Many contributors to the Joseph Smith Papers presented at the fiftieth annual conference of the Mormon History Association, held in Provo, Utah, on 4–7 June 2015.
These presentations included the following:
Alexander L. Baugh, “‘I Will Soften the Hearts of the People’: Mormon-Gentile Relations in Clay County, Missouri, 1833–1839”
Christopher James Blythe, “Martyrdom Canes and Vernacular Mormonism”
Terryl L. Givens, “Joseph Smith and Translation: Notes Toward a Theoretical Framework”
William G. Hartley, “Captain Edward Bunker and His 1856 Handcart Company”
Andrew H. Hedges, “Joseph Smith, Thomas Ford, and the Third Extradition Attempt”
Richard L. Jensen, “A Record Keeping Culture? The Rise, Fall, and Partial Resuscitation of Local Latter-day Saint Historical Records”
Laurie Maffly-Kipp and Reid Neilson, “Legacies of Leonard Arrington”
Jeffrey Mahas, “‘Joseph Smith the Proclaimer of Jefferson Democracy, of Free Trade and Sailors Rights and Protection of Person and Property’: Political Slogans, American Memory, and the Presidential Election of 1844”
Spencer W. McBride, “The Shattering of American Idealism: The Misplaced Expectations of the 1839 Mormon Delegation to the Federal Government”
Reid L. Neilson, “Proclaiming the Gospel: Missionary Work and the General Epistles”
Brent M. Rogers, Shannon Kelly, Elizabeth A. Kuehn, and Christian Heimburger, “The Unfamiliar Saints: Insights from the Joseph Smith Papers”
R. Eric Smith, “‘We Feel Very Proud of Our Relief Society Building’: The History of the Newscastle, Utah, Ward Relief Society Hall, 1920–1970”
Charlotte Hansen Terry, “Rhetoric versus Reality: Mormon Women’s Diaries and Domesticity in the Early Twentieth Century”
Nathan N. Waite, “Having a Great Time, Wish You Were Here: Reporting the First Years in the Great Salt Lake Valley”
Matthew C. Godfrey, Robin Scott Jensen, Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Brent M. Rogers, Richard E. Turley Jr., and Grant Underwood chaired sessions during the conference.
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.
After years of research, Dean C. Jessee is publishing his research on the creation of Joseph Smith’s 1838–1856 history (often called the “Manuscript History of the Church”) online. Jessee has worked with Joseph Smith’s papers for more than forty years. He has served as general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and is currently a member of the project’s National Advisory Board.
The manuscript history was compiled by several scribes and clerks of the church—including George W. Robinson, James Mulholland, Robert B. Thompson, William W. Phelps, Willard Richards, and others—from 1838 to 1856 in an effort to record the history of Joseph Smith and the church he founded. However, the primary sources were not always recorded in the history and many have, until now, remained undocumented. Jessee’s work, which involves identifying primary sources for the information presented in the history, lends a critical eye to the text, helping researchers understand its origins and its place within Mormon historical studies.
Images and transcripts of volumes A-1 through D-1 are currently available on the Joseph Smith Papers website. Images of volumes E-1 and F-1 are also available on the site, with transcripts forthcoming. Footnotes containing Jessee’s research have already been added to the transcripts of volumes A-1 and B-1. We will continue to publish this work online as it becomes available.
The American Society for Indexing has selected Documents, Volume 3 for the 2015 ASI/EIS Award for Publishing Excellence in Indexing.
When evaluating candidates for the award, judges looked for indexes that “address the text with high standards of index quality and are well-typeset, providing the user with easy, excellent access to the material in the book.” Indexes are judged on the following criteria: elegance, usability, coverage, analysis, access, cross-referencing, accuracy, and style.
The Church Historian’s Press and staff of the Joseph Smith Papers Project are grateful for the expertise and talent of Kate Mertes, the volume’s indexer, who created an index that assists readers in accessing the volume’s documents and annotation.
Mertes and a representative from the Church Historian’s Press received the award at the conference of the American Society for Indexing earlier this month. At the conference, Mertes remarked, “I am pleased to say that, in working with the good people at the Church Historian’s Press, I have found a client who is a full partner in the indexing process, and their input and feedback have been essential in creating an index I can really be proud of.”
Volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers were recently reviewed in three publications:
In the Journal of the Early Republic, Kenneth P. Minkema, executive editor of The Works of Jonathan Edwards and of the Jonathan Edwards Center & Online Archive at Yale University, reviewed volumes 1 and 2 of the Documents series. He stated, “Well researched, scrupulously proofread, and expertly annotated, these volumes, and this edition, will surely stand as the definitive one for many generations.”
In BYU Studies Quarterly, James B. Allen, an emeritus professor of history at Brigham Young University and former assistant church historian of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, wrote of the Histories series, “The new Joseph Smith Papers volumes are well worth studying. . . . The painstaking editing and production ensure complete accuracy, and the editorial introductions provide insight into the efforts to produce a history of the Church during Joseph Smith’s lifetime. The editors have also provided several valuable study aids. The footnotes are copious and carefully prepared, providing important explanations and insights in addition to references to the source material.”
Thomas A. Wayment, associate professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University, wrote in the Religious Educator, “The volumes [of the Joseph Smith Papers] published so far represent the high-water mark for LDS documentary editing. . . . The editors should be commended for their painstaking attention to detail and the overall quality of the publications.”
On 10 March 2015, four Joseph Smith Papers historians—Matthew C. Godfrey, Robin Scott Jensen, Spencer W. McBride, and Brent M. Rogers—conducted the first live question-and-answer session the project has held via Twitter. Participants tweeted their questions using the hashtag #AskJSP and the historians answered using the LDS Church History Library’s Twitter account, @churchhistory.
The event was an effort to connect with followers of the Papers and answer their questions. “In this digital age, ink, pen, and paper are being replaced by keyboard, screen, and web interface,” said Robin Scott Jensen, associate managing historian. “Combining the two worlds brings history to life.”
The event created a surge in engagement on the Church History Twitter account. “We sent seventy-nine tweets and got engagement from over a thousand people,” said Laurel Teuscher, the social media producer who organized and oversaw the session. The tweets reached a record number of individuals for the account.
Matthew C. Godfrey, who is the JSP’s managing historian, stated, “I was hoping that this would enable people to get to know the project and our goals a bit better. I think we accomplished that. All of the questions were very thoughtful.” He added that the chat was “a great way to engage the general public about the project and get them excited for what we are producing about Joseph Smith and early Mormon history.”
The event was also significant for the historians involved. Spencer W. McBride, coeditor of the Documents series, said the event was more than just an opportunity for the project “to demonstrate the historical value of Joseph Smith’s papers in an innovative way.” The Twitter chat, he said, “provided me greater insights into how others view my work. As a historian and writer, gaining a better understanding of my audience is always a helpful thing.”
To see a transcript of the chat, visit http://ldschurchhistory.tumblr.com/post/113462094263/joseph-smith-papers-twitter-chat.
Joseph Smith’s firsthand accounts of his first vision of Deity are now available on josephsmithpapers.org in ten languages. Readers and researchers can now read these accounts in Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish. English transcripts are given side-by-side with the documents’ images; links to those documents are available here.
This marks the first time the Papers has translated material into non-English languages. We are pleased to be able to offer these foundational Mormon history documents to an international audience.
The Joseph Smith Papers recently implemented two noteworthy staff changes. Managing historian Matthew C. Godfrey has been promoted to general editor, joining Matthew J. Grow and Ronald K. Esplin in that position. Mark Ashurst-McGee will assume the role of senior research and review editor, replacing Richard L. Jensen, who will retire later this year.
Godfrey and Ashurst-McGee have been vital to the success of the Joseph Smith Papers, and they will continue to benefit the project with their expertise in history and documentary editing.
Full biographies of these historians and the rest of the Joseph Smith Papers team are available on the Project Team page.
The Joseph Smith Papers recently made previously published volumes available in a more accessible, electronic format.
Documents, volumes 1, 2, and 3; Histories, volumes 1 and 2; and Journals, volumes 1 and 2 are now available on Amazon and Deseret Bookshelf as e-books. Forthcoming volumes will be released in both print and electronic format.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project announces the addition of the following new content to its website, josephsmithpapers.org:
Also recently added are more than two hundred documents from January through March 1840, images for the Book of the Law of the Lord, and updates to the Calendar of Documents. In the coming months more documents from the Documents, Journals, Histories, Revelations and Translations, Legal and Business Records, and Administrative Records series will be added. Eventually the website will contain images and/or transcripts of all extant and available Joseph Smith papers.
The Joseph Smith Papers has collaborated with FamilySearch to identify living descendants of the more than six hundred individuals identified in the documents published on our website thus far. The purpose of the partnership is to help those descendants access documents, stories, and additional information about their ancestors found on josephsmithpapers.org.
“Though the primary audience for the Joseph Smith Papers is scholars,” said Ben Godfrey, product manager for the Joseph Smith Papers website, “an important secondary audience includes members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have an interest in the church’s history. This collaboration with FamilySearch helps us reach members of this important audience.” The effort will also serve people who are interested in their family history and who are not members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
So far the effort has reached roughly 250,000 people, and it is expected to reach 500,000 descendants in all. The project is already seeing results; the first phase of the campaign generated the most visits and unique visitors to the site on a single day since the Joseph Smith Papers site was launched.