Final Volume of Joseph Smith Papers Published, Completing Monumental Historical Work
SALT LAKE CITY—Today, the Church Historian’s Press released the final print volume in its landmark 27-volume work, The Joseph Smith Papers, which commenced in June 2001. The project brings together Joseph Smith’s surviving papers, including the foundational documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, into an easily accessible collection. The comprehensive collection, available online and in print, includes complete transcriptions, helpful introductions, annotations, and extensive reference material.
The culmination of the print edition now completes an essential resource for scholars and students of Smith’s life and work, early Latter-day Saint history, and American history and religion.
Joseph Smith, the first president and prophet of the church, lived from 1805 to 1844. He left an extensive literary record that provides a fascinating window into the early days of the church he founded. Principal documents featured in the 27 volumes include 1,306 journal entries, 643 letters, and 155 revelations.
Philanthropists and business leaders Gail Miller and her late husband, Larry Miller, recognized the importance of the Joseph Smith Papers Project early on and supported the legacy project for a period of more than 20 years. With the Millers’ generous donations, the church engaged an experienced team, including PhD-educated historians and professional editors, to research, gather, compile, and publish the Joseph Smith Papers. “This project has produced the most authoritative, comprehensive, and reliable source available on the subject of Joseph Smith and the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” Gail Miller said. Larry professed, “Billions will know Brother Joseph again” with the publication of these volumes.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been praised for its commitment to historical transparency with this project. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer Prize winner in history and the 300th Anniversary University Professor, Emerita, at Harvard University, asserts: “The church didn’t want to hide anything about Joseph Smith. They felt confident that if the actual records, the primary sources, were available, responsible scholars would consult them.”
Additionally, the scholarly approach in these volumes was endorsed by the National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission as meeting the most rigorous criteria for documentary editing. Thomas P. Slaughter, Arthur R. Miller Professor of History at the University of Rochester, further noted: “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.” Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, Washington University in St. Louis, observed: “The level of scholarship is outstanding in the Joseph Smith Papers Project. I have been astounded by the thoroughness of the editing process and the painstaking ways in which the scholars have annotated the text and added clarification here and there where it was needed. I would say it ranks with the best kinds of scholarly sources I’ve seen.”
The final volume to be released, Documents Volume 15, covers the tumultuous final six weeks of Joseph Smith’s life and the events leading to his murder at Carthage, Illinois. It features 105 documents, including his correspondence, accounts of his discourses, administrative minutes, municipal documents, military orders, and legal papers.
R. Eric Smith, a general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, declared: “The Joseph Smith papers are completely priceless. There’s no way of measuring their value. The papers are our sacred history. They’re the history of where we came from as a people.”
In addition to the printed volumes, the project makes all its resources available for free on its website, josephsmithpapers.org.