The Joseph Smith Papers Project recently added three historians to our team.
David W. Grua received a PhD in American History from Texas Christian University. He has published scholarly articles on Mormon and Native American history in Western Historical Quarterly, Journal of Mormon History, Federal History, and other peer-reviewed journals and edited volumes. He has also presented papers at the annual conferences of the Western History Association, the Mormon History Association, and other professional venues. He previously worked as a historian for the Church History Museum and, as a student at Brigham Young University, as a research assistant for the Joseph Smith Papers, where he contributed to volumes one and two of the Journals series.
Elizabeth Kuehn, formerly a research assistant with the project, is a PhD candidate in early modern European history at the University of California, Irvine, and holds an MA in European and women’s history from Purdue University. She has presented at the annual meeting of the Mormon History Association and at the Berkshire Conference on the History of Women. Before joining the project, she was an instructor in the history department and religious studies program at the University of California, Irvine.
Spencer W. McBride holds a PhD in history from Louisiana State University, where he was named the T. Harry Williams Fellow and served as the assistant book review editor for the Journal of the Early Republic. His research interests include the intersections of religion and politics in early America, and he has presented on this topic at the annual meeting of the American Historical Association and several other conferences. Before joining the Joseph Smith Papers, he was an instructor of history at Louisiana State University.
Read more about the staff of the Joseph Smith Papers on our Project Team page.
Reporters from C-SPAN recently visited the Church History Library in Salt Lake City and spoke with Richard E. Turley Jr., assistant church historian and recorder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In the interview, Turley described the Joseph Smith Papers Project and chronicled some of the events in Joseph Smith’s life.
A video of the interview can be accessed here.
At the annual conference of the Mormon History Association, held 5–8 June 2014 in San Antonio, Texas, volumes 1 and 2 of the Documents series received the association’s Best Documentary Editing/Bibliography Award. The award is presented for the year’s best published book of documentary editing or bibliography on Mormon history.
Volume editors for Documents, Volume 1 are Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley. Volume editors for Documents, Volume 2 are Matthew C. Godfrey, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley.
The Documents volumes join volumes from the Histories series (2013) and the Journals series (2009) as recipients of the award.
In 2013, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints granted the Joseph Smith Papers Project permission to publish the Nauvoo-era “Record of the Council of Fifty or Kingdom of God.” The minutes, which have never before been publicly available for research and have never been published, will form volume 1 of the Administrative Records series. This volume is scheduled for publication in late 2016. The record will also be used extensively in annotation for volume 3 of the Journals series, to be published in late 2015.
On 6 June 2014, at a plenary session of the Mormon History Association conference in San Antonio, Texas, Richard E. Turley Jr., assistant church historian and recorder, and Matthew J. Grow and Ronald K. Esplin, general editors of the Joseph Smith Papers, provided details about the council minutes based on research by themselves as well as by volume editors Mark Ashurst-McGee and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and research assistant Jeffrey David Mahas.
Turley described the Council of Fifty as a governing body organized in Nauvoo, Illinois, in March 1844, a few months before Joseph Smith’s death. The Nauvoo-era record contains minutes of meetings from March 1844 to January 1846, which were chaired by Joseph Smith and later Brigham Young and include their instruction on government and the Kingdom of God.
The minutes are contained in three physical volumes, all of which were inscribed by William Clayton, one of Joseph Smith’s principal scribes. Turley also traced the custodial history of the record, which has been in the church’s continuous possession.
Because of the conference’s location in Texas, Grow focused on one purpose of the council’s formation: the possibility of forming settlements in Texas or other locations outside of what then constituted the United States. At the time, Latter-day Saints were facing opposition both from church members who had broken with Joseph Smith and from enemies outside of the church. These settlements were intended to be places of refuge should church members need to leave Nauvoo. In March and April 1844, Lucien Woodworth, a council member, traveled to Texas and negotiated with Texas president Sam Houston regarding a possible settlement. When Texas was annexed by the United States in 1845, Grow explained, “the council’s previous interest in Texas evaporated” and the focus shifted westward, beyond the Rocky Mountains.
Esplin observed that the minutes provide a better understanding of how the Council of Fifty related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time. Joseph Smith made a clear distinction between the ecclesiastical function of the church, including ordinances, temple work, and priesthood keys, and the political and temporal function of the Council of Fifty, which focused on “protecting the church and providing it space to flourish.” Specifically, Esplin discussed the Council of Fifty’s connection to two important initiatives in Nauvoo: finding potential resettlement locations and supporting Joseph Smith’s candidacy for president of the United States in 1844.
As recorded in meeting minutes, Joseph Smith stated that the council’s purposes included helping create a government that would protect Latter-day Saints and other minority groups. On 11 April 1844, Esplin noted, Joseph Smith highlighted the inclusion in the Council of Fifty of three men who were not Mormons. Smith told the council that this was intended
to show that in the organization of this kingdom men are not consulted as to their religious opinions or notions in any shape or form whatever and that we act upon the broad and liberal principal that all men have equal rights, and ought to be respected, and that every man has a privilege in this organization of choosing for himself voluntarily his God, and what he pleases for his religion. . . . God cannot save or damn a man only on the principle that every man acts, chooses and worships for himself; hence the importance of thrusting from us every spirit of bigotry and intollerance towards a man[’]s religious sentiments, that spirit which has drenched the earth with blood. . . . It becomes our duty on account of this intollerance and corruption—the inalienable right of man being to think as he pleases—worship as he pleases &c being the first law of every thing that is sacred—to guard every ground all the days of our lives. I will appeal to every man in this council . . . to say that the principles of intollerance and bigotry never had a place in this kingdom, nor in my breast, and that he is even then ready to die rather than yeild to such things. Nothing can reclaim the human mind from its ignorance, bigotry, superstition &c but those grand and sublime principles of equal rights and universal freedom to all men.
On the question of whether the minutes would alter the understanding of this period of Mormon history, Esplin said that because church members kept better records in the 1840s than in earlier years, much of what the council minutes contain is also referred to in diaries and letters of council participants, and information about many council initiatives has long been available. Thus, the records do not contain “a hidden history but a fleshing out of some aspects of that history,” he explained.
More information on the session can be found in this report from the Deseret News.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project announces the addition of two new videos to the website. These videos, which outline the accounts of Joseph Smith’s first vision of Deity, join several videos already on the site that build context around Joseph Smith’s papers.
In the first video, two historians from the LDS Church History Department, Jed Woodworth and Steve Harper, join Joseph Smith Papers volume editors Karen Davidson and Mark Ashurst-McGee to discuss the four firsthand accounts of Smith’s vision. In the second, Karen Davidson and general editor Ron Esplin provide details on the origins of the secondhand accounts recorded by Smith’s contemporaries.
Links to the videos can be accessed in the right-hand margin of the home page. Transcripts of the accounts are available in the Histories and the Documents series and are also available on this website. See the finding aid titled “Primary Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision of Deity” for links to the documents.
Several contributors to the Joseph Smith Papers are scheduled to present at the forty-ninth annual conference of the Mormon History Association, to be held in San Antonio, Texas, 5–8 June 2014.
A special plenary session will be held during the conference to discuss the Nauvoo Council of Fifty minutes, which The Joseph Smith Papers received permission late last year to publish. The session, titled “The Council of Fifty and Its Records: A First Glimpse,” will be chaired by editorial board member Reid L. Neilson, with board member Richard E. Turley Jr. and general editors Ronald K. Esplin and Matthew J. Grow as panelists.
Other presentations include the following:
Mark Ashurst-McGee, “Zion and Its Redemption.”
Alexander L. Baugh, “Old and New: The History of the Original and Reconstructed Liberty Jails.”
Jeffrey G. Cannon, “Visually Documenting the Mormon Experience in South Africa: The Mission Photographs of June Bennion Sharp, 1912–1915.”
Matthew C. Godfrey, “‘The Redemption of Zion Must Needs Come by Power’: Insights into the Camp of Israel Expedition, 1834.”
Robin Scott Jensen, “‘Gather Up and Preserve a History’: Scrapbooks and the LDS Church Historian’s Office.”
Elizabeth A. Kuehn, “Financing Zion and Building the Stakes of Zion: Understanding the Intended and Actual Roles of the Kirtland Safety Society.”
Michael Hubbard MacKay and Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, “Editors Meet Critic: Joseph Smith Papers, Documents Vol. 1.”
Reid L. Neilson, “A Light in the Darkness: Apostle Ezra T. Benson’s 1959 Sermon at Moscow’s Central Baptist Church.”
The Mormon History Association was created in 1965 as an affiliate of the American Historical Association and became a separate organization in 1972. Its purpose is to encourage understanding and scholarship in the field of Mormon history.
Kay Darowski, a web editor for the Joseph Smith Papers Project, and Joseph F. Darowski, a web historian for the project, will present at the annual meeting of the Association for Mormon Letters on Saturday, 12 April 2014, at the Utah Valley University Library.
Their presentation, titled “The Joseph Smith Papers: What Are They Good For?,” will discuss how documentary editing projects like the Joseph Smith Papers benefit both academic and artistic endeavors.
The Association for Mormon Letters was founded in 1976 to promote quality Mormon literature, whether it be writing by, for, or about Mormons.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project has filled two editorial positions.
Shannon Kelly, formerly an editorial assistant for the project, started as an associate editor this month. In her new role, her responsibilities will shift from source checking and proofreading to coordinating and working on all aspects of the editorial process. Kelly has worked for the Joseph Smith Papers since she was hired as an intern in June 2012, and she became an editorial assistant in August 2013. She graduated with a BA in humanities and a minor in editing from Brigham Young University, where she wrote and edited for Stowaway magazine and served as an editorial assistant for BYU Studies.
Keaton Reed has filled the editorial assistant position. He will help research and source check reference material for the geographical and biographical directories available in the print volumes and online. Reed received a BA in technical communication from Utah State University.
To read full biographies of The Joseph Smith Papers staff, see our Project Team page.
Glenn Rawson, writer and producer of the History of the Saints television series, interviewed Richard Lloyd Anderson, Alexander L. Baugh, and Sharalyn D. Howcroft for an upcoming documentary on Lucy Mack Smith.
The documentary, titled “Lucy Mack Smith: First Mother of the Restoration,” will largely use Lucy’s own words to give an overview of her life and provide context for Joseph Smith Jr.’s experiences. A TV special that outlines her life up to 1834 will air on KSL on Saturday, 5 April 2014, at 9:00 a.m. MDT. The full documentary, which will tell her story from birth to death, will be available in October 2014.
Ben Godfrey has joined the Joseph Smith Papers Project as the new senior product manager for the Joseph Smith Papers website. Godfrey graduated summa cum laude from Utah State University with a BA in communication and an emphasis in new technology. Before joining the Church History Department, he spent twenty years in the technology industry in various management positions. At Apple, he held several senior-level positions in software engineering and product management. He also spent several years managing international teams and development relationships in Europe and Asia. In addition to this work, Godfrey has traveled across the United States and internationally to speak on topics such as technology’s ability to improve education, government, and public safety.
In his role with the Papers, Godfrey will coordinate with designers, editors, writers, and scholars to develop the project’s website. He will also be involved in reaching out to research libraries and the media to share information about the project.
Users of the Joseph Smith Papers website can expect many changes to the site. A new media viewer was released in February, with additional improvements to the viewer planned for the coming months. In coming months, the site’s search interface will be updated, enhancing the way results are ranked and displayed to help users find relevant documents quickly. Finally, a major site redesign is planned for later this year that will refresh the look and feel of the site, improve navigation, introduce new features, and provide better support for mobile devices.
“Habeas Corpus and the Courts: Individual Liberties from Joseph Smith to Abraham Lincoln to Guantanamo,” which was originally presented in Illinois last year, will be performed at the University of Utah on 25 March and at Brigham Young University on 26 March 2014.
The event is sponsored by the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, in conjunction with the S. J. Quinney College of Law and the J. Reuben Clark Law School. Joseph Smith Papers editorial board member Jeffrey N. Walker will be part of a four-person panel to discuss the hearings following the performance.
For more information and to reserve free tickets, see the following links.
25 March 2014 at the University of Utah: http://today.law.utah.edu/?events=the-habeas-corpus-hearings-of-joseph-smith
26 March 2014 at Brigham Young University: https://secureinstantpayments.com/sip/cart/event.php?EID=1259
Richard Lyman Bushman and Dean C. Jessee recently joined the Joseph Smith Papers Project’s National Advisory Board. Bushman and Jessee, both former general editors of the project, are accomplished scholars of Joseph Smith and early American history. They join Terryl L. Givens, Susan Holbrook Perdue, Stephen J. Stein, and Harry S. Stout, as well as Laurie Maffly-Kipp, who was added to the board earlier this year.
Richard Bushman received his BA and PhD degrees from Harvard University. He is Gouverneur Morris Professor Emeritus of History at Columbia University and was formerly honored as the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies at Claremont Graduate University. Before joining the Columbia faculty, he taught at Brigham Young University, Boston University, and the University of Delaware. He has published several significant works on early American history, including From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690–1765 (1967), which was awarded the Bancroft Prize; Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (1984); The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (1992); and Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (2005).
Dean Jessee, a founder of The Joseph Smith Papers, began gathering Joseph Smith’s papers in the late 1960s and eventually published three volumes that compiled some of Smith’s important writings: Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (1984, 2001) and Papers of Joseph Smith, volumes 1 and 2 (1989, 1991). He is also well known for other publications on nineteenth-century Mormon history, including Brigham Young’s Letters to His Sons (1974) and numerous articles. He received an MA degree in LDS church history from Brigham Young University.
The National Advisory Board now comprises seven scholars. Information about each of these scholars and the members of the Joseph Smith Papers Project staff can be found on our Project Team page.
Robin Scott Jensen, associate managing historian and project archivist for the Joseph Smith Papers Project, will present at the A. Dean Larsen Book Collecting Conference, to be held on 13 and 14 March 2014 at Brigham Young University.
Jensen’s presentation, titled “Beyond the Volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers,” will introduce conference attendees to the project’s development and production processes and instruct them on methods to access the information found in the volumes.
Each year, professional and amateur book collectors gather for the A. Dean Larsen Book Collecting Conference at the Harold B. Lee Library’s L. Tom Perry Special Collections to be instructed by professionals in related fields and to engage in the area of rare book collecting.
Editorial Board member Richard E. Turley Jr. and volume editors Matthew C. Godfrey and Mark Ashurst-McGee joined Doug Wright on the program Everyday Lives, Everyday Values to discuss the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers. The program aired on KSL NewsRadio in December and can be accessed at this link: http://img.ksl.com/audio/2013_12_15_everyday_values.mp3.
Mark Ashurst-McGee also appeared on the FairMormon Frameworks podcast in January. The podcast can be heard at the following link: http://blog.fairmormon.org/2014/01/08/fairmormon-frameworks-14-mark-ashurst-mcgee-church-history/.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project welcomes Laurie Maffly-Kipp to the project’s National Advisory Board. Maffly-Kipp received her PhD in American history from Yale University and has taught at Amherst College, Yale University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the author or editor of several books, including Religion and Society in Frontier California (Yale University Press, 1994), Proclamation to the People: Nineteenth-Century Mormonism and the Pacific Basin Frontier (University of Utah Press, 2008), and Setting Down the Sacred Past: African-American Race Histories (Harvard University Press, 2010). Her contributions to her field have earned her a place as a distinguished professor in the humanities at the Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, located at Washington University in St. Louis.
Maffly-Kipp joins board members Stephen J. Stein, Harry S. Stout, Terryl L. Givens, and Susan Holbrook Perdue. The National Advisory Board, made up of recognized scholars in American religious history and documentary editing, was instituted to ensure scholarly standards are maintained through an independent peer review of The Joseph Smith Papers. In addition to reviewing each volume prior to publication, board members consult with project editors more generally on matters of content and style.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project announces the addition of the following new content and features to its website, josephsmithpapers.org:
Also recently added are Joseph Smith’s histories as published in Histories, Volume 1, a transcript of the 1833 Book of Commandments, and a calendar (or list) of all known Joseph Smith documents created through January 1833. In the coming months more documents from the Documents, Journals, Histories, Revelations and Translations, and Administrative Records series will be added. Eventually the website will contain images and transcripts of all extant and available Joseph Smith papers.
On 2 December, the Joseph Smith Papers Project held a blog event to introduce Documents, Volume 2. Editorial board member Matthew J. Grow, managing historian Matthew C. Godfrey, volume editor Mark Ashurst-McGee, and lead production editor Riley M. Lorimer spoke about the volume. Details about the event are found at the following links.
A new episode of the program History of the Saints (KSL 5 TV) focusing entirely on Documents, Volume 2 aired Sunday, 1 December 2013. The episode drew on interviews with a number of historians, including Matthew C. Godfrey and Mark Ashurst-McGee, two of the editors of the volume. The program can be accessed at the following link:
A special episode of the program focusing on the first volume of the Documents series aired earlier and is also available online:
Both of these volumes of the Documents series are now available in stores and can be ordered online at these links:
An effort to release a series of videos that provide further context for Joseph Smith’s papers is under way. The first three videos can be viewed below, and additional videos will be added to the website in the coming months.
A Character Sketch of Joseph Smith Sr.
Kyle R. Walker, Richard Lloyd Anderson, and Jeffery O. Johnson reveal insights to Joseph Smith Sr.’s character and personality.
Second Great Awakening
Milton V. Backman Jr. and Chad M. Orton speak on the religious excitement Joseph Smith Jr. encountered in his youth.
Donald C. Enders shares information on early Palmyra, New York, providing a backdrop for Smith family history.
Two members of The Joseph Smith Papers team presented at “Researching New York: Perspectives on Empire State History,” which was held 14 and 15 November 2013 in Albany, New York.
Gerrit J. Dirkmaat presented “‘The Work Is Soon to Be Put to Press in This Village’: Joseph Smith’s Negotiations with New York Printers to Publish the Book of Mormon Manuscript,” which explained the difficulty Joseph Smith had persuading publishers in New York to print the Book of Mormon and indicated the enormity of the cost of printing. It also charted Smith’s initial negotiations with E. B. Grandin, publisher of the Wayne Sentinel; Grandin’s initial refusal to print the Book of Mormon; Smith’s attempts to convince other New York printers to publish the book; and Grandin’s ultimate agreement to print the Book of Mormon.
Brent M. Rogers presented “The Continuing Presence of Mormonism in Western New York in the 1830s,” in which he maintained that many pivotal moments in Latter-day Saint history took place in New York after what has been termed an exodus of the Saints from the state. New York continued to be a central location for recruiting and fund-raising efforts during the church’s formative years.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project announces the release of the second volume in its Documents series, Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833 (The Church Historian’s Press, $54.95). The Documents series presents in chronological order the core of Joseph Smith’s documentary record. This volume contains revelations, correspondence, minutes of meetings in which Joseph Smith participated, and licenses provided to church officers. These documents allow readers to see both the administrative growth of the Church of Christ and Joseph Smith’s maturation as its leader.
Documents, Volume 2 contains over forty revelations, many of which were later printed in the Doctrine and Covenants. By presenting these revelation texts, this volume chronicles administrative and doctrinal developments in the church. These revelations were pronouncements in the voice of Deity that Joseph Smith’s followers accepted as God’s word. Some revelations unfold stunning new doctrines, including an account of the three kingdoms of heavenly glory awaiting God’s children and a detailed delineation of the two priesthood authorities God had bestowed on humankind. Others provide specific direction to church members on the establishment of the city of Zion in Missouri and emphasize the importance of gathering to that area. The volume also contains two letters from Joseph Smith to his wife Emma. These poignant letters depict a family man who missed his wife and daughter when he was traveling and who worried about their safety and well-being. The introductions and footnotes that accompany each document offer new research and provide historical context to help readers understand the circumstances of the documents’ creation.
The editors for Documents, Volume 2 are Matthew C. Godfrey, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley.
The publication of The Joseph Smith Papers two centuries after the birth of the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens a window on a life filled with what he called “marvelous experience” amid constant opposition. Despite having received little formal schooling, Joseph Smith left an extensive legacy of letters and other written records that is now being made widely available.
The Joseph Smith Papers edition is expected to span more than twenty volumes when complete. The Documents portion of the series will comprise about half of the total. Documents, Volume 2, along with all previously published volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers, is available for purchase through Deseret Book Company, the distributor for the project, and many other booksellers.
A new episode of the program History of the Saints (KSL 5 TV) will focus entirely on Documents, Volume 2. It will air Sunday, December 1, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. MST and will draw on interviews with a number of historians, including Matthew C. Godfrey and Mark Ashurst-McGee, two of the editors of the volume.
Documents, Volume 2 is now available in stores and can be ordered online here.
Kirk Caudle of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship recently interviewed Matthew C. Godfrey, managing historian of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and coeditor of Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833.
In the interview, available here, Godfrey discusses important documents treated in the volume, including two holograph letters from Joseph Smith to his wife Emma. He also reflects on the difficulties church members faced as they built up major centers of the church in Jackson County, Missouri, and Kirtland, Ohio, during this period.
Volume editors for Documents, Volume 2 are Matthew C. Godfrey, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley. The book is expected to be in stores in early December 2013.
The Maxwell Institute, a research group at Brigham Young University, seeks to encourage respect among people of all faiths through the scholarly study of religious texts and traditions.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project announces the release of the inaugural volume of its Documents series, Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831 (The Church Historian’s Press, $54.95). This series includes each of Joseph Smith’s revelations in its earliest form, reports of his discourses, and letters he sent and received. Also found in the series are articles and editorials he wrote for newspapers, minutes of meetings in which he participated, and records of his ecclesiastical administration.
In contrast to previously published volumes, which feature larger, stand-alone works such as journals and compilations of revelations, the Documents series presents in chronological order the core of Joseph Smith’s documentary record. Together these texts provide unparalleled insight into the life and thought of one of the most important figures in American religious history.
This first volume of the Documents series features Joseph Smith’s earliest surviving papers, including more than sixty of his revelations, most of which were later canonized in the Doctrine and Covenants. Through rich annotation and introductions, the editors present new research explaining the when and why behind the documents. This contextualization helps readers better understand a foundational period of Mormon history, when Joseph Smith translated and published the Book of Mormon and established the Church of Christ. The book also traces the proselytizing mission by Oliver Cowdery and others to Ohio and Missouri and its effects, including the migration of the church from New York to Ohio.
Editors of Documents, Volume 1 are Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley. Documents, Volume 2 is scheduled for release in early December 2013. It includes documents from July 1831 through January 1833.
The publication of The Joseph Smith Papers two centuries after the birth of the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens a window on a life filled with what he called “marvelous experience” amid constant opposition. Despite having received little formal schooling, Joseph Smith left an extensive legacy of letters and other written records which is now being made widely available.
The Joseph Smith Papers series is expected to span more than twenty volumes when complete. The Documents portion of the series will comprise about half of the total. This volume, along with all previously published volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers, is available for purchase through Deseret Book Company, the distributor for the project, and many other booksellers.
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum and the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission recently produced a reenactment of the habeas corpus hearings of Joseph Smith. The event, titled “The Habeas Corpus Hearings of Joseph Smith and Discussion,” took place in Springfield, Illinois, on 24 September 2013 and in Chicago, Illinois, on 14 October 2013. Participants sought “to explore how the courts have protected minority rights” by reenacting the court proceedings occasioned by Missouri’s three attempts to have Joseph Smith extradited to Missouri, where in 1838 he had been imprisoned with other Latter-day Saint leaders while his people were driven from the state. A panel then discussed the use of habeas corpus through time. This is the third annual reenactment of important nineteenth-century legal cases in Illinois. Last year’s event explored the rights of the mentally ill through a reenactment of the custody hearing of Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of Abraham Lincoln.
Members of the Joseph Smith Papers Project who participated in the event are editorial board members Jeffrey N. Walker and Richard E. Turley Jr., Legal and Business Records series volume editors Gordon A. Madsen and John W. Welch, general editor Ronald K. Esplin, and volume editor Alex D. Smith.
Walker, series editor for the Legal and Business Records series, played a large role in creating the program for the event. He also sat on the panel that discussed the hearings, along with Jeffrey D. Colman, chair of the Illinois Supreme Court’s Access to Justice Commission; Hon. Sue E. Myerscough, United States district judge for the Central District of Illinois; and Michael A. Scodro, Illinois solicitor general. Gery J. Chico, chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education, moderated the Springfield session, and David A. Strauss, Gerald Ratner Distinguished Service Professor of Law at the University of Chicago, moderated in Chicago.
The event included testimony of Mormon experiences in Missouri, the historical backdrop for Joseph Smith’s hearings, and generated further discussions of habeas corpus and its applicability in the current legal system. The Illinois State Board of Education organized a post-event workshop in which materials from the reenactment were mined to create teaching units for use in both middle school and high school classes statewide.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project announces the addition of the following new content and features to its website, josephsmithpapers.org:
Also recently added are Joseph Smith’s Letterbook 2, Sidney Rigdon’s Appeal to the American People, second edition, and over 100 documents from 1841. In the coming months more documents from the Documents, Journals, Histories, Revelations and Translations, and Administrative Records series will be added. Eventually the website will contain images and transcripts of all extant and available Joseph Smith papers.
The John Whitmer Historical Association recently presented volumes 1 and 2 of the Histories series with the Best Documentary History Book award at its 2013 annual meeting in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Volumes considered for the award are evaluated according to established standards of transcription, annotation, and document contextualization.
The John Whitmer Historical Association is a scholarly society dedicated to promoting interest in and research of Latter-day Saint history.
Several members of the Joseph Smith Papers Project recently presented papers related to the project, which are summarized in the following list.
Brigham Young University Education Week
August 19–23, 2013
Ronald K. Esplin, “Revelations and the Documents Series: The Historical Core of the Joseph Smith Papers,” provided an overview of the Joseph Smith Papers print editions and situated the forthcoming Documents series as the largest and most important historical series in the print edition. The presentation also explained the prominence of the revelations and shared some of the significant documents and historical finds in the first two volumes of the Documents series.
Ronald K. Esplin, “Empowering the Quorum of the Twelve to ‘Carry Out all the Measures of Joseph’: The Providential Partnership of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young,” discussed the 1835 Record of the Twelve, which has been released on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
Jeffrey N. Walker, “Legal Highlights from the Restoration,” discussed in several lectures some important findings concerning the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri, the legal efficacy of Joseph Smith’s incarceration, and the impact of the Kirtland Safety Society.
Jeffrey N. Walker, “Habeas Corpus in Early Nineteenth-Century Mormonism: Joseph Smith's Legal Bulwark for Personal Freedom,” examined the nineteenth-century legal system’s views of the writ of habeas corpus and argued the legality of invoking that right in Missouri and Illinois.
Mormon History Association Conference
June 6–9, 2013
Matthew C. Godfrey, “The Influence of the Natural World on the Establishment of Zion, 1831–1833,” examined the building of the city of Zion in Jackson County, Missouri, through the lens of environmental history, showing that church members saw Jackson County as a wilderness in need of redemption through the application of industry and agriculture.
Joseph F. Darowski, “Exodus West, from Kirtland to Missouri, 11 September 1831–27 October 1838: Expectations and Realities,” discussed church members’ relocation from Kirtland, Ohio, to Missouri in 1838, exploring the idea that they were not simply fleeing their neighbors’ hostility; they were gathering to Zion as they had intended.
Brent M. Rogers, “‘Armed Men Are Coming from the State of Missouri and Also from the Territory of Iowa’: Sworn Affidavits, Interstate Commerce, and the Mormon Attempt to Secure Governmental Intervention in Nauvoo, May 31–June 21, 1844,” explored federalism and interstate affairs, concepts important to the context and content of several affidavits made by church members in Nauvoo about the threat of an interstate anti-Mormon alliance growing in the region. The interstate threat made the best case to date for the Mormons to gain federal investigation, intervention, and protection.
Michael H. MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Robin Scott Jensen, “New Insights from the Joseph Smith Papers Project,” emphasized the importance of investigating or reinvestigating the dates of documents by providing case studies encountered while working on the Joseph Smith Papers.
MacKay and Dirkmaat shared information on the redating of Doctrine and Covenants 19 from March 1830 to summer 1829, providing new information regarding the context of the revelation, including Martin Harris’s circumstances and decision to pay for the publication of the Book of Mormon.
Ashurst-McGee shared the discovery of new textual evidence supporting the correction of a date of a revelation from 5 January 1834 to 5 January 1833 and explained the relevance of the dating to understanding the content of the document.
Jensen explored the use of the Book of Commandments and Revelations as a historical source and a model for historical writing for the early Latter-day Saints, ranging from John Whitmer to Orson Pratt.
Robin Scott Jensen and Emily Utt, “Mormonism and Material Culture,” discussed the material culture of the early church and argued that valuable information can be gleaned by looking at documents not simply as sources written about the past, but also as cultural artifacts created in the past.
Gerrit J. Dirkmaat was recently interviewed by Kirk Caudle of the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. In the interview, Dirkmaat explains that an accurate historical context is essential to understanding Doctrine and Covenants 41 and other documents available in Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831. The interview can be accessed here.
Volume editors for Documents, Volume 1 are Michael Hubbard MacKay, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William G. Hartley. The volume is expected to be on shelves in early November 2013.
The Maxwell Institute, a research group at Brigham Young University, seeks to encourage respect among people of all faiths through the scholarly study of religious texts and traditions.
We are pleased to announce that the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has approved the use of the Nauvoo-era Council of Fifty minutes in annotation for forthcoming volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers and the eventual publication of those minutes as a separate volume.
Joseph Smith established the Council of Fifty in March 1844, a few months before his death. The minutes of the council meetings have heretofore not been available for research and have never been published. They record unpublished Joseph Smith sermons and instructions, as well as his participation in council discussions that illustrate early Latter-day Saint views on government and the Kingdom of God. Following Joseph Smith’s death, the council reconvened under Brigham Young’s leadership in February 1845. The council then met in Nauvoo until January 1846 and played a key role in planning for the westward trek across the Great Plains to the Salt Lake Valley. The minutes were recorded in three small, hardbound volumes by William Clayton, the council’s clerk.
Historians working for the Joseph Smith Papers have been preparing these significant records for publication for some time. The Nauvoo-era minutes of the Council of Fifty will be published in the Administrative Records Series of the Joseph Smith Papers.
Three team members recently joined the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
Christian Heimburger received a PhD in modern American history from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and now serves as a historian with The Joseph Smith Papers. He previously worked as an adjunct professor at Utah Valley University, as a visiting scholar at Brigham Young University, and as an author and consultant for the Colorado History Education Initiative. He has presented research at conferences of the American Historical Association, Western History Association, and Association for Asian American Studies.
Brenden W. Rensink, also a new historian with the project, holds a PhD in history from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Before joining The Joseph Smith Papers, he was a visiting assistant professor of history at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. He has published a number of articles, book chapters, and reviews on the North American West, transnational borderlands, indigenous North American history, and comparative genocide studies. He is active in the Western History Association and has presented research at its annual conferences, as well as at the Newberry Library in Chicago and other forums.
Kelley Konzak, a production editor for the project, is a graduate of Brigham Young University with a BA in English language and a minor in editing. She previously worked as an editorial assistant at the Church History Library. She has also edited for the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and for Cedar Fort Publishing and Media.
In other news, Matthew C. Godfrey has been appointed as the project’s managing historian, replacing Andrew H. Hedges, who accepted a faculty position at Brigham Young University. Robin Scott Jensen has been appointed as associate managing historian, replacing Godfrey in that position.
For more complete biographies of the members of the project, see the Project Team page.
R. Eric Smith, production manager of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, presented a paper on digital publishing at the annual conference of the Association for Documentary Editing, held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 11–13 July, 2013. Smith’s paper, titled “A War on Two Fronts: Challenges and Opportunities of Simultaneously Publishing Print and Digital Editions,” discussed ways the project’s electronic publications can facilitate textual comparison, textual analysis, and other types of study. He also emphasized the importance of establishing clear publishing goals and priorities, particularly for digital projects. Other panelists were Paul Israel, Thomas Edison Papers; Daniel Stowell, Papers of Abraham Lincoln; and Scott Nesbit, Digital Scholarship Lab, University of Richmond.
The latest issue of the Religious Educator, published by the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University, includes two articles that draw on publications of The Joseph Smith Papers. The articles are J. B. Haws, “Reconciling Joseph Smith—History 1:10 and 1:18–19,” and Kenneth L. Alford, “Using The Joseph Smith Papers in the Classroom.” Haws uses Joseph Smith Papers materials in discussing aspects of Joseph Smith’s first vision, and Alford suggests that using the Papers can “inform and enliven” the way church history is taught.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project announces the addition of the following new content and features to its website, josephsmithpapers.org:
Also recently added are two manuscript versions of Lucy Mack Smith’s history, Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo journals as published in Journals, Volume 2, and Joseph Smith’s Summer 1832 history. In the coming months more documents from the Documents, Journals, Histories, Revelations and Translations, and Administrative Records series will be added. Eventually the website will contain images and transcripts of all extant and available Joseph Smith papers.
The Mormon History Association recently honored volumes 1 and 2 of the Histories series with the Best Documentary History Award for 2013. The award, which was also extended to Journals, Volume 1 in 2009, is presented for the best published documentary on Mormon history.
The Mormon History Association was created in 1965 under the American Historical Association and became a separate organization in 1972. Its purpose is to encourage understanding and scholarship in the field of Mormon history.
R. Eric Smith, production manager for the Joseph Smith Papers Project, has been invited to present a paper at the annual meeting of the Association for Documentary Editing, to be held in Ann Arbor, Michigan, 11–13 July 2013.
He has designed his presentation, titled “A War on Two Fronts: Challenges and Opportunities of Simultaneously Publishing Print and Digital Editions,” as a set of case studies to explore three challenges or opportunities the project has encountered as it has endeavored to publish a robust edition in paper while simultaneously publishing a comprehensive digital edition.
The Association for Documentary Editing was created in 1978 to foster cooperation and exchange of ideas in the documentary editing community.
Also recently added are the Kirtland Egyptian Papers, volume C-1 of the 1838–1856 history, and an updated search feature that makes it easier to navigate to search results within the documents. In the coming months more documents from the Documents, Journals, Histories, Revelations and Translations, and Administrative Records series will be added. Eventually the website will contain images and transcripts of all extant and available Joseph Smith papers.
On March 1, 2013, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced a new edition of the Latter-day Saint scriptures. The 2013 edition includes adjustments to the headings of seventy-eight sections of the Doctrine and Covenants. For more information on these changes, see the materials posted with the First Presidency’s announcement. In particular, see Adjustments, an overview of the types of adjustments made in the new edition of the Latter-day Saint scriptures; and Side by Side Comparison, a comparison of the former Doctrine and Covenants section headings against the revised headings.
Information supporting these changes through section 88 of the Doctrine and Covenants will be made available in two forthcoming volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers. The volumes are Documents, Volume 1: July 1828–June 1831 (fall 2013) and Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833 (late 2013 or early 2014). Information supporting changes beyond section 88 will be made available in subsequent volumes.
Explanations for most of the significant changes made to the headings are provided below, in advance of publication of the Joseph Smith Papers volumes.
Introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants
For the 2013 edition, the introduction was revised to provide more information about the recording and publishing of the revelations. For more information, see "Introduction to the Manuscript Revelation Books" and Joseph Smith–Era Publications of Revelations."
The revised heading in the 2013 edition changes the date of the revelation from summer 1828 to "likely around April 1829." For more information, see the Historical Introduction to Revelation, Spring 1829 [D&C 10].
The Joseph Smith Papers Project is pleased to announce that it has received permission from officials of the Community of Christ to publish the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon as part of the print edition of The Joseph Smith Papers.
It is anticipated that the manuscript, which was used to set the majority of type for the first edition of the Book of Mormon, will be published in the future as the third volume of the project’s Revelations and Translations series. The volume will be a facsimile edition, featuring a photographic image of each page of the manuscript arranged in a parallel format with a transcript of that page.
The editors of the volume are Royal Skousen, professor of linguistics and English language at Brigham Young University, and Robin Scott Jensen, a historian with the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Skousen and Jensen will work together to apply the project’s stylistic conventions to the transcript of the printer’s manuscript earlier published by Skousen as part of his Book of Mormon Critical Text Project.
Community of Christ officials have also generously permitted high-resolution photographs of the manuscript to be taken by Welden C. Andersen, a photographer with the Publication Services Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Andersen’s photographs, taken in fall 2012, will be included in the volume.
Management and staff of the Church History Department and the Joseph Smith Papers Project are deeply grateful for the collaboration of Community of Christ officials, Professor Skousen, and Brigham Young University administrators on this significant project.
After the printer’s manuscript is published, Skousen will work with Jensen and other project editors to prepare and publish a facsimile edition, with photographs and transcripts, of the surviving portions of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project is gathering and publishing a collection of primary Joseph Smith documents that are invaluable to American history scholars and Mormon history scholars, and of importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The latest volume, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844 (Church Historian’s Press, $54.95), contains a number of highly readable and compelling historical narratives, some familiar to Latter-day Saints and historians, and some not well-known. The much-anticipated volume will be available March 19 at Deseret Book and select other retailers.
Highlights from the volume include accounts of Joseph Smith’s earliest heavenly manifestations, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the organization of the church, the conferral of priesthood authority, the events leading up to Joseph Smith’s imprisonment in Missouri, and other events from early Latter-day Saint history.
The eight histories in this volume were all part of Joseph Smith’s personal record-keeping endeavors, and vary widely in creation date, purpose, format, length, and scope. Joseph Smith wrote or supervised the writing of each under circumstances that allowed him to be closely involved in their creation. Although he had considerable assistance from scribes and other associates, Joseph Smith himself assumed authorial responsibility for the histories found within the volume.
Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Historical Writings, 1831–1847 is slated for release later this year, and will cover histories assigned but not overseen by Joseph Smith.
The publication of The Joseph Smith Papers two centuries after the birth of the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens a window on a life filled with what he called “marvelous experience” amongst constant opposition. Despite having received little formal schooling, Joseph Smith left an extensive legacy of letters and other written records which is now being made widely available.
The Joseph Smith Papers series is expected to span about twenty volumes in total. The Histories portion of the series will comprise two volumes. Visit JosephSmithPapers.org for more information about The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1 and other Joseph Smith Papers Project publications. The website features several important documents described but not published in Histories, Volume 1, including the fair copy of Howard Coray’s history, Joseph Smith’s 1839 bill of damages, and the entirety of volume A-1 of the manuscript history.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project released to its website on 16 February a dozen Joseph Smith documents owned by Community of Christ, adding to the several hundred documents already available on the site. Researchers who formerly would have had to travel to repositories across the nation to access original documents are increasingly being served by the website, josephsmithpapers.org, which is collecting into one place images and transcripts of all extant Joseph Smith documents.
The newly released documents include excerpts from the printer’s manuscript used to set the type for the first (1830) edition of the Book of Mormon, the earliest manuscript from Joseph Smith’s revision of the Bible (which includes the visions of Moses and the account of Enoch), and eight pages from the previously released Revelation Book 1, or Book of Commandments and Revelations. Several letters from Joseph Smith to his wife Emma are also part of the new release.
Some of the materials relate to the most foundational aspects of Latter-day Saint history and belief while others provide glimpses of Joseph Smith’s personality and private life. In either case the documents are a compelling read.
The document titled Old Testament Revision 1, a revelation Joseph Smith began dictating in June 1830, opens with God declaring to the prophet Moses, “Behold I I am the Lord God Almighty & endless is my name for I am without beginning of days or end of years & is this not endless & behold thou art my Son Wherefore look & I will shew thee the workmanship of mine hands.” Moses sees a vision of God’s creations, after which God and Moses have extended conversation about God’s plans and purposes.
The day-to-day reality of Joseph Smith’s life as captured in his personal papers offers a contrast to the vistas opened in his revelations. In two November 1838 letters included in the new web release, he updated his wife Emma on his location and condition after being arrested by Missouri officials. In the first of the letters, Joseph Smith gave what may have been a tongue-in-cheek description of the "kindst treatment" he had received from his captors, including a “splended perade”, and a “good house.” He also expressed his “great anxiety” for his family and fellow Latter-day Saints. Eight days later, he shared further emotions about being separated from his family: “Oh God grant that I may have the privaliege of seeing once more my lovely Family, in the injoyment, of the sweets of liberty, and sotial life, to press them to my bosam and kiss their lovely cheeks would fill my heart with unspeakable grattitude.”
Community of Christ, headquartered in Independence, Missouri, made the document images available under a licensing agreement with the project, which is sponsored by the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Speaking of the agreement between Community of Christ and the Church History Department, project archivist Robin Jensen said: “The spirit of cooperation shown by officials of both institutions has been remarkable. Both have an interest in making Joseph Smith’s documents available for the benefit of church members, the broader historical community, and improving the understanding of their shared heritage.”
Both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Community of Christ trace their origins to Joseph Smith’s teachings beginning in the 1820s and his organization of the Church of Christ on 6 April 1830. Both churches have significant collections of Joseph Smith documents.
Community of Christ maintains copyright ownership of the images they have licensed to the Joseph Smith Papers Project for use on the Joseph Smith Papers website. Research inquiries related to Community of Christ–owned documents should be directed to the Community of Christ Library-Archives in Independence, Missouri.
Besides publishing materials on its website, the Joseph Smith Papers Project is also publishing selected papers in letterpress volumes available in bookstores. The print volumes and electronic publications are an essential resource for scholars and students of Joseph Smith, early Mormonism, and nineteenth-century American religion.
To view these new additions to the website, click on the links below.
Old Testament Revision 1
Revelation Book 1, pages 111 –112, 117 –120, and 139 –140
Preface to Book of Mormon, circa August 1829
Testimony of Three Witnesses, late June 1829
Testimony of Eight Witnesses, late June 1829
License for William Smith, 5 October 1831
Letter to Emma Smith, 13 October 1832
Letter to Emma Smith, 18 May 1834
Letter to Church Officers in Missouri, 31 August 1835
Revelation, 18 October 1835
Letter to Emma Smith, 4 November 1838
Letter to Emma Smith, 12 November 1838
November 15, 2011, Salt Lake City
Landmark Joseph Smith Papers Project to Release Next Installment of Multivolume Series
Journals, Volume 1, the first volume of The Joseph Smith Papers, became an overnight bestseller. Now scholars, students of Latter-day Saint history, and casual learners alike can hear Joseph Smith’s voice in his own words and from the accounts of those closest to him. The much-anticipated Journals, Volume 2 (The Church Historian's Press, $54.95) will be available November 15 at Deseret Book and select other retailers.
Journals, Volume 2 delivers a candid look at key events such as the foundation of the Female Relief Society, the building of the temple in Nauvoo, Illinois, and teachings on the nature of God and baptisms for the dead. Three letters from Emma Smith are also included.
The volume covers the Nauvoo period of Joseph Smith’s life from December 1841 to April 30, 1843. Among the numerous notable entries included in the tome are revelations he received, letters both written and received, and the first two of four small books titled “President Joseph Smith’s Journal,” kept by Willard Richards during the last years of Joseph Smith’s life (the final two books will be published in the forthcoming third and final volume of the Journals series).
These journals provide rare insights about Joseph Smith’s personality and duties, including accounts of him functioning as mayor of Nauvoo, store operator, and general in the Nauvoo Legion.
The publication of The Joseph Smith Papers two centuries after the birth of the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens a window on a life filled with what he called “marvelous experience”—and with opposition.
For one who had little formal schooling, Joseph Smith left an extensive legacy of letters and other written records. Now, the full collection of that documentary heritage is being made widely available.
The Joseph Smith Papers series is expected to span about twenty volumes in total. The Journals portion of the series will be three total volumes. Visit JosephSmithPapers.org for more information about The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Volume 2 and other Joseph Smith Papers Project publications.
October 2010, Salt Lake City
Both print and online publications have had much to say about The Joseph Smith Papers. For instance, Brigham Young University’s flagship academic journal, BYU Studies, devoted about half of an entire issue (volume 48, number 3 ) to the first two volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers. See the BYU Studies website for more information.
The following articles offer a sampling of the many articles written about The Joseph Smith Papers:
“Sacred Portraits: Photographer Makes Images for JSP Project,” Deseret News (Mormon Times section), 21 Oct. 2009
“Newest Joseph Smith Papers Book Strikingly Different,” Deseret News (Mormon Times section), 22 Sept. 2009
In addition, editors of The Joseph Smith Papers have been interviewed by various media outlets. In this regard, a two-part interview conducted by the editors of the blog By Common Consent with two of the project’s scholars is particularly informative (part 1, part 2).
October 2010, Salt Lake City
Since its publication in 2008, Journals, Volume 1: 1832—1839, the first volume of The Joseph Smith Papers, has received the following awards:
Steven F. Christensen Best Documentary Award, Mormon History Association, 2009
Special Award in Textual Criticism and Bibliography, Association for Mormon Letters, 2009