The Joseph Smith Papers Project

17 May 2004 | WASHINGTON, D.C.

I am pleased to notify you that the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, at its May meeting, formally endorsed the [Joseph Fielding Smith] Institute’s Joseph Smith Papers project. The Commission’s action took the form of the following resolution:

Resolved, that the National Historical Publications and Records Commission thanks Brigham Young University for its Joseph Smith Papers proposal, which it endorses.

Congratulations on your successful application to the Commission.


(signed) Max J. Evans

Executive Director


Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839

“Joseph Smith has been one of the least accessible major figures in the history of American religion. The Joseph Smith Papers will forever change that by producing a monumental critical edition of every document written, dictated, or supervised by the Mormon prophet. The first offering, Journals, Volume 1: 1832–1839, already gives readers and researchers a fascinating glimpse of a new Joseph Smith. Its five texts depict a gifted young leader struggling to guide his unruly new religious movement on two fronts. As he labored to organize The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Kirtland, Ohio, and sought to establish God’s new Zion in hostile Missouri, Smith served as itinerant preacher, fund-raiser, farmer, construction supervisor, disciplinarian, litigant, commander, prisoner, and loyal family member as well as visionary, healer, and revelator. All of these roles come vividly to life in these manuscript journals, meticulously edited according to the highest critical standards. Journals, Volume 1 is a splendid debut for what is certain to become one of the great landmarks in LDS publishing and scholarship.”

—Stephen A. Marini, Professor of Religion
Wellesley College

“From the start of the movement that became known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its members, and indeed its founder, Joseph Smith Jr., have manifested a keen interest in history, particularly their own. In its earliest days of formation, church historians were appointed to keep daily accounts of the Saints’ progress and travails, their successes and failures. Two centuries later, that same consciousness of history motivates The Joseph Smith Papers, which, when complete, will rank among the most significant projects in the history of American religion. Commencing with the prophet’s journals in the inaugural volume, readers will be provided with a vast assemblage of documents—many not previously published or printed previously in a modified form—that have been scrupulously assembled, newly transcribed, and expertly annotated according to the latest scholarly standards, revealing layers of authorship, provenance, underlying sources, and references. Introductions, headnotes, and appendices bring together a wealth of information and contextualize entries.”

—Kenneth P. Minkema, Executive Director and Editor
The Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale University

“The early years of the twenty-first century are seeing the study of Mormonism come of age. Consequently, primary sources that permit beginning students and veteran scholars to examine the reality Latter-day Saints experienced are much in demand. The Joseph Smith papers are absolutely central to understanding and interpreting what happened. The appearance of this first volume of the prophet’s papers, the 1832–1839 journals—meticulously edited by highly respected scholars and accompanied by valuable introductory materials, exhaustive notes, chronology, and maps, plus geographical and biographical directories—is welcome indeed. Replacing and going far beyond the History of the Church, edited by B. H. Roberts in the early years of the last century, it truly inaugurates this new era in Mormon studies.”

—Jan Shipps, Professor Emerita, History and Religious Studies
Indiana University–Purdue University


Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books

“Despite real progress, Mormonism’s enigmatic founding prophet has for nearly two centuries challenged even his most able and careful observers. The emerging landmark publication of The Joseph Smith Papers will further unveil dimensions of the extraordinarily rich, complex, and potent career of one of America’s most fascinating and influential religious figures. This initial volume in the Revelations and Translations series is comprised of the actual manuscript collection from which modern Mormon scriptures (The Book of Commandments [1833]; The Doctrine and Covenants [1835]) were first printed. The collection includes uncanonized revelations not previously known to exist. More importantly, the discovery of these manuscripts, unobtrusively presented by skillful editors, takes us back to the earliest surviving copies of Joseph Smith’s dictated revelations, complete with clearly represented refinements added by the Prophet and his scribes. In certain respects this is analogous to our hypothetically gaining access to copies of first-century versions of the earliest biblical manuscripts. With the appearance of this new volume, serious students of the Mormon Prophet and of Mormon scripture are more free than ever before to contemplate the development of the revelations’ composition and publication.”

—Philip L. Barlow, Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture
Utah State University

“This volume is a model of modern documentary editorial practices. Every conceivable device, including the color coding of editorial changes, has been used to establish accurate texts and to guide the reader through the complexities of the process employed by Joseph Smith and his associates to make available to the public the revelations which he believed that he had received from God during the first years of his ministry. The editors have taken pains to present the subject matter with objectivity with the result that the volume will be a valuable resource for non-Mormon scholars and readers as well as for Joseph Smith’s present followers and admirers.”

—James H. Hutson, Chief, Manuscript Division
Library of Congress


Documents, Volume 3: February 1833–March 1834

“The third volume of The Joseph Smith Papers Documents series is a triumph of meticulous scholarship, which takes us through thirteen months of high significance in the history of the man and the church; letters, institutional minutes, and revelations carry the story forward from February 1833 through March 1834, across Ohio and Missouri, struggles within and without, and revelations, including the ‘Word of Wisdom’ on the use of alcohol, tobacco, and ‘hot drinks.’ The project’s high standards for documentary editing are complemented by maps, biographies, thorough historical introductions to the transcribed manuscripts, and stunningly detailed notes. This project remains the gold standard in the field of historical documentary editing.”

—Thomas P. Slaughter, Arthur R. Miller Professor of History
University of Rochester


Administrative Records: Council of Fifty, Minutes

Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844-January 1846, the latest addition to the monumental Joseph Smith Papers Project, opens a wide window onto a previously shrouded, but extraordinarily revealing, part of Mormon leadership and life during what were arguably the most turbulent and treacherous months of the church’s history. Students of these pivotal events will be forever grateful for the insights and understanding they will find in these pages.”

—Elliott West, University of Arkansas