The Joseph Smith Papers

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The Joseph Smith Papers
AuthorJoseph Smith, Jr.
CountryUnited States
GenreReligious writings
Published2008–ongoing (LDS Church Historian's Press)[1]
Media typePrint and online (with the latter at

The Joseph Smith Papers (or Joseph Smith Papers Project) is a project researching, collecting, and publishing all manuscripts and documents created by, or under the direction of, Joseph Smith (1805-1844), the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement. The documents, which include transcriptions and annotations, have appeared both online and in printed form. The Church History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) sponsors the project; the department's imprint, the Church Historian's Press, publishes the website and the printed volumes.[2]

History of the project[edit]

After Smith's death in 1844, a collection of his papers was carried west by Brigham Young and other church leaders. Some significant documents remained with John Whitmer, Smith's widow, Emma, and others. Many of these were not published until years later by the LDS Church, the Community of Christ, and independent researchers. The "Roots of the current effort" began in the late 1960s when Truman G. Madsen invited Dean C. Jessee, then an employee of the Church Historian's Office, to contribute documents relating to Joseph Smith and early Mormonism to issues of BYU Studies. In 1972, Leonard J. Arrington was appointed the Church Historian and he directed Jessee to continue to "locate, collect, and transcribe Smith's writings."[3] This resulted in Jessee's 1984 publication, The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith followed by the two volume Papers of Joseph Smith, the first in 1989 and the second in 1992.[4]

In 2001, Jessee's project became a joint venture between Brigham Young University's (BYU) Joseph Fielding Smith Institute and the LDS Church Archives. The project was renamed The Joseph Smith Papers and expanded with added funding from Larry H. and Gail Miller.[5] Its preliminary work was important to the creation of the landmark biography, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, which Richard Bushman published in 2005.[6]

In June 2004, the project received endorsement by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, a division of the National Archives,[7] to ensure research is conducted according to the highest scholarly standards.[8] The project was moved back to the Church History Department in 2005.[4]

Although not an official part of the project, a documentary TV series also called The Joseph Smith Papers was created. This series documented the creation of and work involved in the Joseph Smith Papers Project. It was produced by KJZZ-TV in cooperation with the Church History Department.[9]

Larry H. Miller provided initial funding for a team of experts at Brigham Young University that examined documents from the early history of the LDS Church. This team later compiled The Joseph Smith Papers. Miller funded this project with a donation of $10 million in bonds and additional cash contributions.[10]


In February 2008, the Church Historian's Press, was established "for publishing works related to the Church's origin and growth." The publication of The Joseph Smith Papers is the press's initial project.[11]

Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian and Recorder at the time of the announcement, said the project will include "journals, diaries, correspondence, articles and notices. Everything of a written nature Joseph Smith generated, or over which he had oversight."[11] High resolution images of many of the original documents were published by Brigham Young University Press in 2002 as part of Selected Collections from the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The two volume set contains 76 DVDs of images from 1830 to 1923, including complete images of the Joseph Smith Collection, circa 1831-1844, the Revelations Collections, circa 1831-1876, architectural drawings of the Nauvoo Temple, and several volumes containing minutes from meetings Joseph Smith attended or oversaw.[12]

Before publication, transcripts of the manuscripts are verified three times, and annotation is supplied to illuminate the historical context of each document.."[13]

The first volume of The Joseph Smith Papers, entitled, The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, was released in December 2008.[14] Despite the $50 retail price, unexpectedly high demand caused the initial printing of 12,500 copies to sell out in two weeks, and the publishers to triple their projected second printing order to 16,500. Many Christmas purchasers bought gift certificates for the coming printing and some extant copies were resold for over twice the retail price.[15]


The Joseph Smith Papers project anticipates that it will publish around two dozen print volumes, as well as some additional volumes published online.[16][17] The Joseph Smith Papers have been divided into the following series:[16]


The ten journals kept by Joseph Smith and his scribes from 1832 to 1844.[4]

  • Volume 1: 1832-1839 (published November 26, 2008)[11]
  • Volume 2: December 1841-April 1843 (published November 15, 2011)[18]
  • Volume 3: May 1843-June 1844 (published November 30, 2015)[19]


Correspondence, sermons and other addresses, official declarations and pronouncements, editorials and articles from periodicals, early versions of revelations, and "selected minutes and proceedings."[20] Twelve volumes are projected for the print edition,[21] of which twelve have been published. Several hundred documents from this series are available on the Joseph Smith Papers website.[22]

  • Volume 1: July 1828-June 1831 (published September 4, 2013)[23]
  • Volume 2: July 1831-January 1833 (published December 2, 2013)[24]
  • Volume 3: February 1833-March 1834 (published December 1, 2014)[25][26]
  • Volume 4: April 1834-September 1835 (published May 9, 2016)[27]
  • Volume 5: October 1835-January 1838 (published May 15, 2017)[28]
  • Volume 6: February 1838–August 1839 (published September 25, 2017)[29]
  • Volume 7: September 1839–January 1841 (published April 2, 2018)[30]
  • Volume 8: February 1841–November 1841 (published May 13, 2019)[31]
  • Volume 9: December 1841–April 1842 (published October 8, 2019)[32]
  • Volume 10: May 1842–August 1842 (published May 4, 2020)[33]
  • Volume 11: September 1842–February 1843 (published October 12, 2020)[34]
  • Volume 12: March 1843–July 1843 (published April 26, 2021)[35]


The histories were planned to contain Smith's complete manuscript history, which he began in 1838, and continued by clerks after his death in 1844.[36] According to the website, "the entire multivolume manuscript history" will be published online.[21]

  • Volume 1: Joseph Smith Histories, 1832-1844 (published March 19, 2012)[37]
  • Volume 2: Assigned Historical Writings, 1831-1847 (published September 25, 2012)[38]

Legal, business, and financial records[edit]

The series will contain legal papers in which Smith was a judge, witness, plaintiff or a defendant, and financial records including land transactions and "accounts of church-owned businesses." Only one volume is projected, which may have originally been intended for printing,[36] but will only be available online.[39]

Revelations and translations[edit]

This series will contain the earliest known manuscripts text of revelations received by Joseph Smith and published in his lifetime including the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon, the published Book of Mormon, and the Book of Commandments.[36]

  • Volume 1: Manuscript Revelation Books, Facsimile Edition (published September 22, 2009)[40]
  • Volume 1: Manuscript Revelation Books (published March 9, 2011)[citation needed]
  • Volume 2: Published Revelations (published March 18, 2011)[citation needed]
  • Volume 3, Part 1: Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 1 - Alma 35, Facsimile Edition (published August 4, 2015)[41]
  • Volume 3, Part 2: Printer's Manuscript of the Book of Mormon, Alma 36 - Moroni 10, Facsimile Edition (published August 4, 2015)[41]
  • Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts (published October 29, 2018)[42]

Administrative records[edit]

The Administrative records series will publish records relating to the "institutions that were established under Smith's directions" as well as minutes for meetings Smith attended.[36]

  • Minute Book 1 (published online, 2011)[citation needed]
  • Minute Book 2 (published online, 2011)[citation needed]
  • Nauvoo Relief Society Minute Book (published online, 2011)[citation needed]
  • Administrative Records, Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846 (published September 26, 2016)[43]

Editorial board and project staff[edit]

The current and editorial board and project staff are as follows:[44]

Editorial Board

LeGrand R. Curtis Jr. - Church Historian and Recorder

Matthew J. Grow - Managing Director, Church History Department

National Advisory Board

Stephen J. Stein - Chancellor's Professor, Emeritus, of Religious Studies and Adjunct Professor of American History and American Studies, Indiana University, Bloomington

Harry S. Stout - Jonathan Edwards Professor of American Religious History and Chair, Department of Religious Studies, Yale University

Terryl L. Givens - James A. Bostwick Chair and Professor of Literature and Religion, University of Richmond

Susan Holbrook Perdue - Program Director, Documents Compass, Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, University of Virginia

General Editors Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, Richard Lyman Bushman

Managing Historian Matthew C. Godfrey

Associate Managing Historian Robin Jensen

Editorial Manager R. Eric Smith

Assistant Editorial Managers Nathan Waite Riley Lorimer

Project Archivist Robin Scott Jensen

Document Specialists Sharalyn D. Howcroft

Volume Co-editors Mason K. Allred, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Alexander L. Baugh, Christopher James Blythe, Gerrit Dirkmaat, David W. Grua, Karen Lynn Davidson, Steven C. Harper, William G. Hartley, Andrew H. Hedges, Christian Heimburger, Elizabeth A. Kuehn, Gordon A. Madsen, Spencer W. McBride, Max H. Parkin, Brenden W. Rensink, Brent M. Rogers, Royal Skousen, Alex D. Smith, Grant Underwood, Jeffrey N. Walker, John W. Welch, David J. Whittaker, Robert J. Woodford.

Production Editors R. Eric Smith, senior editor, Linda Hunter Adams, Susan Hainsworth, Rachel Osborne, Sarah Gibby Peris, Heather Seferovich, Nathan N. Waite.


In 2008, Journals, Volume 1: 1832-1839 received the Special Award in Textual Criticism and Bibliography from the Association for Mormon Letters.,[45] and the Steven F. Christensen Best Documentary Award from the Mormon History Association in 2009.[46]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ With co-sponsorship by the U.S. National Archives
  2. ^ "About the Project". The Joseph Smith Papers website. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
  3. ^ Jessee, Esplin & Bushman 2008, p. xxxix-xl
  4. ^ a b c Jessee, Esplin & Bushman 2008, p. xl
  5. ^ Walch, Tad (April 4, 2005). "Miller funding Joseph Smith project". Deseret Morning News. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
  6. ^ Bushman, Richard (2007). Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. Knopf. p. xxii.
  7. ^ "Commission Adopts New Directions, Awards $5.9 Million in Grants"" (PDF). Annotation. 32 (2): 16. June 2004.
  8. ^ Choate, Amy (August 12, 2004). "Joseph Smith research gets top endorsement". Deseret Morning News. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
  9. ^ Elaine Jarvik (4 November 2007). "TV show to preview Smith Papers Project". Deseret News. Retrieved 6 October 2010.
  10. ^ Miller, Larry H.; Robinson, Doug (27 April 2010). Driven. Deseret.
  11. ^ a b c "New Publishing Imprint Set to Boost Mormon Scholarship". Salt Lake City, Utah: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. February 25, 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-02.
  12. ^ "Selected Collections from the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Volumes One and Two)". Brigham Young University Press. Retrieved 2009-02-26.
  13. ^ Jessee, Esplin & Bushman 2008, p. Preface
  14. ^ "Landmark Publication Launches: Inaugural Volume of Joseph Smith Papers Now Available". The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. December 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
  15. ^ Arave, Lynn (December 9, 2008). "New Joseph Smith book sells out quickly". Deseret News. Salt Lake City, Utah. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  16. ^ a b "Purchase Our Published Volumes". The Church Historian's Press. Retrieved 2016-02-15.
  17. ^ R. Scott Lloyd (October 3, 2012). "Joseph Smith Papers' 'Histories' Vol. 2 released". Church News. Deseret News. Retrieved 2016-02-15.
  18. ^ Lloyd, R. Scott (November 17, 2011). "New Joseph Smith Papers volume covers Nauvoo period of church". Church News. Retrieved 2012-03-15.
  19. ^ Steve Evans (November 30, 2015). "Joseph Smith Papers – Journals Vol 3". By Common Consent. Retrieved 2016-02-15.
  20. ^ Jessee, Esplin & Bushman 2008, p. xl–xli
  21. ^ a b "Joseph Smith Papers: Editorial Method". Retrieved 2011-05-27.
  22. ^ "The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents: Letters, revelations, reports of discourses, minutes, etc". Archived from the original on 2011-05-30. Retrieved 2011-05-27.
  23. ^ Joseph Walker (September 4, 2013). "LDS Church releases new volume of Joseph Smith documents". Deseret News. Retrieved 2014-12-11.
  24. ^ R. Scott Lloyd (December 10, 2013). "Joseph Smith Papers Project Releases New Volume". Church News. Retrieved 2014-12-11.
  25. ^ Lloyd, R. Scott (December 5, 2014). "Latest Joseph Smith Papers volume covers 88 historical documents". Church News. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  26. ^ "Joseph Smith Papers Project Publishes Documents, Volume 3". The Joseph Smith Papers. December 1, 2014. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  27. ^ Trent Toone (May 11, 2016). "From Kirtland to Missouri: 5 interesting notes from 'Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Vol. 4'". Deseret News. Retrieved 2016-05-16.
  28. ^ Unknown (May 15, 2017). "Documents, Volume 5: October 1835-January 1838". The Joseph Smith Papers.
  29. ^ Jessee, Dean C.; Esplin, Ronald K.; Bushman, Richard L.; Grow, Matthew J.; Dirkmaat, Gerrit John (2017). The Joseph Smith Papers Documents, Volume 6: February 1838-August 1839. Salt Lake City: Church Historian Press. ISBN 9781609075774. OCLC 849801109.
  30. ^ Jessee, Dean C.; Esplin, Ronald K.; Bushman, Richard L.; Grow, Matthew J.; Dirkmaat, Gerrit John (2018). The Joseph Smith Papers Documents, Volume 7: September 1839-January 1841. Salt Lake City: Matthew J. ISBN 9781609075774. OCLC 849801109.
  31. ^ "Newest Joseph Smith Papers Volume Now Available". The Joseph Smith Papers. May 13, 2019. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  32. ^ "Documents, Volume 9 Is Now Available". The Joseph Smith Papers. October 8, 2019. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  33. ^ "The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 10 Released". Church Historian's Press. May 4, 2020. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  34. ^ "The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 11 Released". Church Historian's Press. October 12, 2020. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  35. ^ "The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 12 Released". Church Historian's Press. April 26, 2021. Retrieved April 26, 2021.
  36. ^ a b c d Jessee, Esplin & Bushman 2008, p. xli
  37. ^ "Joseph Smith Papers project releases first Histories volume". LDS Living. March 13, 2012. Archived from the original on 2015-05-13. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  38. ^ Lloyd, R. Scott (October 3, 2012), "Joseph Smith Papers' 'Histories' Vol. 2 released", Deseret News, retrieved 2014-12-11
  39. ^ "The Joseph Smith Papers: Order the print volumes". Church Historian's Press. Retrieved 2018-10-10. [...] a sixth series, Legal, Business, and Financial Records, will be published online.
  40. ^ "About The Volumes". The Joseph Smith Papers. Archived from the original on 2014-10-22. Retrieved 2009-02-25.
  41. ^ a b Trent Toone (August 5, 2015). "LDS Church announces publication of the printer's manuscript of the Book of Mormon". Deseret News. Retrieved 2015-08-22.
  42. ^ Revelations and Translations, Volume 4: Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts. Utah: The Church Historian's Press. 2018. ISBN 978-1-62972-480-5.
  43. ^ Grow, Matthew J.; Esplin, Ronald K.; Ashurst-McGee, Mark; Dirkmaat, Gerrit John; Mahas, Jeffrey D., eds. (2016). Administrative Records, Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846. Salt Lake City, Utah: Church Historian's Press. ISBN 9781629722429. OCLC 939911194.
  44. ^ "Project Organization". The Joseph Smith Papers. Retrieved 2009-02-21.
  45. ^ "AML Awards:Special Award in Textual Criticism and Bibliography". Association for Mormon Letters. Retrieved 2010-04-18.
  46. ^ "MHA 2009 Award Winners". Mormon History Association. Retrieved 2010-04-18.


External links[edit]