Prayer was offered by President [Francis M.] Lyman, who afterwards stated that he would like to clear Brother [Matthias F.] Cowley's case up so that he will not have to appear before us again. I desire to direct attention to the fact that since the administration of President [Wilford] Woodruff and President [Lorenzo] Snow that there has been no legitimate authority given to perform these [plural] marriages. That President Snow made it very clear, as Brothers [Heber J.] Grant and [Rudger] Clawson will remember that these things must stop. At the beginning of 1900 he laid it down to the Church and to the world that there was no member of this Church who had the right to enter into such marriages or perform such. Now it appears that Brother Cowley has been the prime mover during the administration of President Lorenzo Snow and very nearly all that he has done has been done since that time. Dr. James E. Talmage on request read the declaration of President Snow also that of President [Joseph F.] Smith who has been particularly moved in this desire to find out who is doing these things. Now, said President Lyman, I believe that we have discovered that Brother Cowley has been the prime mover in this thing and at the head of it all especially since President Snow's time. He has been the prime mover in getting prominent brethren presidents of [s]takes and officers in the Church into this condition. I think we have discovered that he has been right in it from 1898 until the declaration of President Smith in 1904. That he carried on the business as far as he could and when he came to the danger point of doing this himself, I believe that he arranged for some one else to do this thing in Canada and other places and his brother-in-law Woolf now stands in a very grave condition. Brother Woolf's son John came and plead with me to handle his father but not to publish it to the world. Brother Cowley set the trap for Brother [Judson] Tolman and then for Brother John W. Woolley and I think he got Brother John W. Taylor into his trouble. I want Brother Cowley to stand up here and tell us what he has done that we don't know, he has not been required to do these things. In the presence of John Henry Smith, A[nthony]. W. Ivins and myself, John W. Taylor advised us that you had offered him the privilege of entering this relationship and that he accepted although your senior. You seem to think you had the authority and took brother Thomas Chamberlain and others away from me after I had advised them that this thing could not be done. Brother Merrill of Pocatello [Idaho] also claimed that you encouraged him although he never got a wife.
Brother Cowley, in answer to President Lyman's charges said: I appear before you now, brethren humbly as I have each of the ten times I have been before you heretofore. I answered nearly all
Brother Lyman's accusations four years ago. I never started Brother Woolley out and I never started Brother Woolf and did not know he was doing this thing unauthorized. President [Charles O.] Card was appointed by President [George Q.] Cannon and when he became a little demented, I understand Brother Woolf was attending to it, but I had nothing to do with it. I did not start Brother Tolman out. I did not know about him until James A. Eldredge told me. I never encouraged [Donald] McGregor, in fact discouraged him the same with Woolfenden who I heard claimed Tolman had the authority, but I told him that Tolman did not have the authority. Bro[ther]. Cowley referred to Bishop Robinson's case (of Mexico) who tried to influence me to marry him and I refused, but he later got a woman so I understand, but I had nothing to do with it. The first one I married was Ben E. Rich in 1898. Brother [Marriner Wood] Merrill kept a record of all these marriages in the Logan Temple under the direction of President Cannon. Brother [Douglas M.] Todd was the next, as I remember. I married Thomas Chamberlain after he had gone to President Cannon. I married Joseph Robinson. Brother Merrill married his son Ezra in the Logan Temple, if I am not mistaken. I had nothing whatever to do with the marriage of that man. I feel that it is an awful injustice to me to accuse me of being at the bottom of all of these cases. I knew of the declaration of President Snow, but at the same time President Woodruff made a declaration which was violated during his administration and he knew of it and did not sop it. I went direct to President Snow regarding Joseph Morrell and Louis Kelsch and Brother Snow told me that he could do nothing but would not interfere with the unfinished work of President Woodruff and President Cannon. I cannot prove this statement as there was no one present except President Snow and myself. I was married to Sister Harker by the Apostle who was the president of the Logan Temple [i.e., Marriner Wood Merrill]. President George Q. Cannon authorized me under the administration of President Woodruff in 1898. I was made an Apostle in 1897. President Cannon told me personally to attend to these matters. There was no laying on of hands, but he gave the authority personally. The commission at this time was to marry Brother Ritch [sic], but later I was told by him that I could attend to suitable cases. He never told me to stop and no one has told me to stop, except Brother Ivins claims he brought me the word from President Smith that unless a bigger man than he came there (Mexico) I was to quit. This was after President Smith's declaration and I never performed a ceremony after that and for some time before that time. When people came to me before this time and after I discouraged the parties, especially after John W. Taylor and I were dropped from the Quorum. I don't think the people who go into this are induced except by themselves, it seems to be in them. I have discouraged those who have come to me in private but have not the opportunity to publicly declare against it. Arthur Clark has come to me and I have told him that it could not be done but he says that he cannot be convinced that it is not right, that the principle is correct and that the Lord will provide a way for it to be practiced. I have heard from George Parkinson that Nathan Clark says he feels
alright about his present condition and hopes to get another wife within a short time. Brother Cowley referred to a prophecy which Arthur Clark says President Smith made about thirty years ago about plural marriages. I married John M. Cannon, George M. Cannon, Frank Y. Taylor, but not Edwin Bennion ... I have not told missionaries in the Temple that they could be taken care of after they came home. Have not stated in the Southern States or any other mission that any one who did not accept plural marriage as alright and right to practice it now would be entitled to his release. I do not remember being present when President Smith's declaration was considered in the Council, I was traveling in the mission at the time President Smith came in. I think the last ceremony I performed was in 1901 for President Udall. I did not go to him he came to me.
President Lyman: How many marriages did you perform between 1898 and 1901?
Cowley: I don't remember, I have no idea. I married [Abraham] Owen Woodruff, Brigham Young [Jr.] and others but did not marry Brother [George] Teasdale.
President Lyman: Brother Cowley married about fifty men.
Cowley: I married Bro[ther]. Parkinson to Miss Woolley in Colorado. Brother Parkinson told Brother Lyman Brother [Marriner Wood] Merrill performed this marriage.
G[eorge]. A[lbert]. Smith: President Snow was very much put out when he heard of Kelsch's marriage. Brother Cowley explained the reason that he had let other people know about it. President [Arthur] Winder remarked that it was President Cannon's folly.
G[eorge]. F. Richards: What caused you to discontinue the marriages.
Cowley: I dont remember any personal interview but as these things were closing down and growing closer all the time, I suppose I felt they should stop. I never encouraged any one after 1901 or 1902. My last wife was married in 1905 in Canada by Brother Woolf. Brethren, I feel that I have been punished sufficiently in the past and should not be punished again. I am willing to do anything I can to stop these things if you will tell me what to do. I have been misrepresented, I have not done what has been claimed.
President Lyman: There is very little evidence of Brother Merrill doing that kind of marrying and Brother Taylor also, but Brother Cowley has been the man who has done it by the scores. It is quite possible that Brother Card was authorized to perform marriages and sealings, but not plural marriages.
Cowley: Brother Woolf got the authority I understand from President Cannon. He married Heber Allen and Brother Wood. Brother Merrill had a list of names of those he married.
[Excerpt from the Minutes of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles]