The fourth volume of the Documents series, published in 2016, contains minutes, revelations, discourses, administrative records, legal documents, personal letters, and recorded blessings, among other documents. Almost all of the documents in the volume in some way touch on Joseph Smith’s efforts to redeem Zion after the Saints had been expelled from Jackson County, Missouri. Specific topics addressed in these documents include the march of the Camp of Israel (later known as Zion's Camp), the construction of the House of the Lord in Ohio, the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants, responses to the church’s financial struggles, and the development of the church’s organizational structure. ISBN-13: 978-1-62972-174-3
Matthew C. Godfrey and Alex D. Smith are historians for the Church History Department, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Brenden W. Rensink is an assistant professor of history at Brigham Young University. Max H Parkin is a retired instructor for the Latter-day Saint Institute of Religion at the University of Utah. Alexander L. Baugh is a professor of church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University.
Accomplishing the “redemption of Zion” was Joseph Smith’s primary concern for much of 1834 and 1835. After the Latter-day Saints had been forcibly removed from their lands in Jackson County, Missouri—the place where they believed God had commanded them to build the city of Zion—Joseph Smith led numerous efforts to reclaim those lands and restore the Saints to their homes. Covering April 1834 through September 1835, the ninety-three documents featured in this fourth volume of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers shed light on Joseph Smith’s attempts to redeem Zion and reveal his maturation as a leader and prophet for a growing church facing nearly constant challenges.
The project of redeeming Zion placed large demands on Joseph Smith’s time and resources. He left his home in Kirtland, Ohio, in May 1834 to lead a company of about two hundred individuals, known as the Camp of Israel and later as Zion’s Camp, to Missouri to aid the beleaguered Saints there. Smith also sought to redeem Zion through the construction of the House of the Lord (or temple) in Kirtland, where the elders of the church were to receive an “endowment of power,” and the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of revelations that provided instruction to the Saints on church doctrine and theology. Funding these projects proved difficult, however. In part because of the loss of the printing press in Jackson County and the mounting construction costs of the Kirtland temple, Smith and the church faced severe financial problems in the mid-1830s. Several documents in this volume describe these projects, the church’s financial strain, and the resulting assignments given to some individuals to collect donations for the church.
Meanwhile, the number of Saints in and outside Kirtland continued to increase. To address the challenge of growth, Joseph Smith further developed the church’s governing bodies and created a more complex administrative structure. Some documents presented herein, for example, detail the creation of new leadership positions in the church, including the offices of apostle, seventy, and church patriarch.
The types of documents included in this volume range from minutes and administrative documents to personal letters and revelations. Particularly prominent are a number of recorded blessings. These documents reveal the growing importance that Joseph Smith placed on giving blessings that provided personalized instructions and promises to various individuals, including veterans of the Camp of Israel and new church leaders.
The documents reproduced in this volume have been transcribed and annotated to the highest standards of documentary editing. Altogether, they open a window into Joseph Smith’s efforts to establish the kingdom of God on earth and his development as a leader of a growing religious movement. This volume is an indispensable resource for those studying the life of Joseph Smith during this formative and turbulent period.
Revelation Commanding the Camp of Israel to Disband
22 June 1834 [D&C 105]
“It is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion, that they themselves may be prepared and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands, and this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high, for behold I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them[.]”
Discourse Prefacing the Calling of the Twelve Apostles
14 February 1835
“President Smith arose and stated the reason why this meeting was called. It was this. God had commanded it and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. he then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion, our trials, sufferings &c &c. He said God had not designed all this for nothing, but he had it in remembrance yet, and those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, it was the Will of God, that they should be ordained to the ministry and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time[.]”
“As a scholarly resource (and not devotional literature), this work is replete with invaluable historical information, explanatory observations, and thousands of footnotes. This carefully selected and well-written background information allows each document to stand alone and is often so complete that it is longer than the document itself . . . . [Documents, Volume 4] provides the most complete compilation of firsthand information in print from Smith and his scribes from April 1834 to September 1835 and must be consulted to authoritatively examine Smith or the Church—regardless of the scholar’s conclusions regarding the man or institution.”
—Nicholas Davis, Review, The Journal of Mormon History, 44, no. 2 (2018), 153–154.
“This anthology creates a cogent view of Joseph Smith’s life between April 1834 and September 1835. It synthesizes relevant documents, weaving them between this and other volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers and external primary and secondary sources to create a concise yet complete snapshot of Joseph Smith. Simply stated, this work provides the most complete compilation of firsthand information from Joseph Smith and his scribes from April 1834 to September 1835 ever created and must be consulted by all attempting to authoritatively examine Joseph Smith or the Church—regardless of their conclusions regarding either the man or the institution.”
—Ryan D. Davis, Review, The Journal of Mormon History, 43, no. 3 (July 2017), 186–188.
“These documents will help students to see the ways that Joseph Smith and other priesthood leaders collaborated on matters both practical and spiritual. . . . These documents portray a very human side to Joseph, a valuable counterbalance to hagiographic narratives that downplay the parts of the Prophet’s life not directly related to Church governance or doctrine. . . . I wholeheartedly recommend that teachers use the documents from the Joseph Smith Papers Project to add variety and detail to their lessons and to increase their own gospel knowledge.”
—J. Stuart, “Review of Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835,” RSC Blog, 31 Oct. 2016.
“My brief description of Documents Volume 4 is that it is an essential book of history, filled with top notch scholarship, well written and informative introductions/historical essays, and documents of vital importance to understanding the developing thoughts and doctrines of Joseph Smith and the church that he founded.”
—Andrew Hamilton, “Book Review: The ‘Joseph Smith Papers—Documents Volume 4: April 1834 to September 1835,’” Approaching Justice, 3 July 2016, https://approachingjustice.net/2016/07/03/book-review-the-joseph-smith-papers-documents-volume-4-april-1834-to-september-1835.
“This series offers unique challenges to the project editors because such a wide variety of documents are featured, including minutes, revelations, letters, property deeds, blessings, licenses and certificates, etc. But the choices they have made serve the project well.”
—John Hatch, “Review of Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume Four: April 1834–September 1835,” Worlds Without End (blog), 16 May 2016, http://www.withoutend.org/review-joseph-smith-papers-documents-volume-four-april-1834-september-1835.
“The introductory material to each document is . . . very helpful; trying to read these documents without the introductory material would often leave the reader confused as to what was going on. Seeing the actual words of these early actors in early Church history actually conveyed a kind of voyeuristic quality to the material for me. You’re not reading an analysis of events by a modern scholar; you’re looking over the shoulders of the actual actors themselves in real time and reading their very own words. In that sense, I found it a fascinating experience to read the actual documents themselves.”
—Kevin Barney, “Review of JSP Documents, Vol. 4,” By Common Consent (blog), 7 May 2016, https://bycommonconsent.com/2016/05/07/review-of-jsp-documents-vol-4.