Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Richard Bennett on Oliver Cowdery's Return

"It is not without consequence that Oliver Cowdery, "the second elder" of the Church (D&C 20:3), fell away and was excommunicated from the Church during the dark and troubling days of Kirtland, Ohio, and Far West, Missouri, in 1838. The details of his disaffection and excommunication are perhaps not as important to this study as are his return and rebaptism. Thanks to the intrepid efforts of Phineas Young, brother to Brigham Young, Oliver was kept conversant with the affairs of the Saints. As a lawyer first in Ohio and then in Wisconsin, Oliver even offered his services to the Prophet Joseph Smith when he was incarcerated in Carthage Jail in June 1844. Plagued with tuberculosis and sensing that his health was declining, Oliver returned to the Saints at Kanesville, Iowa, in November 1848. When Brigham Young, then in the valley of the Great Salt Lake, heard of his return, he penned these memorable lines of sincere gratitude and earnest invitation:

"We impose [on] the present moment...to express to you our unbounded confidence and joy in those principles and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which we have so long taught and practiced, amid scenes of persecution and blood, and many of which, in former days, we have listened to with delight from your lips, and to the truth of which, we have heard you testify with unshaken confidence....and say to you in the spirit of Jesus, and by the calling whereunto we have been called, Come, for all things are now ready, and the Spirit and the Bride say Come: and return to our Father's house, from whence thou hast wandered, and partake of the fatted calf, and sup and be filled: and again be ordained with the jewels of salvation, and be shod with the preparation of the Gospel of Peace...and renew thy testimony to the Truth of the Book of Mormon with a loud voice and faithful heart and you will soon feel the Holy Ghost burning in your bones like fire in the dry stubble, thy soul will be filled with rejoicing, and you will again cry aloud, verily it is good to serve the Lord for his mercy endureth forever: and there will be great rejoicing in thy Father's house, for he will embrace thee with the kisses of many blessings.

"And the Saints [his sons and daughters] will with open arms hail thee as their long lost brother found in the new and everlasting covenant."23

"At the monthly meeting of the high priests in the Kanesville Log Tabernacle on 5 November 1848, Oliver Cowdery was given liberty by Orson Hyde, presiding officer in the region, to address the hushed gathering. Oliver bore his testimony of the Book of Mormon, "that the Priesthood was with this people; and the Twelve were the only men that could lead the Church, after the death of Joseph. [He] seemed to possess an excellent spirit." A few days later, he again called upon the Saints and sought rebaptism. "I have not come to seek place, nor to interfere with the business and calling of those men who have borne the burthen since the death of Joseph. I throw myself at your feet, and wish to be one of your number and be a mere member of the Church and my mere asking to be rebaptized is an end to all pretensions to authority."24

"I feel that I can honorably return," he said. "I have sustained an honorable character before the world during my absence from you, this though a small matter with you, it is of vast importance. I have ever had the honor of the Kingdom in view, and men are to be judged by the testimony given. I feel to sanction what has been said here today. I am out of the church. I know the door into the church, and I wish to become a member through the door. I wish to be a humble private member. I did not come here to seek honor."25

"Oliver also said: "Bro. Hyde has just said that it was all important that we keep in the true channel in order to avoid the sandbars. This is true. the channel is here. the priesthood is here."26

"After a unanimous vote of the quorum of high priests and all present, permission was granted that he be readmitted to the Church. One week later, on 12 November 1848, almost twenty years since the coming of John the Baptist, Oliver Cowdery was rebaptized by Orson Hyde." (pgs 79-81)

23 Brigham Young, President, and Willard Richards, Clerk to Oliver Cowdery, Esq. 22 Nov. 1848; see also Welch and Morris, Oliver Cowdery, 346; spelling modernized
24 "Report to Brigham Young," 5 Apr. 1849; spelling modernized
25 Pottawattamie High Council Minutes, 5 Nov. 1848; see also Wlech and Morris, Oliver Cowdery, 346; spelling modernized
26 Reuben Miller, Journal, 21 Oct. 1848, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah, as cited in Scott H. Faulring, "The Return of Oliver Cowdery," in Welch and Morris, Oliver Cowdery, 344.

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