2018 News and Updates
Joseph Smith Documents through June 1844 Now Online
The latest web content release for the Joseph Smith Papers Project includes more than a hundred documents from June of 1844, the final month of Joseph Smith’s life. These documents include items relating to Joseph Smith’s arrest and imprisonment in Carthage, Illinois, and letters to and from family members, particularly his wife Emma, as well as friends, lawyers, church members, and the governor of Illinois. There are also discourses given to the church and to the Nauvoo Legion. Some highlights:
- Letter to Thomas Ford, 14 June 1844
- Discourse, 16 June 1844–A
- Letter to Emma Smith, 27 June 1844
- Letter to Orville Browning, 27 June 1844
In addition to the June 1844 documents, this latest release includes one of the books used to record licenses issued to elders to preach the gospel (Dec. 1837–May 1862), and a chart showing the relationship between the various manuscript and published versions of the extensive history Joseph Smith began in the late 1830s.
In the Legal, Business and Financial Records series, we have added documents for five Missouri legal cases and two Illinois legal cases. Also included in this release are new introductions to five Illinois court cases.
“Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts” Volume Now Available
The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts tracks the development of the Book of Abraham from the time Joseph Smith and others purchased Egyptian papyri in 1835 through the publication of the Book of Abraham text and its accompanying illustrations in the church newspaper Times and Seasons in 1842.
The volume introduction, “Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts,” has been published on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
“This latest volume offers readers an unprecedented look at the manuscripts and earliest publications of the Book of Abraham,” explains Robin Scott Jensen, one of the volume’s coeditors. “But it also takes readers inside Joseph Smith’s study of the Egyptian papyri before he dictated the Book of Abraham—which is a history with which few Latter-day Saints are familiar.”
The volume contains three main groups of documents: (1) the extant fragments of the Egyptian papyri purchased by Joseph Smith and his associates in 1835; (2) the documents that collectively constitute the “Egyptian-language documents,” which are associated with the attempt by Joseph Smith and his associates to decipher Egyptian characters from the papyri; and (3) the manuscripts and first publication of the Book of Abraham. Revelations and Translations, Volume 4 is one of just a handful of volumes in The Joseph Smith Papers to be presented as a “facsimile edition”—with full-color photographs of all the documents and typographic facsimiles of all English-language material.
The Book of Abraham, today found in the volume of Latter-day Saint scripture known as The Pearl of Great Price, presents a narrative of Abraham’s journey from Ur to Egypt, a description of his activities in Egypt, an account of the creation of the world, and doctrinal teachings on topics such as the eternal nature and premortal existence of spirits and the plan for a Savior for humankind. Even before the Book of Abraham was published in 1842, Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saints described it as a divinely inspired translation of Egyptian papyri. Wilford Woodruff, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated in 1842 that “the Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the Urim & Thummim Ancient records & Hyeroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam, which causes our hearts to burn within us while we behold their glorious truths opened unto us.” While Joseph Smith and his contemporaries referred to his work on the Book of Abraham as a translation, Smith had no prior knowledge of the Egyptian language and relied instead on divine revelation to produce the text.
Introductions in Revelations and Translations, Volume 4 illuminate the history of the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith’s study of the Egyptian language by situating them in the broader historical context of an international flowering of interest in ancient Egypt and of Joseph Smith’s other translation projects. With high-resolution images and transcripts created to the highest standards of documentary editing, this volume is an invaluable resource for those studying Joseph Smith’s prophetic translations.
Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts, edited by Robin Scott Jensen and Brian M. Hauglid, is available now. Visit the Published Volumes page for more information.
Council of Fifty Minutes Now Online
In 2016, the Joseph Smith Papers Project published in print the minutes from the Council of Fifty in Nauvoo, Illinois. We are pleased to announce that those minutes are now available on this website, including images of the record books. On 11 March 1844, Joseph Smith organized a council that he and his closest associates saw as the beginning of the literal kingdom of God on earth. Among other things, the council explored possible Mormon settlement sites outside the boundaries of the United States and oversaw Joseph Smith’s electioneering campaign for United States president. For more on the Council of Fifty, see the volume introduction, “The Council of Fifty in Nauvoo, Illinois.”
In addition to the Council of Fifty minutes, this latest web content release includes more than 125 documents from March, April, and May 1844, including letters, discourses, deeds, and Nauvoo City Council business. Some highlights:
- A discourse about the spirit of Elias, Elijah, and the Messiah, given 10 March 1844
- A letter to presidential candidate Henry Clay dated 13 May 1844 chastising him for not taking a stronger stand on protecting liberty
- A memorial to the U. S. Congress concerning Texas and Oregon, 26 March 1844
In the Legal, Business, and Financial Records series, we have added documents to four Missouri legal cases against Joseph Smith (for riot, treason, and arson), as well as editorial introductions to the riot case and several Ohio court cases.
New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web content release. Featured in this publication are over a hundred documents from January and February 1844, including letters, deeds, and Nauvoo City Council business. Some highlights:
- Correspondence with Illinois governor Thomas Ford about continuing difficulties with the Mormons’ neighbors
- Documents related to the transfer of Joseph Smith’s “Mansion House” to Ebenezer Robinson
- A pamphlet describing Joseph Smith’s views on government
- Correspondence with Joseph Smith’s agents in Kirtland, Ohio, concerning the disposition of property
Also included in this release are images for the “History of Joseph Smith” as published in the Times and Seasons and Deseret News. Joseph Smith began publishing this history, which he began composing in 1838, in the church newspaper in March 1842; church historians completed the project in 1858.
Documents, Volume 7: September 1839–January 1841 Is Now Available
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce the release of Documents, Volume 7, which covers September 1839 through January 1841. This volume contains 129 documents, including personal correspondence, discourses, minutes, a revelation, and a memorial to the United States Congress. Specific topics addressed in these documents include the practical and spiritual building up of Nauvoo, Illinois; the struggle to obtain redress for the property and lives lost in Missouri; the missionary efforts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in England; and the introduction of new teachings and doctrines, including baptism for the dead.
This volume helps illuminate this difficult period—a time when Joseph Smith strove to regroup church members after their forced expulsion from Missouri and attempted to establish a new gathering place for the Saints. The documents reveal a church leader trying to unify his people and extend the church’s reach through missionary work, especially through the efforts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They show a man concerned for the health and well-being of his followers—and a man striving to obtain redress for the wrong they suffered in Missouri. These documents are critical to understanding Joseph Smith as a person, as a husband and father, and as a prophet to his people; to comprehending the foundations of the Mormon experience in Nauvoo; and to grasping the larger context of events in the United States and elsewhere that influenced Joseph Smith and the church from 1839 to 1841.
Documents, Volume 7 was edited by Matthew C. Godfrey, Spencer W. McBride, Alex D. Smith, and Christopher James Blythe, with Shannon Kelly Jorgensen as the lead production editor. The volume is now available for purchase from Deseret Book and Amazon.
Call for Papers: Joseph Smith Papers Conference
On October 26, 2018, the Joseph Smith Papers will host a conference in Salt Lake City on the topic of translation and Latter-day Saint history. We encourage papers that utilize the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers to illuminate the ministry and work of Joseph Smith, how Joseph Smith and other Saints understood the gift of translation, and the methods behind specific translation projects. See the call for papers for details.
New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
February 6, 2018
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web content release. Included in this substantial publication are all documents, introductions, and annotation in Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, which was published in print in 2016. Documents, Volume 4 includes documents from the 1834 Camp of Israel expedition (later called “Zion’s Camp”) that marched to Jackson County, Missouri, to redeem the Saints’ land; the 1835 calling of and blessings for the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Seventies; the construction of the House of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio; and many other minutes, letters, and revelations.
Also published in this release are appendix items for the recently released Documents, Volume 6, mainly concerned with the 1838 struggles of the Saints with their Missouri neighbors:
- Letter to Oliver Cowdery and Others, circa 17 June 1838
- Constitution of the Society of the Daughter of Zion, circa Late June 1838
- Discourse, circa 4 July 1838
- Petition to Elias Higbee, circa 16 August 1838
- Agreement with Amos Rees and Alexander Doniphan, 28 November 1838
We have also added minutes from the Nauvoo City Council from 1844 and 1845 as well as more documents from the Nauvoo Municipal Court. Users will also find new editorial introductions to several New York and Ohio court cases.