Oliver Cowdery

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Oliver Cowdery


A FairMormon Analysis of Wikipedia article: Oliver Cowdery

Summary: Wikipedia's article about Oliver Cowdery ignores his numerous affirmations of his witness to the Book of Mormon, and instead emphasizes a single oblique reference implying that he may have rejected that testimony. FairMormon analyzes and responds to the content of the Wikipedia article "Oliver Cowdery."

What was the character of the witnesses?

Summary: Critics charge that the witnesses cannot be trusted, or are unreliable, because they were unstable personalities, prone to enthusiasm and exaggeration. Evidence amply demonstrates that the formal witnesses of the Book of Mormon were men of good character and reputation, and were recognized as such by contemporary non-Mormons.

Did the Book of Mormon witnesses ever recant?

Summary: Critics have tried to argue that some or all of the Witnesses recanted concerning their testimony. They were all faithful to their testimonies to the end of their lives, even though many of them had personal disagreements with Joseph Smith that caused them to leave the Church.

Oliver Cowdery's alleged 1839 "Defence in a Rehearsal of my Grounds for Separating Myself from the Latter Day Saints"

Summary: Although this document purports to have been published in 1839 by Oliver Cowdery, the earliest copies in existence are dated 1906. The document was "discovered" by the Reverend R. B. Neal, who was a leader in the American Anti-Mormon Association. No references to this document exists prior to 1906. This document was believed to be authentic for many years, until it was discovered that it consists primarily of a selection of Cowdery's phrases taken from various issues of the Latter Day Saints' Messenger and Advocate that were removed from their original context and placed in a different context. A number of talking points appear to have been reworded from David Whitmer's 1887 An Address to All Believers in Christ. Historians now agree that this document is a forgery.

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Rumors that Oliver Cowdery admitted that the Book of Mormon was a hoax

Summary: It is claimed that Oliver Cowdery admitted to his law partner that the Book of Mormon was a hoax, and that it was derived from the Spalding manuscript.

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Oliver Cowdery was related to Joseph Smith, Jr.

Summary: Oliver Cowdery was a distant cousin of Joseph Smith, Jr., although they had never met before Oliver arrived to assist with the Book of Mormon translation. Does this relationship damage Oliver's credibility as a witness to the Book of Mormon?

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Oliver Cowdery joined the Methodists after leaving the Church

Summary: Why did Oliver Cowdery join the Methodists if all other churches had been "condemned of God"?

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Oliver Cowdery's awareness of the story of the First Vision in 1834-35

Summary: 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. It is claimed that Cowdery's history contradicts Joseph Smith's later official history by saying that the Prophet's first visionary experience was of the angel Moroni in 1823.

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Oliver Cowdery and the "rod of nature"

Summary: It is claimed that a revelation received by Joseph praised Oliver Cowdery's gift of using divining talents. It is claimed that the revelation was published in the Book of Commandments in its original form, then subsequently modified in the Doctrine and Covenants in order to hide the reference to the "rod of nature." Therefore, it is claimed that Joseph attempted to "cover up" Oliver Cowdery's work with a divining rod by changing a revelation. Critics also claim that Oliver would ask questions of his divining rod in faith and it would move in response.

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Blessings given by Oliver Cowdery

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Text of various versions of the Articles of Faith: 1834 (Cowdery)

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Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, "The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835"

Roger Nicholson,  Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture, (December 6, 2013)
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.

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Scott H. Faulring, "The Return of Oliver Cowdery"

Scott H. Faulring,  The Disciple as Witness, (2000)
On Sunday, 12 November 1848, apostle Orson Hyde, president of the Quorum of the Twelve and the church's presiding official at Kanesville-Council Bluffs, stepped into the cool waters of Mosquito Creek1 near Council Bluffs, Iowa, and took Mormonism's estranged Second Elder by the hand to rebaptize him. Sometime shortly after that, Elder Hyde laid hands on Oliver's head, confirming him back into church membership and reordaining him an elder in the Melchizedek Priesthood.2 Cowdery's rebaptism culminated six years of desire on his part and protracted efforts encouraged by the Mormon leadership to bring about his sought-after, eagerly anticipated reconciliation. Cowdery, renowned as one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon, corecipient of restored priesthood power, and a founding member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had spent ten and a half years outside the church after his April 1838 excommunication.


Oliver Cowdery wanted reaffiliation with the church he helped organize. His penitent yearnings to reassociate with the Saints were evident from his personal letters and actions as early as 1842. Oliver understood the necessity of rebaptism. By subjecting himself to rebaptism by Elder Hyde, Cowdery acknowledged the priesthood keys and authority held by the First Presidency under Brigham Young and the Twelve.

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