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Very well done; interesting time period for Joseph Smith and Church
By , Submitted on 2018-04-09

Another fantastic addition to the Joseph Smith Papers Project. This edition covers a difficult and interesting time in Joseph Smith's history and for the LDS church at large. The summaries at the beginning of each document allow the reader to understand the document and its context without having to spend hours on research. This allows a reader to skip between documents without having to spend time going through a full chronological account to understand why the document is relevant/important.

For Mormons and non-Mormons alike, the account of Joseph Smith and others petitioning Martin Van Buren (and Congress) for relief for losses in Missouri is intriguing. The fact that they didn't get relief from the federal government is stunning given the state sanctioned abuse in Missouri (but understandable in the context of a states-rights, antebellum U.S.). Another character of interest, John C. Bennett, also appears in this volume as he corresponds with Smith about he eagerness to join the church and the Saints.

Both the content and the quality of this book make it well worth the price. It can be used as a reference for particular documents or a detailed history for a time period full of activity in the life of Smith and the church he founded.

Redress, Rebuild, and Re-commitment: The Early Days of the City of Joseph - One Amazing Volume
By , Submitted on 2018-04-09


It was indeed an honor and privilege to be invited to look at the release of The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents Volume 7 prior to its publication. As like it was with Documents Volume 6, the Church Historian’s Press were incredibly professional and timely in getting the material to me. It is one of the most efficient operations I’ve witnessed.

The editors of Documents, Volume 7 had an arduous task ahead of them as this volume deals with the founding of the City of Nauvoo and the aftermath of the incidents in Missouri a year earlier. Through the varying letters, transcripts and material presented, the reader is encouraged to consider what it must have been like for Joseph Smith and his associates to come through what is commonly referred to as the Church’s ‘refining fire’ in Missouri and build anew, but with the intent that the building of a home was meant to last. Unlike the building in Kirtland and Missouri, these experiences were more mature, and it reflects in the language used in the documents. Even the casual historian or reader should be able to pick up one of the earlier volumes and then pick up Documents Volume 7, and be able to see firsthand the evolution of thought, language and more of these people.

The depth and scope of this work is not to be underestimated. I do thoroughly believe that there is always something for everybody in The Joseph Smith Papers, but what stood out for me in this volume is the degree of detail that went into Joseph Smith’s trip to Washington D.C to seek redress from the American Government for the atrocities in Missouri. From pages 143-174 (in my copy), you get an epistle written to members of the Senate and the House of Representatives by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Elias Higbee that tells their story in Missouri once more, but this time, from the first person point of view. You get to read for yourself the firsthand account that you will not find in any missionary approved literature or manuals given out during Sunday School. The degree of detail is fascinating and thought provoking. I considered Documents Volume 6 to be thorough; this takes it one step further. Because I also have an interest and affinity for politics, the editors do a fantastic job of providing invaluable cross-references to legal documents located in both Missouri and Washington D.C and provide very clear definitions of terms that may not be known to the public of the inner workings of government. As well, the editors have done a thorough job of inviting the reader to consider the question of the Church and its stand on political neutrality back in these days. We say it so easily today that there is good to be found in all parties and that we’re called upon to be involved in our political affairs, but in the mid 19th Century, those lines were not clearly as defined. Through editorial comments, cross-references and more (including in the epistle), you are left considering from a historical perspective whether those opposed to the Church were right in their view that Mormon ‘block voting’ was a clear and legitimate threat to the status quo of American society.

Earlier I mentioned the founding of Nauvoo. This volume also contains extensive documents surrounding the acquisition of land, the establishment of the Nauvoo City Charter and the creation of the Nauvoo Legion. As well, the volume contains letters from various city personnel including one John C. Bennett. Of itself, these may seem insignificant. However, while reading these documents, consider that they are only 3-4 years removed from the events that led to Joseph Smith and Hyrum Smith’s death in Carthage. An understanding of how Nauvoo was formed and meant to be governed does play a big role in understanding how events of 1842-1844 played themselves out. Again, not something you’d find in a Sunday School class, but informs why we teach LDS Church History the way we do.

As well, you get a chance to read letters from members of the Quorum of the Twelve to Joseph and vice versa as they head off on missions to England and abroad. You get to read about the excitement the Saints felt as they were taught the doctrine pertaining to baptisms for the dead and how the early baptisms took place. You get to read testimonials and experience the joy the brethren were feeling as they were fulfilling their charge to go proclaim the word of the Lord to the world. Of special note, readers also get to see a more thorough account of the request of William W. Phelps to be reinstated to the Church. A story known to many, it is a fine example of penitence and forgiveness, a testimonial to the lessons Joseph and others learned while incarcerated in Missouri. You get to read the request Joseph made for the brethren to consider Phelps’ request and you get to read in full what was sent back to Phelps, a letter referred to in Sunday School materials and later expounded on in the LDS Church’s Teachings of the Presidents of the Church – Joseph Smith (1998).

There is always more material than there is time to review, but I hope that this gives you an idea of what to expect, and I highly recommend that you go and pick a copy up for yourself as soon as possible.

Respectfully submitted,

Jeremy W. Woolward
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
9 April, 2018

The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Vol. 7: September 1839 - January 1841
By , Submitted on 2018-04-07

This is the seventh installment in the Joseph Smith Papers Documents series covering the time period September 1839 – January 1841. It is important to read the pages into the Introduction of this series since it outlines the current situation of the Church. For the lay member this reading will give them a glance into the accounts of the persecution and relocation of the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. The 129 documents found in this volume helps the reader to understand the sacrifices the Saints went through with their families as they struggled to help gather Zion again under the watchful eye of the Prophet Joseph Smith. After leaving the Kirtland temple behind the need to rebuild Zion was seared into their hearts by the Prophet. As we read the correspondences within these pages we catch a glimpse into the life of the Prophet and understand his frustrations in dealing with the political leaders at the time as he sought redress for the Saints.
Since this volume is also quite extensive in its notes and additional study helps I have found the transcription Symbols found on page xli to be extremely useful in my readings. I have been able to gain additional insight in understanding the “language” of the editors and how they seek to help the reader expand their understanding of the texts, especially those who may not be too familiar with Church history.
I have found the footnotes to also be quite critical in directing the reader to the physical locations of where these documents are stored; such as the Church History Library (CHL), Family History Library (FHL) and even the National Archives in Washington DC.
What really caught my attention was page 115 upon reading the account of the Prophet visiting the phrenologist Alfred Woodward on January 14th, 1840. The prophet received a “reading” and an interpretation of the chart by Woodward. This reading was based upon the “particularly bumps on the head and the shape of the eyes” pg. 116. The Prophet was judged according to Amativeness, Benevolence, Philoprogenitiveness and Secretiveness.
The doctrine of Baptism of the Dead is expounded upon in further detail during the October 1840 conference in Nauvoo, Illinois. Even though a couple of months before the Prophet taught it at the funeral of Seymour Brunson the opportune moment had arrived for it to be expounded upon. The Prophet stated “it is the privilege of this church to be baptised for all their kinsfolk”. (pg.419)
Truly no unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing. It will continue to roll forth upon the earth bringing further light and knowledge to those who are willing to listen and read.

A treasure trove of contextual goodness for the building up of Nauvoo
By , Submitted on 2018-04-06

When I first looked at the dates that would be covered in this volume, I thought to myself “This doesn’t cover an overly eventful period in LDS church history.” The previous couple of volumes covered the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, the Kirtland Safety Society, Kirtland apostasy, Missouri persecutions, Mormon war in Missouri, the Joseph Smith imprisonment (with so many interesting letters), and the Saints’ expulsion from Missouri. What could be so interesting about the period of initial settlement in Nauvoo, from which we have only one canonized revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants? The answer: A lot more than I ever would have thought.

This volume of the JSP Documents series rates right up there with the most interesting, well-edited volumes in this entire project. Anyone with an interest in LDS church history, regardless of religious affiliation, will really enjoy this book. The strength of this volume is giving a ton of context to the Latter-day Saint building up of the city of Nauvoo, how they viewed their new settlement in context of the project of the establishment of Zion, and how crucial events during this period influenced not only later events in the Nauvoo Period (including the construction of the Temple and the Nauvoo House), but also the exodus to the Rocky Mountains.

This volume is divided chronologically into six parts, each covering a 2-3 month period between September, 1839 and January, 1841. The exact dates can be seen in the book preview on Amazon or in other reviews of this book. To prevent this review from becoming inordinately long, I’ll limit my summary of the book’s contents to five main insights I gained from reading this volume.

1. Joseph Smith was not afraid to delegate - The process of building up Nauvoo and a few surrounding settlements (totaling well over 5,000 church members during this time period) is very complex. This volume gives fascinating details of how this was accomplished, including how land was purchased, recorded in the county offices, how the city was incorporated, debts were accrued and paid off, and how Joseph Smith and other church leaders and members divided up the work required to accomplish these many tasks.

2. Jospeh Smith’s trip to Washington to appeal to the federal government for redress was WAY more complicated than visiting for a day with President Van Buren and him simply replying “I can do nothing for you.” - This volume gives the details of the preparations for their Washington visit, how they followed counsel given in earlier recorded revelations to document their grievances against the people of Missouri, how the worked with Illinois state officials so they could help present their case for redress to Congress, and the political context and factors related to this trip. Reading the documents from this period help one to see how frustration was building up among the LDS church members with respect to government officials, which ultimately resulted in Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign, followed ultimately by their exodus to Northern Mexico (which soon after became the Utah territory).

3. The people of Nauvoo in the middle of the 19th century lived in a very different world than my own - It was fun to see the importance of travelers carrying endorsement letters introducing them to those they were traveling to visit and vouching for their character and integrity. It was also easy to see how delays in communication/correspondence of weeks at a time across states, and even oceans, affected how church affairs were managed.

4. The church organization, especially with respect to priesthood organization, was evolving to fit the needs and contexts of their particular situations - I found it interesting to see how the definition and functions of stakes, bishops, seventies, and high councils were obviously very different than we see them today. The apostles would sometimes go years without all being in the same geographical location at the same time.

5. The revelation given in section 124 of the Doctrine and Covenants can be understood much better and in much greater detail with the background given by all of the documents in this volume - Understanding the process of the building of Nauvoo, the Nauvoo charter, missionary activities in England (resulting in thousands of LDS immigrants to the Nauvoo area) helped me see this revelation in a much different light. Section 124, which is not a short section by any definition of the word, is a much richer document than I had previously understood.

Excellent study material for understanding more fully Joseph Smith Jr.
By , Submitted on 2018-04-06

This volume of the Joseph Smith Papers (volume 7 - September 1839-January 1841) is of the same quality that I have come to expect from this project. The depth of the historical introductions, footnotes and the source notes are truly noteworthy. The attention to detail of the reference documents shows the care that was taken while preparing this volume. For example, in a letter to Newel K. Whitney dated December 12, 1840 there is a footnote which reads "the ink of the 'b' has smeared, obscuring it" (the word in reference is humble).

Of particular interest, from a historical perspective, is the bond to Elijah Able (dated 8 December 1839). This document was signed by Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon and Hyrum Smith. As noted in the historical introduction, this document suggests that Elijah Able was at the time accepted into the community.

The letter from William W. Phelps (dated 29 June 1840) provided additional depth into my understanding of William W. Phelps and his relationship with the church over time. Especially useful was the historical introduction to this document. Of also note was the letter from Orson Hyde and John E. Page which was appended to the letter from William W. Phelps.

This volume also includes the memorial to the United States Senate and House of Representatives (circa October 1938-27 January 1840). This memorial addressed Hawn's Mill massacre, the extermination order (Governor Boggs stated, "Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace—their outrages are beyond all description"), and various other details surrounding their expulsion from the state of Missouri.

I would highly recommend this volume to anyone.

By , Submitted on 2018-04-06

This volume contains many insightful writings. I particularly found interest in the letters between Joseph Smith and missionaries serving abroad such as Elder Heber C. Kimball. The classic letter of reconciliation between Joseph Smith and W. W. Phelps is also contained in this volume. Highly recommended!

The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Vol. 7
By , Submitted on 2018-04-06

I am a fan of the Joseph Smith Papers collection. This is the second volume, I've been asked to do a review on and am continually impressed the church of the days back then for a number of reasons. The church of modern times has been built on the actions of those working to bring the peaceable kingdom back in the day.
Being a member of the church in Ohio, I'm continually amazed on the impact the state and its people had on the church.
In this volume, one of the first documents analyzed in this book is from Chillicothe a member in the Chillicothe, Ohio. I have been to that branch more times than can count and know the good and faithful people of that area that have the same attitude.
Growing up in the church you hear stories of the struggles of early church members. Within this volume, I was further educated on a number of issues pertaining to the church and its work to establish areas such as Kirtland and Nauvoo.
With all of this going on the church and its members on a personal basis, the faith community fond the time and the inspiration to dedicate a temple in Kirtland and as stated in the volume, “Although church members dedicated a temple in Kirtland in 1836, opposition and violence drove them from that city, from Far West and from the entire state of Missouri. Still reeling from their experiences in Missouri, Smith and the church commenced their Zion-building efforts again in Nauvoo, working to make it a 'cornerstone of Zion.”
I was further educated on the struggles of the church and its people after they were driven away from the state of Missouri. For the church as an institution and as a people to be driven from the land they had a right to own was something they did not expect or anticipate as if anyone could. To be driven from a place that we considered a “center place”, am certain was not easy to stomach.
I can understand why Joseph Smith and other early church leaders were so passionate about seeking justice for what the members of the church were forced to leave behind.
In many ways, the church is still undertaking such struggles as injustices are committed to those around the world. Whether it's those seeking to be treated fairly or some injustice is preventing the kind of life and justice God's seeks for all of us.
Efforts associated with these actions were the financial burdens the church, church leaders, and members undertook to make zion one or two steps closer to reality. While undertaking burdens church leaders did not deviate from the mission of bringing the mission and message of Christ to new corners of the earth.
I would recommend this volume to anyone interested in any aspects of early church history and to expand their knowledge about the struggles the early church leaders undertook that in some ways was the building blocks for the foundation of today and tomorrow.

Worthy of all acceptation
By , Submitted on 2018-04-06

Only a few months after their expulsion from Missouri, Mormon refugees who had temporarily settled in Quincy, Illinois, began to gather in the small settlement of Commerce on the east side of the Mississippi River. Joseph Smith and his family arrived in Commerce in May of 1839. Church leaders began arranging for the purchase of large tracts of land in Commerce and in Montrose, Iowa Territory, on the other side of the river. In a general conference held 5 October 1839, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unanimously agreed that Commerce would be the new central gathering place for the Saints. They would rename it Nauvoo.

This is the seventh volume of the “Documents” series in the Joseph Smith Papers Project. In it the editors present all 129 known and available documents received by or created by Smith or by the staff whose work he directed during the initial months of the creation of what the Latter-day Saints would name the City of Joseph. Documents, Volume 7, covers the 17-month period September 1839 through January 1841. The editors provide unaltered and unabridged transcripts of journals, revelations and translations, contemporary reports of discourses, minutes, business and legal records, land transactions, editorials, notices, and more.

The documents are divided into six time periods, each with its own historical introduction. With notes, footnotes, illustrations, maps, biographies, and index, this volume provides us with a wealth of background and context to the documents themselves.

Part 1: 5 September – 7 November 1839.

Joseph and other church leaders had as a first priority establishing Commerce as a gathering place, purchasing large plots of land and selling individual plots to arriving members.

Located near the Mississippi, Commerce was “a low marshy wet damp and nasty place,” and hundreds of the settlers, including Joseph Smith, contracted malaria; more than a dozen died. The plague caused many to wonder whether their physical ailments were a manifestation of divine punishment. In an important discourse as recorded by one of the members, Joseph told them “it is a false idea that the saints will escape all the judgements whilst the wicked suffer,” and that “it is an unhallowed principle to say that such and such have transgressed because they have been preyed upon by disease or death, for all flesh is subject to death.”

In the meantime, much of Joseph’s time was occupied in preparing for a trip to Washington, D.C., as part of a delegation to petition the federal government for redress for the loss of life and property suffered by the Mormons in Missouri.

Part 2: 8 November 1839 – 25 January 1840.

Joseph and his companions set out for the nation’s capital on 29 October 1839. It was while on this trip that Joseph saved lives of some passengers when the horses ran away with the stage coach in which they were riding. Joseph climbed out of the stage, grabbed the lines, and stopped the horses. “He was highly commended by the whole company for his great exertions and presence of mind through the whole affair,” wrote Elias Higbee, who himself was slightly injured in the accident.

Church leaders had spent months gathering documentary evidence to present to the Congress and to the White House in support of a “memorial,” or petition, for redress and reparations. They were encouraged by, and expressed appreciation for, the letters of support and introduction given them by the Illinois congressional delegation.

On 29 November 1839 Smith and Higbee did get their audience with President Martin Van Buren. Joseph’s letter a few days later to his brother Hyrum and the Nauvoo High Council left no uncertainty as to his feelings about the encounter: “We found a very large and splendid palace, surrounded with a splendid enclosure decorated with all the fineries and elegancies of this world we went to the door and requested to see the President; when we were immediately introduced into his parlor, where we presented him our Letters of introductions; -- as soon as he had read one of them, he looked upon us with a kind of half frown and said, what can I do? I can do nothing for you,-- if I do anything, I shall come in contact with the whole State of Missouri.” (The editors explain that “come in contact with” was an idiom meaning to contradict or to disagree with.) Joseph left no doubt as to what he thought of Martin Van Buren. He wrote that the man was “so much a fop or a fool, (for he judged our cause before he knew it,) we could find no place to put truth into him—We do not say the Saints shall not vote for him, but we do say boldly, (though it need not be published in the streets of Nauvoo, neither among the daughters of the Gentiles,) That we do not intend he shall have our votes.”

Part 3: 27 January – 8 April 1840.

Over the objection of some of his colleagues, Illinois Senator Richard M. Young prevailed upon the Senate to have the full 28-page memorial read before the chamber. It set forth a long list of the murders, arson, pillaging and other attacks on the Missouri saints. “Some of their people were shot at; others were whipped without mercy; their houses assailed with brickbats; the doors broken open; and thrown down; their women grossly insulted; and their weeping daughters brutally abused before their mother’s eyes.” The memorial suggested $2 million as an appropriate amount for reparations.

The response of the Missouri delegation was predictable. Senator Lewis F. Linn of Missouri spoke against it, insisting that “a sovereign State seemed about to be put on trial before the Senate of the United States, and he was entirely opposed to the jurisdiction.” The Senate agreed that there was a serious jurisdictional question here, and on 12 February the memorial was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.

On 1 March Joseph Smith preached a discourse recounting his trip to Washington and what had transpired there. A newspaper journalist reported on the discourse, noting mockingly that Smith said the United States would incur divine displeasure and punishment if the nation continued to deny the petitions of the Saints for redress.

A few days later the Senate Judiciary Committee made its report. The federal government was without jurisdiction over the matter, it said, and committee members “have not considered themselves justified in inquiring into the truth or falsehood of the facts charged in the petition.” The committee said the Mormons should instead seek redress in the courts and legislature of the State of Missouri.

Thus, the evidence of the lawlessness committed against the Mormons had not even been considered; instead, they were directed to return to the very government that had not only condoned but had directly participated in the atrocities.

Part 4: 12 April – 3 July 1840.

The months spent in preparing the memorial and the trip to Washington had occupied a great deal of the Prophet’s time. His next several months were devoted to helping develop Nauvoo. He asked the Nauvoo High Council to relieve him of the responsibility of supervising land sales so he could give his efforts to building up the Church.

Most the members of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles had been called to preach the gospel in Europe and England. Brigham Young wrote to Joseph describing the successes he and his brethren were having there. He introduced a group of 41 Latter-day Saints who would be immigrating to Nauvoo, the “first Company of Saints from England.” Apostles Orson Hyde and John E. Page were appointed to serve a mission to the Jews in New York, Europe, western Asia and the Holy Land.

On 29 June 1840 William W. Phelps wrote a letter to Joseph Smith which would have profound implications for LDS services for generations to come. Phelps had been one of the church’s leading figures during the 1830’s and served as a member of the church presidency in Missouri. He had helped compile the Doctrine and Covenants and the first Latter-day Saint hymnal in 1835. But in 1837 and 1838 he clashed with other church leaders over finance issues and land transactions in Missouri, even to the point of being willing to testify against the Prophet when he was charged with treason and then incarcerated in Liberty Jail. Phelps was excommunicated not once but twice, in 1838 and 1839. In his June 1840 letter he begged Joseph Smith for forgiveness and for readmission into the church. “I will repent and live, and ask my old brethren to forgive me, and though they chasten me to death, yet I will die with them – for their God is my God. The least place with them is enough for me, yea it is bigger and better than all Babylon. . . . I know my situation, you know it, and God knows it, and I want to be saved if my friends will help me. . . . I have done wrong and I am Sorry. The beam is in my own eye.”

Part 5: 7 July – 30 September 1840.

It did not take long for William W. Phelps to get his response. On Sunday, 19 July 1840 the congregation at Nauvoo voted “with one voice and uplifted hands” to restore him to fellowship. On 22 July Joseph Smith wrote Phelps back. “It is true, that we have suffered much in consequence of your behavior – the cup of gall already full enough for mortals to drink, was indeed filled to overflowing when you turned against us: One with whom we had oft taken sweet council together . . . . However the cup has been drunk, the will of our heavenly Father has been done, and we are yet alive for which we thank the Lord. . . . Believing your confession to be real and your repentance genuine, I shall be happy once again to give you the right hand of fellowship, and rejoice over the returning prodigal.

“Come on dear Brother since the war is past,
“For friends at first are friends again at last.”

Shortly after the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in June of 1844, Phelps would pen the words to a hymn which is today sung thousands of times a year in LDS Sacrament Meetings around the world, “Praise to the Man.”

Nauvoo continued to grow. By July of 1840 there were approximately 3,000 Saints living there, with 2,000 living across the Mississippi River in Iowa and many more in surrounding areas. Malaria continued to plague the Saints, and Joseph Smith delivered a discourse attributing the Saints’ illness partly to disunity and backbiting. Nevertheless, this was the gathering place for the Saints, and in July Joseph announced that the church would build a temple in Nauvoo.

Nauvoo was not the only place seeing tremendous church growth. In September Brigham Young wrote from England to Joseph Smith saying, “We find the people of this land, much more ready to receive the gospel, than those of America” Indeed, there were over 3,600 converts in England by October of that year.

Part 6: 3 October 1840 – 30 January 1841.

The fall and early winter months of 1840-41 saw an outpouring of administrative improvements in both the city of Nauvoo and of the church, and of doctrinal revelations and pronouncements. John C. Bennett, a recent arrival into the city, lobbied successfully in the Illinois legislature for the approval of the Nauvoo Charter, which was signed into law 16 December 1840 by Governor Thomas Carlin and certified as such by Illinois Secretary of State Stephen A. Douglas. The charter’s broad powers had been crafted so as to prevent a repeat of the Missouri experience. It granted Nauvoo its own legislative city council, a state-authorized military, and authority to grant writs of habeas corpus, following the federal right enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

In October Joseph spoke on a new church doctrine that members could be baptized on behalf of deceased persons. He wrote to the members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles then serving in England, explaining the doctrine: “The saints have the priviledge of being baptized for those of their relatives who are dead, who they feel to believe would have embraced the gospel if they had been priviledged with hearing it, and who have received the gospel in the spirit through the instrumentality of those who may have been commissioned to preach to them while in the prison.”

Joseph also give instruction to smaller groups of people on a variety of subjects, such as when he spoke at a 5 January meeting in a “school of instruction” in his office. According to one of those in attendance, he explained to his younger brother, Don Carlos Smith, that “to be free from the Coruption of the Earth that man the speaker should all ways speak in his natureal tone of voice; & not to keep in one loud strain, but to act without affectation.”

In that same meeting he told his listeners that “God did not make the earth out of nothing;-- for it is contrary to a rashanal mind & reason. That a something could be brought from— a nothing.” Another person present recorded that Joseph said, “At the first organization in heaven we were all present and saw the Savior chosen and appointed, and the plan of salvation made and we sanctioned it. We came to this earth that we might have a body and present it pure before God in the Celestial Kingdom.”

The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 7, is a scholarly work. It is more than 700 pages in length and has several thousand footnotes. It has 137 pages of reference material plus meticulously researched source notes for each of its 129 documents and an exhaustive index. It is a prodigious work, “worthy of all acceptation.” It gets five stars.

A valuable book for everyone, even non-historians
By , Submitted on 2018-04-06

I am not a historian, and I did not study history in college. But I love the Joseph Smith Papers Books for many reasons. They provide insights from Joseph Smith that I have not read before. They give unfiltered and honest reactions to Joseph Smith and his actions by those who were involved with the young church and those who were not. They provide personal details about Joseph Smith that give a better picture of his personality and character, making him a real person, rather than a stodgy, unknowable historical figure. And best of all, the editors of the books provide background detail and historical context, writing helpful introductions and thorough annotations with mini-biographies, timelines, and other supplemental materials in the back of each volume.

Documents Volume 7 is no different from any of the previous volumes in its top-notch approach to presenting and contextualizing documents from Joseph Smith's life. It covers the early Commerce/Nauvoo period, and includes documents relating to land purchases, Joseph Smith's travels to Washington DC to meet with the president and other government officials to seek redress for the persecution the church suffered in Missouri, letters to and from the apostles preaching the gospel in England, and several sermons from Joseph Smith. Doctrine and Covenants 124 also appears in the volume.

The sermons were my favorite things to read in the volume, and there are a lot of them here, with teachings about effective missionary work, the lack of connection between wickedness and illness (something the saints suffered quite a bit the first couple years in Commerce), instruction on the priesthood, and how to serve well in callings. JS also began to teach publicly the doctrine of baptisms for the dead during this time period, and one of the most interesting passages was JS's introduction of this subject to the apostles serving missions in England. The book also contains JS's infamous prophecy about the saints saving the U.S. Constitution from the brink of ruin.

Like prior volumes, this book contains some interesting, "humanizing" details about JS. For example, JS complained in a (relatively short) letter to his wife Emma that his hand was cramping up, requiring him to end his one-page letter to her. If that was all the stamina his letter-writing hand had, it's no wonder he used scribes for nearly all of his writing. I also enjoyed reading a description of JS written by a man who heard him preach in Washington DC, which included the statement that JS was "what you ladies would call a good looking man." The volume contains many other documents in which people react to JS or his teachings or actions. My favorite is Brigham Young's description of the converts to the church in England, who were "beg[ging] and plead[ing]" for the Book of Mormon.

As with all of the other JS Papers books, the introductions, annotations, and supplemental materials in the back of this volume are superb, spanning topics from the political climate in DC in the late 1830's and early 1840's to what caused JS to believe that "Nauvoo" was a Hebrew word meaning "beautiful situation" with the idea of "rest." The lengths to which the editors and historians go to make sure every document is accurately presented in its historical context is absolutely astounding.

Documents Volume 7 expertly marks a turning point in the church's history as well as the JSP project
By , Submitted on 2018-04-06

Documents volume 7 continues the JSP tradition of thorough, careful text preparation and analysis, complete with an enormous amount of contextual information and background material. I recommend it highly.

[Note: all numbers in parentheses are page references to this volume, unless otherwise marked.]

Covering the period from September 1839 to January 1841, Documents volume 7 follows a transitional time in the LDS church's history. In August 1739, Joseph Smith and others purchased land in the Commerce area of Illinois. Commerce would shortly become Nauvoo: later in the same month, the city's new name appeared in print for the first time, on a local plat (7). The gathering at Nauvoo would soon begin in earnest, and so began the final chapter in Joseph Smith's life.

Documents volume 7 thus chronicles the beginnings of Nauvoo. We see transactions for land (34), and a simple, handwritten note from Smith about an expense agreement (47). Of particular interest in this respect is a bond written to Elijah Able (81), an early African-American member of the church. Able joined the LDS movement in 1832 in Kirtland, and was ordained to the third quorum of the seventy in late 1836. His continued presence in Smith's historical record attests to his longtime standing in the church; Able moved west in 1853, and spent most of his remaining years in Utah.

This volume of the Documents series is also notable for its thorough presentation of Smith's correspondence. Many letters have been published previously, especially in Dean Jessee's Personal Writings of Joseph Smith (1984, 2002). But a great deal of material not in PWJS appears here in volume 7. These letters will be especially satisfying to those whose appetites were whet by somewhat clandestine references in Rough Stone Rolling. RSR's author, Richard Bushman, had access to the church's Joseph Smith Collection during the preparation of his biography. For most people it was not possible to follow up on Bushman's citations to this collection, which he marked as "JSC" in his notes.

For example, Bushman discusses the circumstances around the initial land purchases for Nauvoo (RSR, 384). His endnote #36 reads, in part, "At first Joseph spoke of Nauvoo as a city alongside the other two cities. Eventually the whole peninsula was called Nauvoo" (RSR, 636). A citation then follows: "JS to Isaac Galland, Sept. 11, 1839, JSC." This letter does not appear in either edition of PWJS. With volume 7, we finally have easy access to the document--it's right there, starting on page 8. The letter explains Bushman's citation, for it says that "we have purchased out all Mr Hotchskiss interest hereabouts--his farm we have laid out additional to our Town Nauvoo--and the Town of Commerce we hope also to build up" (11). But Smith also includes words of personal encouragement and gratitude: "We percieve that you have had rather a narrow escape from serious accident, and doubtless the hand of the Lord is to be acknowledged in the matter, although unpercieved by mortal eye" (9). Smith's letter to Galland is just a single example; there are many more as well. Documents volume 7 therefore continues to fill gaps in our knowledge of Smith's life, by giving lay readers a chance to chase down these fascinating leads.

Besides documents of historical importance, the volume contains others which shed light on the cultural and scientific milieu of the early church. The "Phrenology Charts" (115), prepared by phrenologist Alfred Woodward, report the measurements of various parts of Smith's head. Phrenology was an early attempt at scientific psychology, and so sought to correlate mental abilities to variations in the external surface of someone's skull. These variations were then thought to correspond to brain areas responsible for these abilities. Phrenology's greatest proponent was Franz Joseph Gall, a German by birth whose writings flourished in Paris in the 1820's. An English edition of his work appeared in Boston in 1835, and so phrenology was on the rise in America just as the saints were building up Nauvoo. From Woodward's examination of Smith we learn of the latter's measurements in such traits as "marvellousness" and "mirthfulness" (121, 123; the footnotes in these passages are especially helpful). Phrenology is one part of the larger cultural and scientific environment of the early church, which no doubt played a role in the development of LDS thought. Volume 7 gives us a clear window on certain aspects of this environment.

This volume does not just track a transitioning church. Volume 7 actually marks a significant transition for the Documents series of the JSP itself: it is the first volume to overlap in a significant way with Words of Joseph Smith, a major scholarly work on Smith's Nauvoo discourses. WJS was first published in 1980 and appeared in a couple subsequent editions. Its editors were Lyndon Cook, a Mormon historian, and Andrew Ehat, who at the time was writing a master's thesis on the introduction of temple ordinances in Mormonism. The discourses in WJS are priceless, since many of them were hardly available elsewhere. Cook and Ehat also took special care to include as many original witnesses of each discourse as possible, transcribed exactly as they were originally written. Their notes are also extraordinarily helpful for understanding both the historical and doctrinal background of Smith's teachings.

The first discourse in WJS was given on June 27, 1839, and so the first six WJS entries all belong to Documents volume 6. But the next 25 entries at least are all found in Documents volume 7. The rest of WJS will be covered in future installments of the Documents series, including the temple and King Follett material from 1842-1844.

Documents volume 7 is not a replacement for Words, however; rather, they ought to be used in tandem. Despite Cook and Ehat's care, the Documents series does a better job of transcribing and cataloguing the texts. But Documents volume 7, at least, does not contain the same extensive doctrinal commentary that one finds in WJS. This is to be expected, since it is not the goal of JSP to be a theological sourcebook. But together, Documents volume 7 and WJS make a powerful team. Complete information is now available about essentially every source, finally allowing us to make the most informed judgments possible about Smith's pronouncements. The book Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith was fine for a former generation; we are fortunate now to have access to the original source materials, all accounted for very precisely, and ready for use in study.

This volume also resolves some problems which could not be fully addressed in WJS. A good example is a Smith discourse dated to July 19, 1840. In this talk, Smith discusses an olive-tree parable, prophesies regarding Nauvoo, and speaks of the relation of the saints to the government. In the 1980 and 1991 editions of WJS, the editors relegated this text to an appendix, writing that "the integrity of this report is in question, and we have chosen to place it here in the appendix" (1980, 419). The original source is a notebook kept by Martha Coray, but apparently her record of the discourse was not contemporary to it. WJS's later digital edition moved the text to the section on 1840, but still added a qualifier: "For the second edition we have, despite some reservations, decided to include this sermon in the main body."

As one might expect, Documents volume 7 is able to resolve this issue. Coray made two reports of the discourse--one seems to have been made at the time Smith gave his talk, while the other was made later. The second and later source is the one used by WJS, and so with good reason it adds a qualifier. Documents volume 7 contains Coray's later report (340), but it also contains her earlier notes (335), thereby making a crucial contribution not available from WJS alone. The WJS version lacks the following interesting remark, for instance, among others:

"if you disbelheve in Joseph I will ask God for another is God a monarch if you disbelieve an honorable way is to say I would rather be damned than to follow self exaltation first cause of sin-- prayer-- first be done on earth as in Heaven-- what would we do singing forever and ever ans.-- starve to death the Kingdom-- Of-- God-- is like purified Elements-- like 1000ds and 1000ds Of worlds have been to effect the purifying is to pray for the Kingdom come" (339).

There are many more things I could say about this book. It is filled with wonderful footnotes, geographic and bibliographic information, and a comprehensive index. Read it all the way through or just keep it for reference; either way you won't be disappointed. It is an achievement on par with its predecessors in the JSP series. Documents volume 7 brings us one step closer to a complete treatment of the highest and most beautiful doctrines of the restoration.

Golden Age in Nauvoo
By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

The sourcing is scholarly and impeccable and the chronology is very useful. This volume helps illuminate this difficult and then peaceful period—a time when Joseph Smith strove to regroup church members after their forced expulsion from Missouri and attempted to establish a new gathering place for the Saints and a Nauvoo city charter.

This volume covers the most peaceful time of the early church from September 1839 through January 1841 and contains 129 documents, including personal correspondence, discourses, minutes, a revelation, and a memorial to the United States Congress. Specific topics addressed in these documents include the building up of Nauvoo, Illinois; the struggle to obtain redress for the property and lives lost in Missouri; the missionary efforts of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in England; and the introduction of new teachings and doctrines, including baptism for the dead.

By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

Volume 7 of the Joseph Smith Papers covers the September 1839 to January 1841 time period. The volume is large at over 700 pages and like other volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers is not a narrative read. Rather it is an informative and useful reference source for many of the events during this time period and provides additional insights and background information on events during this period of time.

Documents that are included relate to purchasing of lands and the founding of Nauvoo, minutes of religious and civil meetings, printing of the Book of Mormon and a new hymn book, letters to Emma Smith, legal financial transaction documents and petitions to the Federal Government for redress following the severe persecution in Missouri.

The section on phrenology was fascinating and gives an indication of society during this time. I particularly enjoyed the sometimes small notes that show up such as a description of Paul the Apostle and his physical characteristics.

One should also peruse the Biographical Directory and Geographical Directory as well as the Chronology of Events. These additional sections provide additional information and insight that I found fascinating.

Finally, much is included regarding governments and Joseph's belief in the role of government. Documents related to Joseph's visit to Washington DC and interaction with the Senate and House of Representatives provides significant information that sheds additional light on Joseph's character and concern for the early saints.

This is a Volume that can be picked up, opened, and read from any point and provide inspiration and significantly interesting facts about the early Church.

Review of Documents, Volume 7 Joseph Smith Papers
By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

I love the Joseph Smith Papers books because they are true history with many references to refer to. What I liked most about Volume 7 besides the history material is the number of references and their comprehensiveness, in all the parts that I read I was never left with any questions after reading the references. I loved the thoroughness.

By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

I love the Joseph Smith Papers books because they are true history with many references to refer to. What I liked most about Volume 7 besides the history material is the number of references and their comprehensiveness, in all the parts that I read I was never left with any questions after reading those references. I loved the thoroughness.

No unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing
By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

This is the seventh installment in the Joseph Smith Papers Documents series covering the time period September 1839 – January 1841. It is important to read the pages into the Introduction of this series since it outlines the current situation of the Church. For the lay member this reading will give them a glance into the accounts of the persecution and relocation of the Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois. The 129 documents found in this volume helps the reader to understand the sacrifices the Saints went through with their families as they struggled to help gather Zion again under the watchful eye of the Prophet Joseph Smith. After leaving the Kirtland temple behind the need to rebuild Zion was seared into their hearts by the Prophet. As we read the correspondences within these pages we catch a glimpse into the life of the Prophet and understand his frustrations in dealing with the political leaders at the time as he sought redress for the Saints.
Since this volume is also quite extensive in its notes and additional study helps I have found the transcription Symbols found on page xli to be extremely useful in my readings. I have been able to gain additional insight in understanding the “language” of the editors and how they seek to help the reader expand their understanding of the texts, especially those who may not be too familiar with Church history.
I have found the footnotes to also be quite critical in directing the reader to the physical locations of where these documents are stored; such as the Church History Library (CHL), Family History Library (FHL) and even the National Archives in Washington DC.
What really caught my attention was page 115 upon reading the account of the Prophet visiting the phrenologist Alfred Woodward on January 14th, 1840. The prophet received a “reading” and an interpretation of the chart by Woodward. This reading was based upon the “particularly bumps on the head and the shape of the eyes” pg. 116. The Prophet was judged according to Amativeness, Benevolence, Philoprogenitiveness and Secretiveness.
The doctrine of Baptism of the Dead is expounded upon in further detail during the October 1840 conference in Nauvoo, Illinois. Even though a couple of months before the Prophet taught it at the funeral of Seymour Brunson the opportune moment had arrived for it to be expounded upon. The Prophet stated “it is the privilege of this church to be baptised for all their kinsfolk”. (pg.419)
Truly no unhallowed hand can stop this work from progressing. It will continue to roll forth upon the earth bringing further light and knowledge to those who are willing to listen and read.

Joseph Smith Papers Documents Volume 7
By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

When the angel Moroni visited the young Joseph Smith, he told him that his name would be had for good and evil among all nations, kindred, and tongues. The Joseph Smith Papers Volume 7 surely counteracts the evil spoken of him with numerous documents, annotation, sources, and histories. Volume 7 consists of unaltered and unabridged transcripts of letters, minutes of meetings, and discourses of Joseph Smith between Sept. 1839 and Jan. 1841. The source notes, histories, and introductions before each document transcript add so much to our understanding Joseph Smith as a person, as a husband and father, and his love and compassion as a Prophet to his people to comprehending the Mormon experience in Nauvoo. He expresses love and compassion for the Saints.
During this time. the Saints suffered terrible, bitter persecution, abuse of many kinds, imprisonment in chains, and even massacres for their beliefs..Their lives were severely disrupted, as they were forced to move from place to place. Their property was damaged and stolen. At this same time, they suffered illness and disease from gathering in the marshy, wet, damp of Nauvoo. Added to that was dissension within the Church. Eventually, there came a government order to drive them from the state or exterminate them. Interestingly enough, this order was not rescinded until 1976. Words such as religious fanaticism, prisoners of war, court martial, vigilantes, and condemned to be shot swirled around them, even as they sent members of the Twelve to proselytize in England and other countries, and planned to build a Temple.
Much time, energy, and money was expended to gain redress and reparation on a state and federal level for the Missouri grievances, including property loss. But all was denied. Their petition to the U.S.Senate is the Appendix in the back of the Volume.
The discourses by Joseph Smith are powerful and are my favorite part of the Volume. In one of them he discourages the popular view that disease should be seen as divine punishment, a belief that is still held by some people today. He said it is an unhallowed principle to say people have transgressed because they have illness or even death.
Also of interest is the link between the documents and the Doctrine and Covenants in the back of the Volume.

Great Historical Resource
By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

This is a fascinating book containing original documents, along with commentary and annotations that provide a significant amount of historical information. The original letters by Joseph Smith written in his own hand are fascinating, and give greater insight into his personality. Each document provided in this book has a "source note," which explains the document, a "historical introduction," which gives a significant amount of history relating to the events surrounding the document, and annotations that provide further historical information. It's organized in a way that is easy to follow, primarily listing the documents by date of creation.

The research performed to compile these documents is comprehensive and outstanding. Not only does it seek to compile all documents by or to Joseph Smith, but also verifiable sources of statements made by Joseph Smith. For example, one document records a sermon preached by Joseph Smith on February 5, 1840, in Washington DC. It was recorded by a man named Matthew Davis, not a member of the LDS Church, in a letter to his wife. The "source note" explains how the Church Historian's Office came into possession of this letter. The "Historical Introduction" details why Joseph Smith was in Washington DC at the time, provides information about Matthew Davis, and additional historical details regarding the context of this sermon. The annotations provide further information regarding doctrines discussed in the sermon, including current references to LDS scripture. It's fascinating to read this letter by one who was not familiar with the LDS faith, and his impressions of Joseph Smith. He said, "There was much in his precepts, if they were followed, that would soften the asperities of man towards man, and that would tend to make him a more rational being than he is generally found to be. There was no violence; no fury; no denunciation. His religion appears to be the religion of meekness; lowliness, and mild persuasion." Page 179. These documents give insight into Joseph Smith's personality, his character traits, the doctrines that he preached, as well as the work he was about in building up this Church. The documents obviously contain the perspectives and bias of those historical figures who wrote them, but the historical background and annotations in the volume are unbiased and simply seek to set forth the context of the documents.

The period of documents provided is September 1839 to January 1841, and cover Joseph Smith's efforts to seek redress for the harm done to the LDS Church in Missouri, his efforts to build up the City of Nauvoo, and the missionary work in England. The great value in this volume is not only in the documents themselves, but the extensive and rich historical introductions and annotations. This is a great resource, and well worth it for anyone with even a little interest in LDS Church History.

Review of Documents Vol. 7
By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

The latest volume of the Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 7, continues the excellent editorial scholarship found in the previous volumes of the series. This volume covers the period from September 1839 to January 1841, an important period of Church history as it covers the settlement of Nauvoo, restructuring of church leadership (including the introduction of the notorious John C. Bennett), and the increased missionary effort in the British Isles by sending the Quorum of the twelve Apostles to England. The Nauvoo period, though brief in years, was a watershed moment which has reverberated down through the years. This volume covers much of that crucial period.
Of particular interest to this reviewer was the delegation sent to Washington, D.C., to seek redress for the loss of property and life that had recently occurred in Missouri with the expulsion of the Saints. Joseph Smith, along with Elias Higbee, Sidney Rigdon, and Robert D. Foster comprised this delegation. Included is the infamous meeting with President Martin Van Buren, who “could do nothing for” the Saints. The letter that contains this encounter also provides a physical description of the portly president, not particularly complimentary (p.69). This particular letter concludes with the all too human desire for word from home: “We watch the Post Office like a Turkey Buzzard carcase, but have recd no letters from our sections of the Country – Write instantly” (p.73).
The attempt to seek redress from the Federal government in this pre-Fourteenth Amendment era illustrates the power of states’ rights and the limits of limited government. The memorial submitted to the Senate provides a good overview of the troubles in Missouri. Its reception and rejection by the Senate demonstrates well the politics of the time. A careful reading of the footnotes is crucial to gaining a full understanding of the constitutional issues on display here, particularly whether the Bill of Rights applies to the states (p. 185n338).
The Biographical Directory at the back of the volume is of great use in keeping straight the myriads of individuals featured in the volume. It is heavy in describing church members, as is to be expected, but could also use more entries for others.
Overall, Documents, Volume 7 is a valuable contribution to the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its founder Joseph Smith. It is a good read.

Non-Scholar Regular Everyday Run-of the-Mill Average Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Reader of 'The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Vol. 7: September 1839 - January 1841'
By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

Even though it is a scholarly treatment of the history of the Documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints during the time of Joseph Smith Jr. as Prophet and President of the church; the bolded subheadings, enlarged text fonts, maps, pictures of the contributors etc., make the reading more inviting. It's well organized. When I first opened the book to look at it and decide what parts I wanted to read first; I was impressed that it didn't seem overwhelming in a scholarly way with too much wordiness, very little white of the page, or too small print to fit as much on the page as possible. I found the writing engaging and poignant at times. I was left feeling that these are real people not just some historical footnotes of the past. The organization of each page seemed to invite me a non-scholar reader to give it some serious consideration and time. I'm glad for the time that was spent in this latest volume 7 of the document series. Thank you.

JSP Documents 7: A fun, educational, and “aha” moment-filled read!
By , Submitted on 2018-04-05

The seventh volume of the documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers (JSP) is a must-have for anyone—from academics to avid history buffs, for followers of Joseph Smith’s religious tradition or not—because it covers a crucial time period in the life of this man. The beauty of the documents series is that it collects materials that may already be included in other volumes in the JSP, but also introduces new documents as well.

Specifically, the documents cover what may be considered an almost calm time frame (September 1839 to January 1841) for Smith and his followers. The time period of this volume is bookended by the Missouri violence and events that led to the killing of Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, but a mob in June of 1844.

But this is not to say this volume is unimportant—quite the opposite, actually. The documents in this volume chronicle Joseph’s visit to Washington D.C. and meetings with politicians (including President Martin Van Buren) in an attempt to secure redress for the devastation Church and its members experienced in Missouri. Also included in this volume are documents related to:
• The purchase of lands in Illinois and the founding of Nauvoo.
• Joseph Smith’s first public teachings on baptism for the dead.
• The reprinting of the Book of Mormon and a new hymnal.
• Minutes of meetings wherein Joseph presides over civil and ecclesiastical matters.
• Many more fascinating examples could be listed but that would most certainly cause anyone to stop reading this review because it would get too long!

Speaking of length, the volume is massive and feels exhaustive—over 700 pages. The main historical introduction at the beginning of the book, as well as at the beginning of each document is fascinating, meticulous, and well worth the read. The context these introductions provide is crucial in understanding the documents themselves. The editors have done an outstanding job of helping the reader recognize the importance of each document. In fact, the same level of detail and scholarship seems to be given to every document, no matter how well—or little—known it may be.

The entire volume is worth the read. I consider myself a student of Joseph Smith and his history. I have read everything I can get my hands on when it comes to his life and teachings (both by himself, his followers, and even his enemies). All that said, I found myself having frequent “aha” moments as I read JSP, Documents volume 7. I am confident you will, too.

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