Oliver Cowdrey was present during the translation of the Book of Mormon more than any other person besides Joseph Smith, and he participated in several extraordinary restoration events. Yet despite those remarkable spiritual experiences, a few years later, a rift began to grow between him and Joseph Smith. And on April 12th, 1838, he was excommunicated from the church. Is important to understand that Oliver’s excommunication was not an isolated incident, and the factors leading up to this action were complex.
Six charges were eventually sustained against him. Similar charges were also lodged the next day against Limón Johnson, an apostle, and against David Wittmer, another one of the three witnesses and Oliver’s brother in law. Their high level misconduct raised problems of conspicuous opposition to rules of the church, hearing the testimonies of 10 witnesses, including Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Frederick G. Williams, the local High Council court decided to excommunicate Oliver Cowdrey and then also Johnson and Wittmer.
On the very next day, the council held that Oliver had forsaken the cause of God, be taking himself to the beggarly elements of the world and neglecting his high and holy calling contrary to his profession. Indeed, he was urging lawsuits and causing disputations among church members over property and was seeking to destroy Joseph’s reputation by falsely insinuating his misconduct. Oliver had been involved with counterfeiting money and take it a printing press and type without permission and had failed to return promissory notes after they had been paid.
Fundamentally, Oliver refused to be governed by any ecclesiastical authority in any temporal matters. And rather than appearing before this council of his brethren, Oliver had decided to withdraw from the church. In the end, none of these problems had anything directly or indirectly to do with Oliver’s testimony of The Book of Mormon. As a result, although Oliver left the church for a time, he never wavered in his testimony of The Book of Mormon or of the divine origins of the restoration 10 years after his withdrawal.
Oliver Cowdrey humbly returned to the church and was rebaptized. And now you know why.