Tuesday, October 24, 2017

the life and character of our esteemed friend and brother, J. Smith JR

Oliver Cowdery's eight historical letters were written in 1834 and 1835, partly in response to anti-Mormon attacks that focused on two issues:

1. The character of Joseph Smith

2. The historicity and authenticity of the Book of Mormon.

In 2017, critics of the Church continue to focus on these two issues, so we can learn a lot from the way that Joseph and Oliver addressed the issues in their day.

I'll post some excerpts from the letters to illustrate how effective they were. You will see why Joseph made sure these letters were republished so often during his lifetime.

October 1834

The following communication was designed to have been published in the last No. of the Star; but owing to a press of other matter it was laid over for this No. of the Messenger and Advocate. Since it was written, upon further reflection, we have thought that a full history of the rise of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and the most interesting parts of its progress, to the present time, would be worthy the perusal of the Saints.-If circumstances admit, an article on this subject will appear in each subsequent No. of the Messenger and Advocate, until the time when the church was driven from Jackson Co. Mo. by a lawless banditti; & such other remarks as may be thought appropriate and interesting.

That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J. SMITH jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensable. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints.-To do justice to this subject will require time and space: we therefore ask the forbearance of our readers, assuring them that it shall be founded upon facts.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Though we are imperfect...

From time to time I hear people object to Letter VII because Oliver Cowdery left the Church for a while, so we shouldn't trust anything he wrote.

That's the weakest excuse so far for rejecting Letter VII. When he wrote Letter VII in July 1835, Oliver was the Assistant President of the Church. In nine months, April 1836, he would receive the keys of the Priesthood from Moses, Elijah and Elias with Joseph Smith in the Kirtland temple, along with a personal visitation from the Savior Himself.

Last Saturday in General Conference, President Uchtdorf offered important perspective on Oliver Cowdery:

This past summer our family had a wonderful opportunity to visit some early Church history sites in the eastern United States. In a special way, we relived the history of that time. People I had read so much about—people like Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and Thomas B. Marsh—became more real to me as we walked where they walked and pondered the sacrifices they made to build the kingdom of God.
They had many great traits that allowed them to make significant contributions to the Restoration of the Church of Jesus Christ. But they were also human, weak, and fallible—just as you and I are. Some found themselves at variance with the Prophet Joseph Smith and fell away from the Church. Later, many of the same people had a change of heart, humbled themselves, and once again sought and found fellowship with the Saints.
We might have a tendency to judge these brethren and other members like them. We might say, “I would never have abandoned the Prophet Joseph.”
While that may be true, we don’t really know what it was like to live in that time, in those circumstances. No, they were not perfect, but how encouraging it is to know that God was able to use them anyway. He knew their strengths and weaknesses, and He gave them the extraordinary opportunity to contribute a verse or a melody to the glorious anthem of the Restoration.
How encouraging it is to know, though we are imperfect, if our hearts are turned to God, He will be generous and kind and use us for His purposes.