26108

Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 7 May 1831

searching for truth3

Cowdery and Ziba Peterson apparently baptized a dozen or so persons in Lafayette and Jackson counties in the months that followed, including Rebecca Hopper, whom Peterson married on 11 August 1833. (Romig, “Lamanite Mission,” 30–32; Lafayette Co., MO, Marriage Records, 1821–1919, vol. B, p. 21, 11 Aug. 1831, microfilm 959,414, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)  


and if cincerely I pray they may find that precious treasure for it seems to be wholly fallen in the streets that equity cannot enter4

See Isaiah 59:14.  


in the letter we received from you5

This letter from church leaders in Kirtland is not extant and the date of its composition is unknown. However, the previous letter to Cowdery from the Kirtland area, written during a time of poor weather, took approximately a month to arrive at its destination. The letter mentioned here was therefore likely written sometime in early April 1831.  


we were informed that the opposition was great against you now our beloved brethren we verily believe that we can also rejoice that we are counted worthy to suffer shame for his name6

See Acts 5:41.  


for almost the whole country which consists of Universalists Atheists Deists Presbyterians Methodists Baptists & professed Christians Priests & people with all the Devels from the infernal pit are united and foaming out ther own shame God forbid that I should bring a railing accusation against them for Vengence belongeth unto him who is able to repay & herein brethren we confide.7

See Jude 1:9, 13; and Romans 12:19.  


I am informed of an other Tribe of Lamanites

A term used in the Book of Mormon to refer to the descendants or followers of Laman, as well as those who later identified themselves as Lamanites because they did not believe in the religious traditions of their ancestors. According to JS and the Book of...

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lately who have abundence of flocks of the best kind of sheep & cattle and manufacture blankets of superior quality the tribe is very numerous they live three hundred miles west of Santafee and are called navahoes8

After its founding in 1827, Independence quickly became the eastern terminus for the Santa Fe Trail and the starting point for many western travelers, so Cowdery may have had ready access to such information about the Navajo people from local travelers.  


why I mention this tribe is because I feel under obligation to communicate my brethren evry information respecting the Lamanites & about.9

This insertion was likely added in the wrong place by Frederick G. Williams when he copied this letter into JS’s letterbook. He apparently intended to insert the caret between the words “you” and “all.”  


to you all my Labours and travels believeing as I do that much is expected from me in the cause of our Lord and not doubuting but I daily am remembered before the throne of the most high by all of my brethren as well those who have not seen my face in the flesh as those who have
We begin to expect our brother Parley P. Pratt

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

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soon we have heard from him only when he was at St Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as city...

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10

Pratt had presumably carried the letter from Cowdery to Superintendent William Clark requesting permission for the Mormons to proselytize among the Indians. When Pratt arrived in St. Louis, Clark was away from the city and had been at least since 9 January 1831. John Ruland, subagent of Indian affairs, conducted business for Clark in his absence until sometime in March. Pratt likely arrived in Kirtland in April, but he soon left on a short mission to the Shakers and a subsequent mission near Kirtland. (John Ruland, [St. Louis, MO], to John Henry Eaton, [Washington DC], 9 Jan. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 4, p. 198; William Clark, St. Louis, MO, to John Henry Eaton, [Washington DC], 31 Mar. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 4, p. 207; Historical Introduction to Revelation, 7 May 1831 [D&C 49]; Pratt, Autobiography, 64–65, 73.)  


we are all well (bless the Lord) and preach the gospel we will if earth and hell oppose our way and we dwell in the midst of Scortions for in Jesus we trust grace be with you all Amen
PS I beseach Brother Newel K. Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

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to remember & write & direct to me Indipendence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

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Jackson County Missouri
Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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[p. 13]
searching for truth3

Cowdery and Ziba Peterson apparently baptized a dozen or so persons in Lafayette and Jackson counties in the months that followed, including Rebecca Hopper, whom Peterson married on 11 August 1833. (Romig, “Lamanite Mission,” 30–32; Lafayette Co., MO, Marriage Records, 1821–1919, vol. B, p. 21, 11 Aug. 1831, microfilm 959,414, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL.)  


and if cincerely I pr[a]y they  may find that precious treasure for it seems  to be wholly fallen in the streets that equity  cannot enter4

See Isaiah 59:14.  


in the letter we received of <from> you5

This letter from church leaders in Kirtland is not extant and the date of its composition is unknown. However, the previous letter to Cowdery from the Kirtland area, written during a time of poor weather, took approximately a month to arrive at its destination. The letter mentioned here was therefore likely written sometime in early April 1831.  


we  were informed that the opposition was great against  you now our beloved brethren we verily believe that  we can also rejoice that we can are counted worthy  to suffer shame for his name6

See Acts 5:41.  


for almost the  whole country which consists of Universalists Ath[e]ists  Deists Presbyterians Methodists <Baptists> & professed Christians  Priests & people with all the Devels from the  infernal pit are united and foaming out ther  own shame God forbid that I should bring a railing  accusation against them for Vengence belongeth  unto him who is able to repay & herein brethren  we confide.7

See Jude 1:9, 13; and Romans 12:19.  


I am informed of an other Tribe  of Lamanites

A term used in the Book of Mormon to refer to the descendants or followers of Laman, as well as those who later identified themselves as Lamanites because they did not believe in the religious traditions of their ancestors. According to JS and the Book of...

View Glossary
lately who have abundence of flocks  of the best kind of sheep & cattle and manufacture  blankets of superior quality the tribe is very  numerous they live three hundred miles west  of Santafee and are called navahoes8

After its founding in 1827, Independence quickly became the eastern terminus for the Santa Fe Trail and the starting point for many western travelers, so Cowdery may have had ready access to such information about the Navajo people from local travelers.  


why I men tion this tribe is because I feel under obligation  to communicate <my breth[r]en evry informati[o]n respecting th[e] Lamanites & ab[out].>9

This insertion was likely added in the wrong place by Frederick G. Williams when he copied this letter into JS’s letterbook. He apparently intended to insert the caret between the words “you” and “all.”  


to you all my Labours and travels  believeing as I do that much is expected from me  in the cause of our Lord and not doubuting but I daily  am remembered before the throne of the most high  by all of my brethren as well those who have not  seen my face in the flesh as those who have
We have begin to expect our brother Parley [P. Pratt]

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

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soon we have  heard from him only when he was at St Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as city...

More Info
10

Pratt had presumably carried the letter from Cowdery to Superintendent William Clark requesting permission for the Mormons to proselytize among the Indians. When Pratt arrived in St. Louis, Clark was away from the city and had been at least since 9 January 1831. John Ruland, subagent of Indian affairs, conducted business for Clark in his absence until sometime in March. Pratt likely arrived in Kirtland in April, but he soon left on a short mission to the Shakers and a subsequent mission near Kirtland. (John Ruland, [St. Louis, MO], to John Henry Eaton, [Washington DC], 9 Jan. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 4, p. 198; William Clark, St. Louis, MO, to John Henry Eaton, [Washington DC], 31 Mar. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 4, p. 207; Historical Introduction to Revelation, 7 May 1831 [D&C 49]; Pratt, Autobiography, 64–65, 73.)  


we are  all well (bless the Lord) and preach the gospel we will if  earth and hell oppose our way and we dwell in the midst  of Scortions11

TEXT: Possibly “Scor[ta]tions”, meaning “fornicators.” Alternatively, Frederick G. Williams may have mistranscribed Cowdery’s biblical wording “scorpions” (see Ezekiel 2:6).  


for in Jesus <we> trust grace be with you all Amen
PS I beseach you Brother [Newel K.] Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

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to remember & write & direct  to me Indipendence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

More Info
Jackson County Missouri
Oliver Cowd[e]ry

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

View Full Bio
[p. 13]
Previous
Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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wrote this letter in response to one he received from the church in Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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, Ohio. The opening of Cowdery’s letter, the last of three surviving letters he sent from Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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to church leaders in Ohio

French explored area, 1669. British took possession following French and Indian War, 1763. Ceded to U.S., 1783. First permanent white settlement established, 1788. Northeastern portion maintained as part of Connecticut, 1786, and called Connecticut Western...

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,1

The other two surviving letters are Oliver Cowdery, Independence, MO, to the Church in Ohio, 29 Jan. 1831, in Letter to Hyrum Smith, 3–4 March 1831; and Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831.  


addresses “dearly beloved Brethren.” Since Cowdery was aware of JS’s recent move to the Kirtland area, JS was almost certainly one of the intended recipients. However, the table of contents to JS’s Letterbook 1, inscribed by Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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, indicates that Newel K. Whitney

3/5 Feb. 1795–23 Sept. 1850. Trader, merchant. Born at Marlborough, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of Samuel Whitney and Susanna Kimball. Moved to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., New York, 1803. Merchant at Plattsburg, Clinton Co., New York, 1814. Mercantile clerk for...

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was the original addressee, likely the result of an earlier decision to utilize Whitney’s franking privilege.2

Williams was present in Missouri with Cowdery when this letter was written and thus had firsthand knowledge of what addressee was listed on the original packet. For discussion of Whitney’s franking privilege, see Historical Introduction to Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831.  


The historical background for this letter was the conflict between Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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and United States

North American constitutional republic. Constitution ratified, 17 Sept. 1787. Population in 1805 about 6,000,000; in 1830 about 13,000,000; and in 1844 about 20,000,000. Louisiana Purchase, 1803, doubled size of U.S. Consisted of seventeen states at time ...

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Indian agent Richard W. Cummins, who had prevented Cowdery and his missionary companions from preaching on Indian lands because they did not have the required authorization.3

See Historical Introduction to Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831.  


In mid-February, Parley P. Pratt

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

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left the Independence

Located twelve miles from western Missouri border. Permanently settled, platted, and designated county seat, 1827. Hub for steamboat travel on Missouri River. Point of departure for Santa Fe Trail. Population in 1831 about 300. Mormon population by summer...

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, Missouri, area, likely carrying the 14 February letter Cowdery penned to superintendent of Indian affairs William Clark in St. Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as city...

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, requesting such an official permit.4

Oliver Cowdery, Independence, MO, to William Clark, [St. Louis, MO], 14 Feb. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 6, p. 103; see also Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831.  


Clark was not in St. Louis when Pratt arrived, and Pratt continued on his journey toward Ohio

French explored area, 1669. British took possession following French and Indian War, 1763. Ceded to U.S., 1783. First permanent white settlement established, 1788. Northeastern portion maintained as part of Connecticut, 1786, and called Connecticut Western...

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.5

Pratt later explained that he and the other missionaries to the Indians decided that “one of our number had better return to the church in Ohio, and perhaps to head quarters in New York, in order to communicate with the Presidency, report ourselves, pay a visit to the numerous churches we had organized on our outward journey, and also to procure more books.” (Pratt, Autobiography, 61.)  


While awaiting Pratt’s return with a permit to reenter Indian lands, the other missionaries apparently confined their work to proselytizing among settlers living in Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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.6

Peter Whitmer Jr. recorded that after Cummins threatened to arrest them, the missionaries “then resorted among the Gentiles and declared the word.” (Whitmer, Journal, Dec. 1831, [1].)  


In the 7 May 1831 letter featured here, Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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expresses an expectation that Pratt

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

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, who had already been traveling for nearly three months, would soon return. Delays in communication between Ohio

French explored area, 1669. British took possession following French and Indian War, 1763. Ceded to U.S., 1783. First permanent white settlement established, 1788. Northeastern portion maintained as part of Connecticut, 1786, and called Connecticut Western...

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and Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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meant that Cowdery had no more knowledge of Pratt’s activities in May than he had when he wrote to the Ohio church leaders a month earlier, on 8 April. The most recent letter to Cowdery from church leaders in Ohio evidently gave no news of Pratt, so it was almost certainly written before Pratt’s arrival in Kirtland

Located ten miles south of Lake Erie. Settled by 1811. Organized by 1818. Population in 1830 about 55 Latter-day Saints and 1,000 others; in 1838 about 2,000 Saints and 1,200 others; in 1839 about 100 Saints and 1,500 others. Mormon missionaries visited township...

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. Cowdery had received a letter from Pratt while Pratt was in St. Louis

Located on west side of Mississippi River about fifteen miles south of confluence with Missouri River. Founded as fur-trading post by French settlers, 1764. Incorporated as town, 1809. First Mississippi steamboat docked by town, 1817. Incorporated as city...

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on his way to Ohio,7

Pratt’s letter, alluded to in Cowdery’s 7 May letter, is not extant.  


and when he wrote this 7 May letter, he apparently assumed that Pratt had already arrived in Kirtland. Pratt had in fact been delayed on his way to Kirtland by bad weather and a severe bout with the measles, and it is unlikely he reached Kirtland before late March.8

See Pratt, Autobiography, 61–64.  


In any case, he had arrived at least by the first week of May: on the same day that Cowdery penned the letter featured here, 7 May, JS dictated a revelation instructing Pratt to preach to the Shaker settlement north of Kirtland, which delayed Pratt’s return to Missouri. While that assignment ultimately lasted only two days, he did not return to Missouri until September.9

Revelation, 7 May 1831 [D&C 49]; Pratt, Autobiography, 64–65, 73.  


Though Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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’s earlier letter indicated that the Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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missionaries hoped Pratt

12 Apr. 1807–13 May 1857. Farmer, editor, publisher, teacher, school administrator, legislator, explorer, author. Born at Burlington, Otsego Co., New York. Son of Jared Pratt and Charity Dickinson. Traveled west with brother William to acquire land, 1823....

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would return with permission from Superintendent William Clark to preach in Indian Territory, the missionaries apparently never received such a permit, and they did not continue the mission. They did, however, remain in Missouri and were on hand when JS and other church elders arrived during summer 1831 in accordance with the 6 June revelation.10

See Revelation, 6 June 1831 [D&C 52:3, 42–43]; and Revelation, 20 July 1831 [D&C 57:1–3].  


Facts