Was Oliver Cowdery Superstitious & An Unreliable Witness?

“Like Joseph and most of the Book of Mormon witnesses, Oliver Cowdery and his family were treasure hunters. Oliver’s preferred tool of trade, as mentioned above, was the divining rod. He was known as a ‘rodsman.'”
(CES Letter)

Totally False

Oliver Cowdery was a schoolteacher and lawyer. He did not engage in treasure hunting, either professionally or as an amateur. There is no evidence Oliver Cowdery or his family used a divining rod. The term “rodsman” referred to a man who was rumored to have kept a diving rod and visited the Cowdery home before Oliver was born. The allegations that Oliver Cowdery used a diving rod or looked for treasure are completely made up. CES Letter is repeating this false claim they made earlier.


“Along with the witnesses, Oliver held a magical mindset.”
(CES Letter)

CES Letter keeps claiming this, but they have presented zero evidence. None of the witnesses believed anything magical or superstitious. There is no evidence any of the witnesses were treasure seekers. There is zero evidence that any of the witnesses had anything to do with magic, treasure, or diving rods. Oliver Cowdery was an accomplished school teacher and lawyer. These character attacks are baseless.

Oliver Cowdery Was Not Joseph Smith’s Cousin

“As scribe for the Book of Mormon, co-founder of the Church, and cousin to Joseph Smith, there was a serious conflict of interest in Oliver being a witness.”
(CES Letter)

Not true. Oliver Cowdery was a third cousin to Joseph Smith’s mother, making the closest relative his great-great-great-grandparent. They were very distant relations. They were not cousins and never met before the Book of Mormon was translated.

Not A Co-Founder – Oliver Cowdery became the second -highest authority in the LDS church. According to Wikipedia (which fails to cite a source), his title was “assistant-president” for a few years. I don’t know if that is true or not, but still, how does that make him co-founder? How is that a “conflict of interest”? I do not think that word means what you think it means.

If Oliver Cowdery had a conflict of interest because he was related to Joseph Smith, and if he co-founded the church, why did he leave the church not long after? You would think someone would a conflict of interest would stick with it, or at least deny his testimony–which Oliver Cowdery never did.

CES Letter Logical Fallacies

Falsehood Oliver Cowdery and Joseph Smith are not cousins, but very distant relations.

Oliver Cowdery was not co-founder of the Mormon church. Co-founders don’t tend to leave the church they started.

Oliver cowdery did not use a diving rod or search for treasure.

Repetition CES Letter already made the argument that Oliver Cowdery used a divining rod.
Non Sequitur The reasons CES Letter gives for a conflict of interests are stupid.
Ad Hominem This narrative attacks Oliver Cowdery’s character.
Argument From
CES Letter claims: “All of the Book of Mormon witnesses, excepting Martin Harris, were related by blood or marraige either to the Smith’s or the Whitmers.” So? It was a small community, a tiny farm town in upstate New York on the edge of the wild frontier. Most folks were related or connected through marriage. Is having the same great-great-great-grandfather as another person’s mother really that shocking?

It is very easy to attack a man’s character 200 years after his death.

Begging The Question The translation of the Book of Mormon preceded the founding of the Mormon Church. So wouldn’t it make sense that one of the witnesses, Oliver Cowdery, would be heavily involved in the church’s founding?
Appeal To Celebrity CES Letter says: “Mark Twain made light of this obvious problem: ‘…I could not feel more satisfied and at rest if the entire Whitmer family had testified.'” Who cares what Mark Twain thought?

The difference between skeptics and Mormons when it comes to testimonies is skeptics can cherry-pick to back up their pre-conceived conclusion, while Mormons get both sides of the issue and seek a personal witness to know if something is true, by a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. Skeptics might read something online and instantly believed it because it aligned with their narrative. It is all about supporting the ever-shifting narrative.

One very subtle part of the narrative here is the idea that the witnesses had a conflict of interest for merely being involved in Mormonism and part of the local community. Not only does this undercut the credibility of their testimony, but it sets up skeptics to spin a future false narrative that Mormon leaders somehow profit from tithing.

Witnesses Are Important – At first, I was confused why some skeptics devote so much to attacking the Book of Mormon witnesses. Like most Mormons I never considered the witnesses and anything more than a nice supporting page for the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, not really all that necessary. Why do some skeptics attack their characters, almost as much as they attack Joseph Smith’s? Derision is currency for Antimormons; people will be turned off if they display too much bitterness so they need to choose their battles carefully.

Daniel C. Peterson gave a great explanation for the importance of the Book of Mormon witnesses. Often, skeptics attack them after having reduced Mormon testimonies as nothing more than emotion. Suddenly, the witness testimonies of the Book of Mormon are like the positive vibes you feel from watching Forrest Gump?

We are living in a secular Western world, and ex-Mormons tend to become secularists. The witness testimonies are some of the best secular evidences for the Book of Mormon’s truth. It is one thing for a guy to claim visions, but it gains a lot more credibility when a dozen other men swear they the same thing and know it for a fact. Antimormons are reduced to dismissing the entire 19th century New England area as a bunch of superstitious primitives. For people who insist on sound physical evidence, I am stunned that some skeptics would attack a man based on such shaky evidence and fake quotes.

(All claims in this article are personal opinion and speculation. Quotes regarding CES Letter are derived the March 2015 version of CES Letter and may not reflect more recent versions.)

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