Special Feature | BYU Studies

Special Feature

Joseph Smith Holographs
June 12, 2018
Special Feature
Joseph Smith Holographs
Author Joseph Smith Papers Project,

Joseph Smith served as a councilor on the Nauvoo City Council for nearly a year before being elected vice mayor on 22 January 1842 and then mayor on 19 May 1842. As part of his service on the city council, on 5 March 1842 he made three motions, which were written down on scrap paper. The Joseph Smith Papers Project recently discovered that these original copies, still existing today, were made in his own handwriting. The motions dealt with the behavior of children on Sundays, sheriff's sales, and citizens' petitions to the council. Digital versions are accessible through the Church History Library catalog and will eventually be made available via the Joseph Smith Papers website.

The majority of the time, Joseph Smith relied on scribes and clerks to compose, copy, or take down his dictation of the thousands of pages attributed to him, including sacred texts, correspondence, journals, histories, administrative records, and other documents. The scarcity of surviving records he personally wrote gives added significance to their pages. Many Joseph Smith holographs allow a deeper connection to his personality, thoughts, and emotions than texts penned by scribes or reproduced in print. Readers should bear in mind, however, that because a large portion of Joseph Smith documents survives as copies, there is not always a correlation between holographs and more direct access to Joseph Smith's mind. In some cases, documents not found in his handwriting may have a closer connection to Smith than texts in his own hand.

The Joseph Smith Papers website lists known documents that are either entirely or substantially in Joseph Smith's hand. The project does so in an effort to help scholars navigate the vast collection of the papers of Joseph Smith and use them in their research. It is only one of multiple topics included in the project's reference material. Other topics include such varied subjects as Joseph Smith and the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo and the Priesthood Restoration, as well as pages about Smith's discourses, correspondence, histories, and the corresponding page numbers of early and modern editions of books of scripture. New topics are continually being added to the website, so check back often.