Scholar's Research on Oliver Cowdery Earns Award

Scott H. Faulring, formerly a research associate at FARMS and now a research historian at BYU’s Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, was honored at the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association on 18 May for his research on Oliver Cowdery. “The Return of Oliver Cowdery,” a study that appeared in the recent FARMS volume The Disciple as Witness: Essays on Latter-day Saint History and Doctrine in Honor of Richard Lloyd Anderson, earned Faulring the T. Edgar Lyon Award of Excellence.

Faulring’s paper traces Oliver’s excommunication from the church in 1838, his 10-year absence, and his reconciliation with church leaders and rebaptism shortly before his death in 1850. In order to present this history from Oliver’s point of view, Faulring relied on letters Oliver wrote during his absence. ‘That’s the best defense—to let a person speak for himself,’ Faulring explains.

Oliver kept a nearly constant correspondence with Phineas H. Young, his brother-in-law and friend who was Brigham Young’s brother. As mediator be tween the Brethren and Oliver, ‘Phineas is the hero of this story,’ Faulring avers. ‘If not for him, perhaps Oliver would not have returned.’

Although Cowdery showed a genuine spirit of reconciliation within four years of his separation from the church, he waited several years for his name to be cleared so that his testimony of the Book of Mormon and the restoration of the gospel would not be compromised, Faulring says. This view counters the common belief that Oliver strived to obtain a leadership position upon returning to the church. ‘Cowdery was willing to admit he had faults,’ Faulring explains, ‘but he had the desire to come back in the least capacity, with no title or position, but as a common member of the church. This shows his integrity as a person.’

Along with Richard Lloyd Anderson, Faulring will coedit a four-volume documentary history of Oliver Cowdery, which is part of a larger publication project on the Book of Mormon witnesses.