This afternoon, I attended a blogger event to celebrate the publication of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers by the Church Historian’s Press.
Joseph Smith Papers: Histories, Volume 2: Assigned Histories, 1831-1847 is the second in this two-volume series. Although the two volumes overlap in timeframe, they contain different kinds of histories: volume 1 contains the histories that Joseph Smith wrote or supervised, while volume 2 contains the histories that he assigned to be written, but which he did not oversee.
Two of the volume editors, Karen Davidson and Richard Jensen, talked about the contents of this volume, which contains histories by four individuals who were assigned to compose (not compile) a narrative history of the Church:
- John Whitmer (see the revelation in D&C 47)
- William W. Phelps wrote about the rise and progress of the Church
- John Corrill was assigned to “write and keep the Church history” after John Whitmer declined to turn over his history
- Edward Partridge wrote about the persecution of members of the Church
I find it admirable that the Church published all four of these histories, even though two of the writers—John Whitmer and John Corrill—left the Church and in their later writings were critical of the Church. The purpose of The Joseph Smith Papers project is to publish an unbiased history. There have always been people who leave the Church and the Church doesn’t pretend otherwise. I think these frank writings increase our appreciation of the difficulties of the times and our appreciation that even though people may gain a testimony of the truth, some can lose their faith and lose their way.
Nathan Waite, the production editor, talked about the supporting material that appears on the website:
- All six of the existing Abraham manuscripts as well as the Book of Abraham as published in the Times and Seasons in March and May 1842. In the future, the website will include the other Egyptian Papers as well.
- The first hymnal published by the church in 1835.
- Sidney Rigdon, Appeal to the American People, 1840, a source text to the histories published in Histories, Volume 2.
- A cumulative index for Histories, volumes 1 and 2.
- A Revelations Correspondence Chart showing the relationship between different versions of revelations.
- New and updated reference material, including 33 new and 27 updated glossary terms, 11 new geographical descriptions, and source citations for 34 biographical descriptions.
- Joseph Smith’s Letterbook 1.
- The “Egyptian Alphabet” from the Kirtland Egyptian Papers.
In a few months, more documents will be added from the Documents, Histories, Revelations and Translations, and Administrative Records series. Eventually, the website will contain images and transcripts of all existing and available Joseph Smith papers. Next month, they also plan to release some improvement to the online search.