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Essay on Sources Cited in Journals, Volume 1

The contemporaneous sources in this volume’s annotation range from personal writings to institutional records to published books. Most sources are specific to certain time periods and therefore appear chiefly in the annotation to a specific journal. For all of JS’s journals, especially the first three, the texts of his revelations are essential background sources. The revelations embodied JS’s religious values, conveyed his sense of mission, and outlined his agenda for building Zion. Major sources for revelation texts are the journals themselves, other early manuscript sources, early church newspapers, and the church’s published compilations of revelations and other authoritative material. The first attempt to publish such a compilation was the Book of Commandments. Church printer William W. Phelps had printed most of the projected contents of the Book of Commandments by July 1833 when the printing shop in Independence, Missouri, was destroyed by a mob. Several Latter-day Saints recovered complete sets of the sheets that had been printed up to that point and had them bound. A second effort was completed on a new church press in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1835. The new compilation, titled Doctrine and Covenants, contained two parts. The first part consisted of seven “Lectures” or essays on the subject of faith. The second part contained the texts of almost one hundred revelations, official statements on marriage and government, and other items.

JS’s first journal (1832–1834) records his frequent travels and also church problems in Missouri, hundreds of miles from JS’s Kirtland headquarters. Both sets of circumstances required letter writing. Letters that JS wrote to his wife Emma, to Missouri Latter-day Saint leaders William W. Phelps and Edward Partridge, and to various friends and acquaintances illuminate the content of the journal in many instances. Minute Book 1 (created 1832–1837) often supplies valuable information regarding meetings that are mentioned in the journal. Important contextual material is also found in the church’s first newspaper, The Evening and the Morning Star, which was edited by Phelps in Independence, Missouri, from June 1832 to July 1833. Printing resumed in Kirtland in December 1833 under the editorship of Oliver Cowdery, who produced another ten issues. Beginning in January 1835, the entire run of twenty-four issues was reprinted with modifications under a shortened title, Evening and Morning Star.

JS’s second journal (1835–1836) records meetings held in preparation for the completion of the House of the Lord in Kirtland and for the Pentecost that Latter-day Saints expected to experience therein. As with the 1832–1834 journal, Minute Book 1 augments the 1835–1836 journal’s notes of meetings. The contemporaneous diaries of assistant president Oliver Cowdery and Missouri bishop Edward Partridge clarify some entries in the second half of the journal. Numerous reminiscent accounts add details of the dedication of the House of the Lord, the solemn assembly, and surrounding events recorded at the end of the journal. The King James Version of the Bible is particularly helpful in this journal for identifying JS’s biblical paraphrasing and allusions. JS’s 1835–1836 journal is also illuminated by a contemporaneous church history created from 1834 to 1836. In the spring of 1836, Warren Cowdery and Warren Parrish recast the first-person narrative of the journal into a third-person historical narrative. For the most part the history follows closely the wording of the journal, but in occasional departures it clarifies the text of the journal. Additional contextual information can be found in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, which replaced The Evening and the Morning Star as the principal church periodical. Edited by Oliver Cowdery and others, it was published monthly in Kirtland from October 1834 to September 1837. The same press produced the Northern Times, Kirtland’s Democratic Party–affiliated community newspaper, which was produced chiefly by Oliver Cowdery.

The first part of JS’s principal Missouri journal (March–September 1838) consists of copied documents that manifest a central concern: to restore unity and order in the church by quelling dissent. Much helpful information relating to the perspective of JS and loyal church leaders is found in the minutes of the disciplinary councils in Far West, Missouri, recorded in Minute Book 2 (created 1838–circa 1839, 1842, 1844). The Oliver Cowdery correspondence of the period reveals the contrasting views and concerns of those who felt JS and his supporters had become despotic. The church’s official periodical at the time, the Elders’ Journal of the Church of Latter Day Saints, also supplies helpful information for this period. Two issues were published in Kirtland, with JS as editor and Thomas B. Marsh as publisher, for the months of October and November 1837. Two more issues bearing a revised title, Elders’ Journal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, were published for July and August 1838 in Far West. The final portion of this JS Missouri journal, which covers the initial phase of Mormon conflict in northern Missouri, is illuminated by several Missouri newspaper accounts that describe the conflict and by the evidence that was later presented in the preliminary hearing for JS and other Latter-day Saints charged in connection with their participation in the conflict.

The record kept by James Mulholland of JS’s comings and goings from his home at Far West (September–October 1838) is so terse that there is hardly any material to be elucidated. However, the partially overlapping March–September 1838 journal, kept by George W. Robinson, augments the first week covered by the journal Mulholland kept, and the history that JS started the same year sheds some light on the final days covered in the journal.

Mulholland’s second journal for JS (1839), which he kept in Quincy and Commerce in Illinois, is complemented by the diary Mulholland kept for himself during the same time period. Mulholland’s personal diary helps to distinguish whether he or JS is the protagonist in certain entries of the journal he kept for JS. The contemporaneous diary of apostle Wilford Woodruff and the “History of Brigham Young,” based on contemporaneous Young diaries, also contextualize a number of the entries recording JS’s endeavors to build the kingdom of God anew in Illinois and to prepare the apostles to take the Mormon gospel overseas.