Saturday, November 26, 2011

Review: The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 2: December 1841--April 1843

Excerpts of  Hedges, Smith and Anderson, "The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 2: December 1841--April 1843" (reviewed by Bryan Buchanan)
The latest volume in the Joseph Smith Papers series is the second Journals volume covering the period of December 1841 to April 1843.  This volume is the follow-up to the surprising bestselling first Journals volume, published in 2008. [1]  Included in this second volume are the journal portion of the Book of the Law of the Lord (hereafter BLL) and the first two of four memorandum books (in the case of the second memorandum book, only the first portion is included with the balance to be published in the third and final Journals volume) kept almost entirely by Willard Richards.
An excellent introduction, reading almost like a mini-biography, contextualizes the journals and provides a framework for understanding Joseph Smith's Nauvoo.  Two appendices are also presented, one containing important documents dealing with the 1842-43 attempt to extradite Joseph Smith to Missouri (a common theme in these journals) and the other offering several entries from William Clayton's diary which were used to create Joseph Smith's journal for those days.  As was the case with the first Journals volume, no index is included with the understanding that a comprehensive index will be included with the third and final Journals volume—a safe assumption is that a temporary standalone index will again be made available.

As has become the expectation with the Joseph Smith Papers, the volume introduction is excellent and succinct.  The editors are quick to point out that the journals, due to their having been created by scribes, are at least one step away from Joseph Smith himself but are obviously a critical source in understanding him.  In discussing the two year gap between the end of the 1839 journal kept by James Mulholland and BLL, the editors refer to a March 1840 letter from Joseph to Robert Foster which mentions a journal kept by Foster during a trip east—unfortunately, this mysterious journal has never been located.  The candid manner in which the editors treat polygamy is particularly noteworthy.   For a Church-approved work to state that polygamy involved "conjugal relations" and use the term polyandry is landmark.  The editors are evenhanded in noting that care must be taken in using both supportive reminiscent affidavits as well as exposĂ©-style documents relating to this subject.

The first journal entries included in this volume come from the enigmatically-titled "Book of the Law of the Lord."  A valuable historical introduction gives a wealth of information about this record which, perhaps rivaled only by the Council of Fifty minutes, has long been the subject of curiosity and layers of expectation.  In a conversation with two of the editors, they indicate that, as was the case with *Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2* (Jessee), the current volume includes every journal entry from the ledger-style tome.  As the editors explain in the historical introduction, the bulk of the oddly-organized record consists of revelation texts and donation records (both tithing and contributions to the temple construction). [2]  The entries are no different than any other Joseph Smith journal, recording both momentous events such as the creation of the Relief Society and the mundane details of day-to-day life.  Willard Richards scribed these entries until leaving Nauvoo in late June 1842 to bring his family to gather with the Saints there.  During his absence, William Clayton continued the journal entries and then, following his appointment as temple recorder, began documenting donations.  The editors provide interesting details on the nature of BLL, noting that entries occasionally narrate past events and were sometimes created from notes written earlier.

A comparison of BLL entries from *Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 1* (Jessee) and *American Prophet's Record* (Faulring) here may be helpful.  Dean Jessee apparently had access to the original record while Scott Faulring was dependent on "previously published excerpts." [3]  The following are the 3 entries for 17 March 1842, date of the creation of the Relief Society:

(Editor's note: Our reviewer Bryan Buchanan has used the following motif to indicate special typestyles in this volume: STR indicates strikethrough, UND indicates underline, asterisks indicate italicized text.  This is in keeping with our need to distribute reviews with no special formatting codes, to accommodate all our readers.  Thanks, Bryan, for this extra effort.  Also, we will soon have a second review, from Blair Hodges.  Together, this volume will receive the attention it so deserves.)

Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, vol. 2

Thursday 17 Assisted in organizing "The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo" in the "Lodge Room" Sister Emma Smith President. & Sisters <Elizabeth Ann [Smith]> Whitney & <Sarah M. [Kingsley]> Cleveland councilors, <I> gave much instru[c]tion, read in the New Testament & Book of Doctrine & Covenants. concer[n]ing the Elect Lady. & Shewed that UND Elect UND meant to be UND Elected UND to a UND certain work UND &c, & that the revelation was then fulfilled by STR his STR Sister Emma's Election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures. her councilors were ordained by Elder J<ohn> Taylor . & Emma <was> Blessed by the same.--

Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2

Assisted in organizing "The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo" in the "Lodge Room" Sister Emma Smith President. & Sister <Elizabeth Ann> Whitney & <Sarah M.> Cleveland councillors, <I> Gave much instruction, read in the New Testament, Book of Doctrine & Covenants. concer[n]ing the Elect Lady. & shewed that *Elect* meant to be *Elected* to a *certain work* &c, & that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma's Election to the Presidency of the Soc[i]ety, she having previously been ordained to expound the Scriptures. her councillors were ordained by Elder J<ohn> Taylor & Emma <was> Blessed by the same.--

American Prophet's Record

[17 March 1842] [I assisted in commencing the organization of "The Female] Relief Society of Nauvoo" in the "Lodge Room." Sister Emma Smith, President, and Sisters Elizabeth Ann Whitney and Sarah M. Cleveland Counsellors. I gave much instruction, read in the New Testament [2 John 1], and Book of Doctrine and Covenants [25:16, in LDS editions] concerning the Elect Lady, and shewed that the elect meant to be elected to a certain work &c and that the revelation was then fulfilled by Sister Emma's election to the Presidency of the Society, she having previously been ordained to expound Scriptures.  [Emma was blessed, and her counselors were ordained by Elder John Taylor.]

In comparing the current volume to Jessee's work, the reader can quickly see that the essential text is exactly the same, the differences coming only in editorial practices (for example, underlined words in the original are represented—oddly enough—by italics in Jessee's transcription) resulting in a "higher standard of transcription" as described by the editors.  When consulting Faulring's entry, however, one can see that he is working from a slightly different, truncated text and—in an effort toward readability—will occasionally flesh out sentences and thoughts.  Annotation in both the current volume and Jessee's work is also more thorough than Faulring's.

Following his return from the east, Willard Richards transferred his journal keeping from BLL into a small, pocket-size memorandum book which would be the format of Joseph Smith's journal until his death.  The four small books are together considered to be one journal and are so labeled and titled.  Richards began keeping this journal under the new title of Joseph's "private se[c]retary & historian," a position he consistently filled until Joseph's death.  The editors note the change in title as well as venue—they describe a difference in content from BLL to the memorandum books and hypothesize that the expanded scope may be because Richards felt more comfortable including additional topics (e.g. a malpractice suit over which Joseph presided) since the journal no longer adjoined donation records.  The introduction to this journal is also fascinating in its detail and conclusions.

In addition to the previously mentioned appendices, helpful back matter includes: chronology, geographical directory, maps, pedigree chart of the Smith family, biographical directory, organizational charts (both city and church), glossary, essay on sources, works cited and a chart of corresponding section numbers for D&C editions.  The first appendix presents 12 documents relating to the 1842-43 attempt to extradite Joseph Smith to Missouri (a key episode in these journals) following an assassination attempt on Lilburn Boggs.  These documents include the Boggs affidavit, counter affidavits and the final court ruling.  The second appendix includes four entries (1-4 Apr 1843) from William Clayton's personal journal, later used as a source for Joseph's journal.  The entries cover a trip from Nauvoo to Ramus during which Joseph delivered various remarks—this potpourri later appeared (in reorganized format) as Section 130 in the 1876 edition of the D&C.  Of the four entries, only 2 April (in slightly abridged form) was included in *Intimate Chronicle* (Smith).

For someone who already owns *Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2*, a fair question might be "Holy gravy, another $55?"  For a serious student of Joseph and his journals, the introductions to BLL and the memorandum books alone are worth the price of admission.  The casual reader would likely be a little boggled at the detail therein but, for a nuts and bolts connoisseur (read: dork) like myself, they were flat out fascinating. The somewhat stricter transcription standards also ensure that anyone citing the journals is as close to the original as printably possible.  The annotation, appendices and back matter are also extremely helpful in contextualizing Nauvoo events.  Journals, vol. 2 is a worthy addition to this highest-quality series—one that evidences a welcome open-door, warts-and-all attitude in the Church History Department.


Title: The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 2: December 1841--April 1843
Editors: Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith and Richard Lloyd Anderson
Publisher: Church Historian's Press
Genre: Journals
Year Published: 2011
Number of Pages: 558
Binding: Hardcover
ISBN13: 978-1609087371
Price: $54.95

Reviewed by Bryan Buchanan for the Association for Mormon Letters


[1]  Though it appears that overall sales have decreased, the first printing of 14,000 is slightly higher than that of Journals, vol. 1 (roughly 12,500).
[2] Journal portions of BLL constitute less than 20% of the available leaves in the ledger—a sizeable portion thereof is blank, however.  The remaining entries are, by definition, outside the scope of this volume and are thus not included.
[3] The editors of the current volume estimate that Faulring had about 15% of the journal entries from BLL.  The confusion concerning BLL (placed at some point in Joseph Fielding Smith's papers and then transferred to the First Presidency's collection in 1970) can be seen in Faulring dating the record as "ca. 1841-43."  Additionally, the first two journal entries that Faulring includes for BLL actually precede the journal portion of BLL itself and come from some other source, likely *History of the Church*.