Friend of the JI and Joseph Smith Papers editor and historian Alex D. Smith has agreed to send along this brief comment on the recent announcement that the entire text of the Book of the Law of the Lord–a Nauvoo-era donation record book that also includes JS’s 1842 journal and the text of several revelations–has been made available on josephsmithpapers.org. As Alex notes, this is kind of a big deal. Like the Book of Commandments and Revelations (published in 2009) and the Council of Fifty Minutes (forthcoming in 2016), the publication of the Book of the Law of the Lord on the project’s website reflects the ongoing trend of including previously unavailable historical documents as part of the Joseph Smith Papers. Alex co-edited the second volume of the Journals series, which included annotated transcriptions of the the Book Law of the Lord journal entries, and he wrote an important article on the the Book of the Law of the Lord in The Journal of Mormon History (38, no. 4 [Fall 2012]). He is currently hard at work on Journals, vol. 3 (slotted to appear next year) and Documents, vol. 7, covering early Commerce and the founding of Nauvoo, September 1839-January 1841 (expected in early 2018).
A quick note to draw your attention to one of the items in the latest (28 October 2014) Joseph Smith Papers website content release. Photographic images of the entire Book of the Law of the Lord are now available on josephsmithpapers.org. This massive tome is one of the most important church records from the Illinois period. It was kept by the office of the Nauvoo temple recorder, and contains Joseph Smith revelations, hundreds of pages of entries recording donations for temple construction, and Joseph Smith’s personal journal for the year 1842.
Transcriptions of both the Smith journal and revelations texts in the book are available on the website, along with photographs of the donation pages. Images of a contemporaneous index to the donations, created by William Clayton, are planned to be made available in an early 2015 website content release. This is the earliest extant tithing book of the church, noting monetary, labor, and in-kind donations made by church members (and even some non-members) from November 1841 to May 1844, as well as penny donations for nails and glass made by the women of the church between June 1844 and April 1845.
While transcriptions of the Smith journal entries within the Book of the Law of the Lord have been published previously in both Dean Jessee’s The Papers of Joseph Smith, vol. 2 and the Joseph Smith Papers, Journals Series, vol. 2, the tithing donations that comprise most of the Book of the Law of the Lord are published here for the first time. These donations are a rich source of information for researchers interested in Nauvoo cultural history.