Priceless Words and Fallible Memories

Joseph Smith as Seen in the Effort to Preserve His Discourses



Speaking of Joseph Smith, the Lord told an ancient prophet, “I will not loose his tongue, that he shall speak much, for I will not make him mighty in speaking.” As if in fulfillment, some who heard Joseph noted that he was “not unusually talented for a Speaker,” nor did he appear to be “an educated man.” Yet many also complimented the energy, fervor, and meekness of his speech.

Because of Joseph’s prominence in introducing a new dispensation of the gospel, we might assume that clerks followed the Prophet and recorded everything he said. In reality, the records do not measure up to the stature of the life they chronicle, and probably not more than one in ten of Joseph Smith’s discourses were recorded. And the sharp outlines of the Prophet still lie hidden beneath the personalities of clerks, editors, and ghostwriters. Using the body of work related to Joseph Smith requires a studious effort to understand its nature and fully appreciate its content.

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