Mormon History, January 1849

Box 1228.
Salt Lake City, Utah, May 21/[19]07 189[blank]
By Samuel Whitney Richards.
Returning from my first European Mission in the fall of 1848, I found my wife in the neighbor=hood of Winter Quarters, having gone that far from Nauvoo where I had left her in the spring of 1846 on her way to the Mountains, whither the Saints were now gathering to for a resting place. They were being driven from Nauvoo, their third resting place, having made their appeal to the President of the United States for redress of grievences and wrongs endured and receiving from him the response,--Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you! which determined the Prophet Joseph Smith, as the leader of the people, to take them to the Rocky Mountains from under the jurisdiction of the American Flag, and settle <<upon>> as it then was, Mexican Territory.
Upon arriving at Winter Quarters and finding my family and many friends there, I determined to spend the winter there in that neighborhood, and finding a place to be vacated soon over the border of Missouri, I moved there with my little family for the winter in view of continuing my journey to the mountains, the Saints newly appointed gathering place.
While here I was visited by Oliver Cowdery and wife on their way to visit the wife's brother [blank space] then [p. 1] living in Jackson County Mo. before starting for the Mountains in the spring to settle with the Saints, now locating in Salt Lake Valley.
Just before the time of their arrival at my home a very severe snow storm comenced, and they were very glad when they called for shelter to find they were with those of their own faith in what is called Mormonism.
The storm was severe and continued <<so>> as to stop travel, and they spent over two weeks with us at our then home.
This was not lost time to either [of] us. He soon learned of my past life and I of his. Our time was almost entirely spent in getting acquainted with each others past history.
I was surprised to see the bright recollection he seemed to have of his early experience with the prophet Joseph, especially as relating to the translation of the Book of Mormon, some of which I will here relate.
He represents Joseph as sitting by a table with the plates before him, and he reading the record with the Urim & Thummim. Oliver, his scribe, sits close beside to hear and write every word as translated. This is done by holding the translators over the words of the written record, and the translation appears distinctly in the instrument, which had been touched [p. 2] by the finger of God and dedicated and consecrated for the express purpose of translating languages. This instrument now used fully performed its Mission. Every word was made distinctly visible even to every letter, and if Oliver did not in writing spell the word correctly it remained in the trans=lator until it was written correctly. This was the Mystery to Oliver, how Joseph being compar[a]tively ignorant could correct him in spelling without seeing the word written, and he would not be satisfied until he should be permitted to have the gift to translate as well as Joseph. To satisfy Oliver, Joseph with him went to the Lord in prayer until Oliver had the gift by which he could translate, and by so doing learned how it was that Joseph could correct him even in the spelling of words.
Any one acquainted with the Book of Mormon can well see the necessity of such a provision; as the Book is full of names of persons, places, and names of strange entirely unusual in our ordinary English language. After this experience Oliver was quite satisfied to write what was given him, and make the corrections required. The entire record written as the Book of Mormon was thus brought forth to the world, not by the learning of Man, but by the Gift and power of God, and is Truth [p. 3] This interview with Brother and sister Cowdery was one of entire freedom and familiarity, although we had never Met before; and his experience in connection with the prophet Joseph, when the ministrations of Angels were frequent in restoring Priesthood, and the Keys of Knowledge by which Man might be in future, in constant communication with God and Angel[s], for the establishment of an Everlasting Government upon the earth, made it all a most devinely and sacred interview to me.
Before his leaving it was arranged that he should return in the spring in time to join the early emigration to the Valley of Salt Lake, where he had said he was going to give his time and services to the church, and <<if>> they desired it of him he would go [to] the ends of the Earth and tell <<the>> world of things that no other person then living could tell, of the Ministrations of God to man in the early history of this great and last dispensation of God to man.
Certainly to me his testimony was of the spiritual and abiding nature never to be forgotten.
Oliver never returned; he was taken to join the throng above--to the society of Joseph, and others of sacred memory to him.
[s] S. W. Richards.
{Editorial Note:
On his way to Richmond, Missouri, in , Oliver Cowdery and his wife Elizabeth, visited Samuel W. Richards at his home at Winter Quarters (now Florence, Nebraska). The following document is Richards' late reminiscence of his interview with Cowdery about early Mormon history (see also III.G.17, OLIVER COWDERY TESTIMONY, 13 JAN 1849). The four-page document is written and signed by Samuel W. Richards. An almost identical typewritten and signed copy, dated 25 May 1907, is also located in the LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah.} January 1849

[source: Samuel W. Richards, Statement, 21 May 1907, Samuel W. Richards Papers, LDS Church Archives, Salt Lake City, Utah., as cited in Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents: Oliver Cowdery Interview With Samuel W. Richards]

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