The Joseph Smith Papers Project is gathering and publishing a collection of primary Joseph Smith documents that are invaluable to American history scholars and Mormon history scholars, and of importance to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The latest volume, Histories, Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832–1844 (Church Historian’s Press, $54.95), contains a number of highly readable and compelling historical narratives, some familiar to Latter-day Saints and historians, and some not well-known. The much-anticipated volume will be available March 19 at Deseret Book and select other retailers.
Highlights from the volume include accounts of Joseph Smith’s earliest heavenly manifestations, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, the organization of the church, the conferral of priesthood authority, the events leading up to Joseph Smith’s imprisonment in Missouri, and other events from early Latter-day Saint history.
The eight histories in this volume were all part of Joseph Smith’s personal record-keeping endeavors, and vary widely in creation date, purpose, format, length, and scope. Joseph Smith wrote or supervised the writing of each under circumstances that allowed him to be closely involved in their creation. Although he had considerable assistance from scribes and other associates, Joseph Smith himself assumed authorial responsibility for the histories found within the volume.
Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Historical Writings, 1831–1847 is slated for release later this year, and will cover histories assigned but not overseen by Joseph Smith.
The publication of The Joseph Smith Papers two centuries after the birth of the founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints opens a window on a life filled with what he called “marvelous experience” amongst constant opposition. Despite having received little formal schooling, Joseph Smith left an extensive legacy of letters and other written records which is now being made widely available.
The Joseph Smith Papers series is expected to span about twenty volumes in total. The Histories portion of the series will comprise two volumes. Visit JosephSmithPapers.org for more information about The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 1 and other Joseph Smith Papers Project publications. The website features several important documents described but not published in Histories, Volume 1, including the fair copy of Howard Coray’s history, Joseph Smith’s 1839 bill of damages, and the entirety of volume A-1 of the manuscript history.
The newly released documents include excerpts from the printer’s manuscript used to set the type for the first (1830) edition of the Book of Mormon, the earliest manuscript from Joseph Smith’s revision of the Bible (which includes the visions of Moses and the account of Enoch), and eight pages from the previously released Revelation Book 1, or Book of Commandments and Revelations. Several letters from Joseph Smith to his wife Emma are also part of the new release.
Some of the materials relate to the most foundational aspects of Latter-day Saint history and belief while others provide glimpses of Joseph Smith’s personality and private life. In either case the documents are a compelling read.
The document titled Old Testament Revision 1, a revelation Joseph Smith began dictating in June 1830, opens with God declaring to the prophet Moses, “Behold I I am the Lord God Almighty & endless is my name for I am without beginning of days or end of years & is this not endless & behold thou art my Son Wherefore look & I will shew thee the workmanship of mine hands.” Moses sees a vision of God’s creations, after which God and Moses have extended conversation about God’s plans and purposes.
The day-to-day reality of Joseph Smith’s life as captured in his personal papers offers a contrast to the vistas opened in his revelations. In two November 1838 letters included in the new web release, he updated his wife Emma on his location and condition after being arrested by Missouri officials. In the first of the letters, Joseph Smith gave what may have been a tongue-in-cheek description of the "kindst treatment" he had received from his captors, including a “splended perade”, and a “good house.” He also expressed his “great anxiety” for his family and fellow Latter-day Saints. Eight days later, he shared further emotions about being separated from his family: “Oh God grant that I may have the privaliege of seeing once more my lovely Family, in the injoyment, of the sweets of liberty, and sotial life, to press them to my bosam and kiss their lovely cheeks would fill my heart with unspeakable grattitude.”
Community of Christ, headquartered in Independence, Missouri, made the document images available under a licensing agreement with the project, which is sponsored by the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Speaking of the agreement between Community of Christ and the Church History Department, project archivist Robin Jensen said: “The spirit of cooperation shown by officials of both institutions has been remarkable. Both have an interest in making Joseph Smith’s documents available for the benefit of church members, the broader historical community, and improving the understanding of their shared heritage.”
Both The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and Community of Christ trace their origins to Joseph Smith’s teachings beginning in the 1820s and his organization of the Church of Christ on 6 April 1830. Both churches have significant collections of Joseph Smith documents.
Community of Christ maintains copyright ownership of the images they have licensed to the Joseph Smith Papers Project for use on the Joseph Smith Papers website. Research inquiries related to Community of Christ–owned documents should be directed to the Community of Christ Library-Archives in Independence, Missouri.
Besides publishing materials on its website, the Joseph Smith Papers Project is also publishing selected papers in letterpress volumes available in bookstores. The print volumes and electronic publications are an essential resource for scholars and students of Joseph Smith, early Mormonism, and nineteenth-century American religion.
To view these new additions to the website, click on the links below.
Old Testament Revision 1
Revelation Book 1, pages 111 –112, 117 –120, and 139 –140
Preface to Book of Mormon, circa August 1829
Testimony of Three Witnesses, late June 1829
Testimony of Eight Witnesses, late June 1829
License for William Smith, 5 October 1831
Letter to Emma Smith, 13 October 1832
Letter to Emma Smith, 18 May 1834
Letter to Church Officers in Missouri, 31 August 1835
Revelation, 18 October 1835
Letter to Emma Smith, 4 November 1838
Letter to Emma Smith, 12 November 1838