The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 14 Released

SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 14 includes documents from January through mid-May 1844 and details the challenges Joseph Smith confronted near the end of his life.

As 1844 dawned, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo hovered on the brink of war with neighbors in western Illinois, Missouri, and Iowa Territory. The recent kidnapping of church members Daniel and Philander Avery from a nearby settlement had prompted defensive legislation by Nauvoo’s municipal government, correspondence with Illinois’s governor, Thomas Ford, and mobilization of military forces on both sides of the growing conflict. As head of the church, mayor of Nauvoo, and commander of the Nauvoo Legion, Joseph Smith fought to maintain peace in the region amid threats from external opponents and internal dissidents—even people who were once his close friends and associates.

This volume features ninety-nine documents, including correspondence, accounts of discourses, deeds, and minutes of meetings. Readers will find key documents like Joseph Smith’s published presidential platform and his letters of response to missives from presidential hopefuls John C. Calhoun and Henry Clay. The volume contains other notable texts such as instructions Joseph Smith gave to the new theocratic governing body known as the Council of Fifty and the prophet’s famous funeral discourse for King Follett, during which he taught important doctrines about eternal existence and the nature of God. Also included are printed exchanges with the antagonistic editors of the nearby Warsaw Signal, Lucinda Madison Sagers’s letter to the First Presidency charging her husband with teaching plural marriage, and a lengthy report of the church’s British mission from president Reuben Hedlock.

The texts found in this volume, with their detailed historical annotation, present a narrative of intense conflict as Latter-day Saint leaders faced escalating regional hostility and disputes within the church and local government. But these documents also depict Joseph Smith’s efforts to promote peace in the community and reveal new doctrines for his people despite continuing threats. The book provides vital context for the events of the final six weeks of his life, which will be presented in the forthcoming Documents, Volume 15, the concluding volume of the series.

Documents, Volume 14 was edited by Alex D. Smith, Adam H. Petty, Jessica M. Nelson, and Spencer W. McBride.