Learning to Love
Doctrine and Covenants

Section 106: Warren A. Cowdery By Michael J. Preece

Section 106: Warren A. Cowdery

Among Joseph’s labors during the summer of 1834, he worked with his own hands quarrying stone for the Kirtland Temple. On October 16, he undertook a month­long mission to Michigan, returning to Kirtland in late November. Joseph’s greatest ecclesiastical concern during this time seems to have been for the preparation and training of church leaders. When construction of the Kirtland printing office was finished (D&C 94:10), a room was set apart specifically for “the school.” This School of the Elders (sometimes called the “School of the Prophets”) was designed to train the elders for their ministries and to prepare them for ordinances in the Kirtland Temple. No initiatory ordinances, however, were actually performed at these meetings. It was in this School of the Elders that the Lectures on Faith were first delivered to the Church. The Prophet wrote of this month of preparation as follows: “No month ever found me more busily engaged than November; but as my life consisted of activity and unyielding exertions, I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it. . . . I continued my labors daily, preparing for the school [of the Elders], and received the following” [section 106]. Two copies of section 106, neither of which is the original, exist in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery. These both state that the revelation was received on November 25, 1834, at Kirtland, Ohio. By this time it been roughly five months since the Prophet Joseph had received section 105 and disbanded Zion’s Camp.

Earlier in 1834, actually in March, Joseph Smith and others had traveled through western New York State preaching the gospel and gathering volunteers and donations for the Zion’s Camp march. Joseph was warmly received in the small town of Freedom in Cattaraugus County. He therefore organized a branch of the Church there.

Section 106 was directed to Warren A. Cowdery, Oliver Cowdery’s oldest brother who lived in Freedom, Cattaraugus County, New York. Oliver had eight brothers and sisters in all. Warren was about eighteen years older than Oliver and had been born and reared In Freedom. Warren was the first postmaster in Freedom, and he also practiced medicine there and ran the local apothecary. He had lived in Freedom forty-three years when he joined the Church.

This revelation appoints Brother Cowdery to be the presiding high priest or branch president of the small branch in Freedom. He moved with his family to Kirtland in 1836 where he served briefly as a scribe for the Church. He was one of the twenty-seven scribes or amanuenses that Joseph used during his term as prophet. In 1837 he, along with Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Warren Parrish, assisted in writing the prayer for the dedication of the Kirtland Temple. He left the Church in 1838, as did his brother Oliver, but there is no record of his returning to the Church as did Oliver. He died February 23, 1851, in Kirtland, still out of harmony with the Church.

An interesting note is that Warren Cowdery’s son, Hervey, in 1836, lived with Joseph and Emma as an indentured servant. While at the Smith’s, he worked for them, and in return received his board, room, and education.

1 It is my will that my servant Warren A. Cowdery should be appointed and ordained a presiding high priest over my church, in the land of Freedom and the regions round about;

verse 1 “a presiding high priest over my church” Warren is called to preside over the Church in his hometown and also in the surrounding territories. In this respect, he was more like a district or mission president than a modern bishop or branch president. A conference held in his area the following April included fifteen different branches. Warren is also called to minister to the needs of the local branch in Freedom and the saints in the surrounding area.

2 And should preach my everlasting gospel, and lift up his voice and warn the people, not only in his own place, but in the adjoining counties;

3 And devote his whole time to this high and holy calling, which I now give unto him, seeking diligently the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness, and all things necessary shall be added thereunto; for the laborer is worthy of his hire.

verse 3 “devote his whole time” Brother Cowdery’s call was to full-time service in the Church. As this would make it impossible for him to support his family through his previous occupation(s), he was from the time of this calling, to be supported by the Church.

“the laborer is worthy of his hire” The Lord does not ask for full-time service that will leave the worker destitute. Elder Bruce R. McConkie observed: “In the true church we neither preach for hire nor divine for money. . . . All our service in God’s kingdom is predicated on his eternal law which states: ‘The laborer in Zion shall labor for Zion; for if they labor for money they shall perish’ (2 Nephi 26:31). We know full well that the laborer is worthy of his hire, and that those who devote all their time to the building up of the kingdom must be provided with food, clothing, shelter, and the necessities of life. We must employ teachers in our schools, architects to design our temples, contractors to build our synagogues, and managers to run our businesses. But those so employed, along with the whole membership of the Church, participate also on a freewill and voluntary basis in otherwise furthering the Lord’s work” (CR, April 1975, 77).

4 And again, verily I say unto you, the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and it overtaketh the world as a thief in the night—

verse 4 “a thief in the night” The themes of night and day, or dark and light, in this verse and the next may refer as much to the spiritual condition of those alive upon the earth at the second coming of the Savior as to the time of his arrival. The wicked are always asleep in the dark. They are even in the dark at noonday (D&C 95:5-6). Thus Paul says, “It is high time to awake out of sleep” (Romans 13:11), and “Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the [spiritually] dead, and Christ shall give thee light” (Ephesians 5:14).

5 Therefore, gird up your loins, that you may be the children of light, and that day shall not overtake you as a thief.

verse 5 “children of light” Those who have obeyed the gospel are entitled to the Holy Ghost which enlightens their minds. They will spiritually comprehend the signs of the times and are wise enough to continue to live in accordance with the gospel light. The coming of the Lord will not overtake them as does a thief who succeeds under cover of darkness, when people are not prepared for him. The source of all light is the Savior himself (D&C 88:6-13).

“that day shall not overtake you as a thief” The world will neither expect nor be prepared for Christ’s second coming. However, the children of light, though they may not know the exact hour or day, will be living in such a way that they are prepared for his coming at all times. When that day comes, they will not need a wakeup call, a timeout, or even a few moments notice to repent and prepare themselves to meet the Lord. They will already be awake, dressed “in robes of righteousness,” and ready for the Bridegroom (D&C 109:76).

6 And again, verily I say unto you, there was joy in heaven when my servant Warren bowed to my scepter, and separated himself from the crafts of men;

verse 6 “joy in heaven” The term “bowed to my scepter” means that he accepted the gospel and joined the Church. This verse suggests that angels are aware of our individual lives and choices and that they have a strong interest in our success (compare Matthew 18:10; Luke 15:10; D&C 62:3). In the same manner, God and the heavens wept at the choices of the disobedient in the days of Enoch and Noah (Moses 7:28-29), and they undoubtedly weep or rejoice at individual choices made today.

“the crafts of men” This expression is likely meant in the negative sense, that is, priestcrafts.

7 Therefore, blessed is my servant Warren, for I will have mercy on him; and, notwithstanding the vanity of his heart, I will lift him up inasmuch as he will humble himself before me.

verse 7 “the vanity of his heart” He is called to his position in spite of his imperfection. This is certainly true of all of us that are called to positions in the Church. In this particular instance, perhaps the Lord identifies a specific weakness that will eventually lead to his spiritual downfall, as described in the introductory comments for this section.

8 And I will give him grace and assurance wherewith he may stand; and if he continue to be a faithful witness and a light unto the church I have prepared a crown for him in the mansions of my Father. Even so. Amen.

verse 8 “if he continue to be a faithful witness” Warren is given a conditional promise of exaltation similar to the one each of us has from the Lord.

- Michael J. Preece