30694

Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 8 April 1831

Letter 7 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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Jackson Co Missouri April 8— 1831
My dearly beloved brethren & sisters in the Lord we received yours dated March 1—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.  


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 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 ancient covenant people & lead them with the fulness of the Gentiles

Those who were not members of the House of Israel. More specifically, members of the church identified gentiles as those whose lineage was not of the Jews or Lamanites (understood to be the American Indians in JS’s day). Certain prophecies indicated that ...

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to springs yea fountains of living waters to his holy hill of Zion

A specific location in Missouri; also a literal or figurative gathering of believers in Jesus Christ, characterized by adherence to ideals of harmony, equality, and purity. In JS’s earliest revelations “the cause of Zion” was used to broadly describe the ...

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3

See Psalm 2:6.  


& make them joyful in his house of prayer,4

See Isaiah 56:7.  


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 land5

See Exodus 2:22.  


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,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].)  


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 pricked in there hearts,7

See Acts 2:37.  


I this day heard from the deleware Nation 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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by the man who is employed by government a smith for that Nation he believes the truth and says he thanks God he does believe8

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.)  


and also says that he shall shortly be baptized

An ordinance in which an individual is immersed in water for the remission of sins. The Book of Mormon explained that those with necessary authority were to baptize individuals who had repented of their sins. Baptized individuals also received the gift of...

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which I pray God may be the case for truly my brethren he is a [p. 10]
<Let[ter] 7>1

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


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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Jackson Co Missouri April 8— 1832 1831
My dearly beloved brethren & sisters in the Lord we received your[s]  dated March 1—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.  


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 Gentiles

Those who were not members of the House of Israel. More specifically, members of the church identified gentiles as those whose lineage was not of the Jews or Lamanites (understood to be the American Indians in JS’s day). Certain prophecies indicated that ...

View Glossary
to springs yea  fountains of living waters to his holy hill of Zion

A specific location in Missouri; also a literal or figurative gathering of believers in Jesus Christ, characterized by adherence to ideals of harmony, equality, and purity. In JS’s earliest revelations “the cause of Zion” was used to broadly describe the ...

View Glossary
3

See Psalm 2:6.  


&  make them joyful in his house of prayer,4

See Isaiah 56:7.  


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 land5

See Exodus 2:22.  


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 an other 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,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].)  


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,7

See Acts 2:37.  


I this day received heard from  the deleware Nation 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
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 believe8

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.)  


and also says that he  shall shortly be baptized

An ordinance in which an individual is immersed in water for the remission of sins. The Book of Mormon explained that those with necessary authority were to baptize individuals who had repented of their sins. Baptized individuals also received the gift of...

View Glossary
which I pray God  may be the case for truly my brethren he is a [p. 10]
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This document is the second extant letter 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 to his 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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associates 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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. Cowdery had been unaware of the pending move of both JS and the church from New York

Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...

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to Ohio when he wrote an earlier letter to newly baptized

An ordinance in which an individual is immersed in water for the remission of sins. The Book of Mormon explained that those with necessary authority were to baptize individuals who had repented of their sins. Baptized individuals also received the gift of...

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members in Ohio in January 1831.1

A copy of Cowdery’s first letter, dated 29 January 1831, is contained in Letter to Hyrum Smith, 3–4 Mar. 1831.  


At the time he wrote this second letter, however, he knew that the church had relocated and that JS resided 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. According to the letter presented here, Cowdery had received a letter a few days earlier informing him of the recent events in Ohio.
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 letter opens with a general salutation to the “beloved brethren & sisters in the Lord,” it was evidently addressed to 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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specifically. 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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, one of Cowdery’s missionary companions 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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, listed Whitney as the recipient when he drafted the table of contents for JS’s Letterbook 1, and the letter itself states the intent to send the missionaries’ letters to “brothren Whitney.” Cowdery’s comment in the letter that the group felt entitled to free postage strongly suggests that their letters were routed through Whitney even though they were intended for a larger audience, including JS. Whitney was the postmaster of 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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,2

Whitney had held the office of postmaster since 29 December 1826. The Kirtland Mills post office was located in his store. (U.S. Post Office Department, Records of Appointment of Postmasters, reel 4, vol. 6, p. 176; List of Post-Offices in the United States, 59; Table of the Post Offices in the United States, 216.)  


and his franking privilege allowed him to send and receive an unlimited number of letters weighing less than half an ounce without charge.3

While postage could be paid by the sender, the payment of postage was often the responsibility of the recipient of a letter, and thus many pieces of mail went unclaimed because the recipient either did not or could not pay the postage. (An Act to Reduce into One the Several Acts Establishing and Regulating the Post-Office Department [3 Mar. 1825], in Post-Office Laws, Instructions and Forms, pp. 15–16, sec. 27; John, Spreading the News, 121–124.)  


Because postal rates were calculated according to the distance the letter traveled, the missionaries in Missouri would have been charged twenty-five cents for every letter they received from the Kirtland area, a sum roughly equivalent to one-third of the average daily wages of an agricultural laborer.4

An Act to Reduce into One the Several Acts Establishing and Regulating the Post-Office Department [3 Mar. 1825], in Post-Office Laws, Instructions and Forms, pp. 8–9, sec. 12; Wright, Industrial Evolution of the United States, 217; Margo, Wages and Labor Markets in the United States, 67, table 3A.5.  


Since 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 letter of 29 January, the missionaries had encountered difficulties with government officials in their attempts to preach to the American Indians. Federal Indian agent Richard W. Cummins sent a letter on 15 February to his superior, General William Clark, who was serving as superintendent of Indian affairs 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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, alerting him to the presence of the Mormon missionaries. Cummins told Clark that the men “act very strange” and claim “they are sent by God and must preach.” Cummins explained further: “They have a new Revelation with them, as there Guide in teaching the Indians, which they say was shown to one of their Sects in a miraculous way, and that an Angel

Being who acts as a minister and messenger between heaven and earth. JS taught that angels were individuals who “belonged to this earth”; those who had already lived on earth were often resurrected beings. In addition to giving instruction, direction, and...

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from Heaven appeared to one of their Men and two others of their Sect. . . . I have refused to let them stay or, go among the Indians unless they first obtain permission from you or, some of the officers of the Genl Government.”5

Richard W. Cummins, Delaware and Shawnee Agency, to William Clark, [St. Louis, MO], 15 Feb. 1831, U.S. Office of Indian Affairs, Central Superintendency, Records, vol. 6, pp. 113–114.  


Cummins threatened the missionaries with imprisonment if they continued their preaching, according to Peter Whitmer Jr.

27 Sept. 1809–22 Sept. 1836. Tailor. Born at Fayette, Seneca Co., New York. Son of Peter Whitmer Sr. and Mary Musselman. Baptized by Oliver Cowdery, June 1829, in Seneca Lake, Seneca Co. One of the Eight Witnesses of the Book of Mormon, June 1829. Among six...

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, a member of the missionary party. In his summary of the confrontation with the Indian agent, Whitmer wrote that after the missionaries had commenced their preaching to the “delewares, and the tribe of Shawneyes . . . to our sorow there came a man whose name was Cumons and told us the he was a man under authorithy he told us that he would aprehend us up to the garoson.”6

Whitmer, Journal, Dec. 1831, [1].  


In an effort to obtain a permit to preach to the Indians, 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 to Clark on 14 February 1831, a letter that 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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presumably took to deliver in person on a journey to the East, which included a stop 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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.7

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. At the time Pratt left, he was still unaware of the church’s move to Ohio. Pratt later described his journey: “Elders Cowdery, Whitmer, Peterson, myself, and F. G. Williams, who accompanied us from Kirtland, now assembled in Independence, Jackson County, Missouri, and came to the conclusion 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. For this laborious enterprise I was selected by the voice of my four brethren.” (Pratt, Autobiography, 61.)  


However, Clark was absent from his St. Louis post at the time Pratt arrived,8

See 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; and 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.  


and there is no indication that Clark responded to Cowdery’s letter. Nevertheless, Cowdery’s 8 April letter suggests that the missionaries expected a favorable resolution to their conflict with Cummins through Pratt’s efforts to obtain a permit from Clark.

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