Early Mormonism Collection 2

"The Golden Bible"
Cleveland Herald Nov. 25, 1830
(Original in Western Reserve Historical Society)

Partial Text of Article

"The Golden Bible." -- Yes, reader strange as it may appear, there is a new Bible just published, entitled the "Book of Mormon," and better known to some as the Golden Bible. We have no doubt many will be shocked to learn there are those sacrilegious enough to contend that a new bible has been given to the children of men. But it is even so, for we have lately purchased one for the gratification of our curiosity, which was rather excited on learning that its doctrines were taught and believed in this and the adjoining counties.

We have not read it in course, but have perused it sufficiently to be convinced it is one of the veriest impositions of the day. The following is from the title page:... [reproductions of 1830 Book of Mormon title page, the preface, and a list of its books, etc. follow]....

This bible is closed by two certificates commending the work; t[o] the first is attached the name of Oliver Cowdry and two other persons, and to the last are eight names, among which are those of the father and two brothers of the reputed author.

On reading the name of Oliver Cowdry, in support of the divine authenticity of the work, whatever faith we might have been inspired with on reading the certificate, was banished, for we had known Cowdry some seven or eight years ago, when he was a dabbler in the art of Printing, and principally occupied in writing and printing pamphlets, with which, as a pedestrian Pedlar, he visited the towns and villages of western New York and Canada, and the only opinion we have of the origin of this Golden Bible, is that Mr. Cowdry and Mr. Smith the reputed author, have taken the old Bible to keep up a train of circumstances, and by altering names and language have produced the string of Jargon called the "Book of Mormon." with the intention of making mon[e]y by the sale of their Books; and being aware they would not sell unless an excitement and curiosity could be raised in the public mind, have therefore sent out twelve Apostles to promulgate its doctrines, several of whom are in this vicinity expounding its mysteries and baptising converts to its principles, whose labors, we understand are principally blest among the superstitious and ignorant or hypocritical, presenting a new proof that all fools are not dead, and knavery in any garb may, yet find votaries.

Partial Scan of Article

Other Printings and Reprints

The editor of the Ashtabula Journal, in nearby Ashtabula, Ohio picked up this story from the Herald and ran a reprint on Dec. 4, 1830. The Journal did not add any new information or editorial comments to its reproduction of John St. John's article. Surprisingly, Eber D. Howe at the Painesville Telegraph did not pick up this story from his fellow editor in Cleveland. Perhaps this omission on Howe's part was due to the fact that he was then printing his own first-hand accounts of the same events. Howe's Nov. 16, 1830 "The Golden Bible" mentions Cowdery but does not give any details concerning him. Howe's Nov. 30, 1830 "The Book of Mormon" is largely analogous to St. John's article but, again, Howe does not provide any details on Cowdery.

Comments:   John St. John, the editor of the Cleveland Herald, mentions that he had known Oliver Cowdry [sic] "some seven or eight years" previous to the end of 1830 and also says that Oliver printed pamphlets and peddled them in "western New York and Canada" at that time. Oliver Cowdery was born Oct. 3, 1806. He would have been about 21 or 22 years of age at the time John St. John recalled knowing him as a "dabbler in the art of Printing, and... as a pedestrian Pedlar."

None of Oliver's biographers credit him with having been engaged in printing or pamphlet sales at such an early age. All that Preston Nibley had to say in his The Witnesses of the Book of Mormon (1958), was that in 1825 Oliver moved "to the western part of the state of New York," and that "after his arrival in New York, Oliver was engaged as a clerk in a store." Stanley R. Gunn's Oliver Cowdery, Second Elder and Scribe (1962) passes over this period in Oliver's life without any comment. Richard L. Anderson's Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses (1981) also ignores Cowdery's early employment. Phillip R. Legg, author of Oliver Cowdery, The Elusive Second Elder of the Restoration (1989) makes some attempt to account for Oliver's youthful occupations, but all he really says is that Oliver worked as a blacksmith and did "odd jobs on farms" between 1825 and 1828 (p. 24). Legg also mentions (p. 42) that after Aug. 1, 1829 "Oliver moved back to the Palmyra area to supervise the printing of the Book of Mormon."

The only other available scrap of information connecting a young OIiver with the printing trade appears in his Dec. 28, 1829 letter to Joseph Smith, where he writes from Manchester saying " may... look rather strange to you to find that I have so soon become a printer..." (transcribed copy in "Kirtland Letter Book" pp. 4-5). Richard L. Bushman, in his Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (1984), says on page 108: "Grandin's typesetter said that Oliver set ten or twelve pages in all of the first edition." In his footnote for that information Bushman also mentions John St. John's 1830 Cleveland Herald article, apparently in support of Cowdery's professional ability as a typesetter.

As for Oliver Cowdery serving as a "pedestrian Pedlar," his first documented employment in that line of endeavor came in 1830 when he and Parley P. Pratt (another "pedestrian Pedlar" of considerable practice) traveled on foot, peddling copies of The Book of Mormon out of their backpacks all the way from New York to Missouri. Whether that was truly Cowdery's first experience in selling religious publications village-to-village and door-to-door, history has yet to inform us.

For additional information on Cowdery's early life see the James D. Still Papers (Accn 1591) in University of Utah's Marriott Library, Manuscripts Division. Also see the unpublished papers of LDS historical researcher Scott Faulring.

collections index       |      e-mail site host       |      Home

revision 0a (11-30-99)