The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph

Some of the difficulty in understanding Joseph Smith lies in the fact that much of the writing attributed to him has been filtered through the minds of other people. For example, those who seek Joseph Smith’s thought and personality in the pages of his published discourses confront several limitations: (1) Only about one-fifth of the approximately 250 public addresses he is known to have given during his lifetime were recorded in any substantial detail. (2) Since shorthand skills were not adequately developed in the Mormon community during Joseph Smith’s lifetime, extant reports of his addresses contain only a portion of what he said. (3) In preparing the reports of Joseph Smith’s discourses for publication in the History of the Church, editors found it necessary to provide continuity and substance by adding words and sentences of their own where reporting was hasty. (4) Editorial procedures of the time did not distinguish between material supplied by editors and the wording of original reports. (5) Most additional reports of Joseph Smith’s speeches, discovered since the writing of his History, have never been published.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 21:4
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