The Joseph Smith Papers
Documents Volume 8
February – November 1841
On the 19th of January 1841, Joseph Smith received a revelation that guided the spiritual life of the Latter-day Saints, and the physical development of the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, the designated gathering place for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Included in its instructions the revelation called on the members to most importantly “build a Temple where both doctrine and ritual could be expanded,” providing baptism for the dead by proxy and eternal marriage to bind families together in eternity.
There was growing social, political, and economic unrest. A military arm of the state of Illinois was formed of which Joseph was made Lieutenant General. It consisted of 1500 men and arms and was feared by non-members who thought it would be a military power over them.
Joseph discontinued his subscription to the newspaper, The Warsaw Signal, because of its unflattering pieces about him. He signed his letter to the paper “with utter contempt.” The paper wrote back to him reminding him that he owed them for the past year. The editor wrote “for mercy’s sake, don’t get a revelation that it is not to be paid.” There were hard feelings on both sides.
Immigrating members and visitors were ‘poring’ into Nauvoo as a result of missionary labors in England where my grandparents joined the Church. I was impressed with other missionary travels as far as Jerusalem, that last with regard to the restoration of the Jews to their Holy Land. A boarding house called Nauvoo House was constructed at this time to provide lodging for the immigrant people. Interestingly enough, the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon and other artifacts were put in the southeast cornerstone to preserve them. But the building was so close to the Mississippi River that the box in the cornerstone experienced flooding at high water times, significantly damaging the paper items.
On February of 1841 the Church was established as a lawful religious society in Illinois. Joseph Smith was appointed “to oversee all of the Church’s land and business dealings.” He was also a councilor on the Nauvoo City Council.
The book is divided into 4 parts. I found Part 3 to be slow moving and boring. There were letters and minutes of meetings covering financial, ecclesiastical, and organizational matters, examples of which were debt settlements, reports of missionaries, and land transactions abroad. During this time period of 3 July to 30 September, 1841, Joseph’s brother Don Carlos died, a week later Joseph’s infant son also died, and his clerk and primary agent died at this time as well. One can only imagine the grief he would have felt.
As to freedom of religion, in a 1839 letter, Joseph wrote, “ Now if there had been Mohamedans, Hottentots, or Pagans, if their religion was false, what right would men have to drive them from their homes, and their country, or to exterminate them, so long as their religion did not interfere with the civil rights of men, according to the laws of our country? None at all.” This was the high point for me and I’m glad it was included, even if only as a footnote to this volume, having happened earlier.
Most interesting and helpful for the reader’s understanding are the timeline of Joseph Smith’s life, the chronology for February to November 1841, and the biographical directory which is my favorite part. Another little piece of information which has not found a place in this review til now is that Martin Harris’ wife was a cousin to Joseph Smith.
I have had the privilege of once again reviewing the forthcoming Documents: Volume 8 of The Joseph Smith Papers. This time around, this volume covers a period of time that spans only ten months. However, during the February to November 1841 time period, nobody can actually say that the time for Joseph and the Saints in Nauvoo was hardly boring. This volume takes the time to share with its readers some diverse documents ranging from the day to day tasks involved with the ongoing effort to build up Nauvoo all the way to further elaboration on doctrines pertaining to baptisms for the dead and the urgency involved in building the Nauvoo Temple.
This time around, in a form I have become habitual to, the editors of Documents: Volume 8 have gone to a great deal in not just making what appears to be rudimentary things seem very important in the grand scheme of the Restoration Era of the Church, they also have done a fantastic job in deconstructing the habitual narrative that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have become familiar with over the years. In reading this volume, you get to continue to meet Joseph Smith, the man, as opposed to Joseph Smith, the Prophet. You see on one page a man who does speak with God and disseminate doctrines essential for our salvation and be edified while on another, you read about a man who’s struggling to pay debts and arrange to deal with temporal matters. The man that we know as the Prophet of the Restoration becomes instantly relatable to us. We see our own worlds through Joseph’s experiences and if one does ever find the need to question or ponder the idea of “how can I do God’s work and still contend with the weaknesses of the natural man”, we now have an example in Joseph Smith. This becomes increasingly important as the Documents series moves closer to the events of 1844 and what led to Joseph and Hyrum Smith’s deaths. People familiar with the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are immediately familiar with the names and roles that each person plays in that narrative when reading through this volume while people not as familiar soon begin to recognize some of the subtle hints that indicate that things in Nauvoo are not quite as content as we may like to believe they were. This volume begins to demonstrate where that tension starts as we learn in minutes of the Nauvoo City Council that although elected Mayor of Nauvoo, John C. Bennett was in many ways a second fiddle to Joseph Smith, even though Joseph was elected as a city councilor. Bennett was also Major General in the Nauvoo Legion while Joseph was appointed to Lieutenant General, which was a higher rank. This balance between civic and religious responsibilities and drawing lines of authority was not unlike the case of Alma the Younger in The Book of Mormon, where finding himself unable to dutifully execute both the responsibilities of the judgment seat and the ministry in a way that was appropriate and workable, Alma retained the authority of the ministry while surrendering the judgment seat to Nephihah. Furthermore, the social, religious and political climate of the area was beginning to become tenser because of deteriorating relations between Joseph Smith and Thomas Sharp, the young editor of the Warsaw Signal. Although amicable at first, the relationship between the two deteriorated quickly, resulting in one instance, a nineteenth-century equivalent of a modern-day Twitter war. However, that wasn’t the only factor at play. We learn of newspapers from the eastern United States publishing excerpts from the Church’s Times and Seasons, but publishing those pieces without the appropriate context so as it misinformed those who were unfamiliar with the Church. That misinformation led to tension and concern from the population anew that Joseph and the Church, through the incorporation of Nauvoo, the establishment of the Nauvoo Legion, the members serving on the City Council serving in both secular and ecclesiastical roles and the publishing of a Church newspaper, were looking to consolidate power and present as a threat, much like people had believed when the Saints had gathered in Kirtland and in Missouri. It is factual as you read in this volume that Joseph had looked to consolidate the population of Saints in one general area, but not in a hostile manner. Rather, Joseph’s intent was to fortify the Saints against any future mobs and importantly, to strengthen the spiritual body of the Church while many members were called to serve missions abroad.
Through the volume in the various documents, we get a feel for this type of climate, and can’t help but draw parallels to our own political climate today, where false narratives, populist rhetoric and a question of media bias have skewered our own perception of reality and as a result, created an environment where trust is lacking and the integrity of our social fabric is called into question. It is truly no accident that readers will see these things now and parse through these pages and see our own day in a manner that makes sense. It will definitely be a recurring theme in the volumes going forward as we build towards June of 1844.
But, tension and conflict aside, this volume also contains much to celebrate. Of particular interest for me was the journey of Orson Hyde to the Holy Land. Through letters he scribed to Joseph Smith and published in the Times and Seasons, we learn just how much the Church in Europe exists due to the labors of Elder Hyde. Through the eyes of Elder Hyde, we read of a Europe in the waning years before men like Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, Karl Marx, and Otto von Bismarck transform it forever. Before the rise of German nationalism and France’s Second Empire, we learn how the Lord had prepared His people to hear the news of the Gospel. We learn that a century before the end of the Second World War and a United Nations resolution that formally created the nation of Israel, that the Jewish people had already begun returning to their ancestral homes. Instead of just being a one or two line statement in our historical materials, Elder Hyde’s story becomes even more important and vibrant as we recognize that no matter our own circumstances, we can stand steadfast in the knowledge that Lord knows His children and can work mighty miracles, whether with fanfare or with silence, to ensure His work and glory come to pass.
Furthermore, we also get summaries of conferences the Church held, and read that Joseph Smith taught in great detail about the doctrine of baptism for the dead, and reiterated that although acceptable in the beginning, this saving ordinance needed to be done in the Temple, and in the opening pages of Part 4, we read of a conference that Joseph had
postponed until it could be finished in the Temple. In other parts of the volume, we read more about the eternal nature of the human family and have brief mentions of the doctrine of election and the Second Comforter, which should bring some clarity and end any speculative discussions about this doctrine for the first time. Reviewing this volume as a convert to the Church, it is very refreshing.
And finally, we read about how Joseph Smith was, first and foremost, a human being like you and me. Throughout this book, we read about how Joseph tries to juggle the responsibilities of the Church’s spiritual welfare while at the same time, working to settle outstanding debts and payments from years past. It is an indication as to why in subsequent years, the Church took a more fiscally conservative approach to land and building acquisition and construction. Our position now is that we have the means to pay for property and projects and have no large debentures to any individual or corporation. In the early years of the Church, there were many transactions done through credit or speculative means. Unfortunately, due to circumstance and at the time, the imperfections of people, it did lead to a large number of individuals seeking outstanding payments. There are numerous letters in this volume that demonstrate this, that showcase how Joseph was more than willing to settle these debts but to do so in a fair and proper manner. Furthermore, the volume also shows the reader that the time came where Joseph went to the Lord to determine a course of action which lead to the administration of temporal affairs to be rolled onto the shoulders of the Twelve, a process that would continue little by little until all the affairs of the kingdom end up on their shoulders a short time later. This allowed at the beginning for Joseph to focus more and more on spiritual affairs, something we’ll see more of in future volumes that will highlight the temple endowment, the doctrine of eternal marriage, and although hinted at here, the revelation of plural marriage that would soon rock Nauvoo and its people in ways none expected.
Despite covering a relatively short period of time, Documents: Volume 8 hardly leaves readers disappointed. There is something in this volume for everybody. I highly recommend this work and would encourage anybody to go pick up a copy today and read it. You will be left wanting more and left with a greater appreciation for those early years in Nauvoo, having a greater understanding of what transpired in the ‘City of Joseph’ and how the choices and impacts of others have on Joseph and the Church.
Jeremy W. Woolward
May 12, 2019
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Situated on a wide bend of the Mississippi River, the small city of Nauvoo in Hancock County, Illinois, is viewed today with reverence by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It was there that Church members found refuge following their vicious expulsion from Missouri in 1838-39.
Their Prophet and President, Joseph Smith, had directed the purchase of large tracts of land in and around Hancock County. In late 1839 members of the Church unanimously agreed that this would be the new central gathering place for the Saints.
And gather they did. Historians say the 1839 population of the town totaled about 100; within 5 years there were some 12,000 or more in the area. (For comparison, the 1840 census of Chicago recorded a population of about 4,000.) Almost two hundred years later, many thousands of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claim some kinship to those who settled there.
Thus it is that latter-day students of the history and doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ will want to read the “Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 8: February–November 1841.”
The documents in this volume highlight topics such as city building and urban planning; land and financial transactions; and the settling of newly baptized members from the United States, Great Britain, and Europe. The extant documentary record of Joseph Smith for this time period includes more than 450 documents. Because most of these are administrative and routine in nature, only ninety-nine are included in this volume. The rest are available on the Joseph Smith Papers website, josephsmithpapers.org.
Of particular interest to this reader are the accounts in Volume 8 of doctrinal discourses given by the Prophet Joseph Smith. Most of these accounts consist of notes taken by persons who were in attendance when he spoke. Some of his discourses were published as articles in the Church’s Times and Seasons newspaper. Among the topics he addressed were the nature of the Godhead; the creation; the measurement of time; the necessity of the fall of Adam; the atonement of Jesus Christ; the temple; the binding of families together in eternity, particularly through vicarious baptisms for deceased ancestors; the second coming of Jesus Christ; the Resurrection; and the Millennium.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints reading this book will find it interesting to see how these doctrines unfolded as the Church grew.
One section in the series that is especially useful to a person who enjoys studying Latter-day Saint history is the Biographical Directory with its sketches of the lives of persons mentioned in the volume. These include Church leaders, members of Joseph Smith’s family, people who visited Nauvoo, and others.
It is interesting to find out in these sketches, for example, what became of Almon Babbit, the stake president in Kirtland, Ohio. He was among those reluctant to leave Kirtland and follow the Prophet’s counsel to move to Nauvoo. The reader learns what became of John C. Bennett, who played a major role in drafting and securing passage of the Nauvoo Charter. He became an “assistant president” in the First Presidency, but was later excommunicated for adultery and became one of Joseph’s most vehement critics. Joseph’s younger brother Don Carlos Smith became the first president of the high priests quorum of the church, a position roughly equivalent to that of a stake president in the Church today. Sadly, he died of malarial fever at the age of 25.
Unfortunately, the directory does not include a sketch of the life of Thomas C. Sharp, editor of the Warsaw Signal. He was one of those indicted for – and acquitted of – the 1844 murder of Joseph Smith. One has to go to the Joseph Smith Papers website for this story.
Documents, Volume 8, continues the remarkable work being done by Church historians s they make publicly available every extant Joseph Smith document they can access. Most impressive! Thank you!
The Joseph Smith Papers Documents Volume 8 covers the time period from February to November of 1841. Though the time period covered is only 10 months, it was a period of intense activity. The volume is meticulously edited with footnotes and citations allowing readers to investigate and better understand historical context. Biographical Directory and Maps sections are included as with other volumes in this excellent series. Volume 8 contains documents pertaining to construction of the temple, the doctrine of baptism for the dead, the building up of Nauvoo, gathering of the saints, reports on some of the Prophet’s public discourses and items pertaining to doctrinal developments. Of particular interest are letters from missionaries expanding the spread of the gospel, and letters from Orson Hyde on his long journey to Jerusalem where he dedicated Palestine for the gathering of the Jewish people. An important work in the continuing Documents Series for students of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saint’s history and anyone interested in getting a glimpse into the lives of the early Saints. Highly recommended!
The content of Volume 8 in this series seeks to help the reader understand the complexities of Nauvoo and the underlying concerns that were brewing in the mind of the prophet Joseph Smith. These were manifested in the forms of letters directed to him or transcribed by him to individuals, minutes of various meetings and discourses of sermons. Since multiple versions of the same documents existed only original documents are highlighted in this volume 8 and when it was not found the JS research team sought after the earliest extant version.
Reading through these documents gave me additional insight into the lives of the Saints during this particular time in Nauvoo. The concerns of the prophet whether it be ecclesiastical or secular is made manifest in his writings and how he resolved them is made plain to us. I believe in doing this I have come to understand and learn about the prophet’s humanness.
I was particularly enamored when I read the Prophet’s remarks at the Nauvoo City Council when he stated emphatically that the Christian sects and he includes “Mahommedans” (pg.53) have the right and privilege of practising their beliefs in Nauvoo without being ridiculed. And also footnote 237 of page 53 should also be read alongside this.
I enjoyed the tit-for-tat between Joseph and Thomas Sharp the editor of the Warsaw Signal newspaper. Sharp publishes in his newspaper the “highly important revelation …from his holiness, the prophet”. Joseph Smith wrote to him, “Sir- You will discontinue my paper-its contents are calculated to pollute me, and to patronize the filthy sheet- that tissue of lies- that sink of iniquity – is disgraceful to any mortal man” (pg. 158).
As a convert to the Church the Joseph Smith Papers publications has been an informative and essential read. The JS Project team has always been successful in deciphering what to bring forward to us, exploring Church history. The introduction states that “the extant documentary record of Joseph Smith from February through November 1841 includes more than 450 documents”. The JS team only included ninety-nine documents in this volume. I did not feel overwhelmed reading through this volume and I felt that I did not have to follow every paper trail that came into the prophet’s hands.
This volume is organized the same way as other volumes of the Joseph Smith Papers: it presents the subject documents in chronological order, with a significant amount of historical background, and footnotes that explain intricate details of the documents.
During the period presented (1841) the Latter-day Saints, and Joseph Smith in particular, were focused on building up their new community, Nauvoo. Therefore, a lot of the documents in this volume pertain to the Nauvoo City Council, the Nauvoo Legion, property issues, and other business relating to the city. To be honest, I wasn't too interested in a lot of the documents themselves, but the editors' "historical introductions" and footnotes were fascinating.
My favorite records were the "discourses." These are notes, taken by various individuals, of speeches or sermons given by Joseph Smith. They are often not lengthy, as the authors were often just taking notes, rather than trying to dictate the entire discourse. However, there are many sprinkled throughout the volume, and it gives the impression that Joseph was taking every opportunity to discuss the gospel. As with all other documents, the editors provide a significant amount of historical information regarding these "discourses," and often include records from different people about the same sermon, making a more complete record of what Joseph said.
This is another great volume in the series, especially for people who are interested in the history of Nauvoo.
This volume covers Joseph Smith documents created during most of 1841, a time of relative peace and prosperity for JS in Nauvoo. A wide range of documents appear in this volume, from routine receipts and licenses to discourses and affidavits.
Of particular interest to me were the discourses and other direct statements by JS on doctrinal and church governance matters, covering topics like our premortal existence, the law of consecration, charity, superstition, and many others. And of course, the editors provide numerous explanatory notes and references to other discourses where JS spoke on similar topics. The annotations for JS’s interpretive comments on John’s reference to the “Second Comforter” were particularly enlightening. This volume’s treatment of JS’s numerous discourses made during the covered time period is extensive, and for that reason alone, this book is a valuable addition to the library of any serious student of JS or church history.
I’ve used the JSP Documents Volumes to help with my study of the Doctrine and Covenants, and some of the final revelations that appear in our D&C – Sections 125 and 126 – are contained in this latest volume. (Other than the revelation on eternal marriage and polygamy, the remaining sections of the D&C are either not received by JS or are letters from him or notes of discourses he gave and not “revelations” in the traditional sense). Like all of the prior revelations that the JSP editors have treated, the revelations in this volume, including non-canonized revelations, are given full historical introductions and helpful annotations with background information.
In fact, this Volume continues the JS Papers tradition of tracking down all sorts of helpful information to help contextualize and explain topics, phrases, and words that appear in the featured documents. For example, the editors have provided information to explain why the Latter-Day Saints were nearly unanimous supporters of President William Henry Harrison and mourned his untimely death just a few weeks into his presidency. The annotations also contain things like the legal requirements for a binding power of attorney or the number of people who were members of relevant outlying branches of the church. In fact, the annotations are occasionally more interesting than the documents themselves.
Finally, as with prior volumes, the editors are objective and balanced in their treatment of JS and the issues he faced. For example, this volume contains an honest explanation for why JS had to take a stand against church members stealing from people outside the church, after some things were taught during the Saints’ troubles in Missouri that may have caused later thefts in Nauvoo.
Although this volume may not be as exciting as some of the prior volumes (I’m not sure anything can top the recently published volume regarding the Book of Abraham – maybe the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon), it still contains a lot of valuable and informative material, all contextualized and annotated in the consistently high-caliber fashion of the Joseph Smith Papers editors.
Documents, Volume 8: February–November 1841 is a wonderful addition to the Joseph Smith Papers. Covering ten months in 1841, the documents collected in this volume show the Prophet Joseph Smith as a community leader, military officer, and expanding his role as a prophet leader.
I enjoyed reading the letters from Orson Hyde as he journeyed to Jerusalem, the notes of discourses explaining the doctrine of baptisms for the dead and proxy salvation, and the formation and orders for the Nauvoo Legion. While certainly not an exhaustive collection of all available documents for the time, the letters, meeting minutes, and other accounts included herein give an insightful view of the rise of Nauvoo and the expansion of LDS doctrine under the prophet Joseph Smith.
As with other volumes in the series, the editors have done a thorough work of providing context and detail about each of the documents, and providing a summary at the beginning of the volume to help readers put the accounts in perspective. The appendices and maps are a great help for students who are seeking more information about the people and places mentioned in the documents.
I have loved all of the volumes released so far in the Joseph Smith Papers series, and this volume is no exception. I highly recommend this volume and the series to anyone interested in the prophet Joseph Smith and the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was headquartered only about six years (late 1839 to early 1846) in Nauvoo, Illinois, but that brief period looms large in in the history and doctrinal development of the church. The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 8: February–November 1841 documents an important year of the Saints in Nauvoo.
Joseph Smith delivered numerous public discourses during the period covered by this volume, discussing doctrinal developments such as baptism for the dead. These discourses comprise almost a fifth of the documents presented in the volume. Unfortunately, these accounts are not complete transcripts of Joseph Smith's preaching, but only summaries of parts of his sermons. Still, it is as close as we can get to Joseph's voice on this matters.
Other documents cover civil developments in Nauvoo. Of particular interest is the establishment of the local militia, the Nauvoo Legion, a controversial institution, both then and now. This volume contains only ninety-nine of the more than 450 documents produced during the year. Nevertheless, the selection provided represents the period well, and the inclusion of more documents would not have significantly added to the understanding of the period, but only added more bulk to the 500 pages of the volume. Other documents not included can easily be found on the Project's website, josephsmithpapers.org.
As with the previously published volumes, the historical introductions for each document are crucial to placing each selection in context, as well as providing sources of further information. Contemporary illustrations enhance the volume as well. While the texts themselves are what the reader seeks, more illustrations wouldn't hurt. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words.
The editors of this latest volume are to be commended for the fine scholarly work they have produced.
The eighth volume of the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers Project is the 20th volume produced overall.
This volume covers a critical 10-month period in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, February 1841 to November 1841.
There are over 450 known documents covering this period of time, this volume consists of 99 of these documents, they represent and highlight how Joseph dealt with Nauvoo’s growth, it’s expansion, the mounting tensions with neighboring communities, and within the church. Also covered is some of the missionary work in England, the Nauvoo Legion, early work building the Nauvoo Temple and the doctrine of Baptisms of the Dead.
The passion and determination exhibited and shown by Joseph Smith display his progress as a leader of people. He was acting in both a civic capacity, in a prophetic capacity unlike he had previously done. An amazing example of his leadership is reflected in the city ordinance on religious freedom granting equal privileges in the city for all denominations and religions. This example is far and away representative of Joseph’s forward thinking and leadership.
This volume along with others are both a scholars treat yet provide an easy to read means to learn of interesting events in the history of the church and insight into the prophetic mission of Joseph Smith.
I highly recommend this volume of the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
This publication will be another prized possession for those who want to know the facts about the life and ministry of Joseph Smith. It supplements the other Documents, Histories, Journals and Revelations and Translations published in The Joseph Smith Papers collection.
It contains 99 documents that are available from the timeline of February to November 1841. Included are 15 extant discourses, 46 extant letters, three extant revelations documents and 35 other relevant documents that deal with Joseph Smith’s actions during that time period. There is a total of 450 documents available from the period and they are all available in the website Josephsmithpapers.org.
Each Document Transcript is preceded by a Source Note, noting who was involved in writing the version and where that document was found, a Historical Introduction, explaining the circumstances that preceded the reason for the document and finally the Document Transcript with footnotes that help document the statements included in the transcript. Each footnote is referenced clearly.
The Nauvoo Temple cornerstone was laid on April 6th and it was estimated over 10,000 attended. There was a Military Parade by the Nauvoo Legion which was organized in February and subject to the Illinois governor. Governor Thomas Carlin commissioned Joseph Smith as Lieutenant General of the Nauvoo Legion of the Illinois State Militia in March. This volume confirms that Joseph Smith was a devoted, patriotic American. At the 4th of July ceremony he declared “I would ask no greater boon than to lay down my life for my country”.
Most of the Quorum of Twelve who had been directed to go overseas in 1838 to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ, arrived home for the April 1841 General Conference to assist Joseph Smith in managing the growing Church challenges in Nauvoo. The exceptions were Parley Pratt who remained in Britain to preside over the Church in that area and Orson Hyde who was traveling to Jerusalem where on October 24, 1841 he “prayed over the land, dedicating Palestine for the gathering together of Judah’s remnants”. The BYU Jerusalem Center is now by the site where Orson Hyde dedicated the land as the gathering place for Judah’s scattered remnants.
The First Presidency in May of 1841 called the saints who lived out of the country to make preparations to come to Nauvoo, without delay. The First Presidency disbanded all Stakes in the Church except in two counties and instructed them to settle in Hancock County that encompassed the city, Nauvoo. The saints were strongly encouraged to tithe their labor, cash and other resources to ease the financial burden of the Church and build the temple.
This volume affirms the resolve and wisdom of Joseph Smith in establishing a peaceful society in Nauvoo and is a treasure of events that happened from February to November 1841. It is possible because of diaries, newspaper publications and documents from meetings where Joseph Smith was a participant, were preserved. It is important to remember that these texts captured by others are not word for word, uttered or written by Joseph Smith except one, and he most likely did not review or oversee the texts recorded. That said, a wealth of information is contained in Documents, Volume 8 of the Joseph Smith Papers.
The Joseph Smith Papers is not a book you read from cover to cover. It is a reference tool. I typically peruse each volume by going through the Table of Contents and then the Index and I just read items that interest me at the moment. This volume covers the period of February through November 1841; not a very long period of time. However, it does encompass many details regarding the City of Nauvoo, particularly its growth and expansion. This was a period of difficult times as the temple was under construction and demanded much sacrifice from the early saints. The cornerstone for the temple being placed in April is well documented and the surrounding events are worth studying. Acquisition of land and construction of buildings as well as missionary work to England were occurring at this time and tensions within the Church increased as well as persecution of the leaders. The Nauvoo Legion is discussed as well as the Doctrine of Baptism for the Dead. Although this volume contains very few revelations, the Prophet leads in civic responsibilities, construction, and spiritual matters. Although there is much optimism, the tensions are well documented leading to the impending turmoil to be experienced by the early saints. Certainly a volume that should be included in a personal library if for not other reason but to study the early building of the Nauvoo Temple and Baptism for the Dead. Highly Recommended reading!
THE JOSEPH SMITH PAPERS
Review of Volume 8 DOCUMENTS February 1841 – November 1841
This is the 20th Volume in the series produced by the General Editors of The Joseph Smith Papers and is Volume 8 of the Documents section of that series. This book covers a crucial 10 month period in the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and in the life of its Prophet-President Joseph Smith Jr: February 1841 – November 1841.
The 99 documents in this volume are representative of the more than 450 known documents that Joseph dealt with during this busy period of his life. They illustrate the growth and the mounting tensions of the time. They also highlight related topics, such as city building and urban planning, land and financial transactions, the gathering of the Saints (especially of the large numbers flowing in from the British Isles), and important doctrinal developments including the introduction of baptism for the dead. From these documents we find out that these baptisms were done originally in the Mississippi River, but were moved to the wooden baptismal font in the basement of the temple as soon as the font was completed. A helpful Chronology will be found starting on page 397.
The Volume editors: Brent M. Rogers, Mason K. Allred, Gerrit J. Dirkmaat and Brett D. Dowdle have produced a large and meaningful book. The documents will be found in strict chronological order, starting with Joseph Smith’s February 2nd letter to the Hancock County Recorder detailing his being elected Sole Trustee for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints on January 30th, 1841. The last item, starting on page 381, details the Report of a Nauvoo Legion General Court-Martial dated 30 November, 1841. The documents are divided into four sections of about 25 pages each.
Some of the entries are very touching. I cried when learning that just eight days after the death on August 7th of Don Carlos Smith, the 25 year old younger brother of the prophet, his namesake, the 14 month old son of Joseph and Emma Smith, also died. But I found informative the almost complete transcriptions of fifteen of Joseph Smith’s discourses and was surprised that he recorded only three revelations during this busy period. The many entries from national newspapers, visiting guests and touring politicians were also very interesting.
I believe it is important that I explain that this Volume, as with the others in the Joseph Smith Papers,
does not present a unified narrative...it is not a novel or a work of fiction but an academic work meant for the use of scholars and students of early Mormon history and American religious history generally. After a lengthy Introduction, a description is given of the Editorial Method. Then follows 386 pages of documents and 157 pages of Reference Material, which includes Source Notes for Multiple Entry Documents, a Chronology from February 1 to November 30th 1841, a Geographical Directory including Maps, a Pedigree Chart of the Smith family, a Biographical Directory, information as to the General Church Officers during the time period, along with a list of Church Officers in Nauvoo, Illinois and in the Iowa Territory and Nauvoo City Officers. There is a thorough listing of the Nauvoo Legion Officers with a description of how the legion was organized. The Chancellor, Registrar and the Regents of the newly created University of the City Nauvoo are given as well as the members of the Temple Building Committee and the Nauvoo House Association. An Essay on Sources, a list of Works Cited and an Index complete this large resource book.
Release of JS Papers Volume 8 Documents is scheduled for later this month. It will also be printed electronically on the project worksite: josephsmithpapers.com.
Review written by Andre J Mostert, amateur church history student who in 7th and 8th Grades studied early Illinois history utilizing former Governor Thomas Ford’s “A History of Illinois 1818 to 1847.” Between 1967 and 2013 he lived in Quincy, Champaign and Springfield, Illinois and spent many days in Nauvoo, both for religious and personal reasons. Review written May 4th, 2019.
The Joseph Smith Papers are defined on page xvii of this volume as a "project comprising all important documents relating to Joseph Smith.". This is the eighth volume of the Documents series and covers from February through November in 1841. The documents presented in this book are divided into four time periods (e.g., Feb 2 through March 30). Because there are more than 450 documents from this period and many are "routine in nature," this volume is "selective, including only ninety-nine documents" - all of which are transcripts (though photos are occasionally included). Despite being selective, there is a wealth of documents in this large volume. But what stood out the most to me are the Historical Introductions. They are the highlight of this volume, which might seem odd since the purpose is to present the documents themselves. But the introductions are often more interesting (even fascinating) and much longer than the documents themselves. That is to be expected since sometimes the documents are extremely brief or pragmatic in nature, and so any history about their background is bound to be more interesting. Two examples: 1) pages 56-58, there is an interesting introduction to the overly dry "Pay Order to Brother Davis"; and 2) pages 356-359, there is an interesting introduction to the too-brief transcript of a sermon.
One of the more interesting documents is found on pages 49-55. The included photo of the original has the title "Religious freedom ordinance." The document states: "Be it ordained by the City Council of the City of Nauvoo, That the Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Latter-Day-Saints, Quakers, Episcopalians Universalists Unitarians, Mahoommadeans, and all other religious sects and denominations whatever, shall have free toleration and equal Privilieges in this City...." It is amazing how pertinent this is for our own day and how forward-thinking the Nauvoo city council was. This volume is full interesting transcripts and histories. Two other examples, interesting letters from Orson Hyde as he travels to Jerusalem, and a rather sharp but brief 'letter to the editor' from Joseph Smith (a photo is on p.158) as he angrily cancels his subscription to a "contemptible" newspaper.
The Source Notes are thorough, and the footnotes detailed - and also consistently make for interesting reading. And there is an added bonus with the Reference Material in the back of the volume. In this section are included detailed Maps, Organizational Charts of the Church then, an incredible Biographical Directory of "most of the persons mentioned in this volume," and more. In addition, overall it is also cleanly formatted, well organized, and easy to read - no mean feat to accomplish with such a wealth of detail to present.
Though this might seem like a scholar's treat, this volume can be easily appreciated by all interested in the early history of the Church. I'd highly recommend this volume.