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Matthias F. Cowley

Matthias F. Cowley
Quorum of the Twelve Apostles
October 7, 1897 (1897-10-07)[1] – October 28, 1905 (1905-10-28)
Called by Wilford Woodruff
End reason Removed from Quorum because of Cowley's opposition to church's stance on plural marriage
LDS Church Apostle
October 7, 1897 (1897-10-07)[1] – May 11, 1911 (1911-05-11)[2]
Called by Wilford Woodruff
Reason Removal of Moses Thatcher from Quorum of the Twelve; death of Abraham H. Cannon[3]
End reason Priesthood suspended because of Cowley's opposition to church's stance on plural marriage
at end of term
No apostles ordained[4]
Personal details
Born Matthias Foss Cowley
(1858-08-25)August 25, 1858
Salt Lake City, Utah Territory, United States
Died June 16, 1940(1940-06-16) (aged 81)
Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Matthias Foss Cowley (August 25, 1858 – June 16, 1940) was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) from 1897[1] until 1905. He resigned from the Quorum of the Twelve due to his unwillingness to support the church's abolition of plural marriage. He and John W. Taylor are the most recent apostles of the LDS Church to have resigned from their positions.


  • Calling to the Twelve 1
  • After the Quorum 2
  • Honors and children 3
  • Published works 4
  • Notes 5
  • External resources 6

Calling to the Twelve

Cowley was born in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory. He was ordained an apostle on October 7, 1897,[1] by church president Wilford Woodruff. He replaced Moses Thatcher, who was removed from the Quorum at the April 1896 General Conference. Cowley was widely noted in the church for his sermons on doctrine.

Cowley submitted his resignation from the Quorum of the Twelve, at the request of church president 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 the members of the Quorum of Twelve disagreed about whether to leave him undisciplined, to disfellowship him, or to excommunicate him.

After his priesthood was suspended, 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 as the early Mormon fundamentalists began to coalesce at the Baldwin Radio Plant in Salt Lake City. In the mid-1920s, Cowley broke all ties with the polygamous dissenters. His priesthood standing in the LDS Church was restored on April 3, 1936, which was nearly 25 years after it had been suspended.

Cowley was never restored to his position in the Quorum of Twelve. He died in his home in Salt Lake City, Utah, from uremia resulting from kidney failure.[6] He was buried at Salt Lake City Cemetery.

Honors and children

The town of Cowley, Wyoming, is named after Cowley. He was the father of LDS Church apostle Matthew Cowley by his wife Abbie Hyde. His son Samuel P. Cowley, by his wife Luella Parkinson, was an FBI agent best known for his death at the hands of Lester "Baby Face Nelson" Gillis in 1934.

Published works

  • --- (1902). The Blood of the Prophets: Biographical sketches. 
  • --- (1902). Prophets and Patriarchs of the Church of Jesus of Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 
  • --- (1904). Cowley's talks on doctrine. 
  • --- (1909). 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. 
  • --- (1963). Cowley & Whitney on Doctrine.  


  1. ^ a b c d "Members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times". Church History in the Fulness of Times Student Manual. LDS Church. 2003. p. 656. Retrieved 2014-10-12. 
  2. ^ Cowley resigned from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on October 28, 1905; however, he remained an ordained apostle of the church until his priesthood was suspended in 1911.
  3. ^ Abraham O. Woodruff and Cowley were ordained at the same time to fill two vacancies in the Quorum of the Twelve.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ a b Thomas G. Alexander, Mormonism in Transition: A History of the Latter-day Saints, 1890–1930 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1986) pp. 65–66.
  6. ^ State of Utah Death Certificate.

External resources

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 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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