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Oliver Cowdery

Q: Oliver Cowdery is mentioned in several sections of the D&C and was one of the three witnesses to the Book of Mormon.  How old was Oliver when he died and where is he buried?

A: Oliver Cowdery was born in 1806 in Vermont.  He became a teacher after receiving his rudimentary education in Vermont and New York.  While teaching school in the Manchester, New York, area, he learned of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith.  In April 1829 he accompanied Samuel Smith to Harmony, Pennsylvania, to meet the Prophet.  He met the Prophet on April 5th, and “On Tuesday the 7th, commenced to write the Book of Mormon.’

The name of Oliver Cowdery was intertwined with the Prophets during the early days of the Church.  He was one of two men privileged to receive the Aaronic Priesthood from John the Baptist in 1829, and the Melchizedek Priesthood from the ancient Apostles Peter, James, and John.

Oliver shared his testimony from New York to the western border of the frontier of Missouri in 1830-831.  On 5 December 1834 Oliver was ordained an assistant to the President of the Church. On 3 April 1836 Oliver received the priesthood keys from Elijah, Elias, and Moses.

Despite the glorious revelations and experiences Oliver had in those nine years, pride led Oliver to falter and to be excommunicated in April 1838 in Far West. Oliver rejected the fellowship of Joseph and turned his attention to his vocation as a lawyer.

Nine years later, in 1847, while living in Wisconsin, news was conveyed to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles that Oliver had an interest in rejoining the Church.  Brigham Young wrote to Oliver and invited him to return.  Ill health prevented Oliver from joining the Saints in Illinois, however, almost eleven years after leaving the Church, Oliver left his law practice and traveled to Kanesville, Iowa, where the Saints had built a settlement on their way to Utah.  At a conference held in October 1848, Oliver addressed the congregation and expressed his testimony to the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.

Early the next month, Oliver appeared before the high council at Kanesville and formally requested fellowship in the Church. Upon the motion of Orson Hyde, Oliver was received by baptism.  His first assignment was to remain in Iowa and help Orson Hyde with publishing a newspaper.  He did so until April 1849 when he and his wife, Elizabeth, (David Whitmer’s sister), traveled to Richmond, Missouri, to visit her extended family.  While there, Oliver’s chronic lung condition advanced to consumption, and on 3 March 1850, he died at David Whitmer’s home. On his death bed, with his family assembled around him, he spoke to those present and admonished his loved ones to live the teachings of the Book of Mormon and promised that if they did, they would meet him in heaven.

Oliver was only forty-three years of age.  He was buried in Richmond, Missouri.

Who’s Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by **Susan Easton Black


Testimony of the Three Witnesses

Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.

Oliver Cowdery

David Whitmer

Martin Harris

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