How Are Oliver Cowdery’s Messenger and Advocate Letters to Be Understood and Used? (Knowhy #453)
Articles,  Blog

How Are Oliver Cowdery’s Messenger and Advocate Letters to Be Understood and Used? (Knowhy #453)


The earliest public account of the history of Joseph Smith, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, and other related topics, was composed by Oliver Cowdery in a series of letters he wrote starting in late 1834. These letters, eight in total, were written
partly to combat anti-Mormon opposition and partly to increase the faith of Church members. They provide many important insights into
the translation of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the priesthood, matters
with which Oliver was personally acquainted. Although Oliver’s history was popular among early Mormons, historians recognize that they do not tell the whole story and need to be approached cautiously. While they’re valuable to students of early
Mormon history, they are not entirely free from error and embellishment. Examples of errors include incorrectly dating
events in Joseph’s life, and even substituting Moroni’s visit with the First Vision story. Another example includes lengthy quotations
attributed to the angel Moroni which are unlikely to be a verbatim recapturing. It is more likely that, true to his extravagant
literary style, Oliver embellished his account to enhance its readability and appeal. While these letters certainly convey Oliver’s
moving personal testimony of the Book of Mormon, they don’t definitively establish other
matters such as Book of Mormon geography. It is true that Oliver understood the hill
in Palmyra, N.Y. to be the same hill Cumorah described in the Book of Mormon, but it is unknown where Oliver got this idea from. There is no evidence that Joseph Smith assigned
Oliver to write these letters, nor is there evidence that Joseph personally provided Oliver with the Book of Mormon geographical information contained in them. Unlike the Lectures on Faith, Joseph’s Smith’s epistles, the Pearl of Great Price, or other texts attributed to Oliver, none of these letters were ever canonized as binding revelation. It is therefore more likely that, rather than seeing Oliver’s views as authoritative or prophetic pronouncements, they should be seen
as reflections of, if not the main cause behind, popular nineteenth-century Mormon speculation
on Book of Mormon geography. Most of all, these letters are intended to be read and used for increasing faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ and affirming belief
in the Book of Mormon as the word of God. And now you know why.

5 Comments

  • Lollypeppers

    Oliver's inability to accurately recount events and stay consistent with official history in letters that he wrote at his leisure provide yet another reasonable proof of the extraordinary miracle of and therefore divinely given translation of the Book of Mormon; having been produced in such a short amount of time and never mixing nor confusing dates, times, names or places.

    In addition, by studying Oliver's letters we can see his literary style and mistakes neither of which we find in the Book of Mormon. If Joseph Smith and/or others had imagined the book and translation one could identify the literary styles of the scribes and Joseph.

    In this way these letters provide yet another proof that the Book of Mormon is an actual ancient text and that Joseph Smith saw God the Father and Jesus Christ.

  • Rockies To Cumorah

    Book of Mormon Central – I have some friendly advice for you. The entire purpose of this movie is to shoot down Jonathan Nevilles promotion of Letter VII which pinpoints the Hill Cumorah in New York as the repository of records written of in the Book of Mormon. This in reality is a jab saying Don't listen to what Jonathan Neville says by discrediting Oliver Cowdery. So here is my friendly advice. STOP TRYING TO SLAM THOSE WHO DISAGREE WITH AUTHORS OF THIS SITE REGARDING GEOGRAPHY. INSTEAD, EMBRACE THEM ALL. One of the most important messages taught in the Book of Mormon – over and over again – is to avoid contention. When you delve into Book of Mormon geography, you are delving into a topic full of contention. Instead, follow what Christ teaches about contention. If the Book of Mormon happened in Southern Mexico, let the scholars make their point. Also let the proponents of the North America models be allowed to make their point and publish it on your site. Allow the South America model as well. The real intent of this movie is an embarrassment to what the entire goal of the Book of Mormon is. It is in reality an anti mormon message telling us to ignore the words of the early apostles. Is that really the message you want to portray?

  • 3B Detention Center

    Shame on you, pretending to speak with authority as to proclaiming the embellishment of Oliver. The pure reality is that Joseph personally had Oliver print Letter VII at least 4 times. No such interpretation is included in the Joseph Smith Papers. More important is that if our hearts are soft enough the Spirit will witness to true seekers that there is but ONE Hill Cumorah and that this land – USA – is the land of the BOM. My personal witness Is that it is, the American Indian are descendants of Joseph, they are not savages, they are our brothers and sisters of our Father Abraham.
    As Joseph Smith – I am a one Hill man!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *