Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 1, 21 December 1842–10 March 1843

Journal, December 1842–June 1844; Book 1, 21 December 1842–10 March 1843

19 January 1843 • Thursday

Thursday Jan 19,  At home through the  day except. out in  the city a little while  in the fore noon. [12 lines blank] [p. [140]]
Willard Richards took over the responsibility of journal keeping from William Clayton on 21 December 1842, the same day JS “made a particular request” that Richards “act as his private se[c]retary & historian.”1

JS, Journal, 21 Dec. 1842.  

While Clayton—and Richards before him—had kept JS’s previous Illinois journal in the large “Book of the Law of the Lord,” which also contained records of donations for the Nauvoo temple, Richards began this journal in a much smaller memorandum book. The journal, which Richards kept through 22 June 1844, five days before JS’s death, eventually comprised four such memorandum books. The entire first book and part of the second (through April 1843) are presented here; the remainder of Richards’s second notebook, as well as the third and fourth books, will be published in volume 3 in the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers.
Several pieces of evidence indicate that these four memorandum books were considered volumes of the same journal rather than separate journals themselves. For example, whereas JS’s journals kept during the 1830s were recorded in bound books or notebooks labeled with different titles—such as “Sketch Book” or “The Scriptory Book”2

See JSP, J1:53, 225.
Comprehensive Works Cited



JSP, J1 / Jessee, Dean C., Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen, eds. Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839. Vol. 1 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2008.JSP, J2 / Hedges, Andrew H., Alex D. Smith, and Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds. Journals, Volume 2: December 1841–April 1843. Vol. 2 of the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman. Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011.

—the first and last of Richards’s memorandum books bear virtually identical titles, with the fourth explicitly identified as “vol 4”. Similarly, that books 2 and 3 lack titles suggests that each was simply a continuation of the previous book. This suggestion is made even stronger in book 2, in which the first entry commences at 4:00 p.m. on 10 March, with the events of the earlier part of the day recorded at the end of book 1. All four memorandum books are virtually the same size, and the bindings on the first three are similar.
As with nearly all the entries in JS’s previous Missouri and Illinois journals, JS neither wrote nor dictated the text of the entries in the memorandum books; they are based on Willard Richards’s observations. For example, the entry for 22 September 1843 records only that Richards “Saw Joseph pass in a waggon with Hiram.”3

JS, Journal, 22 Sept. 1843, JS Collection, CHL.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL.

Despite the secondhand nature of the entries, however, Richards, a close associate and frequent companion of JS, was able to capture in detail JS’s words and actions on many occasions.
Richards had kept JS’s journal in the Book of the Law of the Lord from December 1841 to June 1842 in his earlier capacity as “Recorder. for the Temple, and the Scribe for the private office of the President.”4

JS, Journal, 13 Dec. 1841.  

When he began keeping this journal on 21 December 1842, however, he did so as JS’s newly appointed “private se[c]retary & historian.”5

JS, Journal, 21 Dec. 1842.  

The change in titles may seem insignificant, but Richards was very much aware of his new role: where he had occasionally identified himself as “recorder” and “scribe” in JS’s previous journal, he now referred to himself as the “sec.” The shift in titles and responsibilities may have been at least part of the reason the journal was transferred to the memorandum books; William Clayton, who replaced Richards as temple recorder in September 1842,6

Clayton, History of the Nauvoo Temple, 30–31.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Clayton, William. History of the Nauvoo Temple, ca. 1845. CHL.

retained custody of the Book of the Law of the Lord and continued its record of temple donations.
The change in Richards’s title, as well as the transfer of the journal out of the Book of the Law of the Lord, may have influenced what events Richards recorded in the memorandum books. At least some of the material Richards, as JS’s private secretary, included in this journal—such as the detailed record of a medical malpractice suit over which JS presided—probably would have received much less emphasis had Richards, in the capacity of temple recorder and scribe, been keeping JS’s journal in the book that also contained records of donations for the temple. Similarly, although the ledger-size Book of the Law of the Lord likely remained in the recorder’s office, and most journal entries were probably made there, each of the memorandum books was small enough that Richards could easily carry it with him, allowing him to record many of JS’s activities closer to the actual event—both temporally and spatially—than was possible earlier.
Richards’s new title of historian was significant as well. On 1 December 1842, Richards began working on the “History of Joseph Smith” that was being serially published in the Times and Seasons, and by August 1843 he was drawing on JS’s earlier journals for that history.7

JS, Journal, 1 Dec. 1842 and 20 Jan. 1843; Richards, Journal, 1 Dec. 1842; Jessee, “Writing of Joseph Smith’s History,” 441.
Comprehensive Works Cited



Richards, Willard. Journals, 1836–1853. Willard Richards, Papers, 1821–1854. CHL.

Jessee, Dean C. “The Writing of Joseph Smith’s History.” BYU Studies 11 (Summer 1971): 439–473.

Richards therefore expected that the contemporaneous journal entries he was keeping for JS would eventually be used as the basis for JS’s history.
Richards employed various techniques in keeping the journal. For a few entries, he made lightly penciled notes and returned later with a quill pen to expand the entry. In other entries, the morning or afternoon portion of an entry was written in one ink and the evening portion of the entry in a different ink that matches that of the following entry. These changes in writing media and in other aspects of the inscribed text indicate that many entries—or parts of entries—were made on the very day of the events they described. The textual evidence in other entries indicates that they were written several days after the date they bear. Still other entries are a hybrid. Richards’s notes of sermons and legal proceedings, for example, bear evidence of both contemporaneous inscription and later revision. In some instances, Richards left blank spaces and even blank lines, apparently intending to add details later. Hurried note-taking often resulted in missing words, informal abbreviations, inconsistent spelling, and poorly formed characters. Richards revisited some difficult passages to mend or rewrite characters, revise spelling and punctuation, and add interlineations. Some of the blanks were filled while others were left standing. Richards’s notes include both immediate emendations, such as wipe-erasures made while his ink was still wet, as well as later revisions, such as knife-erasures of words written in ink that had dried. The various ways in which Richards wrote and revised entries resulted in the journal’s uneven texture but also contributed to its wealth of immediately recorded information and clarifying additions.
Over time, Richards settled somewhat into a pattern of generally recording the events of one day on one page—some pages largely empty and others filled with cramped writing—with weather reported at the bottom of the page. He made an entry for almost every day during the last year and a half of JS’s life. The journal ended when JS left Nauvoo on 22 June 1844, five days before he was killed at the jailhouse at Carthage, Illinois. Richards accompanied JS to Carthage and, during the final days of JS’s life, kept extensive notes of JS’s activities in his personal journal.
Note: The journal Willard Richards kept for JS is divided into four physical books. The transcript and annotation here are for the first of these books, covering 21 December 1842 through 10 March 1843. The transcript and annotation for the first part of book 2, covering 10 March through 30 April 1843, are also available on this website. The transcript and annotation for the remainder of book 2 and for books 3 and 4 will be published later.