November 20, 2023
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web publication. This release features tithing and other donations recorded in the Book of the Law of the Lord from 1841 through 8 August 1845, along with an introduction to the records associated with Joseph Smith as trustee-in-trust for the church. It also includes an introduction and documents for the trial of the accused murderers of Joseph Smith; an introduction and documents for another of the legal cases about Joseph Smith’s estate; additional sets of photographs of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon; and over fourteen hundred new biographical entries.
In the Financial Records series, this release presents the Book of the Law of the Lord, Book A, and part of the Book of the Law of the Lord, Book B. These volumes contain a record of tithing donations made by the early Saints. The historical significance of the Book of the Law of the Lord comes in part from the spiritual weight it carried as a tithing record. Special consideration was given to those whose names were listed inside the book, and they were granted access to do proxy baptisms for the dead and eventually to receive the endowment ordinance inside the Nauvoo temple. Book A contains a variety of record types, from journal entries to revelations to tithing records. The revelations and journal entries were posted previously, but now complete transcripts and annotation for the tithing records are available. As part of the tithing record, the Book of the Law of the Lord also notes Penny Fund donations made as part of a fundraising effort to complete the Nauvoo temple. This effort was organized by sisters Mercy Fielding Thompson and Mary Fielding Smith, and donations to the fund were given by the women of the church from all over the United States and the United Kingdom. Nearly three thousand names of the five thousand listed in the book have been identified, and many of those now appear in the biographical directory on the website. An introduction to Joseph Smith’s trustee records and an introduction to the Book of the Law of the Lord accompany these records.
In the Legal Records series, this release includes an introduction and documents for State of Illinois v. Williams et al. and State of Illinois v. Elliott–C, which detail the attempts to prosecute several men for the June 1844 murder of Joseph Smith. Ten defendants were charged with the crime, five of whom ultimately stood trial during the May 1845 term of the Hancock County, Illinois, circuit court. Several individuals recorded the trial proceedings, which lasted nine days and included testimony from thirty-two witnesses. These accounts, comprising more than five hundred pages, can now be viewed on the website, along with nearly one hundred documents created as part of the proceedings leading up to and during the trial. After hearing evidence from the prosecution and defense, the jury found the defendants not guilty. This outcome heightened existing tensions between Latter-day Saints and their opponents in Illinois and further deepened the Saints’ mistrust of the state and federal government.
Also included with the legal records are an introduction and documents related to Joseph Smith’s estate proceedings in Ohio. Holcomb Administrator of the Estate of JS details Henry Holcomb’s tenure as administrator of the estate from 1860 to 1865.
To accompany the extant portion of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon published previously, this release includes photographs of the manuscript made in 1948 and circa 1968 and two sets of multispectral images created in 2017: color images and images representing the most readable of the other wavelengths. The images previously posted with the transcript represent the most readable of the several extant images. Each set of photographs and images are now presented separately as well, so users can compare the various images of each manuscript page.
As noted above, new biographical entries for individuals who appear in the Book of the Law of the Lord are also included with this release. These entries do not have biographical sketches of the individuals but do have links to the Book of the Law of the Lord and other documents they may appear in. Future releases will include more of these biographical entries.
October 3, 2023
On 15–16 September 2023, over 300 attendees filled the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City, Utah, for this year’s Joseph Smith Papers Conference. An additional 200 attended via broadcast. The audience and panelists represented international interest in The Joseph Smith Papers from historians, theologians, legal scholars, educators, students, and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Over the two-day conference, 31 speakers in 10 sessions answered the question, “What have we learned from the Joseph Smith Papers Project?”
President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of the church, opened the conference by commending the “gold-standard research” of those who worked on the documents, calling the project a “firm foundation on which additional works can be solidly built.” President Oaks also announced the upcoming publication of a new official biography of Joseph Smith, titled Joseph the Prophet, to be written by Richard E. Turley Jr. with the help of a team from the Church History Department.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Dr. Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Kipp called the work on the Joseph Smith Papers Project a continuation and ideal example of honored labor begun by early Saints. Praising the search feature of the Joseph Smith Papers website, she illustrated the theological significance of labor to Joseph Smith: the word work appears in Joseph Smith Papers documents 1,398 times.
Panel chair Matthew C. Godfrey (far left) with editors Sharon E. Nielsen, Petra Javadi-Evans, and R. Eric Smith onstage at the 2023 Joseph Smith Papers Conference. Photograph courtesy Nathan Waite.
Throughout the conference, esteemed panelists reflected on insights the Papers have yielded on race, gender, conflict, finances, law, and methods of revelation in Joseph Smith’s day. A special roundtable with Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Ronald K. Esplin, Ronald O. Barney, and Utah business owner and philanthropist Gail Miller discussed the origins of the Papers. Attendees on both days learned more about the history of the project from a special viewing of a Joseph Smith Papers short film.
The Joseph Smith Papers staff was well represented by presenters Robin Scott Jensen, Jessica M. Nelson, Spencer W. McBride, Petra Javadi-Evans, Sharon E. Nielsen, R. Eric Smith, Matthew C. Godfrey, Elizabeth A. Kuehn, Brett D. Dowdle, Jeffrey D. Mahas, Sharalyn D. Howcroft, and David W. Grua. Other current staff members served as session chairs, and the conference also featured papers by several scholars who formerly were on the project staff.
The 2023 conference would not have been possible without hours of dedicated labor by Chase Kirkham and Brent M. Rogers, along with many other volunteers. We also thank the over 500 attendees whose presence made the conference a success.
August 18, 2023
Historians Brent M. Rogers (far left), Sharalyn D. Howcroft, and Matthew C. Godfrey receive the special citation from Richard Lyman Bushman while MHA awards chair Taunalyn Ford looks on. Photograph courtesy Christine Blythe.
In June the Mormon History Association awarded the Joseph Smith Papers a special citation. The award recognizes “two decades of dedicated work by hundreds of individuals” that provides “unprecedented access to the early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”
Staff with the Joseph Smith Papers Project are grateful for the fitting commemoration of our collective efforts. Managing historian Brent M. Rogers says, “To be recognized by the Mormon History Association with a special citation adds validation to the significance of the project. A single line in the citation’s text confirms the magnitude and prestige of the project: ‘The Joseph Smith Papers has become the single most important resource for early Latter-day Saint history.’”
The same line had significance to editor Stephanie Steed, who spoke of the project’s extraordinary depth: “There are so many topics touched on, so many sources unearthed, utilized, and aggregated, that the project’s publications really become golden as a jumping-off point for many areas of early church history research.” The special citation is evidence of how vital the project’s publications have become to scholarly researchers.
The recognition from MHA also provides an opportunity to reflect on the completion of the print volumes. All the unearthing, utilizing, and aggregating was done “to make sure that we put out the very best product we possibly could,” according to Steed. Rogers adds, “To have been able to contribute to this consequential project is deeply meaningful to me both personally and professionally.”
The citation further recognized the project’s practice of “dealing forthrightly with difficult historical issues” as well as its “significant by-products,” including the annual Joseph Smith Papers conference, the Joseph Smith Papers podcasts, and the companion site josephsmithpapers.org.
August 15, 2023
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web publication. Though the publication of Documents, Volume 15 on 27 June 2023 marked the completion of the print edition of the Joseph Smith Papers, more content will continue to be posted to the Joseph Smith Papers website in coming months. This release features the entirety of Revelations and Translations, Volume 5: Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, including all annotation and introductions; four essays contextualizing legal cases Joseph Smith was involved with in New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois; legal documents for two cases about Joseph Smith’s estate; several deeds in which Emma Smith or her children were named as owners of property, with an introduction explaining coverture laws in Ohio and Illinois; an account of two discourses Joseph Smith purportedly gave in June 1844, with an introduction and chart listing known versions of these discourses; and more than 150 new biographical entries.
Revelations and Translations, Volume 5 includes images and transcripts of the extant portions of the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, which Joseph Smith dictated between spring 1828 and summer 1829. Of about 488 pages transcribed, some portion of 232 pages survive. A complete copy of the original manuscript was created in 1829, which is extant except for three lines. This printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon, previously published by the Joseph Smith Papers Project, aided greatly in reconstructing missing text of the original manuscript. Both of these manuscripts lend insight into the process of dictating, transcribing, and publishing the Book of Mormon. Introductions provide more context for the process, and annotation explains details of the text. The chart “Corresponding Chapters in Editions of the Book of Mormon” has been updated to include links to the original manuscript.
In the Legal Records series, documents for two cases connected with Joseph Smith’s estate have been added. The introduction to Coolidge Administrator of the Estate of JS has also been updated to include these two additional cases. Ivins v. E. Smith et al. is a civil suit filed in the Hancock County, Illinois, circuit court, in chancery, by James Ivins against Emma Smith, three of the Smith children, and Joseph W. Coolidge as administrator of Joseph Smith’s estate. Ivins brought this legal action to correct an erroneous property description and collect the amount that remained due on a mortgage after Joseph Smith’s death. Coolidge Administrator of the Estate of JS Assignee of Buckwalter v. William Law is a suit brought by Coolidge as administrator against William Law to collect on an unpaid promissory note.
This release also includes essays that contextualize legal proceedings in four states: New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. These essays outline the structure of the court systems in each state and provide an overview of the legal cases Joseph Smith was involved in.
In the Documents series, this release includes several deeds in which Joseph Smith’s wife Emma Smith or their children were named as the owners of transferred or purchased property in Ohio and Illinois. Under the laws of those states in the 1830s and 1840s, married women and minor children were not allowed to own property. An introduction is included explaining the laws and offering some reasons for why these deeds may have been made out to Emma Smith and the Smith children, even though the land legally became Joseph Smith’s.
Also in the Documents series, this release includes an account of two discourses that Joseph Smith purportedly delivered to members of the Nauvoo Legion in late June 1844. These discourses do not meet the criteria of a Joseph Smith document and cannot be corroborated by contemporaneous sources. Both discourses were copied throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The discourses are presented as an online appendix to Documents, Volume 15, together with an explanatory introduction and a chart listing the extant versions of these discourses held in the Church History Library.
New biographical entries are also included with this release. These entries do not have biographical sketches of the individuals, but do have links to documents they appear in, allowing users to see the connections these people may have had with Joseph Smith. Future releases will include more of these biographical entries.
August 1, 2023
The Church Historian’s Press announced today that the seventh Joseph Smith Papers Conference will be held on Friday and Saturday, September 15–16, 2023, at the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.
To commemorate the publication of the final print volume of The Joseph Smith Papers, this conference will examine the entire project and engage with the following question: What have we learned from the Joseph Smith Papers Project? Over thirty presenters will explore major themes of the papers, assess the project’s value for scholars and Latter-day Saints, and reflect on the work of publishing nearly thirty volumes of Joseph Smith’s documents. The keynote address will be delivered by Dr. Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp, Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor, Washington University in St. Louis. Opening remarks will be delivered by President Dallin H. Oaks, first counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
This event is free to attend, but registration is required. A free, catered lunch will be provided at the conference venue on both days for the first three hundred registered attendees. Those who are unable to attend in person will be able to view a live stream of the proceedings. Registration, the conference schedule, and additional details are available on the Joseph Smith Papers website.
June 27, 2023
Today, the Church Historian’s Press released the final print volume in its landmark 27-volume work, The Joseph Smith Papers, which commenced in June 2001. The project brings together Joseph Smith’s surviving papers, including the foundational documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, into an easily accessible collection. The comprehensive collection, available online and in print, includes complete transcriptions, helpful introductions, annotations, and extensive reference material.
The culmination of the print edition now completes an essential resource for scholars and students of Smith’s life and work, early Latter-day Saint history, and American history and religion.
Joseph Smith, the first president and prophet of the church, lived from 1805 to 1844. He left an extensive literary record that provides a fascinating window into the early days of the church he founded. Principal documents featured in the 27 volumes include 1,306 journal entries, 643 letters, and 155 revelations.
Philanthropists and business leaders Gail Miller and her late husband, Larry Miller, recognized the importance of the Joseph Smith Papers Project early on and supported the legacy project for a period of more than 20 years. With the Millers’ generous donations, the church engaged an experienced team, including PhD-educated historians and professional editors, to research, gather, compile, and publish the Joseph Smith Papers. “This project has produced the most authoritative, comprehensive, and reliable source available on the subject of Joseph Smith and the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Gail Miller said. Larry professed, “Billions will know Brother Joseph again” with the publication of these volumes.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been praised for its commitment to historical transparency with this project. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer Prize winner in history and the 300th Anniversary University Professor, Emerita, at Harvard University, asserts: “The church didn’t want to hide anything about Joseph Smith. They felt confident that if the actual records, the primary sources, were available, responsible scholars would consult them.”
Additionally, the scholarly approach in these volumes was endorsed by the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission as meeting the most rigorous criteria for documentary editing. Thomas P. Slaughter, Arthur R. Miller Professor of History at the University of Rochester, further noted: “The project’s high standards for documentary editing are complemented by maps, biographies, thorough historical introductions to the transcribed manuscripts, and stunningly detailed notes. This project remains the gold standard in the field of historical documentary editing.” Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, Washington University in St. Louis, observed: “The level of scholarship is outstanding in the Joseph Smith Papers Project. I have been astounded by the thoroughness of the editing process and the painstaking ways in which the scholars have annotated the text and added clarification here and there where it was needed. I would say it ranks with the best kinds of scholarly sources I’ve seen.”
The final volume to be released, Documents Volume 15, covers the tumultuous final six weeks of Joseph Smith’s life and the events leading to his murder at Carthage, Illinois. It features 105 documents, including his correspondence, accounts of his discourses, administrative minutes, municipal documents, military orders, and legal papers.
R. Eric Smith, a general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, declared: “The Joseph Smith papers are completely priceless. There’s no way of measuring their value. The papers are our sacred history. They’re the history of where we came from as a people.”
In addition to the printed volumes, the project makes all its resources available for free on its website, josephsmithpapers.org.
June 27, 2023
The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the concluding volume of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 15: 16 May–28 June 1844 details the events of the final six weeks of Joseph Smith’s life, including his murder by an armed mob in the Hancock County jail at Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844.
Although much of the volume centers on the events leading to Joseph Smith’s death, during the weeks covered in this volume Joseph Smith continued to function as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chairman of the Council of Fifty, mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, chief justice of the Nauvoo Municipal Court, candidate for president of the United States of America, and husband and father. He preached to the Latter-day Saints and wrote letters in his role as a prophet and religious leader. He participated in lawsuits as both judge and defendant. He sent and received correspondence from apostles and other missionaries who were electioneering as part of his presidential campaign. And he wrote letters to his wife and children in an attempt to comfort them during a period of accusations, threats, and violence against the Latter-day Saints.
The 105 documents in this volume include Joseph Smith’s correspondence, accounts of his discourses, administrative minutes, municipal documents, military orders, and legal papers. Among the key documents are the Nauvoo City Council minutes for June 8 and 10, 1844, which capture the council’s decision to destroy the press of the recently published Nauvoo Expositor. Also included are eleven items of correspondence between Joseph Smith and Illinois governor Thomas Ford, which provide insights into the decision to destroy the press, the subsequent declaration of martial law in Nauvoo, and Joseph Smith’s fateful trip to Carthage. Additionally, this volume features three letters that Joseph Smith wrote to his wife Emma Smith during the final five days of his life, including one written on the morning of June 27. These and other documents, together with their detailed historical annotation, illuminate the chaotic circumstances that led to the incarcerations of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the Hancock County jail and culminated in the murders of the two brothers shortly after five o’clock on June 27. The volume also contains the formal announcement of the murders, which was prepared for publication in the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants and is now canonized as Doctrine and Covenants 135.
Documents, Volume 15 was edited by Brett D. Dowdle, Adam H. Petty, J. Chase Kirkham, Elizabeth A. Kuehn, David W. Grua, and Matthew C. Godfrey. It is available in bookstores now. Please visit josephsmithpapers.org for more information about the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
June 13, 2023
The Church Historian’s Press announces the release of Road to Carthage: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast. This eight-part miniseries from the Joseph Smith Papers Project explores the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844. The episodes focus on the historical events that led to the assassination of the prophet and his brother by a mob, as well as the aftermath of that tragic event. The first two episodes of the podcast series are available now, with new episodes released each week through June 27, 2023. Series host Spencer W. McBride, PhD, interviews historians and church leaders in a documentary-style podcast.
“One of the goals of this podcast series is to help listeners understand the complex series of events that led to the murder of Joseph and Hyrum Smith by a mob,” McBride said. “The episodes reveal how religious prejudice colored economic, political, and legal concerns in western Illinois, culminating in a mob acting outside of the law. But the series also explores the enduring historical and spiritual legacies of the martyrdom among church members today.”
Beginning in 1841, tensions rose between the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, and many of the other residents of that state. While the Saints used legal and political strategies to protect their rights and lives, their critics grew increasingly wary of the minority religious group. Animosity among these critics continued to rise until, on June 27, 1844, a mob murdered Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the county jail in Carthage, Illinois. Latter-day Saints memorialized Joseph and Hyrum Smith as martyrs and, in the aftermath of the event, grappled with serious questions about the future of the church.
Scholars featured in the podcast include Matt Grow, Richard E. Turley Jr., Matthew C. Godfrey, Brent Rogers, Elizabeth Kuehn, Jeffrey Mahas, Adam Petty, Christian Heimburger, Hillary Kirkham, Alex Smith, Emily Utt, Jeffrey Mahas, Sharalyn Howcroft, David Grua, Chase Kirkham, Jessica Nelson, Brett Dowdle, and Jenny Reeder. Church leaders featured in the podcast series include Elder Kyle S. McKay, a General Authority Seventy and the Church Historian and Recorder, President M. Russell Ballard, Acting President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and President Dallin H. Oaks, First Counselor in the First Presidency.
All eight episodes of Road to Carthage: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast will be available on the Gospel Library and on other platforms such as iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Amazon. The episodes are currently available in English, with releases in Spanish and Portuguese forthcoming.
May 3, 2023
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web publication. This release features two essays to help explain Joseph Smith’s involvement in civil litigation and criminal prosecutions; two introductions and accompanying documents for four legal cases about the estate of Joseph Smith; an introduction and documents related to Joseph Smith’s bankruptcy; more Nauvoo City treasurer documents; thirty-four additional versions of documents from 1831 and 1832; new glossary entries for financial and legal terms; and new entries for the calendar of documents.
In the Legal Records series, this release includes “Joseph Smith and Civil Litigation” and “Joseph Smith and the Criminal Justice System,” which outline Joseph Smith’s involvement in approximately 116 civil and criminal cases as a plaintiff, complainant, defendant, witness, or interested third party. New legal content also includes two introductions and accompanying documents from proceedings related to Joseph Smith’s estate in Illinois. Emma Smith Administratrix of the Estate of JS covers Emma Smith’s administration of her husband’s estate. During her brief tenure as administratrix from July to September 1844, Emma faced conflicts over the separation of Joseph Smith’s personal assets from assets belonging to the church of which Smith was trustee. Also included is an assumpsit suit filed against the estate by William and Wilson Law in September 1844. Coolidge Administrator of the Estate of JS details Joseph W. Coolidge’s time as administrator for Joseph Smith’s estate from September 1844 through May 1848. As administrator, Coolidge attempted to settle the estate by soliciting claims from Smith’s creditors and liquidating Smith’s assets to satisfy these debts. A related case stemming from Coolidge’s petition to sell real estate as part of his efforts to pay these claims is also included with this release.
In the Financial Records series, this release presents several documents related to Joseph Smith’s bankruptcy along with an introduction outlining and contextualizing the bankruptcy proceedings. In April 1842, Joseph Smith applied for bankruptcy under a new act passed by the United States Congress. He told his largest creditor at the time, Horace Hotchkiss, that he did this as a last resort due to his difficult financial situation. Unfortunately, court and trial records associated with Smith’s bankruptcy proceedings were among the many records destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Because of this loss, researchers and others interested in Smith’s bankruptcy must rely on other sources—newspaper notices, a partial application, and correspondence—for information about the proceedings.
In the Administrative Records series, this release includes several more pay orders sent to the Nauvoo city treasurer requesting payment for services rendered to the city. Future releases will include the remainder of the city treasurer’s records and other Nauvoo city records.
The Joseph Smith Papers website seeks to be comprehensive in presenting all extant Joseph Smith documents, including other versions that contribute to understanding an original nonextant text or that were authorized by Smith. This release presents thirty-four other versions of revelations and other documents from 1831 and 1832. All known versions that meet the above criteria are listed in the calendar of documents. Future releases will include images and transcripts of more document versions.
This release also includes fourteen new entries in the financial glossary describing different financial firms Joseph Smith did business with. Six more entries have also been added to the legal glossary. We have also added 260 new entries to the calendar of documents through June 1844. This completes the calendar of documents, although more entries may be added with additional research.
April 17, 2023
The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 14 includes documents from January through mid-May 1844 and details the challenges Joseph Smith confronted near the end of his life.
As 1844 dawned, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo hovered on the brink of war with neighbors in western Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa Territory. The recent kidnapping of church members Daniel and Philander Avery from a nearby settlement had prompted defensive legislation by Nauvoo’s municipal government, correspondence with Illinois’s governor, Thomas Ford, and mobilization of military forces on both sides of the growing conflict. As head of the church, mayor of Nauvoo, and commander of the Nauvoo Legion, Joseph Smith fought to maintain peace in the region amid threats from external opponents and internal dissidents—even people who were once his close friends and associates.
This volume features ninety-nine documents, including correspondence, accounts of discourses, deeds, and minutes of meetings. Readers will find key documents like Joseph Smith’s published presidential platform and his letters of response to missives from presidential hopefuls John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. The volume contains other notable texts such as instructions Joseph Smith gave to the new theocratic governing body known as the Council of Fifty and the prophet’s famous funeral discourse for King Follett, during which he taught important doctrines about eternal existence and the nature of God. Also included are printed exchanges with the antagonistic editors of the nearby Warsaw Signal, Lucinda Madison Sagers’s letter to the First Presidency charging her husband with teaching plural marriage, and a lengthy report of the church’s British mission from president Reuben Hedlock.
The texts found in this volume, with their detailed historical annotation, present a narrative of intense conflict as Latter-day Saint leaders faced escalating regional hostility and disputes within the church and local government. But these documents also depict Joseph Smith’s efforts to promote peace in the community and reveal new doctrines for his people despite continuing threats. The book provides vital context for the events of the final six weeks of his life, which will be presented in the forthcoming Documents, Volume 15, the concluding volume of the series.
Documents, Volume 14 was edited by Alex D. Smith, Adam H. Petty, Jessica M. Nelson, and Spencer W. McBride.
The Church Historian’s Press announces the release of Kirtland, City of Revelation: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast. This eight-part miniseries from the Joseph Smith Papers Project explores the history and legacy of Kirtland, Ohio, in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The podcast is available now. Series host Spencer W. McBride, PhD, interviews historians in a documentary-style podcast about the way men and women flocked to Kirtland in the 1830s to hear the voice of God through the prophet Joseph Smith. The episodes consider Kirtland as a site of abundant revelation and the place where church leaders organized much of the church. The episodes also illuminate how Joseph Smith was intent on teaching church members in Kirtland how to hear the voice of God themselves.
“This miniseries will demonstrate just how vital Kirtland was to the early history of the church,” McBride said of the podcast. “Listeners will learn about how the men and women who chose to build their lives in and around that city did so out of a desire to better know the mind and will of God. Their stories are stories of faith, but they are also stories of severe trials and daunting adversity.”
In 1831, Joseph and Emma Smith moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where, the year before, approximately one thousand men and women had joined the church. For a time, the city became the headquarters of the church. It was the site of dozens of revelations directing the growth and organization of the church. In Kirtland, the Saints constructed the House of the Lord, the first temple built by the church.
Scholars featured in the podcast include Matt Grow, Matthew Godfrey, Brent Rogers, Elizabeth Kuehn, Jonathan Stapley, Joseph Darowski, Christian Heimburger, Robin Jensen, David Howlett, Jeffrey Mahas, Sharalyn Howcroft, Benjamin Pykles, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Jenny Lund, David Grua, Mark Staker, Kerry Muhlestein, and Jenny Reeder. Also featured is Elder Kyle S. McKay, a general authority seventy and the Church Historian and Recorder.
All eight episodes of Kirtland, City of Revelation: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast have been released at once and are available on the Gospel Library and on other platforms such as iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Amazon. The episodes are available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese.
January 31, 2023
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web publication. This release features the entirety of Documents, Volume 11: September 1842–February 1843, including all annotation and introductions; two case introductions and accompanying documents for four legal cases from Illinois and Missouri; Henry G. Sherwood’s Nauvoo account book; twenty-four additional versions of documents from 1829 to 1831; a new glossary for terms found in financial records; almost four hundred new biographical entries; and hundreds of new 1844 entries for the calendar of documents.
Documents, Volume 11 includes documents related to the many roles Joseph Smith filled during the fall and winter of 1842–1843. For most of the fall of 1842, Joseph Smith was in hiding from authorities who were trying to extradite him to Missouri for allegedly ordering an assassination attempt on former Missouri governor Lilburn W. Boggs. In January 1843 a federal court in Springfield, Illinois, ruled that the state of Missouri failed to prove that the charges warranted Smith’s extradition. His release from state custody was celebrated with songs and parties in Smith’s honor. While in hiding, Joseph Smith continued to attend to ecclesiastical and civic responsibilities: writing letters to the Saints about proxy baptisms for the dead, serving as editor of the church newspaper in Nauvoo, the Times and Seasons, and responding to letters. After Smith’s release, he delivered several sermons in his home and in the unfinished Nauvoo temple. Elected mayor in the February 1843 city election, he worked with the city council to address various municipal challenges and helped pass ordinances designed to resolve issues stemming from Nauvoo’s expanding population. He also presided over, testified in, and initiated trials against several individuals accused of violating Nauvoo’s religious and legal codes. The documents in this volume include correspondence, editorials, reports of discourses, minutes of meetings, municipal and legal documents, land deeds, and poems.
In the Legal Records series, this release includes two case introductions and accompanying documents. One introduction discusses three cases stemming from the ongoing conflict between Robert D. Foster and Joseph Smith in 1844. The other case, State of Missouri v. Pratt et al. for Murder, follows legal proceedings for the 1838 murder of Moses Rowland at Crooked River. In addition to several other charges Joseph Smith faced at this time arising from the 1838 conflict between Latter-day Saints and Missouri residents, he was charged as an accessory to this murder. Smith and other prisoners escaped from the state’s custody in 1839, and the murder case was eventually dismissed. Despite the dismissal, in 1840 Missouri officials unsuccessfully attempted to extradite Joseph Smith and other Latter-day Saints for this and other crimes allegedly committed in 1838.
In the Financial Records series, this release presents an account book kept by Henry G. Sherwood. Sherwood served as the Nauvoo city marshal, a city tax assessor and collector, a member of the city watch, and a financial agent for Joseph Smith and the church. Sherwood recorded in this small book the transactions he oversaw for Joseph Smith and the city of Nauvoo, and he then used it to verify accounts, submit claims to the city council requesting payment, or copy other records into the proper books. Sherwood’s account book contains entries from November 1839 to June 1844.
The Joseph Smith Papers website seeks to be comprehensive in presenting all extant Joseph Smith documents, including other versions that contribute to understanding an original nonextant text or that were authorized by Smith. This release presents twenty-four other versions of revelations and other documents from 1829 to 1831. All known versions that meet the above criteria are listed in the calendar of documents. Future releases will include images and transcripts of more document versions.
A glossary of terms used in financial records has been added to the website. Most of these terms relate to goods purchased at various stores. There are hyperlinks from the financial documents to the glossary definitions. From the main glossary page, users can opt to see just the financial glossary terms, just the legal glossary terms, just the general glossary terms, or all glossary terms.
This release also includes 385 new biographical entries. These entries do not have biographical sketches of the people, but they do have links to the documents the people are mentioned in, allowing users to see the connections individuals may have had with Joseph Smith. Finally, the release includes hundreds of new entries for the calendar of documents for January through mid-May 1844.