26108

Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 7 May 1831

Kaw Township

Settlement by whites commenced after treaty with Osage Indians, 1825. One of three original townships organized in Jackson Co., 22 May 1827. Bordered by Missouri River on north side and Big Blue River on east and south sides; western boundary was state line...

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1

At this time, Kaw Township, Missouri, was bounded on the west by lands the government assigned to various Indian tribes and on the north by the Missouri River. The settlement where Cowdery was staying was “about Eleven miles from Indipendence.” (Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831.)  


May 7— 1831
Our dearly beloved Brethren
I have nothing partickuler to write as concerning the 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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& because of a short journey which I have just returned from in consequence of which I have not writen to you since the 16th. of the last month2

This 16 April letter is not extant. In his 8 April 1831 letter to Ohio church members, Cowdery wrote, “We thought that we shall write evry week.” However, the missing 16 April letter appears to be the only one sent by Cowdery between 8 April and 7 May. (Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831.)  


I and brother Ziba Peterson

Ca. 1810–1849. Teacher, farmer, law officer. Born in New York. Lived in Macedon, Wayne Co., New York, ca. 1830. Baptized into LDS church. Ordained an elder, by 9 June 1830. Served mission to Ohio and Missouri, 1830–1831. Stripped of office of elder, Aug. ...

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went into the county East which is LaFayette

Located south of Missouri River in west-central part of state. Settled by 1816. Name changed from Lillard Co. to Lafayette Co., 1825, to honor the Marquis de Lafayette. County seat, Lexington. Jackson Co. created from western part of Lafayette Co., 1825. ...

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about 40 miles and in the name of Jesus called on the people to repent many of whom are I believe earnestly [p. 12]
Kaw Township

Settlement by whites commenced after treaty with Osage Indians, 1825. One of three original townships organized in Jackson Co., 22 May 1827. Bordered by Missouri River on north side and Big Blue River on east and south sides; western boundary was state line...

More Info
1

At this time, Kaw Township, Missouri, was bounded on the west by lands the government assigned to various Indian tribes and on the north by the Missouri River. The settlement where Cowdery was staying was “about Eleven miles from Indipendence.” (Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831.)  


May 7— 1831
Our dearly beloved Brethren
I have nothing  partickuler to write as concerning the 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
 & because of a short journey which I have <just> returned  from in consequence of which I have not  writen to you since the 16th. of the last month2

This 16 April letter is not extant. In his 8 April 1831 letter to Ohio church members, Cowdery wrote, “We thought that we shall write evry week.” However, the missing 16 April letter appears to be the only one sent by Cowdery between 8 April and 7 May. (Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 Apr. 1831.)  


 <I> and brother Ziba [Peterson]

Ca. 1810–1849. Teacher, farmer, law officer. Born in New York. Lived in Macedon, Wayne Co., New York, ca. 1830. Baptized into LDS church. Ordained an elder, by 9 June 1830. Served mission to Ohio and Missouri, 1830–1831. Stripped of office of elder, Aug. ...

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went into the county East  which is LaFayette

Located south of Missouri River in west-central part of state. Settled by 1816. Name changed from Lillard Co. to Lafayette Co., 1825, to honor the Marquis de Lafayette. County seat, Lexington. Jackson Co. created from western part of Lafayette Co., 1825. ...

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about 40 miles and in  the name of Jesus called on the people to  repent many are of whom <are I> believe earnestly [p. 12]
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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].  


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