Essay on Sources Cited in Documents, Volume 4

The contemporaneous sources in 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, correspondence, and other documents—and often provide context for one another. Many of these documents are copies preserved in Letterbook 1 (1832–1835), Letterbook 2 (1839–1843), Revelation Book 1 (1831–1835), Revelation Book 2 (1832–1834), Minute Book 1 (1832–1837), Minute Book 2 (1838–circa 1839, 1842, 1844), Patriarchal Blessing Book 1 (1834–circa 1868), Record of the Twelve (February–August 1835), The Evening and the Morning Star (1832–1834), and the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate (1834–1837). These multiple-entry documents also provide valuable contextual material for understanding JS’s papers and the general history of the early church. 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, blessings, and revelations compose the majority of the documents in this volume. To preserve letters, minutes of church meetings, and blessings, 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. Minute Book 2, inscribed in 1838 (likely from an earlier compilation), preserves copies of minutes of church meetings held in , Ohio, and , the first dating to June 1830. The Record of the Twelve, meanwhile, provides minutes of the earliest meetings of the Twelve Apostles in 1835, as well as minutes of conferences they held in the eastern throughout summer 1835. In addition, in September 1835, church recorder began recording blessings given by and JS into Patriarchal Blessing Book 1. The letterbook, the minute books, and the patriarchal blessing book contain source texts for this volume and provide important context for understanding JS and the early church.
Several of JS’s revelations are included in this volume and are essential sources for understanding JS’s history from 1834 to 1835. The revelations embody JS’s religious values, convey his sense of mission, and outline his agenda for building Zion. 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 from this early period. Attempts to officially compile the revelations began in early 1831 in Revelation Book 1 and continued in 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 month, with taking over responsibilities as editor. The Kirtland printing office later published an edited reprint of the Independence issues of the Star under the shortened title Evening and Morning Star, and began publishing another newspaper, titled the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, in 1834. 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 April 1834 through September 1835. JS’s first journal (1832–1834), for instance, records his efforts to recruit members for the Camp of Israel expedition, while his second journal (1835–1836) provides information about blessings he gave to church leaders and his continuing efforts to regain church members’ lands in , Missouri. Other journals and diaries that are also indispensable in uncovering facts about JS and the church during the period covered by this volume include those by , , , , , , and . In addition, missionaries serving in 1834 and 1835 sometimes wrote reports of their missions that provide helpful information on the whereabouts of individuals and the proselytizing efforts that occurred during these years. Particularly helpful are the reports of , , Daniel Stephens, Lewis Robbins, , , and .
Correspondence and legal and financial records were drawn upon when possible. Especially important to this period is a series of letters wrote from to his wife, , in , Missouri, explaining various initiatives that JS and church leaders were taking in Kirtland. The financial accounts of Kirtland bishop and , the firm that oversaw the church’s printing efforts in Kirtland, also provide helpful information. In addition, articles, editorials, correspondence, and other materials published in The Evening and the Morning Star and the Messenger and Advocate provide a firmer understanding of many of the events and details of the documents transcribed in this volume. Some of the correspondence published in these two newspapers also appears as featured texts in this volume. Regional and newspapers—as well as newspapers and journals published in larger cities such as , , and —provide important contextual coverage about JS and the church. These contemporary newspaper accounts provide some details not otherwise available and add a useful non-Mormon perspective. , Ohio, newspaper editor lived close to the Mormon settlement in Kirtland Township 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. Finally, local and federal government records—particularly county tax, land deed, court, probate, and census records—clarify complex transactions and provide essential details on the financial state of JS and the church in 1834 and 1835.
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 John Corrill’s A Brief History of the Church of Christ of Latter Day Saints and “The Book of John Whitmer,” an attempt by the official church historian to chronicle his own experiences, as well as those of JS and the church. JS’s multi-volume manuscript history, in which JS’s scribes attempted to incorporate JS’s memory, institutional documents, and private papers and collections into a documentary history of JS and the church, also supplies invaluable information. For more information on these historical manuscripts, see the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers. Finally, later reminiscences by church members such as , Nathan Tanner, , , , and provide information essential to understanding the documents featured in this volume.