“I like to call it the lunar mission of the Church”: Histories Volume 2 of the Joseph Smith Papers

By October 19, 2012

"I like to call it the lunar mission of the Church." -Elder Steven E. Snow referring to the Joseph Smith Papers

After too much waiting, being swamped at work, and my own timidity, I’d like to share my notes from the recent blogger event the Church History Library hosted for the release of Histories Volume 2 of the Joseph Smith Papers.

Karen Davidson, Volume Editor

Histories Volume 1 (1832-1834)

Histories Volume 2 (1831-1847)

  • volume 2 is histories JS assigned, four different histories/men
  • volume 2 is not more of the same
  • we have the documents in the order in which they were assigned

1) John Whitmer, write a narrative history (asked to “compose” a history of the LDS)

  • Whitmer was reluctant to be the author or voice
  • D&C 47 commanded him

2) William W. Phelps, when WWP was editor of the Millennial Star (1833)

  • A single article
  • “It seems like he’s hardly able to hide his own surprise that things are going so well” (Phelps speaking about the success of the growing church)

3) John Corrill (1838) called to replace John Whitmer, who was excommunicated

  • “A wonderfully balanced history of the Church”
  • “Corrill, I feel is the best writer of the group.

4) Edward Partridge

  • JS, from Liberty Jail, singled out Partridge to write a history
  • Three chapters/installments, then Partridge died
  • We wish we had all Partridge wrote
  • Provides a sampler of Missouri histories of the time
  • Whitmer and Corrill are synoptic histories
  • Joseph Smith did not control these histories
  • Whitmer and Corrill continued to write after their excommunications

“How does [this new volume] help the members of the Church?”

  • A very good question for us to discuss
  • All 4 had to face the task of writing history, not just compiling documents of the time

Richard L. Jensen, Volume Editor

  • EP was the 4th assignee (to write a history)
  • They were to catalog the murderous and nefarious outrages against the Mormon people
  • Spring 1832 (according to EP), county wide meeting of how to get rid of the Mormons
    • It came to naught
    • EP credits this to certain patriotic inviduals
      • Marston Clark, work worked among the Indians
        • Fought one on one of for the constitutional rights of the Mormons
  • EP was quite frank about anti-Mormons offering peace if Mormons would leave the Church
  • Don Carlos Smith wrote a 4th article bridging the time period

  • Pratt is consistently calling the anti-Mormons ?robbers?
  • Sidney Rigdon picks up at the exodus from DeWitt county
  • The LDS take the offensive in Davis County
    • Rigdon claims that based upon advice from Doniphan they carried out raids in Davis County
  • Haun?s Mill
    • Rigdon uses affidavits of Joseph and Jane Young
      • Were to be used for redress from US Congress
    • ?To the public? manuscript by Rigdon

Nathan N. Waite, Associate Production Manager

  • Print vs. web
    • JS best known history (JSH and B. H. Roberts)
    • Dean Jesse is tracking down all the documentation that was used to piece together the History of the Church
    • Supporting documents:
      • John Corrill?s history
        • Housed at the Missouri History Museum
      • EP manuscript version was obtained from the FP archive at the same time as the
    • Web release this morning:
      • All 6 extant manuscripts of the BoA
      • New chart lining up revelations
      • Will include more and more hyperlinks
    • Coming soon on the web:
      • 1st volume of history will be up
      • JS letterbook
      • More Egyptian documents
      • Next month = new search engine!
    • Finally have a print index in the 2nd Histories volume!
  • Editors and content producers work closely together, which is not common
    • Jensen: we think that Whitmer began some kind of writing soon after his call as church historian. Probably just loose notes.
      • There was a request for him to submit his notes/documents
      • Final product was a bound volume


What would you say has been the most significant surprise in compiling this volume?

  • The most welcome item will be John Corrill?s history
  • Whitmer has been available previously
Biographical info about Corrill that we do know:
  • counselor to Partridge
  • chief mechanic of the Kirtland Temple
  • assigned by JS to
  • inspector of church schools in Missouri
  • a very independent thinker
    • spectacular student of the scriptures
  • Corrill represented Caldwell county in the state legislature
    • His book was advertised in a New York Mormon paper

Photographer in Independence photographing BoM printer’s manuscript

  • Great cooperation with the Community of Christ
  • CHL will be reproducing the Printer’s Manuscript as part of the project

Differences between the manuscript versions/published works

  • David Lewis affidavit heavily edited prior to publication

Some sermon reports; What about sermon reports?

  • Likely to appear in the Documents series
  • Substantive sermon reports, not just passing comments like: ?a great sermon!?
  • Documents Volumes coming Fall 2013

Doniphan?s claim of rejecting a command to execute JS is contested by some in the JSP team

BYU Partridge Papers

  • EP history will likely be included in that project

JSP will reproduce the printer’s manuscript of the BoM in a 9×12 volume(s) like the Revelations.
Histories not included but considered for Vol. 1 or 2?

  • Parley Pratt?s which is online at JSP

Richard Jensen is working on Vol. 3 of the Documents
Karen has been a volunteer

Has anyone dealt with the manuscript of Corrill?s history before?

  • Jensen: Yes.
  • 18-19 pages of the manuscript are missing


Buy the book: Amazon, Deseret Book

Article filed under Announcements and Events


  1. Thanks, Tod. That was a fun event and I’m glad that the JSP has now settled into a two volume/year schedule.

    Comment by David G. — October 19, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

  2. Nice summary and great picture. Elder Snow’s characterization of the JSPP was a bit startling.

    Comment by WVS — October 19, 2012 @ 3:52 pm

  3. Thanks for this, Tod. Good stuff.

    Comment by Christopher — October 20, 2012 @ 7:21 am

  4. How is Elder Snow as a historian?

    Comment by Bryan Kerr — October 21, 2012 @ 6:05 pm


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