I take the liberty to hand you the accompanying communication, written by Oliver Cowdery, as a direct testimony of the facts therein set forth to myself personally, at the time indicated by the date affixed. At that time he, with his family, was spending a few days with me at my then residence in Missouri, as he was on his way to visit David Whitmer and family in Richmond, Mo., prior to his contemplated departure for Salt Lake City, that coming spring to spend the reminder of his days with and in laboring for the Church. As he was about to take his leave, after several days of most interesting and familiar conversation with me, he penned, with his own hand and in my presence, the testimony and statement herewith, which I deem worthy of record (Samuel W. Richards to editor, 21 March 1884, Deseret Evening News, 22 March 1884). -----------------------------------------------------------------
While darkness covered the earth and gross darkness the people [Isa. 60:2]; long after the authority to administer in holy things had been taken away, the Lord opened the heavens and sent forth his word for the salvation of Israel. In fulfillment of the sacred Scripture [Rev. 14:6] the everlasting Gospel was proclaimed by the mighty angel, (Moroni) who, clothed with the authority of his mission, gave glory to God in the highest. This Gospel is the "stone taken from the mountain without hands [Dan. 2:45]." John the Baptist, holding the keys of the Aaronic Priesthood; Peter, James and John, holding the keys of the Melchisedek Priesthood, have also ministered for those who shall be heirs of salvation, and with these ministrations ordained men to the same Priesthoods. These Priesthoods, with their authority, are now, and must continue to be, in the body of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Blessed is the Elder who has received the same, and thrice blessed and holy is he who shall endure to the end. Accept assurances, dear Brother, of the unfeigned prayer of him, who, in connection with Joseph the Seer, was blessed with the above ministrations, and who earnestly and devoutly hopes to meet you in the celestial glory.
OLIVER COWDERY. To Elder Samuel W. Richards, January 13th, 1849.
Samuel Whitney Richards (1824-1909) was born at Richmond, Berkshire County, Massachusetts. He was baptized in 1838. In 1842 he moved with his parents to Nauvoo, Illinois. After returning from a mission in Great Britain in 1848, he resided in eastern Missouri briefly before moving to Utah in 1849. From 1852 to 1854 and from 1857 to 1858, Richards served as president of the European Mission, during which time he edited the Millennial Star. He also served as president of the Eastern States Mission from 1895 to 1897 (Jenson 1971, 1:718-19, 4:318, 332).
In January 1849, Oliver Cowdery visited Richards at his home in Missouri and penned the present statement. When Cowdery's statement was published in the Deseret Evening News on 22 March 1884, Richards explained the circumstances of the writing Cowdery's testimony:}
[source: Oliver Cowdery, Statement to Samuel W. Richards, 13 January 1849, "Oliver Cowdery's Last Letter," Deseret Evening News 17 (22 March 1884). Reprinted in Improvement Era 2 (December 1898): 95-96; 17 (October 1914): 1168., as cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents: Oliver Cowdery Testimony]