Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Mormon Book Bits #12: Matthew Cowley, Matthew Cowley Speaks

Editor's note: This is # 12 in a series of posts by Dennis Horne about collectible books. The introduction is here.

“After Brother Cowley’s funeral, the Brethren became concerned about Sister Cowley and her finances. She and Brother Cowley had lived in New Zealand for eight and one-half years, and when they returned home they had no insurance, no savings, and no funds of their own. They had lived on a very limited allowance during the eight years he was in the Twelve and it was obvious that Sister Cowley had little or no finances.

“On Thursday, the day after the funeral, the Council of the Twelve met in their regular meeting in the Salt Lake Temple. Part of their meeting was used to discuss what might be done to help Sister Cowley. At the conclusion of the meeting, I received a phone call from Elder Harold B. Lee asking me to come to his office. When I got there, he and Elder Adam S. Bennion greeted me. They said that the Twelve had decided to do something to help Sister Cowley. The only thing they felt they could do was to publish some of Brother Cowley’s talks in a book and give all of the profits to her. They asked if I would do the necessary work to get the book published and I agreed. However, I said that I had been approached that very morning by Deseret Book Company to do exactly the same thing. Brother Lee and Brother Bennion were pleased to hear that Deseret Book was interested because they said the Twelve were reluctant to get involved in any kind of a financial venture.

“They suggested that I meet with Alva Perry, the manager of Deseret Book, and ask him how much royalty they would give her. They instructed me to ask for double the amount they normally offered as royalty.

“I left the office and went over to the bookstore to do as the Brethren had asked. I wasn’t opposed to doing it—I was just a little nervous, inasmuch as I was young, inexperienced, and not quite ready to take on the manager of Deseret Book. When Brother Perry told me what the royalties would be, I said that it was only half enough. I firmly suggested that if he would double it, the bookstore could have permission to publish Brother Cowley’s book, otherwise someone else would.  He told me that this kind of arrangement had never been done before and he would have to check with the chairman of the board.

“The next morning Brother Perry called and said that he had met with the chairman and they had agreed to double the royalty, all of which would be given to Sister Cowley. This agreement took place in December. The book was compiled, printed, and in the bookstores by April conference. That in itself was almost a miracle. Sister Marba Josephson did the bulk of the work, but I had the final say on what should go into the book and whether or not we would make any changes. Not many changes had to be made in the talks as he had given them.

“His book, Matthew Cowley Speaks was a top seller. In fact, it became the best seller of any book of its kind in the history of the Church. Sister Cowley received royalties for the next twenty-five years, making it possible for her to live reasonably well for the rest of her life” (Glen L. Rudd, Treasured Experiences of Glen L. Rudd, 112-14).

It seems that in succeeding editions, some slight silent editing of at least one talk in the book took place, evidently done by the publisher (for instance, some wording of a talk on pages 294-297). It may never be known why, but someone seems to have felt it necessary. In LDS book-collecting circles it is known that some of this silent editing occasionally occurs without comment.


  1. Could you cite the changes made, Dennis?

    1. “I was reared in a very unusual home. Because of certain conditions which arose…my father was released from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He was not disfellowshipped; he was not excommunicated; but he had to hold his priesthood in abeyance for a number of years until the First Presidency again gave him the green light to go ahead. I suppose he was officially inactive for some 27 or 28 years. At the beginning of that period his children were mostly young. I was just 7 or 8 years of age. He could not officiate in the priesthood in any way. But they couldn’t stop him from being the patriarch of his own family—from presiding in his own home. I wouldn’t be here today…if it had not been for the integrity and the devotion and the loyalty of my father, to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During those years of inactivity, he kept his sons on missions for 25 years.” (“Put Your Hand into the Hand of God,” BYU Speeches, Oct. 20, 1953; the above quotation is a transcription of the audio recording, and is not included in the published version of this talk as found in Matthew Cowley Speaks [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1954], 295-300.)

  2. @ BS a couple of the talks in the book were edited/shortened to remove references to Cowley's father Matthias Cowley who had been removed from the 12 in 1906 over his continued support of polygamy. The talk that was the most effected was called "Put Your Hand into the Hand of God." In the full version of the talk he describes how his father never lost his faith after being disciplined by the Church. The edited version cuts the story out.

    Early versions of the book are orangeish with a blue dust jacket, the edited versions have a brownish dust jacket. The full, unedited talk is actually available on the BYU devotional speeches website as an mp3

    1. For those interested in learning more about Elder Matthias Cowley, from his son's point of view, Elder Rudd compiled a book called "Tender Mercies" which he has given out to many many friends and associates, and in which he records the stories about Matthias that Matthew told him when a young man. Some of the material talks about the plural marriage difficulities, but much of it talks about other interesting items as well. It also talks a lot about Matthew. This is one of the finest and most faith-promoting booklets I have ever read. It is the kind of thing that one wishes were available to the entire church in these times of doubt being a fad.