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Masonic Connections in Oliver Cowdery’s Family (Part 1 of 7)

Clair Barrus has been studying Mormon history since before Al Gore invented the internet!

Clair:  Well, to show my ancientness, I was actually online in 1984, on the internet, when only engineering firms and universities were on the internet.

GT:  Was this like Prodigy or AOL or something else?

Clair:  It was before. I remember when AOL and Prodigy came online. This was pre-anything. You had to be working at an engineering firm, and some universities had access.

GT:  So like the ARPANET?

Clair:  Oh, yeah, it was the ARPANET. Yeah, it was pre-internet. It was the ARPANET.

GT:  Wow, you’re very experienced.

Clair:  Yeah, I’ve been around for a while. (Chuckling)

I was surprised to learn that it isn’t just Joseph Smith who has connections to masonry and magic.  It turns out that Oliver Cowdery has a family history with magic and masonry.  Clair Barrus will tell us more.

Clair:  Let me start with Oliver Cowdery and his father William Cowdery. I think there’s some interesting early Masonic influences that may have come through Oliver Cowdery. Oliver Cowdery’s father was actually involved very early on in a group called, the New Israelites. When you think of New Israelites, compare that with Latter-day Saints.  New and Latter are related, and Saints and Israelites are related. So, you have an interesting relationship just in the naming there. The New Israelites were a very interesting group of people up in Vermont that William Cowdery was involved with. They used rods a lot. They were rodsmen, and they would use rods to get revelations through. Then they created a religious movement and they had a dietary code/restrictions, just has an interesting parallel to the Word of Wisdom. They wanted to build a new Jerusalem. They actually would use their divining rods to gather underground gold and had vast heaps of gold and they were going to use that gold to pave the streets of their new Jerusalem.  They got a revelation. Nathaniel Wood, who was the leader, got a revelation that they should build a temple. Now this is interesting because think about it. What temple builders are there in American religious history? The Mormons or the Latter-day Saints and the New Israelites and the Masons. The Masons are symbolic temple builders.  The interior of every Masonic Lodge is a temple. That was it before Joseph Smith, so I think this is an interesting, unique parallel.  If anyone knows of another temple builder before Joseph Smith, I would love to know, please let me know.

Check out our conversation….

Historian Clair Barrus tells about the masonic connections in Oliver Cowdery’s family.

Don’t miss our previous conversation about Masonry and Mormonism with historian Cheryl Bruno!

405: Mormon-Mason Similarities/Differences (Bruno)

404: Joseph Smith’s Masonic Connections (Bruno)

403: Masonry from King Solomon to Kirtland (Bruno)

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Was Oliver Cowdery a Polygamist?

Oliver Cowdery has been accused of practicing polygamy before he was authorized to do so.  In our next conversation with Dr. Bill Smith we’ll address these rumors.  Are they true?

Bill:  That I think is wrong.  I think it developed out of a story that happened because before Oliver left on his Lamanite mission to the borders of the Lamanites in Missouri, he was with Parley Pratt and a couple of other guys going to be missionaries out there to the Lamanites.  They get commissioned by revelation to do this.

Before he leaves, he has asked Elizabeth Whitmer to marry him, so he is engaged to her.  On the way through Ohio he meets another woman there, falls madly in love with her, asks her to marry him.  That’s the extent of any Cowdery polygamy.  That was a pretty big issue for a number of early Mormons.  Some of his mission companions talk about this later.  That was a big issue.  He has a high council session about this thing.  He repents.  “I’m really going to marry Elizabeth.” This other woman was just a flight of fancy or something.  But that’s the extent of it.

We will talk about Oliver’s accusation of Joseph’s dirty, nasty, filthy affair with Fanny Alger.

Bill:  There is no evidence as far as I know of that.  I think that Oliver and some other people were aware of the Alger affair…

Don’t forget to listen to our conversation about Emma!  Check out our conversation…..

Oliver Cowdery

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Polygamy Rumors–Declaration on Marriage

Oliver Cowdery opposed polygamy

In our third conversation with Dr. Brian Hales we’ll talk about the earliest rumors of polygamy.  In 1835, the Doctrine & Covenants published a Declaration on Marriage.  We’ve got a couple questions about that.  First of all, did Joseph Smith actually author that revelation or was it someone else like Oliver Cowdery?

Brian:  You know in my volume one, I go into this in some detail, and what we find is yes Joseph was gone, and yes they were quick to get this passed.  In fact they called for this conference on Sunday to be done on Monday and there were almost no leaders there.  The Quorum of the Twelve there were almost no one present, the High Council really weren’t represented.  The theory is that they were trying to get it pushed through before Joseph got back because Oliver had these reasons and stuff.

I don’t think so and I’m grateful for Michael Marquardt for helping me.  We sat one afternoon down in his basement and we went through all the documents, and what we find is at that at point in time they needed to go forward with printing the Doctrine & Covenants.  They had published we think most of the book up to section 101, which is the Article on Marriage and that they’re having piles of all these papers around the printing office. So we think, or at least I think and I think Michael agrees that the driver at that point was really that they just wanted to get official approval so that they could finish publishing the Doctrine & Covenants and so I don’t think that they were trying to do something backhanded with Joseph.

When Joseph came back there’s no evidence that he really disapproved of what had happened.  In fact he quotes or refers to the Article on Marriage two or three times later when he is performing marriages.  He said this declares our church’s belief which they had to have in writing in order for the elders of the church to be authorized by the state to perform state recognized marriages, so there were a number of things….

GT interrupts:  So whether Oliver may have authored it or not, it didn’t seem like it bothered Joseph at all and he was fine with it.  Is that safe to say?

Brian:  I believe so.  I’d have to refresh my memory, but what we do know is he could have had it rescinded but he also quoted it as authoritative and Michael Marquardt pointed this out to me I think he’s even published that somewhere that Joseph did consider it after the fact to be the official declaration of the church at that time.

Second, was it a response to polygamy that could have been happening in the Kirtland community?  What does Dr. Brian Hales think about these things?

Brian:  The first accusation against the Latter-day Saints, they weren’t called that then, against the Mormons, the Mormonites, that they had embraced some alternate form of marriage, came in 1831.  It was in conjunction with the Law of Consecration and it was basically not only do they share everything, they share wives.  That was the accusation that came up.

Of course it’s easily refuted.  There’s nothing to support that it was even thought of or discussed.  So when people say they were talking about polygamy in Kirtland, I would really like to see the data on that, that this was really a response to polygamy because my research shows that there was, with respect to Joseph and Fanny Alger, discussion of adultery and that was the claim that everybody was worried about.  I don’t find anybody discussing polygamy during that period.

Don’t forget to check out parts 1 and 2 of our interview with Dr. Brian Hales.  When do you think polygamy started being practiced among the Mormons?

Polygamy Rumors – Declaration on Marriage