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New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

February 25, 2020

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes the digital version of Documents, Volume 6, hundreds of priesthood licenses from the church’s Kirtland, Ohio, period, and documents for thirteen legal cases.

Documents, Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839 begins with Joseph Smith fleeing Kirtland for Far West, Missouri, with hope that the Latter-day Saints could live peacefully there. However, after conflicts with neighbors erupted into what later became known as “the Mormon War,” Joseph Smith was arrested and incarcerated, while the Saints were violently forced from the state. After spending a winter in jail, Smith escaped to Illinois, where he once again began to establish a gathering place. Highlights from this volume include the following:

  • The final letter Joseph Smith wrote to Emma from the Clay County jail in Liberty
  • letter Smith wrote to Bishop Edward Partridge and the Saints from the Clay County jail in Liberty, conveying divine words of comfort he had received
  • Documentation for transactions to acquire land in what would become Nauvoo, Illinois
  • An introduction on the Mormon War
  • Joseph Smith’s published answers to twenty questions he was asked “daily and hourly . . . by all classes of people”
  • Revelations on tithing and the name of the church

The record book titled “Kirtland Elders’ Certificates” includes nearly four hundred licenses attesting that a male priesthood holder had been ordained to a priesthood position and was given permission to preach the gospel and perform other priesthood duties. The licenses are also being published individually in the online Documents series under their issue dates.

In the Legal, Business, and Financial Records series, we have added introductions for six Ohio legal cases, one Illinois legal case, and one Missouri legal case, as well as documents for five more Ohio legal cases. The newly published cases include a case involving the plundering of Joseph Smith’s house in Far West, a case in which Smith served as a witness in a dispute over a cow, a complaint he made against Thomas J. Hunter for maligning both his character and the church, and three debt cases. There is also a case in which Joseph Smith was charged with assault and battery for an altercation with his brother-in-law Calvin Stoddard over whether a parcel of land contained water. In the end, the judge found him not guilty because Stoddard testified that Smith had apologized directly after the incident.

The First Vision Podcast Released

January 5, 2020

The Joseph Smith Papers announces today the release of The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast. This six-part miniseries from the the Joseph Smith Papers Project explores the history and legacy of Joseph Smith’s first vision. The podcast will be available beginning January 5, 2020. Series host Spencer W. McBride, PhD, interviews historians in a documentary-style podcast about this pivotal event in Latter-day Saint history. Released in the bicentennial year of Joseph Smith’s first vision, the podcast recreates for listeners the world in which Joseph Smith was seeking answers to the pressing questions of his soul and helps them understand the vision from the perspective of historians.

All six episodes of the podcast are available now on the Latter-day Saints Channel and on other podcast platforms such as iTunes/Apple PodcastsGoogle PlaySpotify, and Stitcher.

New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

October 29, 2019

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes around 150 administrative records from the Nauvoo City Council from May through December 1842, as well as documents and introductions for nine new Ohio and Illinois legal cases and the calendar of documents for Documents, Volume 9.

During the period in church history these records cover, John C. Bennett resigned as mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, and Joseph Smith took his place, with Hyrum Smith replacing Joseph as vice mayor.

Many of the documents in this release pertain to the day-to-day business of running a growing city, from regulating sanitation efforts to creating public servant positions and hiring people to fill those roles. Highlights from the Nauvoo City Council records include the following:

  • John C. Bennett’s letter of resignation as mayor.
  • Note of Joseph Smith’s election as the new mayor and Hyrum’s election as the new vice mayor.
  • Appointment of William Clayton as treasurer.
  • Description and illustration of the seal of the municipal court.
  • Documents concerning animals, such as a motion to establish of a pound, an ordinance listing the duties of the pound keeper, and an ordinance concerning the handling of rabid animals.
  • Sanitation ordinances and petitions regarding carrion removal, slaughterhouse placement and cleanliness, and removal of logs creating dirty, stagnant water.
  • Ordinance outlawing brothels and fining patrons and adulterers.

In the Legal, Business, and Financial Records series, we have added introductions and documents for three Ohio legal cases and five Illinois legal cases involving Joseph Smith. These include five cases involving merchant and tavern keeper Amos Davis. Between 29 November and 6 December 1842, Davis was accused of violating multiple city ordinances and was tried in five legal cases in which Joseph Smith was either justice, complainant, or witness. The accusations included violation of the city’s temperance ordinance by selling liquor, assault against William Walker, and slander against the characters of Ira S. Miles and Joseph Smith.

Another noteworthy item in this release is an introduction to documents regarding the first attempt by Missouri officials to extradite Joseph Smith to Missouri for criminal prosecution. Most of the other cases are financial in nature, concerning unpaid debts.

Documents, Volume 9 Is Now Available

The Church Historian’s Press is pleased to announce the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 9 covers December 1841 through April 1842 and features 102 letters, revelations, meeting minutes, deeds, sermon accounts, and other documents.

This volume chronicles developments in the church and community during these important months in Nauvoo, Illinois, including the creation of the Relief Society and the establishment of a Freemason’s lodge in Nauvoo, both of which organizations taught virtue and encouraged moral uprightness in the community. Other documents relate to the opening of Joseph Smith’s store, which not only supplied the community with mercantile goods but also quickly became the center of civic and cultural activity. The rich documentary record also offers a unique portrait of the breadth of Joseph Smith’s daily activities as he served as a military leader and vice mayor of Nauvoo, took advantage of the nation’s new bankruptcy law, sold land to immigrating converts, and continued to instruct Latter-day Saints near and far through discourses and correspondence. During this period, he also became editor of the church’s newspaper, Times and Seasons, and published new content, including a narrative account of the church’s history that included statements of belief that were later canonized as the “Articles of Faith” and portions of the Book of Abraham, which was later canonized as scripture.

The overarching narrative revealed by these documents is one of growth—for the church and the city of Nauvoo generally as well as for Joseph Smith personally. Readers will come away from this volume with an increased understanding of the prophet’s life and this pivotal period in the creation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Documents, Volume 9 was edited by Alex D. Smith, Christian K. Heimburger, and Christopher James Blythe, with Stephanie Steed as the lead production editor. The volume is now available for purchase from Deseret Book and Amazon.

 

New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes around 160 administrative records from the Nauvoo City Council from February 1841 through April 1842, as well as documents and introductions for twelve new Ohio and Illinois legal cases and the transcript for the 1837 Book of Mormon.

During the early 1840s, Joseph Smith was a city councilor and was then elected vice mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois. The documents in this release pertain to many basic early administrative issues such as naming and opening streets, establishing taxes, setting wages for public servants, and regulating licenses. Highlights from the Nauvoo City Council records include the following:

In the Legal, Business and Financial Records series, we have added introductions and documents for ten Ohio legal cases and two Illinois legal cases involving Joseph Smith. These include seventy-five additional documents from the 1843 case Dana v. Brink, an exceptionally well-documented medical malpractice case over which Smith presided in the Nauvoo mayor’s court. Plaintiff Charles Dana brought charges against physician William Brink for causing his wife, Margaret Kennedy Dana, to give birth prematurely after misdiagnosing the baby as dead in utero. The newborn was healthy, but after the delivery Dana reported experiencing long-term medical problems because of Brink’s treatment.

In the 1837 case Ohio v. Ritch, also included in this release, Joseph Smith charged Painesville constable Abram Ritch with “unlawful oppression by color of office” after Ritch arrested Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others, detained them all day, and finally released them only to arrest them again. Most of the other cases are financial in nature, concerning unpaid debts.

 

Newest Joseph Smith Papers Volume Now Available

The Church Historian’s Press is pleased to announce the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 8 covers February through November 1841 and reveals a city humming with activity as Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints worked to develop the newly established Nauvoo, Illinois.

“The months covered in Documents, Volume 8 highlight great growth and development in the city of Nauvoo,” explains Brent M. Rogers, one of the volume’s coeditors. “From the increase in church members gathering to the banks of the Mississippi and the beginning efforts to construct the temple to the organization of city government, Joseph Smith’s experience in 1841 Nauvoo is fascinating. It is a time of relative calm, hope, and optimism. But the months covered in this volume are not without their difficulties. One can see an approachable and relatable Joseph Smith as he deals with debt repayment and the death of family members—life experiences that continue to resonate today.”

 

New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web content release. Included in this publication are several legal cases from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, in which Joseph Smith was either plaintiff, defendant, witness, or judge. One case he presided over involved burglary by a former member of the church, Oliver Olney. Smith found Olney guilty but remarked that doing so was “the most painful thing I ever had to do” and that he “would have fed & clothed him if he had come to me.” Another case involved sexual assault. In a time when legal recourse was difficult for women who were victims of violence, Lovina Patterson Woolsey’s neighbors came to her aid, and her assailant was found guilty. Other cases involved debts incurred by Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio (Patterson and Patterson v. Cahoon, Carter & Co. and Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery; Kelley v. Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery; and Scribner v. Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery).

Also published in this release are almost a hundred additional documents from November 1835 through January 1838, including marriage licenses, priesthood licenses, promissory notes, and other financial documents. Several more land deeds from the 1840s have been added as well. Updated reference material includes new biographical entries for people appearing in the added court cases; glossary entries for some of the Kirtland, Ohio, businesses; several hundred new calendar of documents entries for February through November 1841; and updated topics pages for Joseph Smith’s correspondence and Sources for Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

 

New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web content release. Included in this publication are all the documents, introductions, and annotation found in Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, which was published in print in 2017. Documents, Volume 5 includes documents relating to the dedication of the House of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio, in March 1836; to Joseph Smith’s endeavors to learn Hebrew and his translation of Egyptian documents, including the Book of Abraham; and to the Kirtland Safety Society Bank and Joseph Smith’s store in Chester, Ohio; and many other minutes, letters, revelations, and financial documents.

Also published in this release are new introductions for fifteen court cases, including the trial of Joseph Smith and other church leaders for treason in 1839. Other introductions summarize cases Smith heard as judge of the mayor’s court in Nauvoo, Illinois, in the 1840s, with issues ranging from theft and assault to violating the city’s temperance ordinance. Several new biographical and geographical entries have also been added, including an updated source for Elijah Able that gives the date of his ordination to the priesthood.

The Joseph Smith Papers Project also recently published on its website the volume introduction to Revelations and Translations, Volume 4, titled “Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts.”

A new feature has also been added to the website that allows easy linking to other versions of documents. For example, Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76] has a link at the top for “Additional Versions.” Clicking on that link opens a list of all versions of the vision that are currently on the Joseph Smith Papers website, any of which users can then navigate to. This feature will appear on every document for which there is more than one version on the website, including minute books, journals, revelations, and so forth. If users are looking at something other than the featured version (which has a historical introduction and annotation), the “Additional Versions” link will point them back to the featured version (denoted by an asterisk); see here, for example. Note that not all versions are currently available on the website, but in the future we hope to make all versions accessible.

 

Call for Papers: Joseph Smith Papers Conference 2019

On October 11, 2019, the Joseph Smith Papers will host a conference in Salt Lake City. The conference will focus on the history of Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, from September 1839 to April 1842. We invite proposals for papers that engage with the theme “Joseph Smith’s Expanding Visions and the Practical Realities of Establishing Nauvoo.” See here for additional details.

 

Joseph Smith Documents through June 1844 Now Online

The latest web content release for the Joseph Smith Papers Project includes more than a hundred documents from June of 1844, the final month of Joseph Smith’s life. These documents include items relating to Joseph Smith’s arrest and imprisonment in Carthage, Illinois, and letters to and from family members, particularly his wife Emma, as well as friends, lawyers, church members, and the governor of Illinois. There are also discourses given to the church and to the Nauvoo Legion. Some highlights:

In addition to the June 1844 documents, this latest release includes one of the books used to record licenses issued to elders to preach the gospel (Dec. 1837–May 1862), and a chart showing the relationship between the various manuscript and published versions of the extensive history Joseph Smith began in the late 1830s.

In the Legal, Business and Financial Records series, we have added documents for five Missouri legal cases and two Illinois legal cases. Also included in this release are new introductions to five Illinois court cases.

 

“Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts” Volume Now Available

The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts tracks the development of the Book of Abraham from the time Joseph Smith and others purchased Egyptian papyri in 1835 through the publication of the Book of Abraham text and its accompanying illustrations in the church newspaper Times and Seasons in 1842.

The volume introduction, “Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts,” has been published on the Joseph Smith Papers website.

“This latest volume offers readers an unprecedented look at the manuscripts and earliest publications of the Book of Abraham,” explains Robin Scott Jensen, one of the volume’s coeditors. “But it also takes readers inside Joseph Smith’s study of the Egyptian papyri before he dictated the Book of Abraham—which is a history with which few Latter-day Saints are familiar.”

The volume contains three main groups of documents: (1) the extant fragments of the Egyptian papyri purchased by Joseph Smith and his associates in 1835; (2) the documents that collectively constitute the “Egyptian-language documents,” which are associated with the attempt by Joseph Smith and his associates to decipher Egyptian characters from the papyri; and (3) the manuscripts and first publication of the Book of Abraham. Revelations and Translations, Volume 4 is one of just a handful of volumes in The Joseph Smith Papers to be presented as a “facsimile edition”—with full-color photographs of all the documents and typographic facsimiles of all English-language material.

The Book of Abraham, today found in the volume of Latter-day Saint scripture known as The Pearl of Great Price, presents a narrative of Abraham’s journey from Ur to Egypt, a description of his activities in Egypt, an account of the creation of the world, and doctrinal teachings on topics such as the eternal nature and premortal existence of spirits and the plan for a Savior for humankind. Even before the Book of Abraham was published in 1842, Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saints described it as a divinely inspired translation of Egyptian papyri. Wilford Woodruff, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated in 1842 that “the Lord is Blessing Joseph with Power to reveal the mysteries of the kingdom of God; to translate through the Urim & Thummim Ancient records & Hyeroglyphics as old as Abraham or Adam, which causes our hearts to burn within us while we behold their glorious truths opened unto us.” While Joseph Smith and his contemporaries referred to his work on the Book of Abraham as a translation, Smith had no prior knowledge of the Egyptian language and relied instead on divine revelation to produce the text.

Introductions in Revelations and Translations, Volume 4 illuminate the history of the Book of Abraham and Joseph Smith’s study of the Egyptian language by situating them in the broader historical context of an international flowering of interest in ancient Egypt and of Joseph Smith’s other translation projects. With high-resolution images and transcripts created to the highest standards of documentary editing, this volume is an invaluable resource for those studying Joseph Smith’s prophetic translations.

Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts, edited by Robin Scott Jensen and Brian M. Hauglid, is available now. Visit the Published Volumes page for more information.

 

Council of Fifty Minutes Now Online

In 2016, the Joseph Smith Papers Project published in print the minutes from the Council of Fifty in Nauvoo, Illinois. We are pleased to announce that those minutes are now available on this website, including images of the record books. On 11 March 1844, Joseph Smith organized a council that he and his closest associates saw as the beginning of the literal kingdom of God on earth. Among other things, the council explored possible Mormon settlement sites outside the boundaries of the United States and oversaw Joseph Smith’s electioneering campaign for United States president. For more on the Council of Fifty, see the volume introduction, “The Council of Fifty in Nauvoo, Illinois.”

In addition to the Council of Fifty minutes, this latest web content release includes more than 125 documents from March, April, and May 1844, including letters, discourses, deeds, and Nauvoo City Council business. Some highlights:

  • A discourse about the spirit of Elias, Elijah, and the Messiah, given 10 March 1844
  • A letter to presidential candidate Henry Clay dated 13 May 1844 chastising him for not taking a stronger stand on protecting liberty
  • A memorial to the U. S. Congress concerning Texas and Oregon, 26 March 1844

In the Legal, Business, and Financial Records series, we have added documents to four Missouri legal cases against Joseph Smith (for riot, treason, and arson), as well as editorial introductions to the riot case and several Ohio court cases.

 

New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web content release. Featured in this publication are over a hundred documents from January and February 1844, including letters, deeds, and Nauvoo City Council business. Some highlights:

  • Correspondence with Illinois governor Thomas Ford about continuing difficulties with the Mormons’ neighbors
  • Documents related to the transfer of Joseph Smith’s “Mansion House” to Ebenezer Robinson
  • A pamphlet describing Joseph Smith’s views on government
  • Correspondence with Joseph Smith’s agents in Kirtland, Ohio, concerning the disposition of property

In the Legal and Business Records series, we have added editorial introductions to several Ohio court cases and to Joseph Smith’s 1826 trial in New York.

Also included in this release are images for the “History of Joseph Smith” as published in the Times and Seasons and Deseret News. Joseph Smith began publishing this history, which he began composing in 1838, in the church newspaper in March 1842; church historians completed the project in 1858.

Researchers will also find hundreds of new entries in the calendar of documents for September 1839 through January 1841, as well as more biographical and geographical entries.

 

Documents, Volume 7: September 1839–January 1841 Is Now Available

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce the release of Documents, Volume 7, which covers September 1839 through January 1841. This volume contains 129 documents, including personal correspondence, discourses, minutes, a revelation, and a memorial to the United States Congress. Specific topics addressed in these documents include the practical and spiritual building up of Nauvoo, Illinois; the struggle to obtain redress for the property and lives lost in Missouri; the missionary efforts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in England; and the introduction of new teachings and doctrines, including baptism for the dead.

This volume helps illuminate this difficult period—a time when Joseph Smith strove to regroup church members after their forced expulsion from Missouri and attempted to establish a new gathering place for the Saints. The documents reveal a church leader trying to unify his people and extend the church’s reach through missionary work, especially through the efforts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. They show a man concerned for the health and well-being of his followers—and a man striving to obtain redress for the wrong they suffered in Missouri. These documents are critical to understanding Joseph Smith as a person, as a husband and father, and as a prophet to his people; to comprehending the foundations of the Mormon experience in Nauvoo; and to grasping the larger context of events in the United States and elsewhere that influenced Joseph Smith and the church from 1839 to 1841.

Documents, Volume 7 was edited by Matthew C. Godfrey, Spencer W. McBride, Alex D. Smith, and Christopher James Blythe, with Shannon Kelly Jorgensen as the lead production editor. The volume is now available for purchase from Deseret Book and Amazon.

 

Call for Papers: Joseph Smith Papers Conference

On October 26, 2018, the Joseph Smith Papers will host a conference in Salt Lake City on the topic of translation and Latter-day Saint history. We encourage papers that utilize the Revelations and Translations series of the Joseph Smith Papers to illuminate the ministry and work of Joseph Smith, how Joseph Smith and other Saints understood the gift of translation, and the methods behind specific translation projects. See the call for papers for details.

 

New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

February 6, 2018

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web content release. Included in this substantial publication are all documents, introductions, and annotation in Documents, Volume 4: April 1834–September 1835, which was published in print in 2016. Documents, Volume 4 includes documents from the 1834 Camp of Israel expedition (later called “Zion’s Camp”) that marched to Jackson County, Missouri, to redeem the Saints’ land; the 1835 calling of and blessings for the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the Seventies; the construction of the House of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio; and many other minutes, letters, and revelations.

Also published in this release are appendix items for the recently released Documents, Volume 6, mainly concerned with the 1838 struggles of the Saints with their Missouri neighbors:

We have also added minutes from the Nauvoo City Council from 1844 and 1845 as well as more documents from the Nauvoo Municipal Court. Users will also find new editorial introductions to several New York and Ohio court cases.