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Matthias F. Cowley: Wikis


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Matthias F. Cowley
Full name Matthias Foss Cowley
Born August 25, 1858(1858-08-25)
Place of birth Salt Lake City, Utah Territory
Died June 16, 1940 (aged 81)
Place of death Salt Lake City, Utah
LDS Church Apostle
Called by Wilford Woodruff
Ordained October 7, 1896 (aged 38)
Ordination reason Removal of Moses Thatcher from Quorum of the Twelve; death of Abraham H. Cannon[1]
End of term May 11, 1911 (aged 52)[2]
End reason Priesthood suspended because of Cowley's opposition to church's stance on plural marriage
Reorganization at end of term No apostles ordained[3]
LDS Church General Authority
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
Called by Wilford Woodruff
Start of term October 7, 1896 (aged 38)
End of term May 11, 1911 (aged 52)
End reason Removed from Quorum because of Cowley's opposition to church's stance on plural marriage

Matthias Foss Cowley (1858-08-25 – 1940-06-16), born in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1897 until 1905. The town of Cowley in Wyoming is named after him. He was the father of Apostle Matthew Cowley by Abbie Hyde. His son Samuel P. Cowley, by his wife Luella Parkinson Cowley, was an FBI agent best known for his death at the hands of Lester "Baby Face Nelson" Gillis in 1934.

Calling to the Twelve

Matthias Cowley was called in 1897 to replace Moses Thatcher who was removed from the Quorum at the April 1896 General Conference. Cowley was ordained October 7, 1897. Cowley was widely noted in the church for his talks on doctrine.

Cowley resigned from the Quorum, at the request of church president Joseph F. Smith, on October 28, 1905 because his presence in the hierarchy undermined the church's position in the crucial Reed Smoot senate hearings. Cowley was notorious for having widely performed marriages contravening the church's manifesto prohibiting new plural marriage. Earlier in April of the same year, Apostle John W. Taylor had resigned for the same reason. In addition, with the death of Apostle Marriner W. Merrill in early February of the next year, there were three vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve. In the April General Conference of 1906, three new apostles were called to replace them: George F. Richards, Orson F. Whitney, and David O. McKay.

After the Quorum

Reports of Cowley's continuing involvement in new plural marriages led to his priesthood being suspended by the church on May 11, 1911. (This rare and virtually unique disciplinary procedure was used for Cowley because his former fellow apostles in the Quorum of Twelve disagreed over whether to leave him undisciplined or to disfellowship or even excommunicate him.)

However, Cowley's name continued to be linked with plural marriage over the next several years. As late as the early 1920s, Cowley was meeting with excommunicated polygamists, the early Mormon fundamentalists beginning to coalesce at the Baldwin Radio Plant in Salt Lake City. But in the mid-1920s, Cowley broke all ties with the polygamous dissenters. His priesthood standing in the LDS Church was restored nearly twenty-five years after it had been taken - on April 3, 1936.

Cowley was never restored to his position in the Quorum of Twelve. On June 16, 1940, he died in his home in Salt Lake City, Utah from uremia resulting from kidney failure.[4]

On October 11, 1945, his son Matthew Cowley was called to serve as an Apostle for the church.

Grave marker of Matthias F. Cowley.

There is some dissent as to the cause of his forced leave from the quorum. The historical documents and journals demonstrate that polygamous marriages continued to be entered into even after the 1890 Manifesto. Taylor and Cowley were the junior apostles in the Quorum and were sent traveling to license these marriages at the behest of the First Presidency. According to some, severing Taylor and Cowley from the Quorum was a political move to distance the LDS Church from polygamy by creating a scapegoat.

Published works

  • Cowley, Matthias F. (1902). The blood of the prophets: Biographical sketches. Ben E. Rich. ISBN B0008AAV74.  
  • --- (1904). Cowley's talks on doctrine. Ben E. Rich. ISBN B0008BBDPM.  
  • --- (1963). Cowley & Whitney on doctrine. Bookcraft. ISBN B0007HSATO.  
  • --- (2003 [1902]). Prophets and Patriarchs of the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-Day Saints. New Library Press.Net (B.E. Rich). ISBN [[Special:BookSources/0-7950-4680-4 [B00085Y2FG]|0-7950-4680-4 [B00085Y2FG]]].  
  • --- (2003 [1964]). Wilford Woodruff, Fourth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, History of His Life and Labors, as Recorded in His Daily Journals. New Library Press.Net (Bookcraft Pubs). ISBN [[Special:BookSources/0-7950-4593-X [0884941140]|0-7950-4593-X [0884941140]]].  


  1. ^ Abraham O. Woodruff and Cowley were ordained at the same time to fill two vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve.
  2. ^ Cowley resigned from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on 1905-10-28; however, he remained an ordained apostle of the church until his priesthood was suspended in 1911.
  3. ^ Since Cowley had been removed from the Quorum of the Twelve in 1905, the suspension of his priesthood occasioned no vacancy in the Quorum of the Twelve.
  4. ^ State of Utah Death Certificate

External resources

Religious titles
Preceded by
Abraham H. Cannon
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
October 7, 1897–October 28, 1905
Succeeded by
Abraham O. Woodruff


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