The Joseph Smith Papers: Documents, Volume 15 Released

SALT LAKE CITY—The Church Historian’s Press today announced the release of the concluding volume of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 15: 16 May–28 June 1844 details the events of the final six weeks of Joseph Smith’s life, including his murder by an armed mob in the Hancock County jail at Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844.

Although much of the volume centers on the events leading to Joseph Smith’s death, during the weeks covered in this volume Joseph Smith continued to function as president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, chairman of the Council of Fifty, mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, chief justice of the Nauvoo Municipal Court, candidate for president of the United States of America, and husband and father. He preached to the Latter-day Saints and wrote letters in his role as a prophet and religious leader. He participated in lawsuits as both judge and defendant. He sent and received correspondence from apostles and other missionaries who were electioneering as part of his presidential campaign. And he wrote letters to his wife and children in an attempt to comfort them during a period of accusations, threats, and violence against the Latter-day Saints.

The 105 documents in this volume include Joseph Smith’s correspondence, accounts of his discourses, administrative minutes, municipal documents, military orders, and legal papers. Among the key documents are the Nauvoo City Council minutes for June 8 and 10, 1844, which capture the council’s decision to destroy the press of the recently published Nauvoo Expositor. Also included are eleven items of correspondence between Joseph Smith and Illinois governor Thomas Ford, which provide insights into the decision to destroy the press, the subsequent declaration of martial law in Nauvoo, and Joseph Smith’s fateful trip to Carthage. Additionally, this volume features three letters that Joseph Smith wrote to his wife Emma Smith during the final five days of his life, including one written on the morning of June 27. These and other documents, together with their detailed historical annotation, illuminate the chaotic circumstances that led to the incarcerations of Joseph and Hyrum Smith in the Hancock County jail and culminated in the murders of the two brothers shortly after five o’clock on June 27. The volume also contains the formal announcement of the murders, which was prepared for publication in the 1844 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants and is now canonized as Doctrine and Covenants 135.

Documents, Volume 15 was edited by Brett D. Dowdle, Adam H. Petty, J. Chase Kirkham, Elizabeth A. Kuehn, David W. Grua, and Matthew C. Godfrey. It is available in bookstores now. Please visit for more information about the Joseph Smith Papers Project.