Letter from Oliver Cowdery, 6 November 1829

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

<​Let[ter] 4​> <​​> November the 6th. 1829
Brother Joseph Smith Jr.
I received your leter yesterday bearing date Oct. 22d I had long time expectted to hear from you and had often enquired at the post office for a letter and of course it was gladly received by us all[.] we rejoice to hear that you are well and we expect also rejoice to hear that you have a prospect of obtaining Some mony and we further rejo[i]ce that you are at rest from your percecutors and we rejoice [p. 6] and the most to learn of your faithfulness in christ my dear Brother when I think of the goodness of christ I feel no desire to live or Stay here upon the shores of this world of iniquity only to to Serve him my maker and be if posible an instriment in his hands of doing Some good in his cause with his <​grace​> to assist me when I consider and try to realise what he has done for me I am astonished and amaised why Should I not be for while I was rushing on in sin and crouding my way down to that awful gulf he yet Strove with me and praised be his holy name <​and​> Eternal name he has redeemed my Soul from endless torment and wo not for any thing that I have me[r]ited or any worthyness there was in me for there was none but it was in and through his own mercy wraught out by his own infinite wisdom by prepareing from all Eternity a means wherefore whereby man could be saved on conditions of repentance and faith on that infinite attonement which was to be mad[e] by a great and last Sacrif[i]ce which Sacr[i]fice was the death of the only begotten of the Father yea the eternal Father of Heaven and of Earth that by his reserection all the Family of man might be braught back into the presance of God if therefore we follow christ in all things whatsoever he comma[n]deth us and are buried with him by into death that like as christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Eternal Father even So we also Should walk in newness of life and if we walk in newness of life to the end of this probation at the day of accounts we Shall be caught up in clouds to meet the Lord in the air but I need not undertake to write of the goodness of God for his goodness is unspeakable ne[i]ther tell of the miteries [mysteries] of God for what is man that he can comprehend and Search out the wisdom of deity for Great is the misteries of Godliness therefore my only motive in this writing is to inform you of my prospects and hopes and my desires and my long<​ing​> to be freed from Sin and to rest in the kingdom of my Savior and my redeemer when I [p. 7] begin to write of the mercy mercies of God I know not when to Stop but time and paper fails I would inform that and went out to last week they had a joyful time and found all in as good health as could be expected thinks of comeing to the South in the course of two or three weeks and will callculate to take back that horse the printing goes rather Slow yet as the type founder has been sick but we expect that the type will be on and Still think we <​he​> will finish printing by the first of febuary we all send respects to yourself and ——
My dear Brother I cannot hardly feel to close this letter as yet without informing you that we received one from from Masacuchusetts [Massachusetts] dated the 25th Oct. he informs us that he wishes to hear from us and know of our wellfare he says he has talked conside[r]able to Some respecting our work with freedom but others could not because they had no ears my great desire is that we may be faithful and obedient and humble children of Christ here that we may meet together in his kingdom of Eternal Glory to go no more out to Spend an Ete[r]nity where the we wicked cese from troubling and the humbl and penitent child in christ finds rest I remain with much Esteem and profound respect your Brother and compa[n]ion in tribulation and persecution in the kingdom of patience and hope of a Glorious reserrection in christ our Savior and redemer Amen
Joseph Smith Jr
<​Let[ter] 5​> P S I have Just got to alma commandment to his Son in coppyinng the manscrip we are all in tolerable hea[l]th here but my health is poor [p. 8]


  1. new scribe logo

    This scribal notation, in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams, indicates that this was the fourth letter copied into JS Letterbook 1.  

  2. 1

    At the time he wrote this letter, Cowdery was likely at the Hyrum Smith residence in Palmyra. If this is the case, the letter was written in Palmyra, not in Manchester.  

  3. 2

    More than a month had passed since JS’s departure from Manchester. (See Letter to Oliver Cowdery, 22 Oct. 1829.)  

  4. 3

    Cowdery referred here to JS’s report of Josiah Stowell’s willingness to invest “five or six hundred dollars” in the publication of the Book of Mormon. (Letter to Oliver Cowdery, 22 Oct. 1829.)  

  5. 4

    This passage includes several phrases that are not found in the Bible but appear in the Book of Mormon. The phrase “conditions of repentance” appears in the Book of Mormon multiple times and was also included in a revelation addressed to Cowdery the previous June.a The phrase “great and last sacrifice” occurs three times in the Book of Mormon—all on the same page of the 1830 edition. This same page includes the phrase “infinite atonement.”b According to Cowdery’s postscript at the end of the letter, he had only recently transcribed this passage in his creation of the printer’s manuscript. The phrase “eternal Father of Heaven and of Earth” appears twice in the Book of Mormon.c)  

    (aBook of Mormon, 1830 ed., 270, 338, 418, 446 [Alma 17:15; 42:13; Helaman 5:11; 14:11, 18]; Revelation, June 1829–B [D&C 18:12].bBook of Mormon, 1830 ed., 319 [Alma 34:10–14].cBook of Mormon, 1830 ed., 186, 253 [Mosiah 15:4; Alma 11:39].)
  6. 5

    See Romans 6:4. A number of JS’s friends and supporters in the vicinity of Palmyra and Fayette townships in New York had already been baptized. (See “Articles of the Church of Christ,” June 1829.)  

  7. 6

    See 1 Thessalonians 4:17.  

  8. 7

    See 1 Timothy 3:16.  

  9. 8

    A reference to Harmony, Pennsylvania, where JS and Emma Smith were living.  

  10. 9

    JS commented in his 22 October 1829 letter that he had purchased a horse from Josiah Stowell and wanted “some one to come after it.” (Letter to Oliver Cowdery, 22 Oct. 1829.)  

  11. 10

    Cowdery was likely referring to a compositor or typesetter, whose ill health would have certainly delayed the process. Founding—that is, cutting and casting—type was a highly specialized skill, and none of those assisting with the printing of the Book of Mormon is known to have been a type founder. It is possible that JS made a transcription error when he copied this letter into the letterbook.  

  12. 11

    The printing of the Book of Mormon was completed in March 1830, and the volume was first advertised for sale in the Wayne Sentinel, a newspaper also published in Grandin’s shop. (John H. Gilbert, Memorandum, 8 Sept. 1892, photocopy, CHL; “The Book of Mormon,” Wayne Sentinel [Palmyra, NY], 26 Mar. 1830, [3].)  

    Gilbert, John H. Memorandum, 8 Sept. 1892. Photocopy. CHL. MS 9223.

    Wayne Sentinel. Palmyra, NY. 1823–1852, 1860–1861.

  13. 12

    Although Marsh’s letter is not extant, in a later history he wrote that after becoming familiar with the Book of Mormon during its printing, he “corresponded with Oliver Cowdery & Jos Smith.” During a trip from his home in Charlestown, Massachusetts, to New York in late summer or early fall 1829, Marsh visited Harris at Grandin’s printing office and obtained from him a proof sheet of the first sixteen pages of the Book of Mormon. He took the pages home to show members of his family, and he and his wife, Elizabeth, became early believers in JS’s work. (“T B Marsh,” [1], Historian’s Office, Histories of the Twelve, ca. 1858–1880, CHL; see also Thomas B. Marsh and Elizabeth Godkin Marsh to Lewis Abbott and Ann Marsh Abbott, [ca. 11 Apr. 1831], Abbott Family Collection, CHL.)  

    Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, 1856–1858, 1861. CHL. CR 100 93.

    Abbott Family Collection, 1831–2000. CHL. MS 23457.

  14. 13

    See Job 3:17.  

  15. new scribe logo

    This designation, meant to indicate the fifth letter copied into JS Letterbook 1, was written by Frederick G. Williams, who mistook Cowdery’s postscript for a separate letter.  

  16. 14

    The prophet Alma addresses his three sons—Helaman, Shiblon, and Corianton—in Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 323–340 [Alma 36–42]. Cowdery by this point had created 261 pages of the printer’s manuscript, which ultimately numbered 464 pages.  

    The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. Palmyra, NY: E. B. Grandin, 1830.

  17. 15

    Oliver Cowdery’s father, William Cowdery Jr., born in 1765, recovered from his ill health and lived nearly twenty more years. (Mehling, Cowdrey-Cowdery-Cowdray Genealogy, 95.)  

    Mehling, Mary Bryant Alverson. Cowdrey-Cowdery-Cowdray Genealogy: William Cowdery of Lynn, Massachusetts, 1630, and His Descendants. New York: Frank Allaben Genealogical Co., 1911.