2020 News and Updates
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New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
October 30, 2020
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes an introduction and case documents for the second attempt to extradite Joseph Smith, introductions for five other legal cases, Nauvoo marriage records and certificates, a finding aid for priesthood licenses issued by Joseph Smith, a copy of Joseph Smith’s Old Testament revision, accounts of the assassination of Joseph Smith, and multiple explanatory charts.
This release includes an introduction and over forty documents, with annotation, for the case Extradition of JS for Accessory to Assault, which arose after the attempted assassination of Lilburn W. Boggs, former governor of Missouri. Boggs survived the shooting, but many of the Latter-day Saints’ critics, led by former member John C. Bennett, believed that Smith had ordered Orrin Porter Rockwell to carry out the assassination because of Boggs’s poor treatment of the church members. The ex-governor demanded that both Smith and Rockwell be extradited from Illinois to Missouri to face charges. After issuance of arrest warrants and writs of habeas corpus, U.S. circuit court judge Nathaniel Pope discharged Joseph Smith because of a deficiency in Boggs’s affidavit. Illinois governor Thomas Ford wrote that, due to Pope’s decision, “all such . . . warrants are inoperative and void.” Pope’s ruling became an influential precedent in American extradition law.
In the Administrative Records series, we have included the Nauvoo Marriage Record, which documents the marriage, date, and officiator of marriages in Nauvoo, Illinois, from February 1842 to January 1846. This release also includes individual certificates for marriages in which Joseph Smith served as officiator. In addition, to help researchers better navigate the many priesthood licenses issued by Joseph Smith, we have created an index with links to the original documents.
Just after the Book of Mormon’s publication and the organization of the Church of Christ in 1830, Joseph Smith began dictating a revelation expanding and revising the Old Testament. The expansion features several key Old Testament figures, including Moses, Enoch, Noah, and Abraham. As part of this release, we are including John Whitmer’s first copy of this document, which includes the first nineteen pages of Smith’s Old Testament revision.
In the Histories series, we have added the John Taylor, Martyrdom Account as well as the final copy and draft of the Historian’s Office account of the same events.
This release also includes multiple explanatory charts. Two of these charts list the members and committees of the Council of Fifty. Another chart gives a line-by-line comparison of the vision recorded by Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in Doctrine and Covenants 76 in February 1832 with a poem published in the Times and Seasons in February 1843.
Documents, Volume 11 Released
October 12, 2020
SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 11 includes papers from September 1842 through February 1843 and covers a trying time during which Joseph Smith continued to lead the church and city government of Nauvoo, Illinois, as opponents sought his arrest and extradition to Missouri. The volume also includes important instructions from Joseph Smith to the church on the practice of baptisms for the dead.
Documents, Volume 11 features 105 documents, including letters, editorials, reports of discourses, municipal and legal documents, and poems. The texts presented in this volume, with their detailed historical annotation, make this book a crucial resource for those seeking a deeper understanding of Joseph Smith as the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint, as mayor of Nauvoo, and as a man seeking to protect himself, his family, and his fellow Latter-day Saints from persecution.
Documents, Volume 11 was edited by Spencer W. McBride, Jeffrey D. Mahas, Brett D. Dowdle, and Tyson Reeder.
Joseph Smith’s Connections and Networks
September 18, 2020
On Friday, September 18, 2020, we held our fourth annual Joseph Smith Papers Conference. Due to the ongoing global pandemic, the event was held online.
Presentations explore aspects of Joseph Smith’s interrelated worldviews, including race, politics, finance, and theology. Papers engage with themes found in volumes 10 and 11 of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers.
Full proceedings from the conference are found here. Each participant has graciously shared a video of his or her presentation online.
New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
July 28, 2020
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes the entire digital version of Documents, Volume 7, the introduction to and transcription of the Kirtland Safety Society Stock Ledger, Nauvoo City Council documents, introductions for six legal cases, and annotation for Doctrine and Covenants 132.
Documents, Volume 7 contains documents chronicling difficulties Joseph Smith and the church faced establishing Nauvoo, Illinois; efforts to obtain redress for the loss of property and lives of the Saints in Missouri; the missionary efforts in England in 1840; and doctrinal developments preached by Joseph Smith, including the introduction of baptism for the dead. Highlights from this volume include
- Land transactions in Nauvoo and Iowa Territory;
- Documentation of Joseph Smith’s visit to Washington DC to plead for aid from President Martin Van Buren and Congress; and
- The Nauvoo city charter.
The Kirtland Safety Society Stock Ledger contains entries from October 1836 to June 1837, detailing subscriptions from individuals interested in purchasing some of the society’s 80,000 shares of stock for $50 each. The ledger shows that the Safety Society was lenient to those who could not pay their full initial payment; some who subscribed for 1,000 shares paid only a few dollars, and some never paid anything. This created a severe funding problem for the society.
The Nauvoo City Council documents published in this release include minutes from many significant Nauvoo City Council meetings, including meetings on 8 and 10 June 1844 about the Nauvoo Expositor and reorganizational meetings after Joseph Smith’s death.
In the Legal Records series, we have added an introduction for City of Nauvoo v. C. L. Higbee et al. This case is related to another case, City of Nauvoo v. A. Spencer, which involved Joseph Smith instructing Orrin Porter Rockwell to arrest Augustine Spencer without issuing a warrant. Spencer resisted, and the city marshal asked Chauncey L. Higbee, Charles A. Foster, and Robert D. Foster to apprehend Spencer. They refused, and Spencer was arrested anyway. Higbee and the Fosters were also arrested for refusing to help and resisting arrest. The other cases in this release are debt cases, three from Ohio (Underwood et al. v. Rigdon et al., Rigdon et al. for the use of L. Cowdery v. W. Smith, and Commercial Bank of Lake Erie v. Cahoon et al.) and one from Illinois (JS v. O. Cowdery).
Documents, Volume 10 Released
May 4, 2020
The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 10, which includes papers from May through August 1842, covers a time during which Joseph Smith oversaw missionary work, encouraged the construction of the Nauvoo temple, served as editor of the church newspaper Times and Seasons, and struggled to help the hundreds of converts gathering to Nauvoo, Illinois. In May, he was elected mayor, adding new responsibilities to his busy schedule, and during the summer he repeatedly dealt with issues relating to his bankruptcy application. The demands on his time were so great that Wilford Woodruff wrote in June that he had “never seen Joseph as full of business as of late,” noting that “he hardly gets time to sign his name.”
New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
April 30, 2020
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes the launch of a new, online-only Financial Records series. This series features Joseph Smith’s financial transactions, both personal and in various organizations and businesses, to be published over the next few years. This release also includes the publication of more Nauvoo City Council documents, eleven history drafts, and introductions to eight legal cases from Missouri, Illinois, and Ohio.
The first official release of our new Financial Records series includes documents and introductions for three financial records.
- The Kirtland Safety Society Daybook: This daybook for the Kirtland Safety Society Bank contains entries for loans as well as for the issuing of Kirtland Safety Society notes in exchange for banknotes from other financial institutions.
- The Kirtland Safety Society Discounted Notes: These loose pages are a record the Kirtland Safety Society banking office used to track certain transactions.
- The Rigdon, Smith & Co. Ledger: This ledger is from a store in Chester, Ohio, that was run by a mercantile company composed of Sidney Rigdon, JS, and possibly Oliver Cowdery. It includes basic accounts but not details about what was sold. It also shows the decline in business around the time of the financial panic in 1837.
The Nauvoo City Council documents include an ordinance establishing a ferry, as well as resolutions for to increase protection for the citizens and an ordinance establishing a police force after two people were kidnapped and taken to Missouri.
In the Histories series, we have added transcripts to much of the draft material for Joseph Smith’s multivolume history, including the rough draft notes for the years 1840–1842.
Our additions to the Legal Records series are introductions to six debt cases and two criminal cases. These cases feature Joseph Smith acting as defendant, witness, and justice of the peace. The following cases are included in this release:
- Hibbard for the use of Hungerford & Livingston v. Miller and JS
- State of Illinois v. Elliott–A and State of Illinois v. Elliott–B
- Niswanger v. Wight and Jett
- M. F. Thompson v. F. Dixon and E. Dixon
- State of Missouri v. Gates et al. for Arson
- Boosinger v. JS et al. and Boosinger v. Cowdery et al.
- Bank of Geauga v. JS et al.
New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
February 25, 2020
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes the digital version of Documents, Volume 6, hundreds of priesthood licenses from the church’s Kirtland, Ohio, period, and documents for thirteen legal cases.
Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839 begins with Joseph Smith fleeing Kirtland for Far West, Missouri, with hope that the Latter-day Saints could live peacefully there. However, after conflicts with neighbors erupted into what later became known as “the Mormon War,” Joseph Smith was arrested and incarcerated, while the Saints were violently forced from the state. After spending a winter in jail, Smith escaped to Illinois, where he once again began to establish a gathering place. Highlights from this volume include the following:
- The final letter Joseph Smith wrote to Emma from the Clay County jail in Liberty
- A letter Smith wrote to Bishop Edward Partridge and the Saints from the Clay County jail in Liberty, conveying divine words of comfort he had received
- Documentation for transactions to acquire land in what would become Nauvoo, Illinois
- An introduction on the Mormon War
- Joseph Smith’s published answers to twenty questions he was asked “daily and hourly . . . by all classes of people”
- Revelations on tithing and the name of the church
The record book titled “Kirtland Elders’ Certificates” includes nearly four hundred licenses attesting that a male priesthood holder had been ordained to a priesthood position and was given permission to preach the gospel and perform other priesthood duties. The licenses are also being published individually in the online Documents series under their issue dates.
In the Legal, Business, and Financial Records series, we have added introductions for six Ohio legal cases, one Illinois legal case, and one Missouri legal case, as well as documents for five more Ohio legal cases. The newly published cases include a case involving the plundering of Joseph Smith’s house in Far West, a case in which Smith served as a witness in a dispute over a cow, a complaint he made against Thomas J. Hunter for maligning both his character and the church, and three debt cases. There is also a case in which Joseph Smith was charged with assault and battery for an altercation with his brother-in-law Calvin Stoddard over whether a parcel of land contained water. In the end, the judge found him not guilty because Stoddard testified that Smith had apologized directly after the incident.
The First Vision Podcast Released
January 5, 2020
The Joseph Smith Papers announces today the release of The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast. This six-part miniseries from the the Joseph Smith Papers Project explores the history and legacy of Joseph Smith’s first vision. The podcast will be available beginning January 5, 2020. Series host Spencer W. McBride, PhD, interviews historians in a documentary-style podcast about this pivotal event in Latter-day Saint history. Released in the bicentennial year of Joseph Smith’s first vision, the podcast recreates for listeners the world in which Joseph Smith was seeking answers to the pressing questions of his soul and helps them understand the vision from the perspective of historians.
All six episodes of the podcast are available now on the Latter-day Saints Channel and on other podcast platforms such as iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.