I had the privilege a couple weeks ago of plowing through the Beinecke Library out at Yale in search of LDS-related stuff. Specifically, I got to spend a couple days just looking through the D. Michael Quinn Collection–quite a treasure-trove of documents, specifcally relating to “transitional” period Mormonism.However, there were still a few things dealing with early Mormonism and Joseph Smith. The following is a journal entry for a gentelman named James M. Sharpe. Unfortunately, I don’t know anything about him beyond the fact that he kept a journal during his travels in the mid 1840’s. This entry comes just a few months before Joseph’s death:
February 25, 1844: I walked about the City of the Holy Joe until I found the Prophets House the “Nauvoo Mansion” where I “put up”—I sold my goods in Nauvoo at Auction – remained in Nauvoo about two weeks. The City contains about 17000 inhabits as I was informed and suppose to be near the truth – Joe Smith the Mormon Prophet is a large tolerably good looking man 38 years of age – light hair light eyes nothing very extraordinary in his appearance – quite boyish in his conduct fond of fun-frolick & brandy – prides himself much upon his physical powers – loves to contend with any one in wrestling-scuffling “Pulling stick”. “Casting Stone” “Throwing the axe” or any such gynmastic exercise – fond talking and being listened to by the gaping staring-astonished ignorant Crowd-proud of his notoriety-possesed of the most astonishing degree of vanity and unblushing impudence and confidence. Neither dignity, humility or solemnity in his walk or conversation- violently abusive and revengeful disposition – uses much profane & vulgar language – denounces every one who does not agree with him – asserts boldly and openly that all Sectarians are notorious fools, ignoramuses – blockheads – that all Missourians are infernal scoundrels – hellish rascals and thieves, robbers and murderers – His authority and power among the Mormons is unlimited his word and commands and requests – the word, commands & requests of the Almighty to the Saints – I have not time to dwell upon this Subject or any other now.
Now it’s time to play historian. The text is absolutely filled with stereotypes and commonly-held notions of the day, from Joseph Smith’s “rugged” nature to his absolute authority (almost to the extent that it seems Sharpe may just be writing the popular beliefs of the time). What specifically sticks out to you, and why?
 James M. Sharpe Journal (1843-1848), D. Michael Quinn Collection, Beinecke Library. Original holograph is also housed in the Beinecke.