The title “THE BOOK of the LAW of the LORD,” written in ornate style, adorns a ledger-style record book maintained by several of JS’s scribes in , Illinois, between 1841 and 1845. In this volume, JS’s scribes copied nine of his revelations, kept a portion of his journal, and recorded donations made by church members for the construction of the Nauvoo and the (a boardinghouse). For a detailed historical introduction to the Book of the Law of the Lord, particularly the journal portion, read the Historical Introduction to Journal, December 1841–December 1842.
The journal portion of the Book of the Law of the Lord, comprising a little less than twenty percent of the volume and covering the period 11 December 1841 to 20 December 1842, is published in full in Journals, Volume 2. This material was recorded by , , , and . To view images and transcripts of the journal entries, along with detailed annotation, visit Journal, December 1841–December 1842.
The revelation and donation portions of the Book of the Law of the Lord are here published for the first time. JS’s scribe, , copied nine revelations into the volume between January 1841 and his death on 27 August of that year. The record began with the 19 January 1841 revelation commanding the building of the in Nauvoo and the . Six of the nine revelations were later canonized and constitute, in order of their recording by Thompson, sections 124, 125, 105, 111, 87, and 103 in the present Doctrine and Covenants of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The three other revelations remain uncanonized. One (dated 20 March 1841) concerns the appointment of agents for the Nauvoo House Association. The remaining two, which were received in January 1838 just prior to JS’s abrupt departure from to , deal with questions related to the sustainingof the church’s First Presidency and the protocol for removing them from office in cases of transgression. subsequently made minor revisions to the texts as recorded by . Transcripts of these revelations accompany the images for pages 3–25 of the Book of the Law of the Lord. The links below provide direct access to each of the nine revelations:
The donation entries comprise approximately seventy-five percent of the record. They were recorded by and between late 1841 and 1845. Journal entries and donation records were kept concurrently in the book, alternating sometimes every other page and chronologically leapfrogging each other. This pattern was especially pronounced near the beginning of the book, where donations and journal entries occasionally appear together on a single page. Over time, however, larger and larger blocks of text were dedicated to either donations or journal entries until the journal was transferred by Richards to another volume, the memorandum book.
All donation pages are here published as images without an accompanying transcript. They have been divided into chronological subsections to aid research; readers may use the table of contents button in the top left of the document viewer to navigate within the volume. Two indexes to the donation portions of the Book of the Law of the Lord were created in the period. These will be published on the Joseph Smith Papers website at a future time.
The interspersing of journal entries with pages of donation records, as well as JS’s conscious efforts to record the names of people who helped him, suggests that the volume as a whole was understood in terms of a letter JS wrote in 1832 stating that “a hystory and a general church record” must be kept “of all things that transpire in Zion and of all those who consecrate properties.” That record was to be kept in a book called “the book of the Law of God”—a book whose name parallels usage in the Old Testament. (See, for example, Joshua 24:26, 2 Chronicles 17:9, and Nehemiah 9:3.)
Concerning the significance of the Book of the Law of the Lord, Alex Smith, a volume editor for the Joseph Smith Papers, wrote, “For today’s researchers, the journal entries in the Book of the Law of the Lord are frequently the most primary sources for descriptions of Joseph Smith’s daily activities during 1842. Certain details about key events (e.g., the organization of the , ’s expulsion from the Church, the second attempt to extradite Joseph Smith to , the creation of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge, and the construction of the and ) are found only in this book. . . . Its record of financial donations is a rich cultural history resource—providing valuations of common goods and services.” Smith concluded, “Perhaps the greatest importance of the book lies in its theological implications—a record decreed by revelation to record for heaven and earth the deeds and consecrations of the Saints.” (Alex D. Smith, “The Book of the Law of the Lord,” Journal of Mormon History 38, no. 4 [Fall 2012], 161.)