The Faith to See: Burning in the Bosom and Translating the Book of Mormon in Doctrine and Covenants 9

Abstract: Doctrine and Covenants 9:7–9 is conventionally interpreted as the Lord’s description of the method by which the Book of Mormon was translated. A close reading of the entire revelation, however, suggests that the Lord was not telling Oliver Cowdery how to translate but rather how to know whether it was right for him to translate and how to obtain the faith necessary to do so. Faith would have enabled Oliver Cowdery to overcome his fear and translate, just as it would have enabled Peter (in Matthew 14) to overcome his fear and walk on water. Continue reading

The Cowdery Conundrum: Oliver’s Aborted Attempt to Describe Joseph Smith’s First Vision in 1834 and 1835

Abstract: In 1834, Oliver Cowdery began publishing a history of the Church in installments in the pages of the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. The first installment talks of the religious excitement and events that ultimately led to Joseph Smith’s First Vision at age 14. However, in the subsequent installment published two months later, Oliver claims that he made a mistake, correcting Joseph’s age from 14 to 17 and failing to make any direct mention of the First Vision. Oliver instead tells the story of Moroni’s visit, thus making it appear that the religious excitement led to Moroni’s visit.

This curious account has been misunderstood by some to be evidence that the “first” vision that Joseph claimed was actually that of the angel Moroni and that Joseph invented the story of the First Vision of the Father and Son at a later time. However, Joseph wrote an account of his First Vision in 1832 in which he stated that he saw the Lord, and there is substantial evidence that Oliver had this document in his possession at the time that he wrote his history of the Church. This essay demonstrates the correlations between Joseph Smith’s 1832 First Vision account, Oliver’s 1834/1835 account, and Joseph’s 1835 journal entry on the same subject. It is clear that not only did Oliver have Joseph’s history in his possession but that he used Joseph’s 1832 account as a basis for his own account. This essay also shows that Oliver knew of the First Vision and attempted to obliquely refer to the event several times in his second installment before continuing with his narrative of Moroni’s visit. Continue reading

Oliver Cowdery Daguerreotype Restored in Full Color

While any photographic likeness of the Prophet Joseph Smith seems to remain elusive1 or controversial at best,2 other early Church leaders have had somewhat better luck. In early 2006, Patrick A. Bishop was studying images in the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division when he discovered a daguerreotype that caught his attention.3 It had the appearance of Oliver Cowdery, and he reported his findings and research on this image in BYU Studies the same year.4 Bishop substantiated the image as Oliver Cowdery based on the shared locality of the daguerreotypist, James Presley Ball, and Cowdery, the dating of the clothing, age of the subject, comparing the face with other known images of Oliver, and descriptions of Oliver, among other things. Continue reading

  1. R. Scott Lloyd, “Photo of the Prophet Joseph? Possible, but nothing so far,” Church News, October 27, 2012,; “LDS Church issues statement regarding Joseph Smith image,” KSL, March 19, 2008, 

  2. Jared T., “Book Review: Shall Millions Now Know Brother Joseph Again? (Part 1),” The Juvenile Instructor, 1 May 2008, Also, Ardis E. Parshall, “That Daguerreotype Again (part 1 of 2),” Times and Seasons, May 2, 2008,

  3. [Unidentified man, half-length portrait, with arm resting on table with tablecloth], DAG no. 1363, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs. 

  4. Patrick A. Bishop, “An Original Daguerreotype of Oliver Cowdery Identified,” BYU Studies 45, no. 2 (2006): 100–111.