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Special Feature

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
May 9, 2017
Special Feature
Index Provides Primary Sources for Quotes in Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Nathan N. Waite

Since it was first published in 1938, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith has been an indispensable resource for accessing and studying Joseph Smith's words. The book's editor, Joseph Fielding Smith, was church historian and recorder as well as an apostle, and he later became president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He was also a grandson of Joseph Smith's brother Hyrum.

Aided by research assistants, Smith compiled the words of Joseph Smith contained in B. H. Roberts's History of the Church and, rarely, from other sources. Other editors had previously compiled Joseph Smith quotes, but Joseph Fielding Smith noted in his introduction that such publications had "left in the hearts and minds of all who were interested in the sayings of the great latter-day Prophet, a longing for more of his sayings, which longing was not satisfied." (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith: Taken from His Sermons and Writings as They Are Found in the Documentary History and Other Publications of the Church and Written or Published in the Days of the Prophet's Ministry, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith [Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1938], 3.) Joseph Fielding Smith's compilation quickly became definitive, and in many ways, it is a predecessor to the Joseph Smith Papers Project--an early attempt to gather the writings and words of the founder and first prophet of the Latter-day Saint church.

Because Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith was largely based on History of the Church, it is considered an outdated source for scholarly use. But because it remains popular and accessible, the Joseph Smith Papers Project has published on its website an index linking quotations in Teachings to more original texts of Joseph Smith's words. Though the passages in Teachings are generally accurate, they often differ in various ways from the more original sources in this index; in some cases, the sources demonstrate that a passage in Teachings originated not with Joseph Smith but with a scribe, newspaper editor, or other associate.

To view the index and start exploring the original sources, check out "Sources for Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith."

Special thanks to student researcher Michael Duval for helping compile the index.