Essay on Sources Cited in Documents, Volume 8

As JS and others welcomed the influx of immigrating converts and established the foundations of the municipal infrastructure of the growing city of , Illinois, documentary production flourished during 1841. The featured texts found within this volume include minutes, correspondence, discourses, and financial and legal documents and provide valuable contextual material for understanding JS’s papers and the general history of the early church. Many of these documents are original and are housed in the Church History Library in Salt Lake City. Others are copies made by church clerks or newspaper editors in record books such as Letterbook 2 or in the church newspaper Times and Seasons (1839–1846). Some journals, diaries, histories, reminiscences, and autobiographies of various figures in early Latter-day Saint history are also helpful in understanding the period covered in this volume.
The Nauvoo City Council and the generated many of the documents in this volume. These newly established organizations kept minutes of meetings and courts-martial, shedding light on the workings of the city government and the militia and on JS’s significant role in these endeavors. Extant manuscript petitions to the city council—including petitions for land surveys or building mills within the city limits—supply important detail regarding the discussions of the city council. The city council and the legion were also the subjects of letters, essays, and reports circulated among individuals and published in newspapers.
The journals of JS’s contemporaries provide detail regarding the church in this era that was invaluable for annotating the documents in this volume. Among the most essential journals are those kept by , , , Norton Jacob, and . The journal of British church member also provides some insights into a letter JS sent to about an unnamed woman, presumably Elizabeth Ravenscroft. A British convert to the church, Ravenscroft appears to have been caught up in troubling circumstances during her journey to , and she corresponded with Cordon back in . Though her letters do not survive, Cordon recorded summaries and excerpts of them in his journal.
The journal of Thomas Wentworth Storrow, which is currently located in the library of the Massachusetts Historical Society, offers a unique look at in the summer of 1841. Storrow, a sixty-one-year-old merchant, traveled west from and inscribed a travel journal along the way that includes his experiences from a visit to Nauvoo. Storrow’s account provides significant information about the city and its people, the Nauvoo Legion, the building of the and its baptismal font, the arrival and impact of British Saints, and the vicissitudes of life in Nauvoo. Storrow also commented on the “perpetual feud” he saw brewing between the Latter-day Saints and their neighbors, suggesting that while the church began to prosper in 1841, troubles were percolating as well.
The church newspaper Times and Seasons published numerous letters between church members that offer insights into the events of this volume. Regional and national newspapers commented on the Latter-day Saints in , offering important contextual information about the church and city in 1841. These contemporary newspapers give details not otherwise available and add a useful perspective from outside the church to the featured texts found in this volume. For instance, , editor of the Warsaw Signal, was greatly concerned with the affairs of the church within and frequently published political rhetoric critical of the church. Newspapers in other parts of the nation also contain substantial information about church members and activities in Nauvoo and other locations. Newspapers in , for example, provide insight into the growth of the church in that area, providing context for ’s proselytizing mission to the city. -area newspapers highlight the ways in which Latter-day Saints and others engaged in public discourse about the religion in the eastern . Also included in this volume is an interview of JS that was published in the Daily Missouri Republican. That document is representative of an emerging trend in journalism at the time—the practice of publishing interview transcripts, as opposed to authored articles.
JS produced three revelatory texts during the period of this volume, all of which were later recorded in the Book of the Law of the Lord. Other theological or doctrinal instruction from JS is found in a variety of sources, including in the minutes of conferences and in discourses recorded by . McIntire’s notebook provides accounts of meetings, briefly noting the topics and occasionally some of the words spoken by JS. Other journals and letters also provide glimpses of JS’s doctrinal discourses for this period.
This volume also references several financial and legal documents. These sources illuminate efforts to construct the and , the two major community building projects in 1841. ’s history of the Nauvoo temple gives a timeline for the building’s construction, while stock certificates and building specifications further contextualize the early development of the Nauvoo House. A multitude of land transactions and financial arrangements are recorded in official county deed books, and they are also discussed at length in letters between JS and his many correspondents, especially , , , and .
For some events in the period covered by this volume, relevant sources include personal recollections, histories, or autobiographies written years or even decades later. For example, Norton Jacob’s reminiscent account provides useful information about the April 1841 cornerstone ceremony, while Warren Foote’s autobiography offers details about the October 1841 cornerstone ceremony. In general, reminiscences are helpful in filling gaps in the contemporaneous historical record. Such sources have been used when necessary and with caution to annotate some of the documents featured in this volume.