History, 1834–1836

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction
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Editorial Note
The following section includes transcripts of eight letters wrote in 1834 and 1835 regarding JS’s visions of an angel and his discovery of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon. Cowdery addressed the letters to and published them as a series in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate between October 1834 and October 1835. The titles and formatting employed in this history are similar to those in the published series of articles, indicating that the Cowdery letters were copied into the history from the Messenger and Advocate, not from a manuscript version of the letters. could have begun the transcription in JS’s history as early as 6 December 1834, the date of Cowdery’s last historical entry in the preceding section of the history. However, Cowdery probably gave the history to Williams around 2 October 1835, when he gave Williams JS’s journal. On 29 October 1835, JS retrieved the history from Williams and delivered it to , who continued copying the Cowdery letters. It is likely that Parrish finished copying the letters by early April 1836, when he gave JS’s journal (and presumably the 1834–1836 history along with it) to .
In the first letter, recounted his experiences with JS beginning when the two first met in April 1829. The letter includes an account of the vision he and JS had of John the Baptist, who gave them the authority to baptize. After composing this letter, but before its publication, Cowdery developed a new history-writing plan: he decided that in subsequent letters he would relate the “full history of the rise of the church,” beginning with JS’s early life and visions. As editor of the Messenger and Advocate, Cowdery prefaced the published version of the first letter with an explanation (also transcribed into the history) of the new plan. Although he had no firsthand knowledge of church history prior to April 1829, Cowdery assured his readers that “our brother J. Smith Jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensible.” Some passages in the ensuing narrative seem to have been related to Cowdery by JS, since Cowdery recounts events in which only JS participated.
composed the letters to inform the Latter-day Saints of the history of their church, but he also wrote for the non-Mormon public. Employing florid romantic language, frequent scriptural allusions, and much dramatic detail, he clearly intended to present a rhetorically impressive account of early Mormon history. He placed the rise of the church in a dispensational framework, characterizing the time between the end of the New Testament and JS’s early visions as a period of universal apostasy. He included the revivalism of various denominations during the Second Great Awakening, which JS experienced in his youth, as an example of the doctrinal confusion and social disharmony present in Christendom. Throughout the series of letters, he defended JS’s character and that of the Smith family, and his explicitly apologetic statements include apparent allusions to both ’s Delusions (1832) and ’s Mormonism Unvailed (1834).
Beginning in the third letter, provided the most extensive account of the origins of the Book of Mormon published up to that time. He related JS’s initial visions of the angel Moroni and, using biblical prophecies, elaborated on the angel’s message concerning the gathering of Israel in the last days in preparation for the Millennium. Cowdery continued his narrative up to, but did not include, JS’s receiving the gold plates in September 1827.
The transcription of the letters into JS’s history was evidently conceived in terms of the entire series, not as a piecemeal copying of the individual letters. As noted above, Cowdery probably gave the “large journal” containing the history begun in 1834 to in October 1835, the month of the Messenger and Advocate issue in which his final installment was published. By the time Williams received the history, Cowdery may have already written the final letter; he had at least conceived of it as the final installment in his series. With the serialized Cowdery letters complete or nearing completion, the new history kept in the “large journal” could serve as a repository—more permanent than unbound newspapers—for a copied compilation of the entire series.

Letters from Messenger and Advocate
The following communication was designed to have been published  in the last No. of the star; but owing to a press of other matter it was  laid over for this No. of the Messenger and ad[v]ocate. Since it was writen,  upon further reflection, we have thought that a full history of the rise  of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and the most interesting parts of its  progress, to the present time, would be worthy the perusal of the Saints.—  If circumstances admit, an article on this subject will appear on in each  subsequent No. of the Messenger and advocate, until the time when  the church was driven from Mo. by a lawless banditti; &  such other remarks as may be thought appropriate and interesting.
That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the intro duction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J.  Smith Jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items  connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor  indispensible. With his labor and with authentic documents  now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing  and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and  perusal of the Saints.—
To do <Justice to> this subject will require time and space: we therefore ask  the forbearance of our readears, assuring them that it shall be founded  upon facts.
 
Oliver Cowdery to William W. Phelps, 7 September 1834
, Medina Co. Ohio, Sabbath evening, Septem ber 7, 1834.
Dear ,— Before leaving home, I promised, if I tarried  long, to write; and while a few moments are now allowed me for reflection,  asside from the cares and common conversation of my friends in this  place, I have thought that were I to communicate them to you, might,  perhaps, if they should not prove especially beneficial to yourself, by  by confirming you in the faith of the gospel, at least be interesting,  since it has pleased our heavenly Father to call us both to rejoice  in the same hope of eternal life. And by giving them publicity,  some thousands who have embraced the same covenant, may learn some thing more particular upon the rise of the this church, in this last time.  And while the gray evening is fast changing into a settled dark ness, my heart responds with the happy millions who are in the presence  of the Lamb, and are past the power of temptation, in rendering  thanks, though feebly, to the same parent.
Another day has passed, into that, to us boundless ocean Eternity!  where nearly six thousand years have gone before; and what flits  across the mind like an electric shock is, that it will never return! [p. 46]

Editorial Note
The following section includes transcripts of eight letters wrote in 1834 and 1835 regarding JS’s visions of an angel and his discovery of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon. Cowdery addressed the letters to and published them as a series in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate between October 1834 and October 1835. The titles and formatting employed in this history are similar to those in the published series of articles, indicating that the Cowdery letters were copied into the history from the Messenger and Advocate, not from a manuscript version of the letters. could have begun the transcription in JS’s history as early as 6 December 1834, the date of Cowdery’s last historical entry in the preceding section of the history. However, Cowdery probably gave the history to Williams around 2 October 1835, when he gave Williams JS’s journal. On 29 October 1835, JS retrieved the history from Williams and delivered it to , who continued copying the Cowdery letters. It is likely that Parrish finished copying the letters by early April 1836, when he gave JS’s journal (and presumably the 1834–1836 history along with it) to .
In the first letter, recounted his experiences with JS beginning when the two first met in April 1829. The letter includes an account of the vision he and JS had of John the Baptist, who gave them the authority to baptize. After composing this letter, but before its publication, Cowdery developed a new history-writing plan: he decided that in subsequent letters he would relate the “full history of the rise of the church,” beginning with JS’s early life and visions. As editor of the Messenger and Advocate, Cowdery prefaced the published version of the first letter with an explanation (also transcribed into the history) of the new plan. Although he had no firsthand knowledge of church history prior to April 1829, Cowdery assured his readers that “our brother J. Smith Jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensible.” Some passages in the ensuing narrative seem to have been related to Cowdery by JS, since Cowdery recounts events in which only JS participated.
composed the letters to inform the Latter-day Saints of the history of their church, but he also wrote for the non-Mormon public. Employing florid romantic language, frequent scriptural allusions, and much dramatic detail, he clearly intended to present a rhetorically impressive account of early Mormon history. He placed the rise of the church in a dispensational framework, characterizing the time between the end of the New Testament and JS’s early visions as a period of universal apostasy. He included the revivalism of various denominations during the Second Great Awakening, which JS experienced in his youth, as an example of the doctrinal confusion and social disharmony present in Christendom. Throughout the series of letters, he defended JS’s character and that of the Smith family, and his explicitly apologetic statements include apparent allusions to both ’s Delusions (1832) and ’s Mormonism Unvailed (1834).
Beginning in the third letter, provided the most extensive account of the origins of the Book of Mormon published up to that time. He related JS’s initial visions of the angel Moroni and, using biblical prophecies, elaborated on the angel’s message concerning the gathering of Israel in the last days in preparation for the Millennium. Cowdery continued his narrative up to, but did not include, JS’s receiving the gold plates in September 1827.
The transcription of the letters into JS’s history was evidently conceived in terms of the entire series, not as a piecemeal copying of the individual letters. As noted above, Cowdery probably gave the “large journal” containing the history begun in 1834 to in October 1835, the month of the Messenger and Advocate issue in which his final installment was published. By the time Williams received the history, Cowdery may have already written the final letter; he had at least conceived of it as the final installment in his series. With the serialized Cowdery letters complete or nearing completion, the new history kept in the “large journal” could serve as a repository—more permanent than unbound newspapers—for a copied compilation of the entire series.

Letters from Messenger and Advocate
The following communication was designed to have been published in the last No. of the star; but owing to a press of other matter it was laid over for this No. of the Messenger and advocate. Since it was writen, upon further reflection, we have thought that a full history of the rise of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and the most interesting parts of its progress, to the present time, would be worthy the perusal of the Saints.— If circumstances admit, an article on this subject will appear in each subsequent No. of the Messenger and advocate, until the time when the church was driven from Mo. by a lawless banditti; & such other remarks as may be thought appropriate and interesting.
That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J. Smith Jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensible. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints.—
To do Justice to this subject will require time and space: we therefore ask the forbearance of our readears, assuring them that it shall be founded upon facts.
 
Oliver Cowdery to William W. Phelps, 7 September 1834
, Medina Co. Ohio, Sabbath evening, September 7, 1834.
Dear ,— Before leaving home, I promised, if I tarried long, to write; and while a few moments are now allowed me for reflection, asside from the cares and common conversation of my friends in this place, I have thought that were I to communicate them to you, might, perhaps, if they should not prove especially beneficial to yourself, by by confirming you in the faith of the gospel, at least be interesting, since it has pleased our heavenly Father to call us both to rejoice in the same hope of eternal life. And by giving them publicity, some thousands who have embraced the same covenant, may learn something more particular upon the rise of this church, in this last time. And while the gray evening is fast changing into a settled darkness, my heart responds with the happy millions who are in the presence of the Lamb, and are past the power of temptation, in rendering thanks, though feebly, to the same parent.
Another day has passed, into that, to us boundless ocean Eternity! where nearly six thousand years have gone before; and what flits across the mind like an electric shock is, that it will never return! [p. 46]
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