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Question: Is there a link between Ethan Smith, author of ''View of the Hebrews'', and Oliver Cowdery?
Both Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended
Critics postulate a link between Ethan Smith and Oliver Cowdery, since both men lived in Poultney, Vermont while Smith served as the pastor of the church that Oliver Cowdery's family attended at the time that View of the Hebrews was being written. Beyond speculation based upon this circumstantial evidence, there is no indication of a connection between View of the Hebrews, Oliver Cowdery, and the Book of Mormon.
This article from BYU Studies shows that the type of connection that critics align with Oliver and Ethan almost certainly did not exist.
Testimony from Lorenzo Saunders
At least one critic has attempted to place Oliver Cowdery on the Joseph Smith farm beginning in 1826 based on the testimony of one Lorenzo Saunders to strengthen the supposed connection between Ethan Smith, Oliver Cowdery, and the origins of the Book of Mormon. Dan Vogel writes:
On 19 Janaury 1885, Thomas Gregg of Hamilton, Hancock County, Illinois, wrote to Lorenzo Saunders living near Reading, Michigan, requesting information about Mormon origins. Gregg's letter, as reproduced by Charles A. Shook reads as follows:
Charles A. Shook wrote an expose of Mormonism in 1914 called The True Origin Of The Book of Mormon. He quoted this letter from Lorenzo (brother-in-law to Sally and Willard Chase —the same Chases who had trouble with Joseph) as a means of placing Oliver close to Joseph Smith in years before the publication of the Book of Mormon. However, as Vogel himself writes as commentary in a footnote to this letter:
4. Saunders' claim that Cowdery first came to Palmyra and Manchester in the summer of 1826 is not corroborated in any other source. However, it is known that Cowdery's brother Lyman was in the area as early as 1825 and possibly taught school in Manchester prior to Oliver's arrival for the 1828-1829 winter term. This is another example of Saunders' tendency to remember things in conformity with the demands of his interviewers, which should be considered when assessing his statements regarding Rigdon's appearances in the Palmyra/Manchester area (see note 10 below).
Thus we have:
- A late source as the letter comes a little more than 5 decades after Saunders was supposed to have seen Saunders on the farm.
- A biased source as Thomas Gregg was an avid Spaulding theorist and Saunders was certainly no friend to Joseph.
- A more than plausible alternative for this supposed presence of Oliver on the Smith farm in 1826 which Saunders can easily misremember or remember in conformity with the demands of the situation which, as Vogel notes, is something he was wont to do.
This source is nearly worthless in establishing anything of value in the historical record. Any claims of the evidence being "inconclusive" for Oliver's presence on the Smith farm or meeting Joseph before 1829 based upon this source are of the the same value.
- Jeremy Runnells, "Debunking FairMormon" under Witnesses. Last updated 4 June 2014
- Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents 5 vols. (Salt Lake City, UT: Signature Books, 1996-2003) 3:176-7