died immediately with a smile on his face.'” Adding the the drama, Mormon writer Andrew Jenson dramatically presents Cowdery's dying moments as a declaration of his undying faith in Mormonism: “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.”

The historical record, however, seems peculiarly out of step with Mormonism's lock-step rewriters. Quinn notes that Cowdery was re-baptized into the LDS Church on 12 November 1848. However, just three years before his death Cowdery was of the opinion that the wrong man--Brigham Young--was holding the reins of the Mormon Church. Quinn notes that on 28 July 1847 “Cowdery wr[ote] David Whitmer (. . . a previously-ordained successor), that 'we have the authority and do hold the keys. It is important, should we not be permitted to act in that authority, that we confer them upon some man or men, whom God may appoint . . . .'” Quinn adds, however, that “[a] year later Cowdery . . . disavow[ed] his succession claim and accept[ed] baptism in the church Young was leading in Utah.” But complicating the claim of LDS apologists that Cowdery died fully converted to Mormonism is the fact, as recorded in the diaries of Smith loyalist Hosea Stout, that following his Mormon re-baptism in 1848, the Mormon Church (later that same year) accused him of trying to “raise up the Kingdom again” with the aid of apostate and former LDS apostle William E. McLellin.

It bears remembering, as Simpson points out, that despite Cowdery's eventual re-baptism, the inconvenient question lingers: “If Cowdery was restored to the LDS Church, why did a Methodist preacher preach at his funeral?” Moreover, as noted in a text of the “Gatewood-Farnsworth Debate” of 1942, even though Cowdery returned in full devotion to Mormonism, “[a]ny statements that Cowdery was said to have made [about his allegedly abiding faith in Mormonism]. . . were published after his death, and were made [not by Cowdery] but by other men. . . . [W]e never have anything in Oliver Cowdery's own words.'”

In actuality, Mormon-generated reports of Cowdery supposedly dying a contented follower of the prophet Joseph Smith are certainly misleading. Whitmer (Cowdery's brother-in-law) forcefully asserted that Cowdery, in actuality, died an apostate. Citing Whitmer as a source, authors Jerald and Sandra Tanner observe that "Whitmer claimed Cowdery DIED believing Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet and that his revelations in the 'Doctrine and Covenants' must be rejected." Indeed, Whitmer said as much and in no uncertain terms in his "An Address to Believers in the Book of Mormon": "I did not say that Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer had not endorsed the Doctrine and Covenants in 1836. They did endorse it in 1836; I stated that they 'came out of their errors (discard the Doctrine and Covenants), repented of them and DIED believing as I do today,' and I have the proof to verify my statement. If anyone chooses to doubt my word, let them come to my home in Richmond [Missouri] and be satisfied. In the winter of 1848, after Oliver Cowdery had been baptized at Council Bluffs, he came back to Richmond to live. [where Cowdery died of consumption in Whitmer's home on 3 March 1850] . . . Now, in 1849 the Lord saw fit to manifest unto John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery and myself nearly all the errors in doctrine into which we had bee led by the heads of the old church. We were shown that the Book of Doctrine and Covenants continued many doctrines of error and that it must be laid aside. . . . They were led out of their errors and are upon record to this effect, rejecting the Book of Doctrine and Covenants." (emphasis added)

--The Obvious Conclusion on Oliver Cowdery--

Cowdery was no brave, believing, devoted, consistent, testifying Mormon throughout or at the end of his life.

He was excommunicated. He fought with Joseph Smith and accused him of adultery with a teenage girl. He confessed that the Book of Mormon was a fraud (after having initially conspired with Smith in creating lies and fairy tales to co-invent the Mormon Church in the first place). He diverted his devotion to a competing peepstoner and a local seeress. He abandoned the Mormon Church and became a Methodist. Even after rejoining the LDS Church, he sought to wrest control of it away from Brigham Young and take authority unto himself. Even one of his fellow “special witness” cohorts said he died an apostate.

Mormons can claim Cowdery was faithful until the cows come home. But you know what they say about the head of a cow: There's a point here and a point there--with a lot of bull in-between.


--Richard Abanes, “One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church”[New York, New York: Four Walls Eight Windows, 2002]

--Richard L. Anderson, "Improvement Era," January 1969

--Adeline M. Bernard, letter to Thomas Gregg, 3 October 1881

--Fawn Brodie, “No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet,” 2nd ed. [New York, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1983]

--Juanita Brooks, ed., "The Mormon Frontier: Diary of Hosea Stout, 1844-1889,” Vol. 2 [Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, 2009]

--Oliver Cowdery, official first version of LDS Church history, in “Latter-day Saint Messenger and Advocate,” Letter IV, February 1835 [1834-35], Kirtland, Ohio

--Oliver Cowdery, minutes of meeting of male members of the Methodist Protestant Church of Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio, held pursuant to adjournment, recorded by “Oliver Cowdery, Secretary,” 18 January 1844

--Stephen Van Eck, “The Book of Mormon: One Too Many M's,” on “The Secular Web,” at : http://www.infidels.org/kiosk/article716.html

--O. Gatewood and K.E. Farnsworth, “Gatewood-Farnsworth Debate” [Gatewood: Salt Lake City, Utah, 1942]

--W. H. Gibson, letter to Thomas Gregg, 3 August 1832, Tiffin, Ohio

--Joseph Hyrum Greenhalgh, “Oliver Cowdery: The Man Outstanding” [Phoenix, Arizona, 1965]

--Stanley R. Gunn, “Oliver Cowdery Second Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of the Division of Religion," Brigham Young University,” 1942

--Andrew Jenson, editor and publisher, “The Historical Record,” Vol. 6, No. 3-5 [Salt Lake City, Utah, May 1887]

--Andrew Jenson, “LDS Biographical Encyclopedia,” Vol. 1 [Salt Lake City, Utah: Andrew Jenson History Company, 1901]

--J.H. Johnson, poem in “Times and Seasons,” Vol. 2

--G.C. Keen, sworn affidavit signed in presence of Frank L. Emich, Notary Public, Seneca Ohio, 14 April 1885

--“The Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star,” Vol. 40, No. 50 [Liverpool, England: William Budge, publisher], 9 December 1878

--Grant H. Palmer, “An Insider's View of Mormon Origins” [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 2002]

--D. Michael Quinn, “Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power” [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, in association with Smith Research Associates, 1994]

--B. H. Roberts, ed., "Comprehensive History of the Church," vol. 1, [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1965]

--Charles Shook, “The True Origins of the Book of Mormon” [Cincinnati, Ohio: Standard Publishing Co., 1914]; for an online version of Shook's book, see: http://solomonspalding.com/docs2/1914Shk1.htm#pgvii)

--Don Simpson, “The Golden Myth of Mormonism” (Wichita Falls, Texas: Western Christian Foundation, Inc., 1980]

--Joseph F. Smith and Orson Pratt, letter to Mormon Church president John Taylor, 17 September 1878, New York City, published in the “Deseret News,” 16 November 1878

--Jerald and Sandra Tanner, “Mormonism: Shadow or Reality?” [Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah Lighthouse Ministry, 1987]

--Jerald and Sandra Tanner, “The Changing World of Mormonism: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Changes in Mormon Doctrine and Practice” [Chicago, Illinois: Moody Press, 1980-81]

--Richard S. Van Wagoner, “Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess” [Salt Lake City, Utah: Signature Books, 1994]

--David Whitmer, “To Believers in the Book of Mormon,” Richmond, Missouri, 1 April 1887

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 05/20/2014 05:42PM by steve benson.

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