So contradictory is the source material pertaining to Joseph Smith that serious students of the Prophet are forced to invest considerable time in checking its reliability. Although many witnesses claimed firsthand knowledge of Joseph Smith, careful consideration must be given to their competence to report what they claim to have observed. Among those who had more than a passing acquaintance with the Prophet was Howard Coray, a talented writer who was closely associated with Joseph Smith for a considerable period of time in the 1840s. Employed as a clerk in the Prophet’s office, Coray had a particularly close vantage point from which to view his public and private activities. Important documents of the Nauvoo era in Coray’s handwriting, such the Prophet’s letter book, patriarchal blessing records, and the history of Lucy Mack Smith, show the trust that was placed upon him and the quality of his work.