Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 April 1831

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

<​Let[ter] 7​> Jackson Co Missouri April 8— 1832 1831
My dearly beloved brethren & sisters in the Lord we received your[s] dated March 1— on the 2 ult which was joyful news to our hearts for we had been long looking for letters from you with the hope that the news that we should <​rieceive​> woud give our friends who reside in this Land joy by confirming them in the belief that we are men of truth and the Lord God of hosts has not forsaken the earth but is in very deed about to redeem his ancien[t] covenant people & lead them with the fulness of the to springs yea fountains of living waters to his holy hill of & make them joyful in his house of prayer, For truly our Brethren we are men greatly wondered at and the Lord has given us some friends and also brethren while we are strangers in a strange land for yesterday we held a meeting and proclaimed the word of the Lord, and one sister thank the Lord obeyed the truth and at evening we held another meeting when another sister obeyed also and trust that the time is not far distant when more will follow for truly when we were assambled at the water while my natural feet stood upon an exceding large rock which had been rent in seams and fragments which was done when the God of heaven bowed his head when it was finished, I stood in spirit upon a rock that was broader then the heavens and in full assurence that the gospel was commited to me to proclaim the lord gave his spirit and sinners were pricke[d] in there hearts, I this day received heard from the deleware Nation of by the man who is employed by government a smith for that Nation he believes the truth and says he tha[n]ks God he does believe and also says that he shall shortly be which I pray God may be the case for truly my brethren he is a [p. 10] man he also says that we have put more into the during the short time we we were permited to be with them (which was but a few days[)] then all the devels in the infernal pit and and and all the men on earth can get out of them in four generations he tells me that, that evry Nation have now the name of Nephy who is the son of Nephi & handed down to this very generation, there is only a part of that Nation here now but the remainder are expected this spring the principle chief says he believes evry word of the Book & there are many <​more​> in the Nation who believe and we understand there are many among the Shawnees who also believe & we trust that when the Lord shall open the <​our​> way we shall have glorious times for truly my brethren my heart sorrows for them for they are cast out & dispised and know not the God in whom they should trust we have traveld about in this country considerable and proclaimed repentence and very <​many​> are very anxious serious & honest, & started this day to go to across the to preach by request and & are together and will hold a meeting next Sunday at the house we are teaching school for we concluded that we were able and also willing to Labour with our hands for our support but while we do this we do not forget the ministry and are thankful that our heavenly Father has endowed us with faculties to do this for our support <​the agent for​> The Lamanites is very strict with us and we think somewhat strenuous respecting our having liberty to visit our brethren the Lamanites but we trust that when our brother returns we shall have a permit from General [William] Clark who is the Superintendent of Indian affairs west of the who must have a reccommend or security before he can give a permit for any [p. 11] stranger or foreigner to go among them to teach or preach We are about Eleven miles from where we send our letters mailed & also to receive letters and we thought that we shall write evry week to our brothren and on your receiving this we want you to do the same by us for we think that if any people are entitled of <​to​> the benefits of free postage it [should be?] us wants to write the principle names of those brethren who have been baptized <​of​> his neighbours since he left wishes <​to​> inform his wife that he is sure that the Lord called him to come to this country and consequently he shall not return untill he calls him back again he also informs her that respecting that suit at Law that there can be nothing done on there part more till August term, I wish <​my​> brother would write me the procedings of the several as they were held, the number of & & members as he will at each house an oppertunity of knowing and as you write to me weekly (which I hope you will not fail to do) you would write general occurrances through each week, Finely Brethren farewell the Lord God of peace be with you & keep you firm unto his coming & kingdom Amen—
[p. 12]


  1. 1

    TEXT: This scribal notation, in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams, numbered the letter in JS Letterbook 1.  

  2. 2

    This letter to Cowdery, likely the first communication informing him of the relocation of JS and other church members from New York to Ohio, is not extant.  

  3. 3

    See Psalm 2:6.  

  4. 4

    See Isaiah 56:7.  

  5. 5

    See Exodus 2:22.  

  6. 6

    Cowdery here referenced the Book of Mormon account of the prophecy of the destruction promised “at the time that he [Christ] shall yield up the ghost.” Book of Mormon prophet Samuel the Lamanite prophesied that great earthquakes at that time would result in “the rocks which is upon the face of this earth, which is both above the earth and beneath, which ye know at this time is solid, or the more part of it is one solid mass, shall be broken up; yea, they shall be rent in twain, and shall ever after be found in seams, and in cracks, and in broken fragments upon the face of the whole earth.” The fulfillment of this prophecy was also recorded in the Book of Mormon. (Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 446–447, 471 [Helaman 14:21–22; 3 Nephi 8:18].)  

  7. 7

    See Acts 2:37.  

  8. 8

    According to Parley P. Pratt’s later account, three of the missionaries first lodged in the Delaware lands with “Mr. Pool . . . their blacksmith, employed by the government.” James Pool was employed “as a blacksmith for the Delaware, Shawnee, and Seneca tribes of Indians, from August, 1823, until November, 1838.” (Pratt, Autobiography, 57; Report, S. Rep. Com. no. 20, 37th Cong., 2nd Sess., p. 1, in Reports of the Committees of the Senate.)  

    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.

    The Reports of the Committees of the Senate of the United States for the Second Session of the Thirty-Seventh Congress, 1861–’62. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1862.

  9. 9

    In fall 1830, an advance party of the Delaware migrated from southwest Missouri to their newly granted lands in what would become Kansas. The majority of the Delaware did not arrive until later in the spring, and Cowdery’s letter demonstrates that the larger group had not yet arrived by 8 April 1831. (Weslager, Delaware Indians, 369–371; Weslager, Delaware Indian Westward Migration, 217.)  

    Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indians: A History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1972.

    Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indian Westward Migration: With the Texts of Two Manuscripts (1821– 22) Responding to General Lewis Cass’s Inquiries about Lenape Culture and Language. Wallingford, PA: Middle Atlantic, 1978.

  10. 10

    Kikthawenund, also known as William Anderson. (Weslager, Delaware Indians, 329.)  

    Weslager, C. A. The Delaware Indians: A History. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1972.

  11. 11

    The Book of Mormon.  

  12. 12

    See Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 537 [Mormon 9:20].  

  13. 13

    Federal Indian agent Richard W. Cummins.  

  14. 14

    Pratt departed for the East, traveling via St. Louis, on 14 February 1831, presumably carrying with him Cowdery’s letter of the same date to superintendent of Indian affairs William Clark in St. Louis. Nearly eight weeks later, at the time of this 8 April letter, Cowdery likely supposed that Pratt had arrived in Ohio and was either on his way back to Missouri or soon would be. In fact, Pratt had been delayed by illness on his way to Kirtland, and his 7 and 9 May 1831 assignments to serve a mission among the Shakers also extended his time in the East. He did not return to Missouri until September 1831. (Pratt, Autobiography, 61, 73.)  

    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.

  15. 15

    A 6 June 1831 revelation possibly responded to this portion of Cowdery’s letter: “again let my Servent Joseph & Sidney [Rigdon] & Edward [Partridge] take with them a recomend from the Church & let there be one obtained for my Servent Oliver.” (Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:41].)  

  16. 16

    Frederick G. Williams’s request gives an indication that the 1 March letter to the missionaries from the Kirtland area converts probably explained that more people had been baptized since the departure of the missionaries in November. Williams, the only member of the missionary party who was from Ohio, inquired about the specific names of the new converts.  

  17. 17

    It is uncertain what “suit at Law” Williams referred to. Philo Dibble’s later account explained that Williams owed $400 on the farm on which JS’s father was then residing and that the payment of the debt was due in order to save the farm. It is possible that the mentioned suit concerns this impending foreclosure. A revelation dictated a month later in Kirtland specifically addressed matters related to Williams’s farm, even though Williams was still in Missouri. The receipt of this letter in Kirtland may have prompted a greater inquiry about the situation and led to that May revelation. Dibble eventually sold part of his land holdings in early 1832 in order to pay the debt on Williams’s farm. (Dibble, Reminiscences, [4]; Revelation, 15 May 1831.)  

    Dibble, Philo. Reminiscences, no date. Typescript. CHL. MS 15447.