BREAKING NEWS: LDS Church to Publish the William Clayton Diaries

By October 20, 2017

At a conference sponsored by the Joseph Smith Papers Project (JSPP), LDS Church History Department (CHD) Director of Publications Matt Grow announced the publication of the William Clayton diaries. They will transcribe and annotate the volume, just like the Joseph Smith Papers volumes.


Some may wonder why this announcement is such a big deal. Long story short, the Clayton Diaries hold key information about plural marriage and Joseph Smith’s religious workings. While excerpts have been available for some time in publications, notably Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s new book on plural marriage, they have not been available to the public, or even to most researchers. This will allow future projects to better understand the last years of Joseph Smith’s life. This is one of the best sources to understanding Joseph Smith’s personal life, thoughts, and activities in Nauvoo.

There will be fifteen volumes in the Joseph Smith Papers Project Documents Series (see our  various reviews). The Church Historian Press’s goal is to publish two volumes of the Smith Papers each year. Next year, 2018, will feature Documents Volume 7 and Translations 4 (the Book of Abraham). In 2019, the Church Historians’ Press will release Documents 8 and Documents 9.

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In addition to these physical publications, the LDS Church History Department will add an additional 350 documents to its JSPP website–which will take the online document total up to 2,300 documents.

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Revelations 1 and Revelations 3 will go online within the next month.

At the Pulpit and The First 50 Years of Relief Society are important publications–At the Pulpit is scheduled to be online in March 2018.

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Grow noted that although the Church Historian’s Press was founded to publish the JSPP, they also decided to publish key works in Mormon history that meet the high standards of the Press and the LDS Church History Department.

The George Q. Cannon Journals, published online by the LDS Church History Department, are representative of future projects. Large collections like the Cannon Papers will be posted online for popular, devotional, and academic access.

Among those collections will by the Emmeline B. Wells Journal, 1874-1921. To be published with the help of Sheree Bench and Cherry Silver, the Wells diaries come in at more than ONE MILLION words. Thanks is also due to BYU, who owns all 47 volumes of the Wells diaries.

The Church History Department is also writing a narrative history of the Young Women’s Organization. Yes!

Last year, the CHD published its fist art book, on the Saints at Devil’s Gate.

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. This is excellent, exciting news. Can we take a moment and savor it?I can’t stand when an announcement like this is immediately greeted with “And when is X going to be published?”

    Also, when are the Francis M. Lyman diaries going to be published?

    Comment by John Hatch — October 20, 2017 @ 1:23 pm

  2. This really is splendid news. Thank you and thank all those that have worked hard to make all of this possible.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 20, 2017 @ 1:37 pm

  3. This is truly wonderful news! Thanks for sharing all the info on the great upcoming JSPP releases and where to access them. The only downside is it makes it hard to wrap up a project on early church history in a timely fashion as more and more key documents keep being released 🙂 Such an exciting time to be writing on early Mormonism!

    Comment by cjp — October 20, 2017 @ 1:49 pm

  4. Wow! Good work JSP!

    Comment by Hannah J — October 20, 2017 @ 2:50 pm

  5. Thanks to all who worked this through. Clayton will be a wonderful resource. The recent docs volumes are superb. Huzzah!

    Comment by wvs — October 20, 2017 @ 3:14 pm

  6. How is this different than an intimate chronicle published by signature books?

    Comment by Llc — October 20, 2017 @ 4:28 pm

  7. Because these particular Clayton diaries were restricted, “An Intimate Chronicle” relied on transcriptions prepared by others for the Nauvoo portion.

    Today’s announcement speaks to the dedicated efforts of the Joseph Smith Papers people and Church History Library administrators to advocate for transparency and openness. I add my thanks to those already posted.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — October 20, 2017 @ 5:31 pm

  8. So the church is censoring them? So much bull****.

    Comment by Joseph Smith — October 20, 2017 @ 9:33 pm

  9. The Clayton diaries will add firsthand intimate details for the unfolding doctrinal developments in Nauvoo. Kudos to Church historian Steven E. Snow and the Joseph Smith Papers team for approving the project and launching the painstaking process of transcribing, contextualizing, and annotating the diaries.

    Comment by Devan Jensen — October 20, 2017 @ 11:12 pm

  10. I asked the same thing that Llc asked regarding An Intimate Chronicle. I have what I thought were all his journals, or rather books written by other authors regarding him, and taking extracts from his journals. So I’m very interested in seeing The Clayton diaries.

    Comment by Marilyn Clayton Holley — October 21, 2017 @ 8:00 am

  11. J. Stapley explained more about the history of the diaries, including the history of An Intimate Chronicle, over at BCC.

    Comment by Amy T — October 21, 2017 @ 8:59 am

  12. Attention: just an FYI, the LDS church leaders are the biggest liars and alterers of history there is when it comes to religion in these modern times. There attempts to re-rewrite history is laughable!

    William Clayton was a liar and did so at the behest of Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball

    Unless these people reveal the truth that JS was innocent of these damnable accusations of polygamy don?t believe a thing they say. It?s so easy to create false documents when you are the one in control of the information.

    Look at the reason they are ?releasing? the journals

    ?Some may wonder why this announcement is such a big deal. Long story short, the Clayton Diaries hold key information about plural marriage and Joseph Smith?s religious workings. While excerpts have been available for some time in publications, notably Laurel Thatcher Ulrich?s new book on plural marriage, they have not been available to the public, or even to most researchers. This will allow future projects to better understand the last years of Joseph Smith?s life. This is one of the best sources to understanding Joseph Smith?s personal life, thoughts, and activities in Nauvoo.?

    So, they want you to know upfront, that these journals will reveal JS life and the issue of polygamy. We already have their agenda about what they say it reveals because in 2014, they wrote their essay on JS and polygamy.

    Don?t be fooled by their lies. JS fought it every step of the way. They have to keep JS a polygamist because if he wasn?t their church is a false one and they KNOW their whole foundation rests on this issue of ?line of authority?

    I can honestly say at this point with everything I have discovered so far has made me hope for the members sakes, their house of cards will fall to the ground.

    I want all their deceptions, all their greed and occult rituals made known and they be cast off as dross. I pray for them members to wake up and begin again to look to what JS really taught and adhere to the scriptures.

    The whole reason they are doing this is because there are several of us groups who are exposing them on this issue.

    As far as I know, our fb group defending JS and the restoration branches are the only ones who hold to the premise that JS wasn?t marrying anyone to himself whether temporally or spiritually.

    For this reason, the church is doing exactly what they did with everything else. Damage control.

    I hope you all see through it.

    Comment by Pepper Davis — October 21, 2017 @ 10:54 am

  13. Some might be surprised there are still polygamy deniers out there. I actually appreciate that they are, because it’s like a voyage back in time to the LDS/RLDS fights. The past is always with us, etc.

    Comment by Ben P — October 21, 2017 @ 12:08 pm

  14. I agree with Ben P. its kind of like deniers of other historical events. (Fill in your own blank here____________________________). My entire life the Minutes of the Council of Fifty, the George Q. Cannon Journals and the William Clayton Diary have been “off-limits” or restricted. The Tanners were my first exposure to them (slanted though they obviously were even to my inexperienced eyes) and I frankly did not expect them to see the light of day (although whatever was in them wasn’t likely to affect my belief system). Now, here they are. Words almost cannot express.

    Comment by Terry H — October 21, 2017 @ 4:02 pm

  15. Great news! Out of curiosity, and for those of you who are better informed about these things: are there any major historical diaries from the JS era that are restricted? Isn’t John Taylor’s diary still off limits?

    Comment by Tiberius — October 21, 2017 @ 5:00 pm

  16. They’ve only published the George Q. Cannon journals up to 1883. Since they’re being so open now, why don’t they publish the rest? Why stop at 1883?

    Comment by James Davenport — October 21, 2017 @ 6:24 pm

  17. Fascinating news. As I recall, those papers (photocopied many times by Ernest Strack at Grandpa’s Used Books, & made available for cost) were highly sought after by scholars in the early 1980s. Even BYU professors acquired them. We studied some elements of them in our Discussion Group in Provo, UT at the time.

    Comment by Lin Ostler — October 21, 2017 @ 7:52 pm

  18. James Davenport: They haven’t “stopped” at 1883; that is merely the point they have reached in preparing and posting the diary online. The intent, as indicated in the Newsroom press release of an early installment, is: “Transcripts of additional portions of the journal will be released in later stages. Eventually, all volumes of the journal will be transcribed and published on the Church Historian?s Press website.”

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 21, 2017 @ 8:17 pm

  19. Tiberius, there are a few diaries that bleed over into the Nauvoo Temple period that are still restricted, but Taylor’s Nauvoo diary is published. BY’s is no longer restricted. HCK’s papers are still restricted, though journal transcripts have been published.

    The biggest boggey out there is probably the William Law diary, which isn’t held by the CHL.

    Comment by J. Stapley — October 21, 2017 @ 8:43 pm

  20. Thanks for the information, Ardis. The announcement for the last installment in January 2017 said that publishing the journal online without images or annotations “allows the press to make this crucial historical record available quickly and more economically.” I’m surprised that it would be quicker to transcribe it than to post scans with no transcription. I guess “quick” to them isn’t the same thing I think of when I read the word. Hopefully more is coming in 2018.

    Comment by James Davenport — October 22, 2017 @ 5:23 am

  21. Maybe there’s quick, quicker, and quickest … 🙂

    In any case, compared to, say, 20 years ago, it all seems to be coming from a fire hose. What a day for new old documents!

    Comment by Ardis E. Parshall — October 22, 2017 @ 9:08 am


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