Several years ago, when I heard that the Joseph Smith Papers Project was approved for publication, I was delighted for at least two reasons. First, I considered Joseph Smith’s papers to be the most valuable resource extant for researching early Latter-day Saint history. Making them available to all would enhance the accuracy of future scholarship. Second, it would be clear that the Church had nothing to hide concerning Joseph Smith. For too long, stories had circulated that the archives were closed, and the Church History Department did not allow access to important documents. The stories were partially true, though scholars who were not antagonistic to the Church could eventually obtain access to most of what they needed. With the announced publication of Joseph Smith’s papers and a generally more open policy, that image was about to change. I understood, of course, that some things should still be restricted, such as private financial records, minutes of confidential General Authority meetings, and personal documents donated to the archives with specific instructions restricting their access. However, the openness with which Joseph Smith’s papers would be handled was exhilarating, not just because of easy access, but also because my frequent assurances to friends—that the Church is not afraid of its own history—was now being verified.
When I began working on a volume of The Joseph Smith Papers, I was impressed with the exacting demands the general editors were imposing on the editorial process. I left the project due to my heavy involvement in other projects and commitments, including a semester teaching at BYU–Hawaii. Now that the first volume of Papers is out, I am impressed with the fact that the editorial demands are even more stringent than during my brief association. My hopes and expectations for the project seem more than fulfilled.