I was surprised to learn that it isn’t just Joseph Smith who has connections to masonry and magic.  It turns out that Oliver Cowdery has a family history with magic and masonry.  Clair Barrus will tell us more.

Clair:  Let me start with Oliver Cowdery and his father William Cowdery. I think there’s some interesting early Masonic influences that may have come through Oliver Cowdery. Oliver Cowdery’s father was actually involved very early on in a group called, the New Israelites. When you think of New Israelites, compare that with Latter-day Saints.  New and Latter are related, and Saints and Israelites are related. So, you have an interesting relationship just in the naming there. The New Israelites were a very interesting group of people up in Vermont that William Cowdery was involved with. They used rods a lot. They were rodsmen, and they would use rods to get revelations through. Then they created a religious movement and they had a dietary code/restrictions, just has an interesting parallel to the Word of Wisdom. They wanted to build a new Jerusalem. They actually would use their divining rods to gather underground gold and had vast heaps of gold and they were going to use that gold to pave the streets of their new Jerusalem.  They got a revelation. Nathaniel Wood, who was the leader, got a revelation that they should build a temple. Now this is interesting because think about it. What temple builders are there in American religious history? The Mormons or the Latter-day Saints and the New Israelites and the Masons. The Masons are symbolic temple builders.  The interior of every Masonic Lodge is a temple. That was it before Joseph Smith, so I think this is an interesting, unique parallel.  If anyone knows of another temple builder before Joseph Smith, I would love to know, please let me know.

In case you don’t know Clair, he has been studying Mormon history since before Al Gore invented the internet!

Clair:  Well, to show my ancientness, I was actually online in 1984, on the internet, when only engineering firms and universities were on the internet.

GT:  Was this like Prodigy or AOL or something else?

Clair:  It was before. I remember when AOL and Prodigy came online. This was pre-anything. You had to be working at an engineering firm, and some universities had access.

GT:  So like the ARPANET?

Clair:  Oh, yeah, it was the ARPANET. Yeah, it was pre-internet. It was the ARPANET.

GT:  Wow, you’re very experienced.

Clair:  Yeah, I’ve been around for a while. (Chuckling)

In the 19th and 20th century, dowsing rods were commonly used to find water.  Apparently Oliver Cowdery believed he could get revelation from one of these rods, and Joseph Smith encouraged him to use his rod of revelation.

GT:  Okay, so let me make sure. I want to be clear on this. So, Oliver Cowdery has had a history of receiving his own revelations through this rod, or wand.

Clair:  Yes….Oliver shows up in 1829, and it’s literally, like within a month, that these revelations come out.

GT:  So, Oliver says, “Joseph, I get these revelations through my wand,” and then Joseph says, “Oh, you’re going to have this great gift, too.”

Clair:  Yes, and probably, I think, to be a translator.

GT:  So, then we get, I think it is D&C [9] where it says you must study it out in your mind.

Clair:  Right.

GT:  That’s a scripture that all of us are familiar with.

Clair:  Yeah.

GT:  I don’t think most of us are familiar with these rods.

Clair:  Right.

Clair:  So Joseph had a seer stone, through which he translated. Oliver has a rod. My guess is that was what he was supposed to translate through, because he’d been getting revelations through it already, just like Joseph had been getting revelations through his seer stone. Both are treasure seeking tools. Why wouldn’t it be? It seems the most obvious thing. So Oliver, here’s how I read it. To Joseph, it’s easy. He pops the rock into a hat and man, he’s seeing stuff.  He can see, just like that. It’s easy and revelations come popping in.  He doesn’t even have to try. Then Oliver’s is like me, right? You give me anything. {Clair picks up a can of soda and talks to the can.}  It would be like, “Tell me some stuff.” And it just doesn’t happen. It doesn’t happen for Oliver.  Joseph says, “It’s easy, Oliver, you just study it out in your mind, and if you feel good about it, what you think the translation is, that’s it. If you have a stupor of thought, then that’s the wrong translation. But then it never works.

GT:  So is Oliver trying to use the seer stone? Or is he trying to use the rod?

Clair:  Well, we don’t know. I think it’s the rod.

Apparently other church leaders used a rod of revelation as well. Were you aware of this history with D&C 9?