SALT LAKE CITY -- The rarest of rare books, a one-of-a-kind family Bible, has surfaced in Salt Lake City. It's going on sale at an asking price of $1.5 million.
"It's the only copy in the world, the family Bible belonging to the founder of Mormonism and his first wife, Emma Hale Smith."
Sanders said the 1831 edition of the Bible was originally purchased by Joseph Smith Jr. when the family lived in Kirtland, Ohio. It's been out of sight for many years, apparently cherished for generations by descendants of Emma Hale Smith. In 1979, the Smith family sold it to a friendly outsider, Buddy Youngreen. He published photos of it in the LDS "Ensign" magazine in 1984.
The current owner is something of a mystery. Youngreen said he sold the book 15 years ago to an anonymous buyer. Sanders said he's been asked to sell it on consignment for a family that has asked to remain anonymous.
Between the pages of the Old Testament and the New Testament is a Smith family genealogy. It's a handwritten record of marriages, births and deaths in the Smith family. Sanders said the handwriting has been authenticated as that of Joseph and Emma Smith.
According to Sanders, the Bible was one of the few personal possessions the Smith family kept as they fled mobs in Ohio and, later, in Missouri. After Smith's murder in Illinois in 1844, Emma Hale Smith kept the book until her death in 1879.
According to Sanders, an almost identical copy of the Bible was purchased in 1831 by Joseph Smith's brother, Hyrum. That book is currently in the collection of the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University.
Whether the Joseph Smith Bible can command a price of $1.5 million is an unknown right now, but Sanders says there is precedent for it in the LDS rare-document market. In a recent sale, the 1833 edition of Joseph Smith's "The Book of Commandments" sold for $1.7 million, Sanders said, even though 29 copies of that book are known to exist.
Sanders plans to display "The Family Bible of Joseph Smith, Jr. and Emma Hale Smith" in his store at 268 S. 200 East in Salt Lake City. It will be available for public viewing this week from Monday through Thursday during regular business hours, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.