Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 12 November 1830

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

Geauga Co. Ohio
Novr. 12th. 1830
Our beloved brethren
We arrivd at this place two weeks this day, On our journey we called at the Buffalo tribe, but stayed a few hours only but left two books with them. We then traveled [p. 207] directly to this place. On the fourth after attending <​a public​> meeting we came to the place where we had prophesied tarrying a few days. It is where several families had united themselves as a band of brethren and put all their property together determining to live separate from the world as much as possible, and when we had returned we held a meeting with these brethren, and seventeen went immediately forward and were , be [p. 208]tween eleven and twelve at night, and on the 6[th] there was one more; on the 7th. nine in the day time and at night nineteen; on the 8[th] three; on the 9[th]., 3. on the 10[th] at night, one; on the 11[th], one, on this day another, making in the whole fifty five, among whom are brother and wife. There is considerable call here for books, and I wish you would send five hundred immediately here, and when they are, <​or​> a part of them are [p. 209] sold, one of these will fetch the money, and if our brother does not come before that time, I think he will then. Be that sooner or later, receive him (as) if from my own bosom, for he is as I am. I wish you without fail to communicate this to my aged parents. Do brethren if you respect me. We expect in a few days to pursue our journey to the .
. [p. 210]


  1. 1

    What Cowdery calls “the Buffalo tribe” was a part of the Seneca Nation of Indians (one nation of the Iroquois Confederacy) living on Buffalo Creek Reservation at the site of what is now West Seneca, New York, southeast of the city of Buffalo. Parley P. Pratt described the visit: “We called on an Indian nation at or near Buffalo; and spent part of a day with them, instructing them in the knowledge of the record of their forefathers. We were kindly received, and much interest was manifested by them on hearing this news. We made a present of two copies of the Book of Mormon to certain of them who could read, and repaired to Buffalo. Thence we continued our journey.” Pratt later referred to them as the “Catteraugus Indians.” (Pratt, Autobiography, 49, 61.)  

    Pratt, Parley P. The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from His Miscellaneous Writings. Edited by Parley P. Pratt Jr. New York: Russell Brothers, 1874.

  2. 2

    Known as “the Family” or “Morley’s Family,” this group of Sidney Rigdon’s followers lived communally on Isaac Morley’s farm in the township of Kirtland, Ohio, in an effort to replicate the New Testament ideal of having “all things common.” Of the Family’s origin, Lyman Wight wrote, “I went to Kirtland, about twenty miles, to see Bro. I[saac] Morley and—[Titus] Billings, after some conversation on the subject we entered into a covenant to make our interests one as anciently. In conformity to this covenant I moved the next February [1830] to Kirtland, into the house with Bro. Morley. We commenced our labors together with great peace and union. We were soon joined by eight other families. Our labors were united both in farming and mechanism, all of which was prosecuted with great vigor. We truly began to feel as if the millennium was close at hand.” (Acts 2:44; History of the Reorganized Church, 1:152–153; see also De Pillis, “Development of Mormon Communitarianism,” 58–62; and Backman, “Non-Mormon View of the Birth of Mormonism in Ohio,” 308.)  

    The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 8 vols. Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1896–1976.

    De Pillis, Mario S. “The Development of Mormon Communitarianism, 1826–1846.” PhD diss., Yale University, 1960.

    Backman, Milton V., Jr. “The Quest for a Restoration: The Birth of Mormonism in Ohio.” BYU Studies 12 (Summer 1972): 346–364.

  3. 3

    The editor of the Painesville, Ohio, Telegraph, Eber D. Howe, later wrote, “Near the residence of Rigdon, in Kirtland, there had been, for some time previous, a few families belonging to his congregation, who had formed themselves into a common stock society, and had become considerably fanatical, and were daily looking for some wonderful event to take place in the world. Their minds had become fully prepared to embrace Mormonism, or any other mysterious ism that should first present itself. Seventeen in number of these persons, readily believed the whole story of [Oliver] Cowdery, about the finding of the golden plates and the spectacles. They were all re-immersed, in one night, by Cowdery.” (Howe, Mormonism Unvailed, 103, italics in original.)  

    Howe, Eber D. Mormonism Unvailed: Or, A Faithful Account of That Singular Imposition and Delusion, from Its Rise to the Present Time. With Sketches of the Characters of Its Propagators, and a Full Detail of the Manner in Which the Famous Golden Bible Was Brought before the World. To Which Are Added, Inquiries into the Probability That the Historical Part of the Said Bible Was Written by One Solomon Spalding, More Than Twenty Years Ago, and by Him Intended to Have Been Published as a Romance. Painesville, OH: By the author, 1834.

  4. 4

    The reference here to “brother Sidney Rigdon” without any introduction or explanation suggests that the letter’s recipients were familiar with Rigdon. Pratt may have previously spoken of his religious mentor to JS and the New York members prior to departing on the mission, or Cowdery may have mentioned Rigdon in an earlier letter.  

  5. 5

    Phebe Brooks Rigdon. According to JS’s history, “Although he [Sidney Rigdon] felt great confidence in the Lord yet he felt it a trial of some magnitude when he [illegible] his determination to his beloved companion, who had before shared in his poverty and who had cheerfully struggled through it without murmuring or repining. He informed her what the consequences would undoubtedly be respecting their worldly circumstances if they obeyed the gospel and then said ‘My Dear you have once followed me into poverty, are you again willing to do the same’ she answered [‘]I have weighed the matter, I have contemplated on the circumstances in which we may be placed, I have counted the cost, and I am perfectly satisfied to follow you. yea, it is my desire to do the will of God, come life or come death.[’] Accordingly they (Mr Rigdon & wife) were both baptized into the church of Jesus Christ.” (JS History, vol. A-1, 75.)  

  6. 6

    That is, copies of the Book of Mormon. Regarding the widespread interest in the Mormon message, Parley P. Pratt later recalled, “The interest and excitement now became general in Kirtland, and in all the region round about. The people thronged us night and day, insomuch that we had no time for rest or retirement.” By the time the missionaries departed Kirtland they “had baptized one hundred and twenty-seven souls.” (Pratt, Autobiography, 50; see also Anderson, “Impact of the First Preaching in Ohio,” 477–488.)  

    Pratt, Parley P. The Autobiography of Parley Parker Pratt, One of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Embracing His Life, Ministry and Travels, with Extracts, in Prose and Verse, from His Miscellaneous Writings. Edited by Parley P. Pratt Jr. New York: Russell Brothers, 1874.

    Anderson, Richard Lloyd. “Impact of the First Preaching in Ohio.” BYU Studies 11 (Summer 1971): 474–496.

  7. 7

    Cowdery’s apparent meaning is that one of the new converts, if not Rigdon himself, would return to New York with the proceeds from the sales of the Book of Mormon. Rigdon did go to New York, arriving there in early December. (See Historical Introduction to Revelation, 7 Dec. 1830 [D&C 35].)  

  8. 8

    See Philemon 1:12, 17; and Galatians 4:12.  

  9. 9

    Cowdery’s father, William Cowdery Jr., his stepmother, Keziah Pearce Cowdery, and his three youngest siblings, Rebecca, Lucy, and Phoebe, were living in Arcadia Township, adjacent to Palmyra Township in Wayne County, New York. (1830 U.S. Census, Arcadia, Wayne Co., NY, 87; Mehling, Cowdrey-Cowdery-Cowdray Genealogy, 96.)  

    Census (U.S.) / U.S. Bureau of the Census. Population Schedules. Microfilm. FHL.

    Mehling, Mary Bryant Alverson. Cowdrey-Cowdery-Cowdray Genealogy: William Cowdery of Lynn, Massachusetts, 1630, and His Descendants. New York: Frank Allaben Genealogical Co., 1911.