New Book Compiles Scholarship on Oliver Cowdery
In conjunction with the recent BYU symposium "Oliver Cowdery: Restoration Witness, Second Elder," the Maxwell Institute has published Oliver Cowdery: Scribe, Elder, Witness, edited by John W. Welch and Larry E. Morris. This book includes 17 important articles previously published by BYU Studies or FARMS and covers virtually all periods of Oliver Cowdery's life.
"Oliver Cowdery was scribe, second elder, missionary, editor, publisher, justice of the peace, witness of the Book of Mormon, and defender of the Restoration," Welch says. "This bicentennial collection spotlights and clarifies Cowdery's many crucial contributions to the early years of the Church."
The two leading Cowdery scholars, Richard L. Anderson and Scott H. Faulring (who are coediting a four-volume collection of Cowdery documents) are both well represented in this compilation. In "The Impact of the First Preaching in Ohio," Anderson discusses the first major mission in the Church, in which Oliver, Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, and Ziba Peterson traveled first to Buffalo, New York, and then 200 miles farther west into Ohio. They baptized 130 people, including Sidney Rigdon—a harvest that "doubled the membership of the Church and created a solid nucleus for rapid growth and a secure, if temporary, gathering location," Anderson writes.
In his award-winning article, "The Return of Oliver Cowdery," Faulring reviews in detail the efforts of Oliver's friend and brother-in-law, Phineas H. Young, to help bring Oliver back into the fold after his 1838 excommunication. As early as 1842, Phineas wrote to his brother Brigham that Oliver's heart "is still with his old friends." The next year, Joseph Smith instructed the Twelve to invite Oliver back into Church fellowship and service. This letter was inexplicably delayed for several months, but Oliver responded favorably. In fact, Faulring points out that on the last day of Joseph Smith's life, Almon W. Babbit visited the Prophet and read a recent communication from Oliver. "Although the letter has been lost and its specific contents remain unknown, it can be presumed from Oliver's optimistic overtures that his was a congenial letter," Faulring surmises. Oliver maintained a positive but long-distance relationship with Church leaders until he was rebaptized in 1848.
Other articles discuss such topics as the translation and printing of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood, Oliver's response to Alexander Campbell's criticisms of the Book of Mormon, and Oliver's accounts of the Pentecost-like outpourings associated with the dedication of the Kirtland Temple.
Of particular interest to many is the recent discovery of an original daguerreotype believed to be that of Oliver Cowdery (reported at length in the 18 November issue of Church News, a section of the Deseret Morning News). In his article on this topic, Patrick A. Bishop, a Church Educational System coordinator who discovered the image while doing research in the Library of Congress's archives, compares the newly identified image with known likenesses of Oliver. "While [my] observations . . . are not absolute," he writes, "they do provide convincing evidence that this is indeed a heretofore-unknown image of Oliver Cowdery."
This book is available at the BYU Bookstore. To order a copy online, go directly to byubookstore.com, or go to maxwellinstitute.byu.edu and, at the bottom of the notice for this book, click on the "more" link to the BYU Bookstore.