New Documents Available on Joseph Smith Papers Website
By Lok Yi Chan, Church News and Events
Following the release of the second volume of the manuscript history of the Church online, the Joseph Smith Papers website has now added to its collection a dozen new documents relating to early Latter-day Saint history and Joseph Smith’s personal life.
The new documents, dated from 1829 to 1838, are owned by Community of Christ, which made the document images available under a licensing agreement with the project.
One of the Church officials who worked with Community of Christ, R. Eric Smith, a manager in the Church History Department, talked about the significance of this cooperation with Community of Christ.
“That the Community of Christ has generously allowed us to publish these documents shows that they share our interest in making these important Joseph Smith documents available to researchers and to the general public,” Brother Smith said.
He continued, “That our organizations were able to agree on publication of these documents in this venue is evidence that we have a good working relationship and are able to collaborate on projects of mutual interest.”
The newly released materials include several of Joseph Smith’s letters to Emma Smith, the printer’s manuscript used to set the type for the first (1830) edition of the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s first manuscript revision of the Old Testament, and many others.
According to josephsmithpapers.org, some of these documents provide glimpses of Joseph Smith’s private life, while other documents “relate to the most foundational aspects of Latter-day Saint history and belief.”
Brother Smith said studying these original documents can help members learn Church history and strengthen their testimonies about Joseph Smith’s prophetic role and God’s guiding hand being over the Church from its beginning.
“The documents bring Church history alive and can help members feel a closer connection to these early Saints, including a better appreciation of their challenges,” he explained. “In turn, this can [help] members today exercise faith and be diligent through whatever adversity they may encounter.”
Church members may also be interested in the letters Joseph Smith wrote to Emma and the document labeled “Old Testament Revision 1,” Brother Smith said.
The four letters Joseph Smith wrote to Emma are in his own handwriting, which is unusual because he generally dictated letters to scribes. Brother Smith explained that the four letters, in which he discussed openly his thoughts, his hopes, and his tender feelings for his family, open a window to Joseph Smith’s personality.
Joseph Smith started dictating “Old Testament Revision 1” in June 1830, only weeks after the Church was organized. According to josephsmithpapers.org, it opens with a visionary experience in which Moses received knowledge of God and Jesus Christ and learned the purpose of creation. The manuscript continues with the story of Adam and Eve and several generations of their descendants, with a detailed record of the experiences of Enoch. What prompted this revelation is unknown, but it launched an ambitious project of revising and expanding the Holy Bible.
The 12 documents are not identified together as new additions; rather, they are categorized under different sections, according to their content. Readers who wish to read the new documents can find a list of links on the news announcement for the release at josephsmithpapers.org or through the links provided with this article.