Mormonism and Wikipedia/Oliver Cowdery

Table of Contents

An analysis of the Wikipedia article "Oliver Cowdery"

A FairMormon Analysis of: Oliver Cowdery, a work by author: Various

An analysis of the Wikipedia article "Oliver Cowdery"


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 Updated 11/7/2010

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Oliver Hervy Pliny Cowdery'

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

(3 October 1806 – 3 March 1850) was, with Joseph Smith, Jr., a important participant in the formative period of the Latter Day Saint movement between 1829 and 1836, becoming one of the Three Witnesses of the Book of Mormon's golden plates, one of the first Latter Day Saint apostles, and the Second Elder of the church.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

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Biography

Family background

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Cowdery was born October 3, 1806 in Wells, Vermont. His father, William, may have been a follower of sectarian leader Nathaniel Wood of Middletown, Vermont, whose small religious sect, the "New Israelites," practiced divining for buried treasure and for revelatory purposes.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  • The "Wood Scrape" affair refers to a group of rodsmen led by Nathaniel Wood who claimed to be able to locate treasure and receive revelation. Barnes Frisbie believed that "this system of religion inaugurated by the Woods was transmitted to the Mormons." Frisbie believed that there was a connection between a man name Winchell (or Wingate) with the "Wood Scrape" affair. Frisbie then attempts to link the man "Winchell" with the Cowdery family, saying, "I have before said that Oliver Cowdery's father was in the "Wood scrape." Early Mormon Documents editor Dan Vogel notes, however, that "Frisbie did not previously say that William Cowdery was involved in the Wood Scrape but rather that he had hosted Winchell at his place in Wells and that they were 'intimate afterwards." The association of Oliver's father with the Nathanial Wood movement is therefore tenuous at best, but apparently good enough for Wikipedia.
  • Based upon the Frisbie account, an association between Oliver's father and the "Wood Scrape" incident is postulated by author D. Michael Quinn. In the cited source, Quinn describes the "Wood Scrape" incident (p. 36) and then notes:

"A connection between William Cowdery and the Wood Scrape would help explain why his son Oliver had a rod through which he received revelations."

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.
    Violated by John Foxe —Diff: off-site

    (The addition to the wiki article was made by an anonymous editor, and then immediately cleaned up and cited by editor John Foxe). Based upon Quinn's assumption, the wiki editors seem to feel that one of the most important and significant aspects of Oliver's life is that his father may have been a follower of man who used divining rods. Why else would this be the first "fact" listed after Oliver's birth date and place?
  • For a detailed response, see: Doctrine and Covenants/Oliver Cowdery and the "rod of nature"

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View of the Hebrews controversy

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

The Cowdery family also attended the Congregational Church of Poultney, Vermont, where Ethan Smith was pastor.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.
    Violated by John Foxe —Diff: off-site

    It should be noted that there was no "View of the Hebrews controversy" during Oliver Cowdery's lifetime. The View of the Hebrews theory of Book of Mormon origin did not gain any traction until the demise of the Spalding Theory in the late 1800's. The question is: Why is a "View of the Hebrews controversy" listed as the next major event in Oliver's Wikipedia "biography?" It is there simply because this is what the wiki editor wants people who read the article to see. A real biographer would not have manufactured a "controversy" and inserted it so prominently in the article.
  • For a detailed response, see: Book of Mormon/Authorship theories/View of the Hebrews
  • For a detailed response, see: A FairMormon Analysis of An Insider's View of Mormon Origins

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

At the time, Ethan Smith was writing View of the Hebrews (1823), a book speculating that Native Americans were of Hebrew origin.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources
    This is correct. There was much speculation that Native American had Hebrew origins. Ethan Smith's book was one example of a number of publications attempting to demonstrate that.
  • For a detailed response, see: Book of Mormon/Authorship theories/View of the Hebrews

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

David Persuitte argues that Cowdery had a knowledge of View of the Hebrews and that this acquaintance significantly contributed to the final version of the Book of Mormon.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Even noted LDS scholar Richard Bushman has written in Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling that though "Joseph Smith is not known to have seen View of the Hebrews until later in life, the parallels seem strong enough for critics to argue that Ethan Smith provided the seeds for Joseph Smith's later compositions."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.
    Violated by John Foxe —Diff: off-site

    These passages clearly illustrate a common tendency on the part of editor John Foxe. He typically identifies LDS scholars as "scholars" when they support a critical viewpoint, but identifies them as "apologists" if they support the LDS perspective. In this case, Bushman is clearly identified as a "noted LDS scholar" when his work is being used to support this critical claim.
  • It is fair in this case to note what Bushman says immediately after the line quoted:

But for readers of Ethan Smith, the Book of Mormon was a disappointment. It was not a treatise about the origins of the Indians, regardless of what early Mormons said. The Book of Mormon never used the word "Indian." The book had a different form and purpose than the earlier works on Indian origins. (Bushman, p. 96)

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Nevertheless, Mormon apologists such as John W. Welch reject the connection and argue that there is little relationship between the contents of the two books.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.
    Violated by John Foxe —Diff: off-site

    Note that John Welch, Spencer J. Palmer, and William L. Knecht are not afforded the credentials of "LDS scholar," but instead are identified as "Mormon apologists." The use of the word "apologist" by the wiki editor is deliberate as it conveys to the layman that the person is "apologizing" for a position.
  • Indeed, the distinction between scholars and apologists was important enough to wiki editor Foxe that when wiki editor "Iain1917" removed the phrase "Mormon apologists" in order to make the article more neutral, editor John Foxe reinserted it with the edit summary, "it needs to say 'Mormon apologists'."

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Youth

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Cowdery was reared in Poultney, but beginning at age twenty, he clerked at a store in New York for several years until 1829, when he taught school in the town of Manchester.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources
    We finally encounter one of our first truly neutral facts in the wiki article.

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

While teaching, Cowdery lodged at different houses in the Manchester area, including that of Joseph Smith, Sr., who apparently provided Cowdery with additional information about the golden plates of which he had heard "from all quarters."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • Lucy Mack Smith's comment (original spelling retained):

Oliver requested my husband to take him as a boarder at least for a little while untill he should become acquainted with his patrons in the school. He had not been in the place long till he began to hear about the plates from all quarters and immediately he commenced importuneing Mr. Smith upon the subject but he did not succeed in eliciting any information from him for a long time. At length however he gained My husbands confidence so far as to get a sketch of the facts which relates to the plates. (Early Mormon Documents, pp. 374-375.

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Book of Mormon scribe and witness

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Cowdery met Joseph Smith, Jr. on April 5, 1829—a year and a day before the official founding of the church—and heard from him how he had received golden plates containing ancient Native American writings.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Like Smith, who was a distant relative,

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.
    Violated by John Foxe —Diff: off-site

    Although this bit of trivia is interesting, the wiki editor John Foxe wants to use it to strengthen the connection between Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and treasure seeking. Joseph and Oliver had never met, so the fact that they were "distant" cousins has no bearing on this, unless the wiki editor thinks that a tendency toward "treasure seeking" is a genetic trait.
  • For a detailed response, see: Joseph Smith/Money digging
  • For a detailed response, see: Doctrine and Covenants/Oliver Cowdery and the "rod of nature"

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

during his youth, Cowdery had engaged in hunting for buried treasure and had used a divining rod.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Cowdery told Smith that he had seen the golden plates in a vision before the two ever met.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

    The Bushman reference only talks of Oliver's "gift of working with the rod." We cannot locate a reference about Oliver seeing the plates in a vision on the page cited.

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

From April 7 to June 1829, Cowdery acted as Smith's primary scribe for the translation of the plates into what would later become the Book of Mormon. Cowdery also unsuccessfully attempted to translate part of the Book of Mormon himself.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Before meeting Cowdery, Joseph Smith's translation had come to a near standstill after the first 116 pages were lost by Martin Harris. But after Smith met Cowdery, the manuscript was completed in a remarkably short period (April–June 1829) during what Richard Bushman called a "burst of rapid-fire translation."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

On May 15, 1829, Cowdery and Smith said that they received the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist, after which they baptized each other in the Susquehanna River.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Cowdery also said that he and Smith later went into the forest and prayed "until a glorious light encircled us, and as we arose on account of the light, three persons stood before us dressed in white, their faces beaming with glory." One of the three announced that he was the Apostle Peter and said the others were the Apostles James and John.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Later that year, Cowdery reported experiencing a vision along with Smith and David Whitmer in which an angel showed him the golden plates. Martin Harris said he saw a similar vision later that day, and Cowdery, Whitmer and Harris signed a statement to that effect. They became known as the Three Witnesses, and their testimony has been published with nearly every edition of the Book of Mormon. Also in 1829, Cowdery received a revelation entitled "Articles of the Church of Christ", which directed the formation of the Church of Christ.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

    The item regarding the "Articles of the Church of Christ" is a wikilink to another Wikipedia article which states that this was "an 1829 revelation purportedly given by God to Oliver Cowdery." In this article, the "purported" revelation has been assigned the status of "fact" by the wiki editor.
  • According to the web site "Saints without Halos," the revelation "housed in the LDS Church Archives, is in Oliver Cowdery's handwriting. It draws on the Book of Mormon and contains wording from D&C 17 and D&C 18, both written June 1–14, 1829."

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Second Elder of the church

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

When the Church was organized on April 6, 1830, Joseph Smith, Jr. became "First Elder" and Cowdery "Second Elder." Although Cowdery technically second in authority to Smith from the organization of the church through 1838, in practice Sidney Rigdon, Smith's "spokesman" and counselor in the First Presidency, began to supplant Cowdery as early as 1831. Cowdery held the position of Assistant President of the Church from 1834 until his excommunication in 1838.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

    No sources are provided.

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

On December 18, 1832, Cowdery married Elizabeth Ann Whitmer, the daughter of Peter Whitmer, Sr. and sister of David, John, Jacob and Peter Whitmer, Jr.. They had five children, only one of whom survived to maturity.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Cowdery helped Smith publish a series of Smith's revelations first called the Book of Commandments and later, as revised and expanded, the Doctrine and Covenants. Cowdery was also the editor or on the editorial board of several early church publications including the Evening and Morning Star, the Messenger and Advocate, and the Northern Times.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

When the Church created a bank known as the Kirtland Safety Society in 1837, Cowdery obtained the money-printing plates. Sent by Smith to Monroe, Michigan, he became president of the Bank of Monroe, which the church had purchased. Both banks failed that same year. Cowdery moved to the newly founded Latter Day Saint settlement in Far West, Missouri and suffered ill health through the winter of 1837-38.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

 Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

A citation is needed relating to the Church purchasing the Bank of Monroe. }}

Early written history of the church

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

In 1834 and 1835, with the help of Smith, Cowdery published a contribution to an anticipated "full history of the rise of the church of Latter Day Saints" as a series of articles in the church's Messenger and Advocate, a version not entirely congruent with the later official history of the church.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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Question: Did Oliver Cowdery state that Joseph did not know if a "supreme being" existed in 1823?

In the first installment of his history published in December 1834, Oliver established Joseph's age as 14 and very accurately described the religious excitement leading up to the First Vision

Oliver Cowdery began publishing a history of the Church in the Messenger and Advocate in December 1834 which is commonly misunderstood:

In 1834, Oliver Cowdery began publishing a history of the Church in installments in the pages of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. The first installment talks of the religious excitement and events that ultimately led to Joseph Smith’s First Vision at age 14. However, in the subsequent installment published two months later, Oliver claims that he made a mistake, correcting Joseph’s age from 14 to 17 and failing to make any direct mention of the First Vision. Oliver instead tells the story of Moroni’s visit, thus making it appear that the religious excitement led to Moroni’s visit.

This curious account has been misunderstood by some to be evidence that the “first” vision that Joseph claimed was actually that of the angel Moroni and that Joseph invented the story of the First Vision of the Father and Son at a later time. However, Joseph wrote an account of his First Vision in 1832 in which he stated that he saw the Lord, and there is substantial evidence that Oliver had this document in his possession at the time that he wrote his history of the Church. This essay demonstrates the correlations between Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision account, Oliver’s 1834/1835 account, and Joseph’s 1835 journal entry on the same subject. It is clear that not only did Oliver have Joseph’s history in his possession but that he used Joseph’s 1832 account as a basis for his own account. This essay also shows that Oliver knew of the First Vision and attempted to obliquely refer to the event several times in his second installment before continuing with his narrative of Moroni’s visit.[1]

Two months later in the second installment published in February 1835, Oliver abruptly "corrects" Joseph's age from 14 to 17 years old, skips the First Vision and then proceeds instead to describe Moroni's visit

After spending the previous installment leading up to the First Vision, Oliver abruptly skips three years ahead and does not mention the vision directly. However, before describing Moroni's visit, Oliver even takes the time to minimize the importance of the religious excitement that he described in the previous installment, stating,

And it is only necessary for me to say, that while this excitement continued, he continued to call upon the Lord in secret for a full manifestation of divine approbation, and for, to him, the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him.
Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate (February 1835)

The religious "excitement" that Oliver is describing is now portrayed as an event in the past, during which Joseph desired to know "if a Supreme being did exist"

Note carefully what Oliver is saying. The religious "excitement," and the event that Oliver described in the first installment when he said that Joseph was 14 years of age, was when Joseph was seeking a "full manifestation of divine approbation" with the desire to know "if a Supreme being did exist." Oliver then alludes to the First Vision in the past tense by saying,

This, most assuredly, was correct—it was right. The Lord has said, long since, and his word remains steadfast, that for him who knocks it shall be opened, & whosoever will, may come and partake of the waters of life freely.
Oliver Cowdery, Messenger and Advocate (February 1835)

Oliver is stating that something of significance happened in Joseph’s life prior to the events that Oliver would be describing next, and he assures the reader that “this, most assuredly, was correct.” Oliver then proceeds to describe Moroni's visit to Joseph at age 17.


Question: What criticisms are related to Oliver Cowdery's 1834-1835 history of the Church?

Critics of the Church conflate Oliver's first and second installments of his Church history in order to "prove" that Joseph was not aware that a "Supreme being" existed three years after he claimed to have had his first vision

When Oliver Cowdery published his version of the history of the Church in December 1834 and February 1835 he did not include a recital of the First Vision story - thus implying that it was not known among the Saints by that point in time. One critical website makes the following claim:

In the first history of Mormonism from 1835 written under Joseph Smith's direction, it says that the night of September 1823 Joseph Smith began praying in his bed to learn 'the all important information, if a Supreme being did exist, to have an assurance that he was accepted of him.' (LDS periodical Messenger and Advocate, Kirtland, Ohio, Feb. 1835). It makes no sense for him to ask if God existed, if Smith had already seen God face-to-face some three years earlier, and knew he existed.[2]

and

In Joseph Smith's 1835 published history of the church, he claimed that his first spiritual experience was in 1823 after a religious revival in Palmyra that same year. Smith testified that he prayed while in bed one night, to discover if God existed.

These claims, however, are false. Oliver's February 1835 installment did not describe Joseph's First Vision - it described Moroni's visit. It should also be noted that this was not "Joseph Smith's 1835 published history."

Only two years prior to Oliver's history, Joseph's 1832 account of the First Vision clearly establishes the date of both the first vision, and the vision of Moroni

Oliver Cowdery did, in fact, know about the First Vision when he recorded his version of the history of the Restoration—he had physical possession of the Prophet's 1832 history, which contains an account of the First Vision.

In October 1834 Cowdery announced in his newspaper that Joseph Smith would help with the history project but the Prophet himself noted that "no month ever found [him] more busily engaged than November." [3] In December 1834 President Smith was busy lecturing at the School of the Elders and acting as a trustee for the Kirtland High School and so during this month he sent Oliver a short letter to be included as part of the project, but also noted within it that he learned of his prominent role in the project, and its imminent appearance in the press, by reading Cowdery's periodical! [4]


The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

For instance, Cowdery ignored the First Vision but described an angel (rather than God or Jesus) who called Smith to his work in September 1823, placing the religious revival that stimulated Smith to ask which church to join in 1823 (rather than 1820) and stating that this revival experience had caused Smith to pray in his bedroom (rather than the woods).

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Further, after first asserting that the revival had occurred in 1821, when Smith was in his "fifteenth year," Cowdery corrected the date to 1823—Smith's 17th (actually, 18th) year.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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Excommunication

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

By early 1838 Smith and Cowdery disagreed on three significant issues. First, Cowdery competed with Smith for leadership of the new church and "disagreed with the Prophet's economic and political program and sought a personal financial independence [from the] Zion society that Joseph Smith envisioned."

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

}}

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Then too, in March 1838, Smith and Rigdon moved to Far West, which had been under the presidency of Cowdery's brothers-in-law, David and John Whitmer. There Smith and Rigdon took charge of the Missouri church and initiated policies that Cowdery and the Whitmers believed violated separation of church and state. Finally, in January 1838, Cowdery wrote his brother Warren that he and Joseph Smith had "had some conversation in which in every instance I did not fail to affirm that which 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 the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself." Alger, a teenage maid living with the Smiths, may have been Joseph Smith's first plural wife, a practice that Cowdery opposed.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

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Question: Did Joseph Smith marry Fanny Alger as his first plural wife in 1833?

Joseph Smith met Fanny Alger in 1833 when she was a house-assistant to Emma

Joseph Smith came to know Fanny Alger in early 1833 when she stayed at the Smith home as a house-assistant to Emma. Neither Joseph nor Fanny ever left any first-hand accounts of their relationship. There are no second-hand accounts from Emma or Fanny's family. All that we do have is third hand accounts from people who did not directly observe the events associated with this first plural marriage, and most of them recorded many years after the events.

Joseph said that the "ancient order of plural marriage" was to again be practiced at the time that Fanny was living with his family

Benjamin F. Johnson stated that in 1835 he had "learned from my sister’s husband, Lyman R. Sherman, who was close to the Prophet, and received it from him, 'that the ancient order of Plural Marriage was again to be practiced by the Church.' This, at the time did not impress my mind deeply, although 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, toward whom not only myself, but every one, seemed partial, for the amiability for her character; and it was whispered even then that Joseph loved her."[5]

Joseph asked the brother-in-law of Fanny's father to make the request of Fanny's father, after which a marriage ceremony was performed

Mosiah Hancock discusses the manner in which the proposal was extended to Fanny, and states that a marriage ceremony was performed. Joseph asked Levi Hancock, the brother-in-law of Samuel Alger, Fanny’s father, to request Fanny as his plural wife:

Samuel, the Prophet Joseph loves your daughter Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Uncle Sam says, “Go and talk to the old woman [Fanny’s mother] about it. Twill be as she says.” Father goes to his sister and said, “Clarissy, Brother Joseph the Prophet of the most high God loves Fanny and wishes her for a wife. What say you?” Said she, “Go and talk to Fanny. It will be all right with me.” Father goes to Fanny and said, “Fanny, Brother Joseph the Prophet loves you and wishes you for a wife. Will you be his wife?” “I will Levi,” said she. Father takes Fanny to Joseph and said, “Brother Joseph I have been successful in my mission.” Father gave her to Joseph, repeating the ceremony as Joseph repeated to him.[6]


Question: Did some of Joseph Smith's associates believe that he had an affair with Fanny Alger?

Oliver Cowdery perceived the relationship between Joseph and Fanny as a "dirty, nasty, filthy affair"

Some of Joseph's associates, most notably Oliver Cowdery, perceived Joseph's association with Fanny as an affair rather than a plural marriage. Oliver, in a letter to his brother Warren, asserted that "in every instance I did not fail to affirm that which 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 the matter, and as I supposed was admitted by himself."[7]

Gary J. Bergera, an advocate of the "affair" theory, wrote:

I do not believe that Fanny Alger, whom [Todd] Compton counts as Smith’s first plural wife, satisfies the criteria to be considered a “wife.” Briefly, the sources for such a “marriage” are all retrospective and presented from a point of view favoring plural marriage, rather than, say, an extramarital liaison…Smith’s doctrine of eternal marriage was not formulated until after 1839–40. [8]

There are several problems with this analysis. While it is true that sources on Fanny are all retrospective, the same is true of many early plural marriages. Fanny's marriage has more evidence than some. Bergera says that all the sources about Fanny's marriage come "from a point of view favoring plural marriage," but this claim is clearly false.

Even hostile accounts of the relationship between Joseph and Fanny report a marriage or sealing

For example, Fanny's marriage was mentioned by Ann Eliza Webb Young, a later wife of Brigham Young's who divorced him, published an anti-Mormon book, and spent much of her time giving anti-Mormon, anti-polygamy lectures. Fanny stayed with Ann Eliza's family after leaving Joseph and Emma's house, and both Ann Eliza and her father Chauncey Webb [9] refer to Joseph's relationship to Fanny as a "sealing." [10] Eliza also noted that the Alger family "considered it the highest honor to have their daughter adopted into the prophet's family, and her mother has always claimed that she [Fanny] was sealed to Joseph at that time." [11] This would be a strange attitude to take if their relationship was a mere affair. And, the hostile Webbs had no reason to invent a "sealing" idea if they could have made Fanny into a mere case of adultery.


The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

On April 12, 1838, a church court excommunicated Cowdery after he failed to appear at a hearing on his membership and sent a letter resigning from the Church instead.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

The Whitmers, William Wines Phelps and Book of Mormon witness Hiram Page were also excommunicated from the church at the same time.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Cowdery and the Whitmers became known as "the dissenters," but they continued to live in and around Far West, where they owned a great deal of property. On June 17, 1838, President Sidney Rigdon announced to a large Mormon congregation that the dissenters were "as salt that had lost its savor" and that it was the duty of the faithful to cast them out "to be trodden beneath the feet of men." Cowdery and the Whitmers, taking this Salt Sermon as a threat against their lives and as an implicit instruction to the Danites, a secret vigilante group, fled the county. Stories about their treatment circulated in nearby non-Mormon communities and increased the tension that led to the 1838 Mormon War.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

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Life apart from the church

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

From 1838 to 1848, Cowdery put the Latter Day Saint church behind him. He may even have briefly denied his testimony regarding the Golden Plates because in 1841, the Mormon periodical Times and Seasons published the following verse: "Or does it prove there is no time,/Because some watches will not go?/...Or prove that Christ was not the Lord/Because that Peter cursed and swore?/Or Book of Mormon not His word/Because denied, by Oliver?"

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Neutral Point-of-View off-site— All Wikipedia articles and other encyclopedic content must be written from a neutral point of view, representing fairly, and as far as possible without bias, all significant views that have been published by reliable sources.
    Violated by John Foxe —Diff: off-site

    Oliver reaffirmed his testimony many times and never denied it. Yet, this one poem is given precedence in the Wikipedia article, being quoted in full. Where are some of the many quotes in which Oliver reaffirmed his testimony? Not one is included, yet the wiki editor includes an entire poem to support the idea that Oliver might have denied it.
  • For a detailed response, see: Book of Mormon/Witnesses/Recant

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Nevertheless, there is no direct evidence that Cowdery ever denied his testimony, and he repeated it even while estranged from the church.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources
  • Oliver reaffirmed his testimony even on his deathbed:

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.[12]

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

Cowdery studied law and practiced at Tiffin, Ohio, where he became a civic and political leader. He edited the local Democratic newspaper until it was learned that he was one of the Book of Mormon witnesses. He did not recant his testimony, but he was still able to become assistant editor. In 1846, Cowdery was nominated as his district's Democratic party candidate for the state senate, but when his Mormon background was discovered, he was defeated.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

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Final Latter Day Saint contacts

The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

After Joseph Smith was assassinated, Cowdery's brother Lyman recognized James J. Strang as Smith's successor to the church presidency, and in 1847, Oliver moved to Elkhorn, Wisconsin near Strang's headquarters in Voree and entered law practice with his brother. He became co-editor of the Walworth County Democrat and in 1848 he ran for state assemblyman. However, his Mormon ties were once again discovered and he was defeated.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Violates Wikipedia: Citing sources off-site— There is either no citation to support the statement or the citation given is incorrect.

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

In 1848, Cowdery traveled to meet with followers of Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve encamped at Winter Quarters, Nebraska, and he asked to be reunited with the Church.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

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The author(s) of Check link or content make(s) the following claim:

On November 12, 1848, Cowdery was rebaptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Orson Hyde of the Quorum of the Twelve in Indian Creek at Kanesville, Iowa. Cowdery never again held high office in the church. He developed a respiratory illness, and on March 3, 1850, he died in David Whitmer's home in Richmond, Missouri.

Author's sources:

FairMormon Response

  •  Correct, per cited sources

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References

  • Gunn, Stanley R. Oliver Cowdery, Second Elder and Scribe. Bookcraft: Salt Lake City, 1962. 250-51.
  • Legg, Phillip R., Oliver Cowdery: The Elusive Second Elder of the Restoration, Herald House: Independence, Missouri, 1989.
  • Mehling, Mary, Cowdrey-Cowdery-Cowdray Genealogy p. 181, Frank Allaben: 1911.
  • Morris, Larry E. (2000), "Oliver Cowdery's Vermont Years and the Origins of Mormonism", BYU Studies 105 – 129
  • Quinn, D. Michael, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, Revised and enlarged (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), 36-39.
  • Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents [EMD] (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998), five volumes.
  • Welch, John W. and Morris, Larry E., eds., Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness (Provo, UT: The Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship, 2006); ISBN 0842526617.

Endnotes

  1. Roger Nicholson, "The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835," Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture 8:27-44 (December 6, 2013).
  2. "The First Vision," mormonthink.com.
  3. Joseph Smith, History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 volumes, edited by Brigham H. Roberts, (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1957), 2:170. Volume 2 link
  4. J. Christopher Conkling, A Joseph Smith Chronology (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), 68–69.
  5. Dean Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, Utah: Horizon, 1976), 38; punctuation and spelling standardized. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  6. Levi Ward Hancock, “Autobiography with Additions in 1896 by Mosiah Hancock,” 63, MS 570, LDS Church History Library, punctuation and spelling standardized; cited portion written by Mosiah. Cited in Brian Hales, "Fanny Alger," josephsmithspolygamy.org. off-site
  7. Richard Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 323–25, 347–49.
  8. Gary James Bergera, "Identifying the Earliest Mormon Polygamists, 1841–44," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 38 no. 3 (Fall 2005), 30n75.
  9. Wilhelm Wyl, [Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal], Mormon Portraits Volume First: Joseph Smith the Prophet, His Family and Friends (Salt Lake City, Utah: Tribune Printing and Publishing Company, 1886), 57; Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, or the Story of a Life in Bondage, Being a Complete Exposé of Mormonism, and Revealing the Sorrows, Sacrifices and Sufferings of Women in Polygamy (Hartford, Conn.: Custin, Gilman & Company, 1876), 66–67; discussed in Danel W. Bachman, "A Study of the Mormon Practice of Polygamy before the Death of Joseph Smith" (Purdue University, 1975), 140 and Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34–35.
  10. Ann Eliza would have observed none of the Fanny marriage at first hand, since she was not born until 1840. The Webbs’ accounts are perhaps best seen as two versions of the same perspective.
  11. Young, Wife No. 19, 66–67; discussed by Bachman, "Mormon Practice of Polygamy", 83n102; see also Ann Eliza Webb Young to Mary Bond, 24 April 1876 and 4 May 1876, Myron H. Bond collection, P21, f11, RLDS Archives cited by Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 34 and commentary in Todd Compton, "A Trajectory of Plurality: An Overview of Joseph Smith's Thirty-Three Plural Wives," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 29/2 (Summer 1996): 30.
  12. Andrew Jenson, Latter-Day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia: A Compilation of Biographical Sketches of Prominent Men and Women in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 4 vols., (Salt Lake City, A. Jenson History Co., 1901; reprinted Salt Lake City, Utah : Greg Kofford Books, 2003), 1:246.