The Joseph Smith Papers
March 20, 2012
by Jeffrey G. Cannon
Once a month we will feature a visiting scholar from the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
On the day of the Church's organization, Joseph Smith received a revelation that commanded, "There shall be a record kept among you" (D&C 21:1). Despite impediments ranging from financial struggles to violent opposition, Joseph Smith and his associates created a rich historical record. Among the most significant documents created were the histories—efforts to write the story of the Church and its founder. These documents are found in the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers.
Volume 1 of the series, just published, includes the six histories Joseph Smith personally wrote, dictated, or closely supervised. Included in this volume are accounts of Joseph Smith's foundational spiritual experiences, including his first vision; his narration of the "Mormon War" in Missouri; and his original summary of Church beliefs, later known as the Articles of Faith. Supplementing the printed volume, josephsmithpapers.org has released volume A-1 of the "History of the Church," the Prophet's 1839 bill of damages, and the fair copy of Howard Coray's history.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project continues in the tradition of Dean C. Jessee's decades of scholarship. Jessee, a general editor of the project, has authored numerous landmark articles on Joseph Smith and his papers, including "The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision" and "The Writing of Joseph Smith's History."