The Church Historian’s Press Releases Landmark Volume on Book of Mormon Manuscript
January 25, 2022
The Church Historian’s Press recently released The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Volume 5: Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, which gives readers unprecedented access to the earliest Book of Mormon manuscript through full-color photographs, a color-coded transcript, introductions, and reference material.
One of the most significant documents in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the original manuscript was penned by Oliver Cowdery and other scribes as Joseph Smith dictated the text of the Book of Mormon between April and June 1829. The Book of Mormon was first published in 1830 and remains a central volume in the Latter-day Saint scriptural canon.
The manuscript sustained major water damage in the nineteenth century, and many of the original pages were destroyed entirely. Of the manuscript’s nearly 500 pages, portions of 232 pages survive, amounting to roughly 28 percent of the text. Some of what remains is badly faded, obscured, or otherwise damaged. This volume presents photographic and typographic facsimiles of each identifiable manuscript fragment. High-resolution photos of the fragments have been pieced back together as they would have appeared in the original manuscript. The photographs included in the volume—the first complete photographic record of what remains of the original manuscript ever published—allow comparison with the transcript and provide detail that can never be fully captured in transcription.
The transcripts and annotation in this volume rely upon years of work by volume editor Royal Skousen as part of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project. This volume reproduces the original text based on analysis of the manuscript in its present state, as well as of multispectral images and historical photographs. The transcript preserves corrections and revisions of any kind, line and page breaks, and the locations of interlinear insertions. Since several scribes penned revisions in this manuscript, the handwriting of each is rendered in a different color to facilitate analysis. The comprehensive and careful presentation gives researchers unparalleled access to this essential text.
The Joseph Smith Papers, Revelations and Translations, Volume 5: Original Manuscript of the Book of Mormon was edited by Royal Skousen, linguist and editor of the Book of Mormon Critical Text Project, and Robin Scott Jensen, historian for the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
November 2, 2021
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release. This release includes introductions and documents for Illinois legal cases; financial documents from New York and Pennsylvania; a Nauvoo, Illinois, record book titled Trustees Land Book A; a Hebrew grammar supplement and worksheets, and scores of new entries in the legal glossary.
In the Legal Records series, we have added introductions and documents for a number of Illinois legal cases. C. A. Foster v. JS and Coolidge was a civil suit against Joseph Smith and Joseph Coolidge for alleged false imprisonment and personal injury. The case followed a long-standing conflict between Charles A. Foster and Joseph Smith. The introduction to United States v. Jeremiah Smith on Habeas Corpus–A and United States v. Jeremiah Smith on Habeas Corpus–B gives context for these cases heard before the municipal court of Nauvoo regarding Jeremiah Smith, who had allegedly claimed money from the United States Treasury intended for a different Jeremiah Smith. The cases are an example of the Nauvoo court’s use of habeas corpus. U. S. v. Haws et al. was an attempt by the U.S. government to collect a debt from Peter Haws, Henry W. Miller, George Miller, Joseph Smith, and Hyrum Smith for the purchase of a steamboat. Also in this release are State of Illinois v. Owsley, State of Illinois v. Rolfe, and State of Illinois v. Unknown Defendant.
In the Financial Records series, we have added the few surviving financial documents from Joseph Smith’s time living in New York and Pennsylvania, along with a new introduction to these documents. We have also published images and transcripts for a record book titled Trustees Land Book A. This record was used in Nauvoo from 1839 to 1842 to track land purchases and subsequent transfers from Joseph Smith, as trustee-in-trust of the church, to members of the church and other residents in Nauvoo.
In the Histories series, we have added transcripts to the draft material for Joseph Smith’s multivolume history, including the rough draft notes for August 1838–December 1839, January–March 1843, and June–August 1844.
In the Documents series, we have added materials used for the Hebrew classes that Joseph Smith and other church members in Kirtland, Ohio, attended in early 1836, including an abridged grammar and student worksheets.
The Nauvoo Temple: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast Released
October 14, 2021
The Church Historian’s Press announces the release of The Nauvoo Temple: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast. This eight-part miniseries from the Joseph Smith Papers Project explores the history and legacy of the temple that Latter-day Saints constructed in Nauvoo, Illinois, in the 1840s. The podcast is available now. Series host Spencer W. McBride, PhD, interviews historians in a documentary-style podcast about this important building in Latter-day Saint history. The episodes consider what the Nauvoo Temple meant to the men and women who constructed it.
“This miniseries will illuminate the history of the Nauvoo Temple while demonstrating how temples became central to the religious experience of Latter-day Saints,” McBride said of the podcast. “Listeners will hear a story of sacrifice while also considering the role that temple ordinances play in the lives of church members—past and present.”
In 1839, the Latter-day Saints began to construct the city of Nauvoo on the banks of the Mississippi River. They were impoverished refugees trying to rebuild their lives following their violent expulsion from Missouri. Yet, despite their poverty, they set out to erect a magnificent temple at the heart of their new city. This podcast tells the story of how they overcame significant obstacles to accomplish this work. Its episodes describe why the Saints built temples, how the design and function of the Nauvoo Temple was determined, and how Joseph Smith introduced the ordinances that church members would perform there. The miniseries also examines the fate of the temple after the majority of Latter-day Saints left Illinois in 1846 and the reconstruction of the temple at the turn of the twenty-first century.
Scholars featured in the podcast include Matthew Godfrey, Brent Rogers, Elizabeth Kuehn, Jeffrey Mahas, Alex Smith, Alex Baugh, Sharalyn Howcroft, Matthew McBride, Benjamin Pykles, Jenny Reeder, Steven Olsen, Brett Dowdle, Lachlan Mackay, and Emily Utt. Also featured are Relief Society general president Jean B. Bingham and Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
All eight episodes of The Nauvoo Temple: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast have been released at once and are available on the Latter-day Saints Channel and on other podcast platforms such as iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Recording of 2021 JSP Conference Now Available
September 22, 2021
Our fifth annual conference, held 10 September 2021, explored the theme “Joseph Smith and Sacred Text in Nineteenth-Century America.” Video recordings of the presentations can now be viewed on the conference page.
New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
August 3, 2021
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release. This release features the entirety of Documents, Volume 8: February–November 1841, including annotation and introductions; the Nauvoo Cemetery Records and weekly records of deaths; calendars of documents for each of the Nauvoo City Council meetings with links to extant documents; introductions and documents related to the finances and land transactions of the early church; and introductions to eight legal cases from New York, Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois.
Documents, Volume 8 includes documents chronicling the organization of the city of Nauvoo, letters to and from Horace Hotchkiss concerning payment for land in the city, documents regarding the commencement of construction work on the Nauvoo temple, and other letters and reports of discourses between February and November 1841.
In the Financial Records series, we have published several new introductions for Ohio and Missouri land transactions and financial records. This release also adds new content regarding the United Firm and its subsets, N. K. Whitney & Co. and F. G. Williams & Co. This includes introductions for the associated firms as well as images and transcripts for two account books. The F. G. Williams & Co. account book documents the business conducted by the Kirtland printing office, including entries about everyday life, expenses for the members of the firm, and notable donations, like that of John Tanner. The second account book was kept by Newel K. Whitney for his firm, N. K. Whitney & Co., and lists purchases from wholesale merchants in New York in 1833 and 1834. Whitney introduced Joseph Smith and others to some of these merchants, using his reputation to help them gain credit.
In the Legal Records series, we have published an introduction and documents for two legal cases brought against Joseph Smith in southern New York in 1830. In June 1830, Joseph Smith was arrested and tried for allegedly violating the state’s disorderly persons statute through his use of seer stones. A dozen witnesses testified regarding his character and his use of seer stones. Smith was ultimately discharged.
This release also includes an introduction to two legal cases arising out of the 1838 conflict between Latter-day Saints and other residents of Missouri (State of Missouri v. Worthington et al. for Larceny and State of Missouri v. JS for Receiving Stolen Goods), as well as documents and an introduction to an 1842 civil case initiated by Joseph Smith against George M. Hinkle in Lee County, Iowa, to recover damages sustained during the Missouri conflict. Three Illinois cases (Sweeney v. Miller et al., Niswanger v. Greene, and Clayton v. E. W. Rhodes et al.) are also being published.
Registration Open for the Joseph Smith Papers Conference
July 1, 2021
To commemorate the upcoming completion of the Revelations and Translations series, which includes the breadth of Joseph Smith’s revelation and translation projects, the Joseph Smith Papers Project will host the fifth annual Joseph Smith Papers Conference on September 10, 2021. See here for more information.
New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
May 10, 2021
The Joseph Smith Papers Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release. This release concludes the online publication of all versions of the Nauvoo City Council records, as well as all financial records in the Joseph Smith Office Papers. It also includes calendar entries for March–July 1843, an introduction to the Kirtland Mercantile Firms, and introductions and documents for two significant legal cases.
In the Financial Records series, we are releasing an introduction to the Kirtland Mercantile Firms that provides context to the Kirtland stores and their records. This introduction provides explanatory information concerning the firms Cahoon, Carter & Co.; Rigdon, Smith & Co.; Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery; and H. Smith & Co. It also contextualizes the financial documents connected to those firms, including the invoices included in the prior release, as well as many of the financial documents from the Joseph Smith Office Papers.
The legal series is publishing an introduction to and documents from the Missouri government’s third attempt to extradite Joseph Smith. This attempt stemmed from a charge that Joseph Smith had committed treason during the 1838 conflict between the Latter-day Saints and their antagonists in Missouri. Jackson County, Missouri, sheriff Joseph H. Reynolds and Hancock County, Illinois, constable Harmon T. Wilson were dispatched to bring Joseph Smith into custody.
When Reynolds and Wilson tried to take Joseph Smith in on 13 June 1843, he tried to slip out the back door, but they seized him, repeatedly hit him with their firearms, and held him at gunpoint, threatening to shoot if he resisted. The lawmen also reportedly refused to show him their warrant or grant him access to an attorney.
This treatment of Joseph Smith led his lawyers to file multiple law actions to hinder the extradition, including JS v. Reynolds and Wilson, the other case for which we are publishing an introduction and documents. This case resulted in a verdict awarding Joseph Smith $40 in damages; however, the court was not able to collect that sum until after Smith’s death.
Finally, this release includes new entries in the Calendar of Documents adding information about hundreds of other documents from the time period of Documents, volume 12.
Documents, Volume 12 Released
Salt Lake City—The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 12 includes documents from March through July 1843 and reveals a period of astonishing busyness as Joseph Smith grappled with legal challenges while he continued to fulfill his leadership roles in the church and the city of Nauvoo.
“During the months covered in this volume, Joseph Smith’s time was filled with his ever-present ecclesiastical and civic responsibilities in Nauvoo. He also had to deal with ongoing challenges from enemies in Illinois and Missouri,” said David W. Grua, who served as coeditor of the book. “Yet during these months, the prophet made teaching the Saints a priority, as he preached on several occasions about the temple that church members were sacrificing so much to build.”
This volume features ninety-six documents, including correspondence, accounts of discourses, blessings, legal and financial records, and minutes of meetings. Key texts include documents and discourses related to the state of Missouri’s third attempt to extradite Joseph Smith, documents illustrating the growth of the church outside Nauvoo, and documents illuminating Joseph Smith’s expanding understanding of eternal and plural marriage. The texts presented in this volume, with their detailed historical annotation, make this book an important resource for those seeking a more thorough understanding of the life and leadership of Joseph Smith.
Documents, Volume 12 was edited by David W. Grua, Brent M. Rogers, Matthew C. Godfrey, Robin Scott Jensen, Christopher James Blythe, and Jessica M. Nelson. Visit josephsmithpapers.org for more information.
New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website
February 11, 2021
The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes an essay and six cases relating to the Nauvoo Municipal Court’s dealings with habeas corpus cases; annotation and introductions for Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts; annotation, introductions, and transcripts for over forty invoices for Kirtland, Ohio, stores; and a new introduction to Joseph Smith’s Office Papers.
In the Legal Records series, this release includes introductions and documents for six habeas corpus cases heard in Nauvoo, Illinois, as well as an essay explaining the principle of habeas corpus and how it functioned in Nauvoo. The six cases are:
- State of Illinois v. Goddard et al. on Habeas Corpus
- State of Illinois v. J. Hoopes and L. Hoopes on Habeas Corpus
- State of Illinois v. Drown on Habeas Corpus
- State of Illinois v. Greene et al. on Habeas Corpus
- Related case: City of Nauvoo v. Easton
- State of Illinois v. Colton on Habeas Corpus
The release includes three additional Illinois legal cases:
In the Revelations and Translations series, we have added the annotation and introductions found in the print edition of Revelations and Translations, Volume 4. This volume includes the extant fragments of Egyptian papyri that Joseph Smith and others purchased in 1835; the “Egyptian-language documents,” which are associated with the attempt by Smith and others to decipher hieroglyphic and hieratic characters from the papyri; and the various manuscripts and first print publication of the Book of Abraham text. All the papyri and other images on the website have been updated to the high-resolution images created for the print volume. Also included is a character comparison chart, which facilitates research by linking to each instance of an Egyptian or other non-Roman character across all documents.
In the Financial Records series, this release includes more than forty invoices prepared for three Kirtland mercantile firms—including Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery, in which Joseph Smith was a partner—by wholesale merchants in New York. These invoices are presented with full transcripts as well as annotation defining less-common terms. The goods, purchased in New York and sold in Ohio, ranged from food and hardware to textiles, shoes, and books. Also included are introductions to the Camp of Israel and four Kirtland mercantile firms operated by Latter-day Saints:
As part of this release, we have reorganized the Joseph Smith Office Papers collection into genres, allowing for easier reference and research. A new introduction for this section includes a description of Joseph Smith’s office and an explanation of which documents might have been present in his office.