The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Vol. 4: April 1834 - September 1835

by Alexander L. Baugh, Matthew C. Godfrey, Brenden W. Rensink, Alex D. Smith, Max H. Parkin

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Accomplishing the “redemption of Zion” was Joseph Smith’s primary concern for much of 1834 and 1835. After the Latter-day Saints had been forcibly removed from their lands in Jackson County, Missouri—the place where they believed God had commanded them to build the city of Zion—Joseph Smith led numerous efforts to reclaim those lands and restore the Saints to their homes. Covering April 1834 through September 1835, the ninety-three documents featured in this fourth volume of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papersshed light on Joseph Smith’s attempts to redeem Zion and reveal his maturation as a leader and prophet for a growing church facing nearly constant challenges.

The project of redeeming Zion placed large demands on Joseph Smith’s time and resources. He left his home in Kirtland, Ohio, in May 1834 to lead a company of about two hundred individuals, known as the Camp of Israel and later as Zion’s Camp, to Missouri to aid the beleaguered Saints there. Smith also sought to redeem Zion through the construction of the House of the Lord (or temple) in Kirtland, where the elders of the church were to receive an “endowment of power,” and the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of revelations that provided instruction to the Saints on church doctrine and theology. Funding these projects proved difficult, however. In part because of the loss of the printing press in Jackson County and the mounting construction costs of the Kirtland temple, Smith and the church faced severe financial problems in the mid-1830s. Several documents in this volume describe these projects, the church’s financial strain, and the resulting assignments given to some individuals to collect donations for the church.

Meanwhile, the number of Saints in and outside Kirtland continued to increase. To address the challenge of growth, Joseph Smith further developed the church’s governing bodies and created a more complex administrative structure. Some documents presented herein, for example, detail the creation of new leadership positions in the church, including the offices of apostle, seventy, and church patriarch.

The types of documents included in this volume range from minutes and administrative documents to personal letters and revelations. Particularly prominent are a number of recorded blessings. These documents reveal the growing importance that Joseph Smith placed on giving blessings that provided personalized instructions and promises to various individuals, including veterans of the Camp of Israel and new church leaders.

The documents reproduced in this volume have been transcribed and annotated to the highest standards of documentary editing. Altogether, they open a window into Joseph Smith’s efforts to establish the kingdom of God on earth and his development as a leader of a growing religious movement. This volume is an indispensable resource for those studying the life of Joseph Smith during this formative and turbulent period.

Excerpts from Documents, Volume 4

Revelation Commanding the Camp of Israel to Disband
22 June 1834 [D&C 105]
“It is expedient in me that mine elders should wait for a little season for the redemption of Zion, that they themselves may be prepared and that my people may be taught more perfectly, and have experience and know more perfectly concerning their duty, and the things which I require at their hands, and this cannot be brought to pass until mine elders are endowed with power from on high, for behold I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them[.]”

Discourse Prefacing the Calling of the Twelve Apostles
14 February 1835
“President Smith arose and stated the reason why this meeting was called. It was this. God had commanded it and it was made known to him by vision and by the Holy Spirit. he then gave a relation of some of the circumstances attending us while journeying to Zion, our trials, sufferings &c &c. He said God had not designed all this for nothing, but he had it in remembrance yet, and those who went to Zion, with a determination to lay down their lives, if necessary, it was the Will of God, that they should be ordained to the ministry and go forth to prune the vineyard for the last time[.]”

Size: 7" x 10", 704 pages

About the Authors

Alexander L. Baugh

ALEXANDER L. BAUGH was born and raised in Logan, Utah. He completed a master's degree at BYU in history in 1986 with an emphasis in western American and Mormon history. He became a full-time faculty member in Religious Education at bYU after completing his PhD in American history. In addition to his professorship, he also serves as a co-director of research for the Religious Studies Center at Brigham Young University. Professor Baugh and his family reside in Highland, Utah.

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Matthew C. Godfrey

Matthew C. Godfrey is a general editor and the managing historian of the Joseph Smith Papers, and is a member of the editorial board. He holds a PhD in American and public history from Washington State University. Before joining the project, he worked for eight years at Historical Research Associates, a historical and archeological consulting firm headquartered in Missoula, Montana, serving as president of the company from 2008 to 2010. He is the author of Religion, Politics, and Sugar: The Mormon Church, the Federal Government, and the Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, 1907-1921 (2007), which was a co-winner of the Mormon History Association’s Smith-Petit Award for Best First Book. He has also published articles in Agricultural History and Pacific Northwest Quarterly and has presented papers at conferences of the Mormon History Association, the National Council on Public History, the American Society for Environmental History, and the Western History Association, among other organizations.

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Brenden W. Rensink

Brenden W. Rensink is an Assistant Professor of History, Assistant Director of the Charles Redd Center for Western Studies at Brigham Young University, and general editor of Intermountain Histories. Before joining the faculty at BYU he earned a Ph.D. from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, was visiting faculty at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and a historian and editor for the Joseph Smith Papers. He is the author of numerous historical articles, anthology chapters, and reviews on North American West, transnational borderlands, indigenous peoples, and comparative genocide studies. He co-authored A Historical Dictionary of the American Frontier (Rowman Littlefield, 2015) and will soon publish his forthcoming monograph Native but Foreign: Transnational Cree, Chippewa and Yaqui Refugees and Immigrants in the U.S-Canadian and U.S.-Mexican Borderlands, 1880-present (Texas A&M Press).

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Alex D. Smith

Alex D. Smith is coeditor of volume two (published 2011) and volume three in the Journals series of The Joseph Smith Papers. He received MA (2002) and BA (1998) degrees in history from Brigham Young University and is currently pursuing a PhD in history from the University of Utah. He was a research historian and document editor with the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, where he first began working for the Papers. His research interests and project specialization focus on the history of the church in Nauvoo. He also serves as a photographer for The Joseph Smith Papers.

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Max H. Parkin

Max H. Parkin holds a Ph.D. from BYU in Church history. A former institute instructor, he is the author of Conflict at Kirtland and directs tours to Church history sites and to the Middle East.

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