Background on Oliver Cowdery

Oliver Cowdery first met Joseph Smith on April 5, 1829, almost exactly one year prior to the organization of the church.  His arrival in Harmony, PA was a direct answer to Joseph Smith's plea to the Lord for help with the translation.  After Martin Harris had lost the 116 pages, the prophet used Emma and Samuel H. Smith as scribes, but the work was going slowly.  In March of that year, the prophet said, "I had not where to go and I cried unto the Lord that he would provide for me to accomplish the work whereunto he had commanded me." (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p. 8)

At the time, Oliver was a 22 year-old native of Vermont, one year younger than Joseph.  He had solid education; his background included work in farming, blacksmithing, and as a store clerk. The Church History in the Fullness of Times manual reads as follows:          

            "Early in 1829 one of Oliver's older brothers, Lyman Cowdery, was hired to teach at the village school in Manchester township (near Palmyra) close to where Joseph Smith's family lived.  Lyman was unable to fulfill his commitment and suggested that the trustees hire his brother Oliver. Approved by the trustees, one of whom was Hyrum Smith, Oliver commenced teaching and was invited to board at the home of Joseph Smith, Sr. Lucy Smith related that almost immediately 'he began to hear from all quarters concerning the plates, and as soon began to importune Mr. Smith (Joseph Smith, Sr.) upon the subject, but for a considerable length of time did not succeed in eliciting any information.'  The Smiths were reluctant to share their experiences because they had been ridiculed by neighbors in the past.

            "When Oliver gained the trust of the Smiths, Joseph Smith, Sr., told him about the plates.  Oliver prayed privately and meditated upon the subject, even confiding in Joseph Smith, Sr., that he felt impressed that he would have the privilege of writing for Joseph, who he had not yet met.  He told the family that it was the 'will of the Lord' that he go with Samuel to visit Joseph in the spring following the school term.  He said, 'if there is a work for me to do in this thing, I am determined to attend to it.'"

Joseph explains the reason for Oliver's determination, "[the] Lord appeared unto a young man by the name of Oliver Cowdry [Cowdery] and shewed unto him the plates in a vision and also the truth of the work and what the Lord was about to do through me, his unworthy servant; therefore he was desirous to come and write for me . . ." (The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p. 8)