When modern-day good Samaritans here in upstate New York assisted a stranger, the unforeseen resulted.
Kirke DuBois Cowdery, a fifth generation nephew of Oliver Cowdery, was baptized by Aaron Grant, a fourth generation cousin of President Heber J. Grant.While tracting in an apartment complex on a Saturday afternoon, Elder Grant and his companion, Elder Wesley Shuman, saw a young man carrying a large, heavy box containing a new television. The missionaries offered to help and their assistance was gladly accepted.
"We gave him the first lesson that very evening," said Elder Grant. "We met with him twice a week until he was baptized."
"At my first meeting with the missionaries, they asked me if I was related to Oliver," said Cowdery, a direct descendant of Oliver's older brother. "When I said I was, they seemed to think that was very interesting." In a later meeting, the three watched a videotape that mentioned President Grant. Kirke Cowdery then learned Elder Grant's relationship to President Grant.
Although none of Kirke Cowdery's immediate family is LDS, he remembers missionaries visiting the family home when he was a child and he was aware of the role his ancestor had played in Church history. In fact, Kirke Cowdery's grandfather had donated a number of Oliver's letters to the Church archives.
During a 1988 visit to his brother who lives in Utah, Cowdery was able to see those letters. On that same trip, a missionary couple on Temple Square presented him with a Book of Mormon and he had read it up to the book of Ether by the time he met the elders.
"Kirke is one of the most humble men I have ever met," said Grant, who has since completed his mission. "When we invited him to be baptized, he replied that he wanted to do whatever the Lord wanted him to do, but he wasn't sure what that was.
"So we suggested that we kneel in prayer," Grant related. "Kirke offered the prayer and when we arose, we asked him if he felt that the Lord wanted him to be baptized. `Yes' was his answer."
Kirke Cowdery was baptized last year and is serving in the Brighton Ward, Rochester New York Stake, as assistant Scoutmaster and secretary in the Young Men presidency.
"I have always been proud of my relationship to Oliver," Cowdery said, "but it has much greater meaning to me now."