Joseph Smith (1805–1844) was the founding prophet and first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Joseph Smith Papers Project is an effort to gather together all extant Joseph Smith documents and to publish complete and accurate transcripts of those documents with both textual and contextual annotation. All such documents will be published electronically on this website, and a large number of the documents will also be published in print. The print and electronic publications constitute an essential resource for scholars and students of the life and work of Joseph Smith, early Latter-day Saint history, and nineteenth-century American religion. For the first time, all of Joseph Smith’s known surviving papers, which include many of the foundational documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be easily accessible in one place.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project is not a “documentary history” project comprising all important documents relating to Joseph Smith. Instead, it is a “papers” project that will publish, according to accepted documentary editing standards, documents created by Joseph Smith or by staff whose work he directed, including journals, revelations and translations, contemporary reports of discourses, minutes, business and legal records, editorials, and notices. The project also includes papers received and “owned” by his office, such as incoming correspondence.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project is a comprehensive edition, meaning it will include all known and available documents meeting the project’s criteria as Joseph Smith documents. While selective editions may exclude some documents because they are of less interest or importance, comprehensive editions such as this one make no such exclusions. All Joseph Smith documents, even routine ones such as certificates, will be published on this website, and many documents will be published in print volumes. It is expected that twenty-seven print volumes will be published, at a rate of about two per year.
The print and digital editions of the Joseph Smith Papers are divided into seven series. The Documents series is the core of both editions, presenting, with the exception of some documents featured in other series, all of Joseph Smith’s papers from July 1828 to June 1844. The other series will publish larger record books and standalone genres. The Journals series presents Joseph Smith’s diaries from 1832 to 1844; the Histories series publishes Joseph Smith’s many attempts to record his own story and the story of the church; the Revelations and Translations series provides textual studies of Smith’s revelatory texts; the Administrative Records series presents minute books, letterbooks, and records of organizations Smith was associated with, such as the Council of Fifty; the Legal Records series presents the legal cases Smith was involved in; and the Financial Records series presents documents related to his business and financial dealings.
Because the Joseph Smith Papers Project meets the requisite scholarly and documentary editing criteria, it has earned an endorsement by the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). To ensure accuracy of the texts, project editors undertake three independent levels of text verification for each manuscript, including a final verification against the original.
The project is staffed by scholars, archivists, and editors employed by the Church History Library of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah. The publisher of the project’s print and web publications is The Church Historian’s Press, an imprint of the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.