A crítica do Mormonismo/Livros/An Insider's View of Mormon Origins/A utilização de fontes/O uso da vara


Oliver Cowdery and divining rods


Question: Was Oliver Cowdery a "treasure hunter and 'rodsman'?

Although there is evidence that Oliver possessed a divining rod, there is no evidence that he or his father were involved in "money digging"

The book An Insider's View of Mormon Origins (page 179) makes the following claim:

Oliver Cowdery came from a similar background. He was a treasure hunter and "rodsman" before he met Joseph Smith in 1829. William Cowdery, his father, was associated with a treasure-seeking group in Vermont, and it is from them, one assumes, that Oliver learned the art of working with a divining rod. (emphasis added)

The author claims as his source: Barnes Frisbie, The History of Middletown, Vermont (Rutland, VT:Tuttle and Co., 1867),43-64; rptd. in Abby Maria Hemenway, ed., Vermont Historical Gazetteer (Claremont, NH: Claremont Manufacturing Co., 1877),3:810-19 quoted in Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:599-621.

Here's what the source actually says:

Because Joseph Smith, Sr., and William Cowdery cannot be linked unequivocally to the Vermont money diggers, Frisbie's late account must be approached cautiously. (p.600)...Quinn states, "From 1800 to 1802, Nathaniel Wood's 'use of the rod was mostly as a medium of revelation.'...Thus, a connection between William Cowdery and the Wood Scrape would help to explain why his son Oliver had a rod through which he received revelations" before he met Joseph Smith in April 1829" (1987, 32). Yet, there is no evidence which directly attributes Cowdery's rod to his father. (p. 604) (emphasis added)

Oliver's father cannot be linked to the Vermont "money diggers," and there is no evidence that Oliver received his divining rod from his father

The author states that Oliver Cowdery was a "treasure hunter and 'rodsman'" and that his father was associated with the treasure-seeking group as if these were established facts, and uses the Barnes Frisbie account to support this. Yet, Dan Vogel, the editor of the source being used by Palmer, clearly states:

  1. that "William Cowdery cannot be linked unequivocally to the Vermont money diggers,"
  2. that the Barnes Frisbee account "must be approached cautiously" and
  3. that "there is no evidence which directly attributes Cowdery's rod to his father." [1]

This does not mean that Oliver Cowdery did not use a rod—it simply means that the author interpreted his source in a way which was unjustified

The author presents his conclusions based upon circumstantial evidence as fact, with the result being the quotation of the author's "facts" in other articles. (see the Wikipedia articles "Three Witnesses" and "Oliver Cowdery" for examples of how the author's conclusions are considered "facts").


  1. Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, 1:600, 604.