Essay on Sources Cited in Documents, Volume 3

The contemporaneous sources used for this volume’s annotation range from personal writings to institutional records to published books. The featured texts found herein comprise a significant collection of contemporary sources—including JS revelations, minutes, JS correspondence, and other documents—that often inform one another. Many of these documents have been preserved in Letterbook 1 (1832–1835), Revelation Book 2 (1832–1834), Letterbook 2 (1839–1843), Minute Book 1 (1832–1837), and The Evening and the Morning Star (1833–1834). These multiple-entry documents also provide valuable contextual material for understanding JS’s papers and the history of the early church in general. For more information on the source texts presented in this volume, see their respective source notes. Many journals, diaries, histories, reminiscences, and autobiographies of various figures in early Mormon history are also helpful in understanding the period covered in this volume.
Minutes, letters, and revelations compose the majority of the documents in this volume. To preserve letters and minutes of church meetings, official church historians and clerks often copied texts from loose sheets into more permanent record books. Beginning in 1832, for instance, clerks copied surviving letters, some dating as early as 1829, into Letterbook 1. In late 1832, began compiling minutes of meetings held in into Minute Book 1. Both Letterbook 1 and Minute Book 1 contain source texts for this volume and provide important context for understanding JS and the early church.
The revelations embodied JS’s religious values, conveyed his sense of mission, and outlined his agenda for building . Most of his early initiatives grew out of the revelations. JS and his associates made painstaking efforts to record, preserve, publish, and disseminate his revelations and their content throughout his life. Early loose manuscripts and manuscript revelation books, early church periodicals and other newspapers, and the church’s published compilations of the revelations all preserve revelation texts of this early period. Attempts to officially compile the revelations began in early 1831 in Revelation Book 1 and continued in early 1832, when leaders in , Ohio, began copying revelations into Revelation Book 2.
Later in 1832, , the church printer in , and others began to set type for the first published book of revelations, to be called the Book of Commandments. Phelps also published some two dozen revelations in the church’s first newspaper, The Evening and the Morning Star, a monthly newspaper printed in from June 1832 to July 1833. Phelps had printed the first five sheets (160 pages) of the projected contents of the Book of Commandments and may have been working on the last when, in July 1833, opponents destroyed the Independence . A few printed sheets of the Book of Commandments were saved and bound, but the edition was never finished. A was established in in December 1833, and printing of the interrupted Star continued there beginning that same month, with taking over responsibilities as editor. The Kirtland printing office also later published an edited reprint of the Independence issues of the Star under the shortened title Evening and Morning Star. A second effort to publish a compilation of the revelations, titled the Doctrine and Covenants, was completed in Kirtland in 1835. For more information on the revelations, see the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers.
A variety of other contemporary records helps contextualize the featured texts. Several journals and diaries, for instance, were invaluable in annotating the documents of February 1833 through March 1834. JS’s first journal (1832–1834) documents his frequent travels, intelligence from and about , and his ongoing conflict with . Other journals and daily diaries that are indispensable in uncovering facts about JS and the church in the period covered by this volume include those of early church members , , , , , , , and .
Correspondence and legal records were drawn upon when possible. Articles, editorials, correspondence, and other materials published in The Evening and the Morning Star provide a firmer understanding of many of the events and details of the documents featured in this volume. Some of the letters that were published in The Evening and the Morning Star also appear as source texts in this volume. Regional and newspapers as well as newspapers and published journals from larger cities such as , , and likewise provide contextual coverage about JS and the church. These contemporary newspaper accounts provide some details not otherwise available and a useful non-Mormon perspective. , Ohio, newspaper editor lived close to the Mormon settlement in and saw some of his family members join the new church. He compiled his observations and much written material into his 1834 publication, Mormonism Unvailed. Though Howe was clearly antagonistic toward the church, his firsthand experiences and observations provide information not otherwise available. In addition, local and federal government records, particularly county tax, land deed, court, probate, and census records, clarify complex transactions and provide essential details for the whereabouts of individuals. These records are particularly helpful in unfolding the purchase of the Kirtland property known as the .
Sometimes, the only sources for a specific event in this volume’s period are personal recollections, reminiscences, and autobiographies written years after the fact. Notable among these are histories that have proven valuable in understanding the conflicts, particularly ’s A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints and ’s “A History, of the Persecution, of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints in Missouri.” These histories and further contextual information about them can be found in the second volume of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers. ’s published autobiography likewise contains important material concerning the church in Missouri in 1833 and 1834.
Other reminiscent accounts are helpful in understanding church members’ early drive to build the in . These sources include accounts by , , , , and . Lastly, the 1844–1845 autobiography dictated by JS’s mother, , and a new cache of transcriptions made by LaJean Purcell Carruth of ’s shorthand records of Utah-era discourses supply essential context for the documents featured in this volume.