Joseph Smith Papers, Journals Vol. 2.

The Church Historian’s Press offers the second volume in the journals series of the Joseph Smith Papers. Volume editors Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith and Richard Lloyd Anderson bring us Joseph Smith’s journals from the period December 1841 to April 1843.

The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Volume 2.


The period covered by the journals was one of great importance and included political and infrastructure development of Nauvoo (including the temple), the establishment of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, the transition of the Times and Seasons to official Church organ, the printing of the Book of Abraham, the inauguration of the temple ceremonies (most of them) and proxy baptism for the dead, the quorum of the anointed, the extradition attempt and underground, the rise of the twelve apostles, polygamy, a much better though less personal account of JS’s doings and sayings and much more. During the period JS’s journals were recorded by Willard Richards, his private secretary and chief chronographer, William Clayton, Erastus Derby[1] and a few pages by Eliza R. Snow, the latter three only during the first year of the volume. That period is important for historical reasons, but as a documentary record perhaps the most interesting aspect is the now open availability of the journal record for the period from the famous “Book of the Law of the Lord.”

The Book of the Law of the Lord was part church financial record, part blessing record, part journal and part “sayings” book. It formed a contiguous part of the financial records for the Church during the Nauvoo period and went west with Brigham Young and the bulk of the Saints in the city. It was in possession of John Taylor in Utah and eventually became a part of Joseph Fielding Smith’s personal papers. It therefore joined the First Presidency’s files when Elder Smith became Church President in 1970 and remained there until 2010 when it was turned over to the Church History Library in Salt Lake City. Quotations from the book appeared in the manuscript history of the church constructed in Utah and those portions were then published in the Deseret News beginning in 1855. The book’s whereabouts and contents were questions of interest in the 20th century. It is an important primary source in early Mormonism and its availability for this volume and in general is path-breaking.[2]

The source books for this volume are The Book of the Law of the Lord (December 1841 – December 1842), and four much smaller memorandum books reporting JS’s life via Willard Richards from December 1842 through June 1844. All of these materials are vital in understanding Mormonism and Joseph Smith and their publication in this volume is important to historians of the period and Mormonism in general.

Archival Label for the first Memorandum Book, CHL

The editors supplement JS’s own journal materials with those of other diarists of the period like Wilford Woodruff. Additionally they appeal to various newsprint sources like the Nauvoo Times and Seasons, The Wasp, The Nauvoo Neighbor, The Sangamo Journal, Quincy Whig, etc.

This group of editors exhibit their own style in many respects and while I admit to being spoiled by the work of other volume editors, I enjoyed the discussion points and detail provided by this group. In some respects the tone seems slightly defensive at some spots and this contrasts with other volumes in the Papers I think. For me this surfaced in the editor’s brief discussion of Nauvoo polygamy, the John C. Bennett scandal and related issues. This may in part be due to the necessary brevity invited in such a work, I don’t know. But this is very much a side issue and does not really impact the historical value of the volume. Annotation practices, etc. basically follow the techniques and patterns established in Journals Vol. 1, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee and Richard L. Jensen.

The journals contain correspondance of interest, both personal and official. Much of the material in this volume of the Papers has appeared elsewhere, but the volume does a service in providing us with complete verified transcripts of rare documents with the use of imaging technology to indicate the content of erasures and deletions and expert interpretation of Willard Richards’ shorthand symbols. One could hope for facsimile editions, but that perhaps is a purist conceit. I’m an avid fan of this effort and relish the idea of having this volume in my personal library.

Among useful addenda are roughly sixty illustrations, images and charts including nine maps. Biographical and geographical directories, tables of Church, Nauvoo city and Nauvoo Legion officers are given. In short, valuable summaries of local societal structures in JS’s life. The volume contains the always useful list of works cited. Among the people acknowledged by the editors include friends of this blog, J. Stapley, Sam Brown, David Grua and probably others I overlooked (my apologies if that’s the case).

The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals, Volume 2. December 1841-April 1843.
Editors: Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith, Richard Lloyd Anderson
Publisher: The Church Historian’s Press, Nov. 2011.
558 pages + xl
10.5 x 7.5 x 1.8 in.
ISBN-10 1609087372
$49.45, Deseret Book Co.

———-
[1] It is nearly impossible to overestimate the importance of the coming of Willard Richards. Derby moved to Hancock County, Ill. about 1834 and was baptized a Latter-day Saint in 1840. He moved to Nauvoo in 1842 and wrote in The Book of the Law of the Lord during August 1842. He drifted away from Mormonism in the 1850s. (See the volume’s “Biographical Directory” for more information.)

[2] Non-journal entries of the BLL are not included in Journals Vol. 2. Dean Jessee’s exploits in publishing two volumes of Joseph Smith’s papers twenty odd years ago allowed us views of The Book of the Law of the Lord but was somewhat less robust than the Journals Vol. 2 transcript. Nevertheless, if you can find one, Jessee’s volume has its own attractions. Scott H. Faulrung’s An American Prophet’s Record also contains edited versions of JS’s journals (sans BLL access). One interesting treat in Journals Vol. 2 is a transcript of William Clayton’s Journal for the few days Clayton was with Joseph Smith in Ramus, Ill. in early April 1843. Clayton’s journal was a partial source for Willard Richards’ reconstruction of events during JS’s visit which appears in JS’s journal. (Orson Pratt extracted this material for the 1876 Doctrine and Covenants).

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5 Responses to Joseph Smith Papers, Journals Vol. 2.

  1. J. Stapley says:

    I’ve been traveling, so haven’t seen a copy yet. That bit about the Clayton transcript in your note is terific! I can’t wait to read the whole thing.

  2. ricke says:

    Thanks for your review. I was debating somewhat whether to get this volume, or not. It sounds like I should.

  3. WVS says:

    One thing I neglected to mention: the volume has no index. Since the Clayton diary is listed as housed in CHL, perhaps that means greater accessibility. We need a nice annotated edition of it for the JS/Nauvoo period, and who better to do it than the JSP-CHL people?

  4. n8c says:

    WVS, do you have more info on the BLL? Are there other writings contained in the book that haven’t been published or do we infer that with J2 and other works that cite BLL that we know the contents in full?

    I agree this volume is brilliant. I keep thinking the JSPP will get somewhat less interesting (simply because the really cool stuff has been published in J1 and R1 and R2) then another brilliant volume is published. I hope that the documents series will have more footnotes from the Project Scholars. Their understanding of the given texts and their connection to other sources (like the Clayton transcript) compliment the volumes in ways that I think the readers haven’t fully appreciated.

  5. WVS says:

    WIthout seeing the BLL, I couldn’t say what’s missing. But I have confidence in the editors here. Those entries that can be called journal entries are here. I hope and believe that the contents and contexts of the JSPP volumes will gradually situate our devotional study from Church manuals, etc.

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