Oliver Cowdery’s Earliest Known Written Testimony?


An 1840s daguerrotype of Oliver Cowdery.
Found in 2006, it is the earliest known image of the “Second Elder” of the Church.


An independent researcher by the name of Erin Jennings may have located passages from the earliest account yet known of Oliver Cowdery’s experience as one of the Three Witnesses to the Book of Mormon:




Dated 9 November 1829 — which is to say, nearly five months before the actual publication of the Book of Mormon — the account is contained in a letter that was evidently written by Oliver Cowdery to a Mr. Cornelius Blatchly.


Mr. Blatchly had evidently suggested that the Book of Mormon, and the testimonies of the Witnesses to it, might rest upon “juggling.”  Noah Webster’s 1828 American dictionary defines the verb to juggle as  “1. To play tricks by slight of hand; to amuse and make sport by tricks, which make a false show of extraordinary powers.  2. To practice artifice or imposture.”


Oliver Cowdery responded to Mr. Blatchly as follows (with editorial notes from Mr. Blatchly enclosed within brackets), referring to his encounter with the plates and the angel as one of the Three Witnesses:


“It was a clear, open beautiful day, far from any inhabitants, in a remote field, at the time we saw the record, of which it has been spoken, brought and laid before us, by an angel, arrayed in glorious light, [who] ascend [descended I suppose] out of the midst of heaven.


“Now if this is human juggling — judge ye.”



  • http://TheChurchOfBYUFootball.org Rev SB Western DD. PhD.

    Wow, That is an extremely important piece of information . The inclusion of certain details makes it clear to me he was telling what he saw with his own eyes, not a part of a scheme to spread a falsehood. To the anti-Mormon crusader , Explain This!

  • Carl Youngblood

    Rev SB Western, just keep in mind that the witnesses later clarified that they saw it with their spiritual and not his natural eyes. A bystander might have been there also and still seen nothing.

    • danpeterson

      When the Witnesses talked about their “spiritual eyes,” they don’t seem to have been denying that they saw the plates and etc. with their real, biological, physical eyes. In fact, they often stressed that they saw those objects “with” (in Hyrum Smith’s words) “THESE EYES” and that they “held them with THESE HANDS.” Critics who wish to dismiss the Witnesses’ statements as purely subjective, even hallucinatory, do so via a highly selective reading of the evidence. One good discussion of this matter is Richard Lloyd Anderson’s “Attempts to Redefine the Experience of the Eight Witnesses”: http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/publications/jbms/?vol=14&num=1&id=357

  • http://bit.ly/ldsarc Mike Parker

    Critics of the Book of Mormon just need to keep repeating “eye of faith” over and over, like an incantation. That’ll fix this inconvenience.

  • christine

    Mike 4 witnesses needed for adultery in Islam, almost as iffy right ? What I have been curious about ever since I found out about the plates (very recently) is how much text can go on one individual plate and how many plates there must have been. The BoM I own is printed on super thin paper and relatively small letters How many albeit thin plates of Egyptian Cuneiform or cursive script or whatever it might be – does it take ? I have found reference to the weight of the plates to be circa 60 lbs . I am sure someone has estimated how many plates but I just have not found the info yet. not that it really matters, just curious. Also, since each author added on to the plates, surely they are not homogenous and must be of varying alloys and various ages and various modified writing systems. I wish someone could have made a rub transfer off a few of these plates. The other this I am pondering… – some authors in BoM write in the first person but not all of them. Why would that be, one really expects as Gopnik obviously did not think to look further when he read Nephi and wrote his article for the New Yorker “I, Nephi” that they would all be in first person narrative http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/atlarge/2012/08/13/120813crat_atlarge_gopnik?currentPage=2)

  • Ken

    Christine says: “Also, since each author added on to the plates, surely they are not homogenous and must be of varying alloys and various ages and various modified writing systems.”

    You’re confusing source material and abridgment. Did Mormon and Moroni compile their abridgment from various sets of plates, which may well have been “not homogeneous” and “of various alloys . . . ages . . . and writing systems”? Yes, perhaps. But that does not have the bearing you seem to imply it might on the abridgment. The abridgment was recorded on a single set of plates. While your mileage may vary, I find no reason to doubt the descriptions of the plates provided by Joseph Smith and the others who were allowed to see them.