Reviews

The Joseph Smith Papers

“Edited according to the highest professional standards, meticulously presented, and eventually to include a comprehensive collection of extant Smith documents, the Joseph Smith papers represent a landmark in historical scholarship.”

—Cathy Rodabaugh, Ohio History 120 (The Kent State University Press, 2013): 140–141.

“The single greatest contribution of the Joseph Smith Papers Project will not be a particular volume published, but will be instead the unparalleled (though of course still imperfect) example of professional precision with which its editors analyze their material. . . .The volumes are presented in a manner to maximize the ease of access to the material for those not intimately familiar with early Mormon History. . . . The annotation is extremely helpful and the foreword and back matter integrate the content of the volume for the expert and uninitiated alike.”

—Jonathan A. Stapley, “Worth the Wait,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 46, no. 1 (Spring 2013): 200–206.

“Historians of American religion will find perusing these volumes fruitful in at least two ways. First of all, the religious development of Mormonism itself provides insight on popular religious culture and opportunities to see comparative aspects of American religions. . . . Second, Smith and other early Mormons had contact with leaders from a number of religious traditions. . . . These attractive volumes represent a tremendous scholarly resource presented effectively and comprehensively.”

—Ruth Alden Doan, review of The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839; Revelations and Translations, Volume 1: Manuscript Revelation Books; Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books (Facsimile Edition); Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations, in Journal of the Early American Republic 32, no. 3 (Fall 2012): 518–522. Abstract posted with permission of the University of Pennsylvania Press.

Documents, Volume 2: July 1831–January 1833 (Published 2013)

“This [Documents] series is where the ‘trickle down’ effect of the Papers in the hands of future historians and biographers will probably be most powerful. As has come to be expected, these volumes feature painstaking precision and a primary source focus. A fine achievement and a welcome addition to any library, either for a researcher or interested reader.”

—Bryan Buchanan, "Review: The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, vol. 1: July 1828–June 1831 and The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, vol. 2: July 1831–January 1833," Association for Mormon Letters Discussion Board, 25 January 2014.

Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847 (Published 2012)

“The opportunity in these volumes to understand Smith and his earliest adherents on their own terms, in their own words, and in their own times is unprecedented and will be of great benefit not only to rank-and-file members of the LDS Church . . . but also to scholars of Mormonism and historians of American religion.”

—Kenneth P. Minkema, Journal of American History 100 (Sept. 2013): 508–509.

“The juxtaposition of H2’s documents provides a lesson in contrasting perspective, a key for historians, but hopefully also a key for everyone. . . . The divergent perspectives of the authors is Histories 2’s greatest strength. Both professional historians and interested observers will benefit from their use.”

—J. Stapley, “Review: JSPP, Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831–1847,By Common Consent (blog), 21 July 2013, http://bycommonconsent.com/2013/07/21/review-jspp-histories-volume-2-assigned-histories-1831-1837.

Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844 (Published 2012)

“The editors of H1 have produced an exemplary documentary edition. Their work typifies the kind of outstanding research and analysis that distinguishes good scholarly and documentary editions of historical texts. Their comprehensive proofreading plan, rules for transcription, introductions, explanatory annotations, text-specific source notes, and historical essays provide readers with an experience comparable to reading the original documents.”

—Diana Dial Reynolds, Mormon Historical Studies 14 no. 2 (Fall 2013): 213–215.

“Importantly, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories subtly educates its readers about the craft of history and the many perplexities that surrounded the creation of early Mormonism's story. The volume editors skillfully address the questions of authorship and Joseph Smith's use of scribes/collaborators/co-authors like Warren Parrish, Howard Coray, and W.W. Phelps. . . .The volume's detailed notes and commentaries provide readers with the tools to understand the meaning and significance of these documents. It is a volume that will benefit both serious historians and casual students of Mormon history.”

—Brett D. Dowdle and Samuel Morris Brown, Journal of Mormon History 39 no. 2 (Spring 2013): 255–258.

“The result is a volume that is absolutely necessary to any serious study of the period, but also a volume that should be used far outside the discipline. It presents consummate material for studies in textual criticism, memory, and narrative studies. H1 maintains the strict and high standards of document editing that continue to push all publishers and scholars interested in Mormonism to increased excellence.”

—J. Stapley, “Review: JSPP, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844,By Common Consent (blog), 13 July 2012, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/07/13/review-joseph-smith-papars-histories-volume-1-joseph-smith-histories-1832-1844.

“As readers of previous JSP volumes know, the introductory and contextual matter is a hallmark of the project. The editors have done an excellent job of noting the complexity of the earliest histories. . . . Having happily dug into the wealth of detail in the introductions in previous volumes, I was pleased to see this standard of excellence continued. The editors are meticulous in supporting their conclusions and broad in their reading.”

—Bryan Buchanan, “Review: The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, vol. 1 (Joseph Smith Histories: 1832–1844),” Association for Mormon Letters Discussion Board, 16 May 2012.

“This new volume presents ‘the six personal and church histories written, dictated, or closely supervised by Joseph Smith’ prior to his death. Early Latter-day Saints sought to give explicit narrative shape to their experiences as they understood them. . . . More and more records are being meticulously transcribed and published for the Joseph Smith Papers Project, giving us easier, more intimate, and unprecedented access to our early church history. . . . The Joseph Smith Papers Project, that remarkable product of our official Church History department, seeks to place all the cards we have on the table.”

—BHodges, “What Has the ‘Joseph Smith Papers Project’ to Do with Islam?,” By Common Consent (blog), 20 Mar. 2012, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/03/20/what-has-the-joseph-smith-papers-project-to-do-with-islam.

Journals, Volume 2: December 1841–April 1843 (Published 2011)

“The editors of the volume have produced transcripts that scholars may rely upon with confidence. . . . Ancillary material included in the volume and on the Smith Papers website is outstanding and will serve as an essential reference library to scholars. . . . The examination of this volume revealed no reason to doubt that the editors have risen to the challenge and produced an unfiltered view of the documents left behind by the founders of the Church. In ways both subtle and immediately evident it is clear that the editing standards applied at the Smith Papers are forthright and rigorous.”

—Hobson Woodward, Mormon Historical Studies 13, nos. 1–2 (Spring/Fall 2013): 239–241.

“The value of this volume lies in the journals themselves, the annotations, and the remaining scholarly apparatus. All reflect the resources and talent that the Church History Department continues to devote to this venture. . . . The chronology, outstanding maps, biographical directory, complex charts of church officers, and bibliography will all also be of great use to anyone active in Mormon Studies. Any instructor with students who might write research papers on Mormon topics should have their libraries buy the (not inexpensive) volumes of the JSP.”

—John Turner, “Joseph Smith Journals,” Religion in American History (blog), 6 Dec. 2011, http://usreligion.blogspot.com/2011/12/joseph-smith-journals.html.

“For a serious student of Joseph and his journals, the introductions to [the Book of the Law of the Lord] and the memorandum books alone are worth the price of admission. . . . The somewhat stricter transcription standards also ensure that anyone citing the journals is as close to the original as printably possible. The annotation, appendices and back matter are also extremely helpful in contextualizing Nauvoo events. Journals, vol. 2 is a worthy addition to this highest-quality series.”

—Bryan Buchanan,“The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 2: December 1841–April 1843,Association for Mormon Letters Discussion Board, 25 Nov. 2011.

“One of the lasting contributions of the JSPP generally will be their highly meticulous transcription process. . . . The depth of the editors’ familiarity with every imaginable feature of the journals and their context is really quite astonishing. . . . [The project has] a level of professionalized precision that flirts with the incredible. It includes generous reference materials documenting civil and religious leadership, biographical details and local cartography. Journals 2 maintains the highest standards of the project’s preceding releases, while incorporating the vast and complex available context of the Nauvoo period.”

—J. Stapley, “Review: JSPP, Journals, Volume 2, 1842–1843,By Common Consent (blog), 6 Jan. 2012, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/01/06/review-joseph-smith-papers-journals-volume-2-1842-1843/#more-32666.

Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations (Published 2011)

“This volume gives good background information on the publication of the [Book of Commandments] and the 1835 D&C [Doctrine and Covenants]. The footnotes are usually informative. The value of the books is the detailed comments on the sources for printing the D&C. . . . It is refreshing to have scholars address [alterations in revelations] as evidenced from an examination of manuscripts and comparing the words between the printed revelations. . . . For those who love to examine the textual history of Restoration scriptures, volume two is a must to have in their library.”

—H. Michael Marquardt, The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 31, no. 2 (Fall/Winter 2011): 152–156.

“In Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations, the Joseph Smith Papers editors have not only maintained their very high standard of documentary excellence, but they have transformed the scholarly approach to Joseph Smith’s revelation. The revelation texts and other materials presented in this volume are a pillar that still stands, supporting the lived religion of millions. Documenting the construction of that pillar, and the mechanics involved, the editors deftly present their unparalleled familiarity with the source material. We will all benefit from the avenues of research now open.”

—J. Stapley, “Review: The Joseph Smith Papers, Published Revelations,By Common Consent (blog), 2 Aug. 2011, http://bycommonconsent.com/2011/08/02/review-the-joseph-smith-papers-published-revelations/#more-27819.

“The Joseph Smith Papers Project is engaged in scholarly work of the highest caliber—their documentary editing skills and presentation expertise are par excellence in Mormon academic circles. . . . The Joseph Smith Papers Project excels in challenging its readership to get their facts straight, to ground their narratives in historical documents, and to build a better foundation for understanding LDS history. The academic scholarship is vigorous, the research is thorough, and the presentation is attractive and inviting.”

—Ben P., “Where Heaven Meets Earth; Or, the Importance of the Joseph Smith Papers,” The Juvenile Instructor (blog), 27 Mar. 2011, http://www.juvenileinstructor.org/where-heaven-meets-earth-or-the-importance-of-the-joseph-smith-papers.

Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books (Facsimile Edition Published 2009)

“This is a unique and momentous publication, done in a way unlikely to be duplicated. It is also one that every scholar seriously interested in the founding documents of the Church must inevitably examine.”

—James B. Allen, BYU Studies Quarterly 51, no. 2 (2012): 151–160, https://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=9023.

“When a guest lecturer at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, who is working on a documentary edition of papers by people involved in writing the Declaration of Independence, saw this volume, her reactions—which surely bespeak a typical first reaction—visibly exuded astonishment mingled with glee, together with expressions of sincere congratulations and longing admiration.”

—John W. Welch and Dallin T. Morrow, Journal of Mormon History 37 no. 2 (Spring 2011): 237–243.

“A particularly useful contribution of the editors is identifying the hands that contributed to the manuscript text. On the transcript pages, the work (sometimes only marks of punctuation) of Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, William W. Phelps, Sidney Rigdon, and John Whitmer is distinguished by a different color of ink. This puts at the disposal of readers the expertise it took the editors hours to acquire becoming familiar not just with the singular shapes characteristic of the handwriting of each individual, but also with even the most minute, but important elements of an individual’s style.”

—David B. Gracy, II, Mormon Historical Studies 11, no. 2 (Fall 2010): 177–180.

“The Joseph Smith Papers Project began working with [Revelation Book 1, which is labeled “Book of Commandments and Revelations”] in the middle of 2006. In that short period they have done a magnificent job. . . . I recommend this volume (with transcriptions) for the serious inquirer of Latter Day Saint scriptures. If there is just one book that you should own of the Joseph Smith Papers, this is the book.”

—H. Michael Marquardt, The John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 30 (2010): 275–278.

“It is hard to overstate the significance of [Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books] to Mormon historiography. Editors have transformed these foundational records, much of them only recently discovered, into a vividly accessible volume that exceeds all documentary standards and reveals the process of Mormon revelation in stunning detail.”

—J. Stapley, “Review: The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books,By Common Consent (blog), 4 Nov. 2009, http://bycommonconsent.com/2009/11/04/review-revelations-and-translations-manuscript-revelation-books-jspp.

“This new volume will allow each person [to] access . . . these revelations and see for themselves the changes that have been made. By seeing these pages of scripture in their early form the reader can have an informed understanding of this revelatory process. I highly recommend this book.”

—Joe Geisner, with additional comments by Jeffrey Needle, “The Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations and Translation, Vol. 1,” LDS Book Lovers, 27 Oct. 2009, http://www.ldsbooklovers.com/bookreview.asp?rid=239&bid=2449&pid=18.

“This may be the first time that many readers have a chance to examine, even second hand, a primary manuscript from the 19th century. At some point, many will probably test themselves at trying to read a few lines of manuscript before looking at the printed ‘cheat sheet.’ Depending on the chosen page, there will likely be some pride at how well the novice can read the unfamiliar handwriting, or—if the chosen page is one that is faded or particularly carelessly written—some marveling at the success of the volume editors in transcribing what seems an impossible mass of pale pen strokes.”

—Ardis E. Parshall, “First Impressions of the Joseph Smith Papers: Revelations Volume,Keepapitchinin (blog), 23 Sept. 2009, http://www.keepapitchinin.org/2009/09/23/first-impressions-of-the-joseph-smith-papers-revelations-volume.

Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839 (Published 2008)

“Readers need not raise a skeptical eyebrow when they see this edition is produced by LDS members and printed by an LDS press. While this project is meant in part to be a resource for its own constituency, there is an impartiality and professionalism here in the tone, subjects, and sources that bode well for this series and edition as a reliable resource for all.”

—Kenneth P. Minkema, Documentary Editing 31 (2010): 120–122.

“The transcription practices of the project are excellent and are carefully explained in the volume’s front matter. The editors preserve the exact language, spelling, and punctuation of the original journals. . . . Overall, this is an excellent start to this very important addition to the history of the Latter-day Saints.”

—Kenneth Stevens, Mormon Historical Studies 11, no. 2 (Fall 2010): 175–177.

“The editorial staff have gathered every available Smith document, subjected them all to a three-step verification process, and provided an extensive historical annotation without theological commentary in conjunction with an advisory board of Smith scholars. . . . In addition to extensive introductory material, the volume contains useful reference material including a chronology, maps, glossary, and essay on sources. . . . This is an extraordinary work. . . . Highly recommended.”

—Daniel Liestman, Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, July 2009.

Journals, Volume 1 is . . . massive in its scope and a welcome addition to historical documents in the study of the history and scriptures of the Latter-day Saints. . . . [It] is a beautifully bound volume with high-quality paper. The typeface is easy to read. The book is a significant improvement in historiography of Joseph Smith. This is scholarly work but simple enough for a general audience. The editors should be proud of their work. I recommend the book.”

—H. Michael Marquardt, Journal of Mormon History 35, no. 4 (2009): 233–239.

“Both LDS and non-LDS scholars, in short, will wish to use this and future volumes produced by the Joseph Smith Papers. Though the editors acknowledge being LDS adherents, they have done their work according to the modern standards of documentary editing and are at no point guilty of preparing or presenting their texts in tendentious ways. . . . All in all, the volume is an impressive achievement, and it is to be hoped that future volumes in the Joseph Smith Papers Project will match its quality of scholarship.”

—Thomas Coens, BYU Studies 48, no. 3 (2009): 148–151, http://byustudies.byu.edu/showTitle.aspx?title=8374.

“[Journals, Volume 1] contains generous background information, abundant annotations (recommending a variety of primary and secondary sources), illustrations, and maps. . . . These volumes—may I live to see the release of the entire series—will be indispensable for the next generation of scholars on Mormon history.”

—John Turner, “Joseph Smith Papers,” Religion in American History (blog), 23 Jan. 2009, http://usreligion.blogspot.com/2009/01/joseph-smith-papers.html.

“This first volume in the upcoming . . . series is a monumental achievement in so many ways. It provides both content and context—it relates what Joseph wrote, and gives the modern reader a glimpse at what was going on around him. And, in many ways, it represents a major step in Mormonism’s emergence into the light of the 21st century. . . . This volume, and, I suspect, the ones that will follow, will constitute one of the greatest contributions to the lore of Mormonism’s founder that we’ve seen in some time.”

—Jeff Needle, “The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Vol. 1: 1832–1839,” LDS Book Lovers, 10 Jan. 2009, http://www.ldsbooklovers.com/bookreview.asp?rid=207&bid=2414&pid=0.