Cowdery, Oliver

Alternative names
Birth 1806-10-03
Death 1850-03-03

Biographical notes:

Oliver Cowdery was born on October 3, 1806 in Wells, Vermont, the son of William Jr. and Rebecca Fuller Cowdery. While teaching in Palmyra, New York during the winter of 1828-29, Cowdery stayed with the family of Joseph Smith (1805-1844). It was during this time that Cowdery first heard of the visions of Smith and the Golden Plates. After meeting with Smith, Cowdery came to believe in the validity of his visions and agreed to help Smith transcribe the Book of Mormon. As a witness to the Book of Mormon and as the Second Elder, Cowdery played an instrumental part in the development of the Mormon Church. Subsequently though, Cowdery was excommunicated from the church in 1838. He praticed law until 1848, after which time he decided to return to the Mormon Church and was rebaptized. In 1850, Oliver Cowdery passed away.

From the description of Transcription of a letterbook from Oliver Cowdery to Warren and Lyman Cawdery, Far West, Mo. (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 226260571

From the description of Letter book, docket, and correspondence of Oliver Cowdery, 1833-1894 bulk (1833-1838). (Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens). WorldCat record id: 122499678

Early Mormon Church leader.

From the description of Legal documents, 1847. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122644577

From the guide to the Oliver Cowdry legal documents, 1847, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Mormon Church leader who worked closely with the first president of the Mormon Chuch, Joseph Smith (1805-1844).

From the description of Affidavit, 1848. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122351464

Oliver Cowdrey (1806-1850) was one of the six original members of the Church of Christ which was organized in 1830. The full name was given in 1838 as the Church Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church). He is best known as the scribe of Joseph Smith but also played an important leadership role in the early LDS Church. He was a strong defender of the Book of Mormon and helped to select the Church's first twelve apostles. He later came into conflict with Joseph Smith and was excommunicated. For several years he was an attorney and lived in Ohio and in Wisconsin Territory. After Joseph Smith's death in 1844, Oliver Cowdrey returned to the LDS Church but died in Richmond, Missouri, before he could go west to Salt Lake City.

From the guide to the Oliver Cowdrey papers, 1833-1838, (J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah)

Mormon Church leader who helped Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the first president of the Mormon Church, found that religion.

From the description of Revelations, ca. 1840. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122497467

One of the founders of the Mormon Church, one of the three witnesses to the "Golden Plates" of the Book of Mormon, and a lawyer.

From the description of Notarized affidavit, 1848. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122604987

From the guide to the Oliver Cowdery notarized affidavit, 1848, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Attorney and early Mormon leader.

From the description of Stipulation in estate settlement, 1847 September. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 122535605

From the guide to the Stipulation in estate settlement, 1847, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Transcribed from microfilm by David R. Bernard under the supervision of Professor John W. Welch. J Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. April 28, 1989. The original docket is located in the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California.

From the description of Oliver Cowdery docket book, 1837. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 368052301

Copy made from the original Book of Mormon manuscript by Oliver Cowdery, for use by the typesetter for the first printing of the Book of Mormon (1830).

Joseph Smith, Jr.

Joseph Smith, Jr., was born 23 December 1805 in Sharon, Vermont, to Joseph Smith, Sr. and Luck Mack Smith. At the age of ten, he moved to Palmyra, New York, with his family, where he resided for eleven years. During that time, Joseph did not have many advantages for learning; however, his curiosity of religion began to develop greatly. In the spring of 1820, after going into some nearby woods to pray, he had a vision in which he saw God the Father and Jesus Christ. Three years later, he had another vision in which an angel told him about an ancient record written on gold plates. In September of 1827, Joseph received those plates. After obtaining the plates, Joseph and his wife, Emma Hale, moved to Pennsylvania, where he began translating them with Martin Harris and Oliver Cowdery as his chief scribes. The first edition of the Book of Mormon was published in March of 1830 and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized shortly thereafter.

Following the publication of the Book of Mormon, the persecutions against Joseph and the Church grew even stronger. Joseph, along with the main body of the Saints, moved from New York and Pennsylvania to Kirtland, Ohio, and from there to Independence, Missouri. They were subsequently forced out of Independence as well, at which point Joseph moved the Saints to Far West, Missouri. At Far West, Joseph and other Church leaders were arrested in October of 1838 and taken to Richmond jail. This was the first of several jails Joseph would be sent to within the next six years. While Joseph was in prison, Far West was destroyed and Brigham Young, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, moved the Saints to Quincy, Illinois. After Joseph was released from prison, he found a place for the Saints to live in Commerce, Illinois, which he renamed Nauvoo in 1839. Nauvoo grew into a prosperous city and became the second largest in Illinois. After enduring more hardships and persecutions while in Nauvoo, Joseph and his brother Hyrum were arrested once again, this time being taken to Carthage, Illinois. On 27 July 1844, a mob attacked Carthage jail and killed both Joseph and Hyrum.

Oliver Cowdery

Oliver Cowdery was born 3 October 1806 in Wells, Rutland, Vermont, to William Cowdery, Jr. and Rebecca Fuller. In 1825, Oliver moved to the state of New York, where his elder brothers were married and settled. He found employment as a store clerk until the winter of 1828/1829, when he began teaching in the district school in Manchester, New York. There he became acquainted with the family of Joseph Smith, Sr. He went to board at the Smith house, and while he was there learned about Joseph Smith, Jr. and the gold plates he had discovered. Oliver became very interested, and on 5 April 1829 he visited Joseph in Harmony, Pennsylvania, where Joseph had fled to avoid the persecutions in New York. Two days later, Joseph asked Oliver to become a scribe for the translation of the plates. Oliver agreed and from thenceforth was the principal scribe for most of the translation of the Book of Mormon. The translation was finished by July 1829, at which time Oliver began to make a copy of the manuscript to send to the printer, E.B. Grandin.

Oliver was present with Joseph Smith on several significant occasions, such as on 15 May 1829, when John the Baptist appeared and conferred the priesthood on both Oliver and Joseph. Oliver was one of the Three Witnesses who testified to having been shown the plates by an angel in June of 1829. He was also one of the original six members of the church when it was organized on 6 April 1830.

Oliver Cowdrey married Elizabeth Ann Whitmer on 22 January 1832, in Jackson County, Missouri. In 1835, he was appointed to be the first Church recorder. He was also appointed assistant counselor to the First Presidency in September 1837. Seven months later, on 11 April 1838, he was charged before the High Council of Far West, Missouri, for several offenses against the church. The following day he was excommunicated. Oliver remained outside of the Church for ten years. In October of 1848, Oliver attended a special conference in Kanesville, Iowa, where he bore testimony of the Book of Mormon and of the Prophet Joseph Smith. The following month, he was re-baptized into the Church. Oliver Cowdery died 3 March 1850 in Richmond, Missouri, in full fellowship of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

John H. Gilbert

John Hulburd Gilbert was born 13 April 1802 in the state of New York. His father was Russell Gilbert and Hulburd was his mother’s maiden name. In 1824, Gilbert moved to Palmyra, New York, and began typesetting. Three years later, he married Chloe P. Thayer. In June of 1829, he was approached by E.B. Grandin, a printer who had agreed to publish the Book of Mormon for Joseph Smith, to be the typesetter for the book. Gilbert agreed and began the work in August of that year. The entire publication of the first edition of the Book of Mormon took seven months and was completed in March 1830. Gilbert continued typesetting and died in the year 1895.

From the guide to the Photocopy of the Printer's Copy of the Book of Mormon, 1830, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)

Oliver Cowedery (1806-1850) was a scribe during the translation of the Book of Mormon.

Oliver Cowdery was born 3 October 1806 in Wells, Vermont. He met Joseph Smith, the first president of The Church of Jesus-Christ of Latter-day Saints, in 1829 and helped to translate the Book of Mormon in his role as scribe. He married Elizabeth Ann Whitmer on 18 December 1832. They had five children. Cowdery was excommunicated from the church from 1838 to 1848, but was re-baptized before his death on 3 March 1850 in Richmond, Missouri.

From the guide to the Oliver Cowdery docket book, 1837, (L. Tom Perry Special Collections)


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  • Correspondence
  • Mormons--Persecution--History--19th century
  • Mormon Church--History--19th century
  • Mormons--History--19th century--Sources
  • Religion
  • Dissenters, Religious
  • Mormons--Newspapers
  • Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
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  • Justices of the peace--Ohio--Kirtland
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  • Civil Procedure and Courts
  • Mormon church--Doctrines
  • Notaries--History--Sources
  • Mormon Church--History
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  • Property--History--Sources
  • Mormons--Manuscripts
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  • Mormon Church--Government
  • Mormon Church--History--19th century--Sources
  • Families--Health and hygiene
  • Polygamy
  • Mormonism (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
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  • Material Types
  • Mormon Church--Discipline
  • Church controversies--Mormon Church--History--19th century
  • Mormons
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  • Walworth County (Wis.) (as recorded)
  • Wisconsin--Walworth County (as recorded)
  • Kirtland (Ohio) (as recorded)
  • Ohio--Kirtland (as recorded)
  • Far West (Mo.) (as recorded)
  • Ohio--Kirtland (as recorded)
  • Missouri (as recorded)
  • Kirtland (Ohio) (as recorded)
  • Kirtland (Ohio) (as recorded)
  • Missouri (as recorded)
  • Wisconsin--Walworth County (as recorded)
  • Ohio (as recorded)
  • Palmyra (N.Y.) (as recorded)
  • (Missouri) (as recorded)