Grampa Bill's General Authority Pages
Matthew Cowley Matthew Cowley

1897 - 1953
  • Born 1897 at Preston, Idaho
  • Baptized as a child; Aaronic Priesthood as a youth; Melchizedek Priesthood as a young man
  • Mission to New Zealand
  • Married Elva Taylor; Salt Lake Temple; three children
  • Attorney
  • Mission President to New Zealand throughout World War II
  • Ordained Apostle and Sustained to Twelve 1945
  • Died 1953 at Los Angeles, California

    Elder Matthew Cowley was born August 2, 1897 at Preston, Franklin County, Idaho to Matthias Foss Cowley and the former Abbie Hyde.

    As a young man, he served a mission to New Zealand. As a young missionary, he developed unusual skill in the Maori language, and was assigned to prepare a translation of the Book of Mormon into that language correcting errors in an earlier translation. He made changes in approximately 2,500 verses in the original translation, and the second edition appeared in 1917. Elder Cowley was then assigned to translate the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, assisted by Wiremu Duncan and Stuart Meha. These translations appeared in 1919.

    In 1938 he  was called to preside over the New Zealand Mission. With the coming of World War II, all American missionaries were called home, but President Matthew and Sister Elva Taylor Cowley chose to remain in New Zealand with their family to supervise the work during the war. It was September 1945 before the Cowleys were released after seven and a half years of service. At the October 1945 general conference, Matthew Cowley was called to be a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and was affectionately called their "Polynesian Apostle" by the Saints of the South Pacific.

    Elder Cowley told of an interesting experience while serving a Mission in New Zealand. "I was called to a home in a little village in New Zealand one day. There the Relief Society sisters were preparing the body of one of our Saints. They had placed his body in front of the Big House, as they call it, the house where the people came to wail and weep and mourn over the dead, when in rushed the dead man's brother.

    He said, "Administer to him."

    And the young natives said, "Why, you shouldn't do that; he's dead."

    "You do it!"

    This same old man that I had with me when his niece was so ill was there. The younger native got down on his knees, and he anointed the dead man. Then this great old sage got down and blessed him and commanded him to rise. You should have seen the Relief Society sisters scatter. And he sat up and he said, "Send for the elders; I don't feel very well."…Well, we told him he had just been administered to, and he said: "Oh, that was it." He said, "I was dead. I could feel life coming back into me just like a blanket unrolling." Now, he outlived the brother that came in and told us to administer to him. (Devotional address at B.Y.U., February 18, 1953.)

    On another occasion as he was about to bless and name a baby, the father said, "By the way, give him his vision when you give him his name. He was born blind." Elder Cowley was stunned but, on reflecting on the power of the priesthood, said to himself, "Why not?" The child received his vision.

    Elder Cowley was married July 18, 1922 in the Salt Lake Temple to Elva Taylor and the couple had three children. He was sustained to the Council of the Twelve Apostles and ordained an Apostle October 11, 1945 by President George Albert Smith.

    He was well beloved by the Maori people and seems to have had a gentle loving disposition. He was described as "The Man of Many Friends," in the Relief Society Magazine (Feb. 1954), p. 78. An eloquent speaker, he compiled and authored Matthew Cowley Speaks, an anthology of many of his talks.

    He seems to have been of a mind to help sinners rather than ostracize them. He used to tell us that every priesthood quorum in this church ought to be an "Alcoholics Anonymous," because we all have smokers and drinkers who have to have help before they can overcome their habits, and we ought not to be an organization that says to a man who is begging for help, "Well, join the Alcoholics Anonymous." We ought to say, "Now you come to priesthood quorum meetings and we will assign some man who used to have this habit to work with you, and we will give you the help with the power of the priesthood until you can overcome it."

    Elder Cowley died in 1953 at Los Angeles, California and was buried at Salt Lake City, Utah.

   Prophets snd Apostles..., Lawrence R. Flake, p. 481
   Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.4, Appendix 1
   2005 Church Almanac, p. 66

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