Documents in Joseph Smith’s Handwriting

Although Joseph Smith left a sizeable collection of written records, few documents remain that are considered holographs, that is, written in his own handwriting. In his earliest history, in one of the rare passages we have in his own handwriting, Joseph Smith wrote of learning to read and write despite limited formal education: “It required the exertions of all that were able to render any assistance for the support of the Family therefore we were deprived of the bennifit of an education suffice it to say I was mearly instructid in reading writing and the ground rules of Arithmatic which const[it]uted my whole literary acquirements.”
The majority of the time, Joseph Smith relied on scribes and clerks to compose, copy, or take down his dictation of the thousands of pages attributed to him, including sacred texts, correspondence, journals, histories, administrative records, and other documents. The scarcity of surviving records he personally wrote gives added significance to their pages. In many cases, they allow a deeper connection to his personality, thoughts, and emotions than texts penned by scribes or reproduced in print. Readers should bear in mind, however, that because a large portion of Joseph Smith documents survive as copies, there is not always a correlation between holographs and more direct access to Joseph Smith’s mind. In some cases, documents not found in his handwriting may have a closer connection to Smith than texts in his own hand.
The list below presents the journal entries and letters or other documents written, either entirely or substantially, in Joseph Smith’s hand. Documents with very minor portions written by Joseph Smith, or those with just his signature, are not included. As explained in our Editorial Method, Smith’s handwriting is rendered in bold in transcripts. Images of the documents can be enlarged for viewing details of the original. If the document listed is currently on our website, a link is included; other documents will be forthcoming.
Book of Mormon Manuscript Excerpt, circa May 1829 [Alma 45:22]
Letter to Almira Mack Scobey, 2 June 1835 (at end of Letters to John Burk, Sally Phelps, and Almira Scobey, 1─2 June 1835)
Letter to Henry G. Sherwood, 7 November 1839
Letter to Emma Smith, 20 January 1840
Statement, February 1840
Note of Authorization, 24 February 1842
Complaint against William Thomas, 2 August 1842
Letter to Lucien Adams, 2 October 1843
Note to William Clayton, 9 December 1842
Autograph to Barbara Matilda Neff, May 1844
Letter to Emma Smith, 27 June 1844 (postscript)