“As of now I am somewhat stumped”: History Detective Robin Jensen Speaks

By March 1, 2009

The Mormon Times has a nice writeup summarizing Robin Jensen’s presentation at last Friday’s BYU conference.

Robin S. Jensen, a historian and documentary editor with the Joseph Smith Papers project, told BYU’s Church History Symposium on Friday afternoon about two “cases” that were tough to crack and one that still eludes him.

“What could be more exciting than watching historians in search rooms scouring boxes or in darkened rooms going through rolls of microfilm of old newspapers?” Jensen said in a tongue-in-cheek reference to the PBS series “History Detectives.”

. . .

The first mystery to crack was the large letters written on the covers of several books. Joseph Smith’s 1835 “Sketch Book” journal, for example, has a large “D” on the cover. Other ledger books had “A,” “B,” “C,” “F,” “G” and “H.” “E” was noticeably absent.

. . .

The next one was almost as mysterious. Again, Joseph Smith’s 1835 “Sketch Book” journal provides a good example. On one cover is the word “Repentance.” If the book is flipped over the other side has “Sabbath Day.” Inside is part of an outline of scripture from Genesis related to repentance. Jensen said it looks like a project was begun, but abandoned.

. . .

The article mentions Robin’s efforts to solve these mysteries, although Robin indicated that he’s still “somewhat stumped” on a third. But Robin, who aside from his several professional degrees, also holds the Joseph Smith Papers “Student Researcher of the Year” award for 2005, and is the best history detective I know, so I’m confident he’ll figure it out. 😉

Article filed under Conference/Presentation Reports


  1. As am I. Thanks for the write up, David.

    Comment by Jared T — March 2, 2009 @ 2:21 am

  2. You know, Robin’s prowess at archival adventuring has been the stuff of legend for some time now. And I say that only partially joking. When he uses phrases like “somewhat stumped” or “mostly guesswork” (from another venue), they come after a long and careful research process.

    Comment by Alex — March 2, 2009 @ 10:11 am


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