The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Vol. 1: 1832-1839

by Richard L. Bushman, Ronald K. Esplin, Dean C. Jessee

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The Joseph Smith Papers, comprising dozens of volumes when complete, will be the largest, most authoritative published collection of Joseph Smith documents anywhere. Although broad in scope, the Papers project has a relatively simple aim: to make available essential sources for the study of early Mormon history and of Joseph Smith—the church president and prophet, the city builder, the civic and military leader, the husband and father.

With unprecedented access to Joseph Smith texts, including many never before published, this landmark project provides new information and insights about Joseph Smith, early Mormonism, and nineteenth-century American religion. The documents, topically arranged into several series, include journals, correspondence, sermons, revelations, translations, histories, minutes, and legal and business records.

To locate Joseph Smith documents, experts searched significant repositories throughout the United States. Once gathered and organized, the documents are transcribed verbatim and then subjected to a rigorous, three-stage verification process that ensures accuracy. The transcripts are then published unaltered and unabridged, together with textual and contextual annotation. Detailed appendixes in the volumes provide chronologies and maps, geographical directories, and other reference materials to support the text and guide the researcher.

This inaugural volume features Joseph Smith's first five journals and reflects the beginning of Mormon record keeping in the church's earliest years. Joseph Smith began recording his first journal in 1832 in a small pocket-size book that he carried along with him during his missionary travels. Studying these personal entries gives the reader an appreciation for Smith's character, including his private piety and love for family. The work of journal keeping was soon thereafter delegated to scribes.

As with subsequent journals, Joseph Smith's second journal includes some of the earliest versions of his revelations. Most of this journal, which contains daily entries for six months beginning in late September 1835, was dictated by Smith to scribe Warren Parrish. It provides detailed accounts of meetings and other experiences leading up to and including the dedication of the Kirtland, Ohio, temple in March 1836. The final three journals in this volume, kept by scribes George W. Robinson and James Mulholland, document the origins of the "Mormon War" in Missouri and Joseph Smith's early efforts to establish a new headquarters for the church in Commerce (later Nauvoo), Illinois.

Two forthcoming volumes in the Journals series will feature Joseph Smith's lengthy Nauvoo journals, kept primarily by scribes Willard Richards and William Clayton. These journals, covering almost every day of Smith's life from mid-December 1841 to his murder in June 1844, report his activities and discourses as he administered the affairs of a growing church and introduced new religious doctrines while also serving as city mayor and head of the militia.

The Joseph Smith Papers Project follows the highest standards of documentary editing and has earned endorsement by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, an agency of the National Archives of the United States.

For more information on The Joseph Smith Papers project, visit

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About the Authors

Richard L. Bushman

Richard L. Bushman a general editor of The Joseph Smith Papers along with Ronald K. Esplin and Dean C. Jessee, is Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University. He has been appointed Howard W. Hunter visiting professor at Claremont Graduate University for 2008–2009. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University. He taught at Brigham Young University, Boston University, and the University of Delaware before joining the Columbia faculty. His published works include From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690–1765 (1967), King and People in Provincial Massachusetts (1985), and The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (1992). He has served as president of the Mormon History Association and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.

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Ronald K. Esplin

Ronald K. Esplin is the managing editor for The Joseph Smith Papers. He received history degrees from the University of Utah, the University of Virginia, and Brigham Young University. From 1972 until 1980, he was part of the History Division of the LDS church's Historical Department, with assignments both as a researcher and writer and as an archivist. He moved to Brigham Young University in 1980 when the History Division was transferred there to become the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History. From 1986 through 2002, he served as managing director of that research institute and as a professor of church history and doctrine. From 1988 to 1991, he served as one of the editors for Macmillan’s Encyclopedia of Mormonism. Most of his publications have involved Brigham Young and early Utah or pre-Utah Mormon history, including Men With A Mission: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the British Isles, 1837–1841. Many of them also concern Joseph Smith and early Latter-day Saint leadership.

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Dean C. Jessee

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Average rating:

(based upon 7 reviews)

A good start to an important project
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

Though most of the substance of Volume 1 in the Journal series was previously publised by Scott Faulring (Signature Books) or Dean C. Jessee (Deseret Book), the editing standards and annotations have improved dramatically. It is probably worth the price. Once all of the volumes of the Journals series are published, you'll be able to dispose of the earlier, more limited edits of JS Journals. Later volumes should have more content that has not been published previously. If you are looking for something never before published, purchase Volume 1 of the Revelation series, due in the fall of 2009. This will have the earliest known manuscripts of most of what is now the Doctrine & Covenants, some of which has never been published before.

Learn about the man, Joseph
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I gained insight to the Prophet much more than just lessons. To feel him in his own manner of expression and to see him when the Spirit spoke through him. To feel when he was pained. Could not put it down. Waiting for more!

Very Well Done
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I picked up a copy the first or second day the first printing came out. Visually, the book is very appealing. The binding is wonderful. Even better is what the reader finds inside. I own Jesse's previous two volumes on Joseph Smith; I love them; Joseph Smith Papers is all the more engaging. As a student studying to become a professional historian I am struck by the brillance of this first volume. The notes, biographies, and essays are tremendously helpful. The book meets all the rigorous standards of well-done historical research. I will use the book for the rest of my life.

It is what it is.
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I have heard conflicting reviews of this book and understand where people are coming from. I don't think I have ever heard of a book or anything that pleased EVERYone. I received the book for Christmas and have read about 80% of it. For me, I'm just grateful to have access to the words of Joseph's actual journals! The book makes attempts to briefly present the history between journals and some entries, which I appreciate. Some people have a problem with how the history is presented, but I didn't see any bias or misleading information. You have the choice to completely ignore or skip the extra snippets of information and just read the journal entries. What is important to remember is the ENTIRE history is not going to be recorded here. Just some historical footnotes that relate to the "PAPERS". There are other places to get the full story. This is a book of his journals, plain and simple; I don't know what else anyone wants from it, really. I have greatly enjoyed having access to these documents and the additional insights they give me to the mind of Joseph Smith. I gave the book five starts because it has what it is advertised to have: journals.

By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

While the presentation of the actual documents and writings of Joseph Smith are interesting, the other filler materials such as the glossary and historical background information cause me some concern. Such material seemed to be based solely in the revisionist viewpoint of the compilers, and the bold assertions made therein are neither documented within the work, nor footnoted. Even more disturbing is that some of the claims in that extraneous material contradict the writings and assertions made in other works by the Prophet Joseph Smith and other church leaders and are therefore decidedly not neutral. Thus, for the spiritually attuned reader this volume adds very little, as it appears to embrace the "every historical assertion is equally valid" fallacy in order to appease academia and gain acceptance among the world of noted revisionist historians. I much prefer the seven volume, History of the Church!

The Greatest Of Great Understanding
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

This book is so phenominal, I can't even begin to fully be able to emphasize. It is my witness, by prayerful study, in comparison with the Doctrine & Covenants & your current study with the Gospel Doctrines classes on The Doctrine And Covenants, that your testimony will be solidified IF you ever had doubt of any kind, whether Joseph Smith truly was a Prophet of The Lord. It Is My witness, that he is! How great this work is!

excelent easy to read
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

This book is amazing; it brings Joseph Smith and the early days of the church to life. The Editorial Notes and references help explain what is happening. Read this book from cover to cover; do not skip the general introduction or any of the editorial notes or references at the bottom of the page and you will have a rich experience as you walk with Joseph Smith through the early days of the restoration. This is a very difficult book to but down. I cant wait until the next book comes out.

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