New Release: Joseph Smith Journals, Volume 3: May 1843-June 1844

By December 1, 2015

Historians have awaited the release of Journals, Volume 3: May 1843-June 1844 (hereafter J3) for many reasons. Joseph Smith’s last months were “turbulent and productive,” mired with controversy, well-known sermons, an expansion of temple liturgy, the beginnings of plural marriage, and Smith’s candidacy for President of the United States. Smith wore many hats in these years, including mayor, judge, and militia leader in addition to his religious roles as president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Despite the proliferation of documents that chronicle this time period, there are still many questions that arise from the study of the lats thirteen months of Joseph Smith’s life that have not been answered (or answered satisfactorily). J3, the final volume of the Journals series, will help historians answer new questions and expand upon older questions in Mormon and American Religious History.

J3 Cover

J3 Cover


The editors mentioned the ways that the documents in J3 functioned as both a personal journal for Joseph Smith as well as the institutional history of Mormonism from May 1843-June 1844. These notes were later expanded into the Manuscript History, often from scant detail and weather notations. There are few entries on emotions or Smith’s intellectual, liturgical, and theological genesis. Despite the lack of detail about what is going on in Smith’s head, researchers will better understand the last thirteen months of Smith’s life through his leadership in civic and ecclesiological roles. This volume uses notes from the Council of Fifty Records (due out in September 2016) not previously available to researchers.

J3 also deals heavily with the long road to Joseph Smith’s murder, including disaffected followers leaving Mormonism, and escalating tensions that led directly to Carthage Jail. This book is a much-have for those who are interested in Smith’s death and the events that preceded it.


This volume includes more than sixty sermons, many of which benefit from the Joseph Smith Papers Team’s rigorous transcription verification. Dean Jessee’s work in previous decades, as well as Scott Faulring’s work and the research of other scholars, directly led to this volume. But J3 is a significant improvement and expansion on their efforts. Through the background work used to produce this volume, historians now have a much better idea of what Joseph Smith preached in his sermons. This includes Smith’s teachings on baptism for the dead, priesthood ordinance, a multi-tiered vision of the afterlife, and humanity’s potential to become like God. The advancement of earlier publications that at times mis-transcribed or misinterpreted Willard Richards’ atrocious handwriting. Alex Smith, one of the volume’s editors, informed those that attended the release event that the accuracy of transcription is one of the most significant aspects of J3.


There are a few references to temple liturgy in the volume, as well as annotations for further context. Those who have waited for sources authored or approved by Joseph Smith to cite in their work now have the opportunity to do so (although references to the temple liturgy and ritual, the Anointed Quorum, and plural marriage are relatively few). Those with ears to hear will notice details like prayer meetings and other events that will help flesh out previous histories of Smith’s life and thought.


J3 has many new documents about Joseph Smith’s relationship and interaction with indigenous peoples (including their role in Mormons exploring Texas as a potential settling place). I believe this book will further conversations about Joseph Smith, race, and politics.


J3 has a 117 page index that spans J1-J3. Bibliophiles rejoice!


Matt Grow said that the publication of J3, along with the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon, a forthcoming release of a book on the first fifty years of the Relief Society (March 2016), Documents 4 (Zion’s Camp), and the Council of Fifty Minutes (September 2016), signals a watershed moment for the study of Mormonism. I can’t help but agree. Those who study Mormonism in any regard will have more sources than any generation of scholars before them.


So what are you waiting for? Get your copy and start writing your next article/book/blog post!

Article filed under Miscellaneous


  1. […] From the Juvenile Instructor: […]

    Pingback by The newest Joseph Smith Journals volume is out | Bloggernacle Blog | LDS Church, institutionally — December 2, 2015 @ 4:01 am

  2. […] third volume of the journals series, which covers the final year of Joseph Smith’s life. (See here.) This latter volume’s importance cannot be overstated due to the fact that it finally […]

    Pingback by Juvenile Instructor » 2015 in Retrospect: An Overview of Noteworthy Books and Articles in Mormon History — December 11, 2015 @ 11:09 am

  3. Great volume, but still disappointed in the conspicuous absence of so many important entries made by William Clayton. For example, Absent from September 18, 1843’s events are Clayton’s record that he and “J[oseph] rode out to borrow money – drank wine at sis Lyons. I got $50 of sis Lyons”. One wonders what was too sensitive for publication: the fact that Joseph drank, the fact that he was secretly married to both the Lyons mother and daughter, or the fact that Joseph secretly fathered a child with the latter? Or how about the entry for October 19, 1843 where Joseph explains how he’d deal with Clayton’s secret marriage if the truth got out: “I will give you an awful scourging & probably cut you off from the church and then I will baptise you & set you ahead as good as ever.” Or what about July 12, 1843 when Clayton recorded the revelation on polygamy and added “J[oseph] told me to Deed all the unincumbered lots to E[mma] and the children. He appears to be much troubled about E[mma].” Or how about August 16, 1843: “She had said she would give him E[liza] and E[mily] P[artridge] but he knew if he took them she would pitch on him, & obtain a divorce & leave him. He however told me he should not relinquish anything.” Are none of these relevant pieces of history worthy of even a footnote in a book dedicated to documenting the last 18 months of Joseph Smith’s life?

    This new release announcement correctly mentions the “lack of detail about what is going on in Smith’s head”, but let’s not pretend this is unavoidable. The fact is that the LDS Church never has — and still won’t — come to terms with the William Clayton nay ok journals, and the overly selective inclusion of excerpts from this important record while proclaiming a “watershed moment” in the study of Mormonism, is as shameful as it is disappointing.

    Comment by Ryan — December 19, 2015 @ 5:00 pm

  4. “Nay ok journals” should read nauvoo journals (dyac!)

    Comment by Ryan — December 19, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

  5. Great points, Ryan. While the Church’s emphasis on transparency is to be celebrated, the continued sequestering of William Clayton’s Nauvoo diaries seems increasingly bizarre.

    Comment by Gary Bergera — December 20, 2015 @ 2:04 pm

  6. is as shameful as it is disappointing.

    That is just silly. Look, the JSPP are fair game for critical review, and I have plenty of criticism, but this just doesn’t make sense. Should the CHL release the Clayton journals? Of course. However, reproducing them in this volume doesn’t make much sense.

    Comment by J. Stapley — December 20, 2015 @ 8:34 pm

  7. Stapley – all due respect, but that’s bullsh*t. With over 1000 footnotes in this volume (of which I count about 24 from the Clayton diaries), the omissions of relevant content are striking. On one thing we agree – the CHL should release the Clayton journals, but to my knowledge have no intention of doing so. Did I miss an announcement? In the meantime. this seems a very pertinent volume to include lengthy entries that are completely pertinent to the subject matter at hand.

    Comment by Ryan — December 20, 2015 @ 10:44 pm

  8. This rant mistakes a key point in a “papers” edition: The purpose is to edit the papers of a historical figure, not to write a biography or more general history. Footnotes comment on what appears in the text being edited; they do not fill in the gaps in the diarist’s life if he didn’t actually comment on something (that’s the purview of a biography).

    The 18 September 1843 entry does not mention *anything* that would allow the editors to tack on the footnote Ryan demands — no mention of a ride, or money, or refreshment, or the Lyons family, or anything connected to any of that. Plugging in the lines from Clayton’s journal would add to the overall record of that day, but would not illuminate anything actually in the document being edited. Ditto for the other specific dates Ryan complains about — I don’t see anything in the document itself that provides any excuse for adding his desired footnotes. JSP editors are not being sensitive to scandal as Ryan accuses but are in fact being sensitive to the scholarly distinctions of a “papers” edition.

    This failure to comprehend the basic purpose of a “papers” project is apparently a common one, judging by similar complaints about other volumes. Those who do recognize the difference in genre do not want JSP editors writing biography or history. We want them to provide reliable editions of the documents that other historians will then use to write their own histories, drawing on whatever other materials they want to make their points and spin their arguments.

    Comment by Ardis — December 21, 2015 @ 6:55 am

  9. I’m well aware that this isn’t a biography. As a buyer of the Journals series and not a historian, I take co-editor Alex Smith at his word that the volume “captures the complexity of Joseph Smith?s life and provide[s] a framework for understanding the events of the final year of the prophet?s life, unmatched by any other single contemporaneous source.? The announcement goes on to disparage Willard Richards’ “idiosyncratic”, “hurried”, “brief”, and “cryptic” writing (not just his handwriting by the way) but still promises to provide “new insight into the final months of Joseph Smith?s life.” Furthermore, on the JSP site description, I’m assured as a reader that “The accounts in this volume allow readers to study Smith?s daily activities and personality as well as to better situate him and the faith he founded within nineteenth-century American history.” While Clayton was trusted to chronicle many of Joseph’s actions, words, thoughts, and emotions during this period, Willard Richards was often not privvy to the same.

    That this volume would have delivered better on its promise had more of the Clayton record been offered in the volume (be that via a larger appendix, expanded footnotes, in a separate Documents volume, or even on its web site) is a quibble. My larger complaint is that this record continues to be suppressed because apparently the Church hasn’t come to terms with its contents. (and yes, this is personal…. I dealt okay with Joseph’s polygamy and Brigham Young’s racism when I was 19 but didn’t fare so well discovering polyandry when I was 38).

    Comment by Ryan — December 21, 2015 @ 7:58 pm


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