The journal is a makeshift notebook containing sixteen leaves measuring 10 × 4 inches (25 × 10 cm). It was fashioned by folding eight 10 × 8 inch (25 × 20 cm) sheets of paper in half lengthwise to form the sixteen leaves (thirty-two pages). Inscriptions that reach the end of a line and cross the gutter onto the conjugal leaf indicate that the folded pages were not sewn during their original use. Wear on the first and last pages indicates that the pages were not bound for some time. The text of the journal is inscribed on the first fifteen pages. The remaining seventeen pages are blank. At some point, a cover for the notebook was made with a 10 × 16 inch (25 × 41 cm) sheet of blue cover stock folded in half twice to create a 10 × 4 inch cover, which was then pamphlet bound with hand stitching. On the front cover, wrote “Minute Book. | 1839 | J. Smiths Journal | Escape from Prison” with seven decorative underlines. On the back cover, the lines “Joseph Smith’s Journal | Escape from Prison 1839” are written sideways near the top. This notation, in unidentified handwriting, appears to be an early archival marking. Textual redactions and use marks made in graphite were added by later scribes who used the journal to produce the multivolume manuscript history of the church.
This thin journal was probably among the miscellaneous documents collectively listed in Nauvoo and early Utah inventories of church records. The use of the journal in connection with the manuscript history, early inventories, and recent archival records indicate that this journal—like the other JS journals—has remained in continuous institutional custody.
See Johnson, Register of the Joseph Smith Collection, 7.
Johnson, Jeffery O. Register of the Joseph Smith Collection in the Church Archives, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973.
On 29 September 1839, JS spoke at a meeting in his home near , Illinois. In addition to commenting on preaching the gospel and on the second coming of Jesus Christ, JS spoke about the connection between physical ailments and divine punishment. This topic had likely been on the minds of many Saints due to a recent outbreak of the ague (malaria); in the ensuing months, hundreds of church members—including JS—fell ill, and more than a dozen died. JS spent much of his time in July, August, and September ministering to the sick and taking many who did not have adequate accommodations into his own home. recorded the content of JS’s discourse in a journal he was keeping for JS.
Brigham Young later recorded that JS “had taken the sick into his house and dooryard until his house was like an hospital, and he had attended upon them until he was taken sick himself and confined to his bed several days.” JS similarly recorded in his journal his attending to a large number of ill church members in the Commerce area. (Historian’s Office, Brigham Young History Drafts, 25; JS, Journal, 8 July–28 Sept. 1839.)
to the world about great judgements but rather to preach the simple gospel— Explained concerning the coming of the son of Man &c that all will be raised to meet him but the righteous will remain with him in the cloud whilst all the proud and all that do wickedly will have to return to the earth, and suffer his vengeance which he will take upon them this is the second death &c &c
Also that it is a false idea that the saints will escape all the judgements whilst the wicked suffer— for all flesh is subject to suffer— and “the righteous shall hardly escape” still many of the saints will escape— for the just shall live by faith— yet many of the righteous shall fall a prey to disease to pestilence &c and yet &c by reason of the weakness of the flesh and yet be saved in the kingdom of God So that it is an unhallowed principle to say that such and such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death for all flesh is subject to death and the Saviour has said, “Judge not “lest ye be judged”. [p. ]
In discussing the connection between physical ailments and divine punishment, JS addressed a longstanding theological debate. The Bible contains several passages that ascribe physical suffering to divine punishment for sin, while other passages state that not all physical suffering occurs because of wrongdoing. During JS’s time, the notion that an unexpected and painful death indicated divine displeasure persisted in the United States, in part as a remnant of seventeenth-century Puritan theology, which informed religion in New England and throughout the northeastern part of the country. JS’s letter to the church written six months earlier from the jail at Liberty, Missouri, indicated that God sometimes physically punished the wicked but that the righteous would escape neither the calamities that would precede the Second Coming nor the vicissitudes of life. At least one previous church council had explicitly debated whether disease was “of the Devil” and had decided that it was not necessarily so. (See Deuteronomy 28:58–62; Zechariah 14:12; 1 Kings 17:17–23; John 9:1–3; Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment, 91, 125, 196–200; “Extracts from Heber C. Kimball’s Journal,” Times and Seasons, 15 Feb. 1845, 6:804; 15 Mar. 1845, 6:838–840; Letter to the Church and Edward Partridge, 20 Mar. 1839 [D&C 121:6, 16–20]; and Minute Book 2, 21 Aug. 1834.)
Hall, David D. Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990.
Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.