Historical Documents | Page 4 | BYU Studies

Historical Documents

New Photographs of the Alberta Canada Temple Site Dedication, 1913

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The Lynching of an American Prophet

In 1839, Mormon refugees made their way from Missouri to Montrose, Iowa, across the Mississippi River from Nauvoo, Illinois, where they would eventually settle. The man who laid out the city of Montrose, David Wells Kilbourne, disliked Mormons because of a land dispute, and he shared his anti-Mormon opinions in the paper. One of his sympathizers, Thomas Dent, was an Anglican parson in England who... Read more

The Canes of the Martyrdom

Shortly after the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1844, unusual mementos in his memory—wooden canes—were fashioned from the oak planks of the rough-hewn coffin in which the body was returned to Nauvoo. The history of these mementos—the Canes of the Martyrdom— is elusive, but some conclusions may be drawn from what little solid information can be found. We do know that Willard Richards,... Read more

Prisoners of War: Minutes of Meetings of Latter-day Saint Servicemen Held in Stalag Luft 1, Barth, Germany

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"Brother Joseph Is Truly a Wonderful Man, He Is All We Could Wish a Prophet to Be": Pre-1844 Letters of William Law

Although now seldom recognized as being anything more than a bitter apostate, William Law was for several years a Church member of considerable faith. The six letters reproduced in this article were written by William while he was still a member in good standing. His words breathe a spirit of faith and brotherly concern for his fellow members in the restored gospel. Similarly the letters reflect... Read more

Mountain Meadows Massacre: Collected Legal Papers

In his review of Massacre at Mountain Meadows: An American Tragedy , Jared Farmer concluded by stating, “While Mormon history is markedly better because of their work, it will be much better still when historians put the massacre to rest and move on.” Farmer has a point. Current scholarship has discovered as much of the truth of the events leading up to the massacre as we are likely to learn. The... Read more

Variations between Copies of the First Edition of the Book of Mormon

Much has been written about changes between the 1830 edition of the Book of Mormon (the first) and modern editions. But knowledge is less widespread about the variations that exist between different copies of the 1830 edition itself. We are now aware of 41 such changes, and there are certainly others that have not yet been discovered. Three-fourths of the 41 changes were picked up when Alfred... Read more

Foundational Texts of Mormonism: Examining Major Early Sources

At first glance, the title of this work may imply it is a documentary history project, but in fact, Mark Ashurst-McGee, Robin Scott Jensen, and Sharalyn D. Howcroft have not compiled a collection of documents, but rather a series of essays by other scholars (with the exception of Howcroft who includes her own entry in the volume) about these foundational documents. The editors lay out the purpose... Read more

Pioneer Women of Arizona

Roberta Flake Clayton self-published Pioneer Women of Arizona in 1969 after spending thirty-three years conducting numerous interviews and cataloguing over two hundred biographical sketches of the pioneer women, both old and young, who, beginning in the nineteenth century, came to Arizona by wagon or train and settled communities such as Phoenix, Mesa, Snowflake, Flagstaff, and Prescott. Clayton... Read more

The "Prognostication" of Asa Wild

Upstate New York newspapers in October 1823 carried a statement by a visionary soul who believed that God would soon open the way for a restoration of primitive Christianity. Asa Wild was almost a dozen years older than Joseph Smith, and it is probable the two never met. Like Joseph, Wild was born in Vermont--in 1794 at West Fairlee, about twenty miles northeast of Joseph's birthplace of Sharon... Read more

The Frederick Kesler Collection

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Light on the "Mission to the Lamanites"

In September 1830, the Lord called Oliver Cowdery by revelation to "go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them" (D&C 28:8). The call came a few months after the United States Congress had passed the Indian Removal Bill, an act providing for the relocation of all tribes within United States borders to points beyond. Peter Whitmer Jr., Parley P. Pratt, Ziba Peterson, and Frederick... Read more

Life in Nauvoo, June 1844: Vilate Kimball's Martyrdom Letters

Vilate Kimball's letters provide a detailed view of the emotional and confused atmosphere in Nauvoo during the two weeks leading up to the murders, as well as give an insight into the impact on the city of the event itself. Heber C. Kimball's journal tell how much Vilate's letters meant to him. In 1844, after concluding to become a candidate for President of the United States, Joseph Smith sent... Read more

The Account Books of the Amos Davis Store at Commerce, Illinois

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Wilson Law: A Sidelight on the Expositor Incident

A Nauvoo newspaper born on 7 June 1844 lived for only one issue, but it had far-reaching effects on the Church, culminating in the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. The Nauvoo Expositor was the product of some then recent apostates from the Church at Nauvoo, who claimed disenchantment with Joseph Smith's political views, the practice of polygamy, and other issues. On 10... Read more

James Arlington Bennet and the Mormons

Born in New York, James Arlington Bennet was proprietor and principal of the Arlington House, an educational institution on Long Island. Usually remembered as Joseph Smith's first choice as Vice-Presidential running mate in the 1844 Presidential election, Bennet began association with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints through John C. Bennett about 1841. An apparent unscrupulous... Read more

It Seems Like Heaven Began on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God

In the last issue of BYU Studies, D. Michael Quinn presented for the first time a chronology of the Council of Fifty that annihilates the previously held theory that this Council was one of the most important institutions in nineteenth-century Mormon history. Formally organized by Joseph Smith on 11 March 1844, just three months before he was murdered at Carthage, Illinois, the Council of Fifty... Read more

The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. While much that has been said regarding the origin of the Book of Mormon is beyond the experience of the average searcher, only as he accepts or rejects the credibility of the earliest witnesses, the existence of the book itself provides a common ground for careful... Read more

A Translation and Commentary of the Joseph Smith Hypocephalus

My purpose in writing this paper has not been to "try to prove" that the Prophet Joseph's interpretation of the hypocephalus is correct; that proof can come only from God, and each individual must find it for himself. Rather, it has been my aim to present a translation and commentary of the hypocephalus known as Facsimile 2 of the Pearl of Great Price, drawing upon our current knowledge of... Read more

The Iowa Journal of Lorenzo Snow

Just as the Kirtland Camp served as a training and testing ground for the first-generation leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so the move across Iowa became a preparation and proving experience for a second group. Among that second wave was young Lorenzo Snow, the man who in 1849 would be called into the Quorum of the Twelve and in 1898 would become President of the... Read more

A Manifesto for "Fit for the Kingdom": Dean Duncan's Proposal for a Mormon Documentary Series

Developments in Mormon cinema in the last few years have taken place not only with popular narrative feature films intended for theatrical exhibition. Independently produced documentary film, which actually has a stronger tradition within Mormonism, has also been growing. One group, a coalition of Brigham Young University faculty and students and independent filmmakers led by Dean Duncan of BYU's... Read more

The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision

By October 29 of that year, when Joseph left Nauvoo for Washington, D.C., to present the Missouri grievances of his people before the federal government, only fifty-nine pages of his history had been written; and six days after his departure, his scribe James Mulholland died. When Joseph returned to Nauvoo in March 1840, he lamented the passing of his "faithful scribe," and expressed... Read more

Two Iowa Postmasters View Nauvoo: Anti-Mormon Letters to the Governor of Missouri

Few of Illinois governor Thomas Reynolds' papers have survived, but among these is a series of letters from two Iowa postmasters in May and July 1842 informing him about the circumstances surrounding the assassination of former governor Lilburn W. Boggs. These give some impression of the influences operating upon Reynolds—and thus some insight into the forces shaping the decision-making process... Read more

All Things Move in Order in the City: The Nauvoo Diary of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs

Zina Elizabeth Brownhad had been using a locked trunk as a coffee table for several months before she found someone who could open it. When in early 1979 Betty finally looked into the trunk, she found, among the clothes and keepsakes of her grandmother, two diaries of her great-great grandmother, Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs, one dating in the 1890s, the other, the Nauvoo one here printed,... Read more

The Wentworth Letter

Joseph Smith's letter to Mr. John Wentworth was published in the March 1, 1842 issue of the Times and Seasons in Nauvoo Illinois. Although the whole letter runs about three full pages, the rendition of the First Vision events is only one-half page long. The Prophet himself called it a "sketch," a "brief history." The conclusion of the letter is Joseph Smith's statement of belief which has come to... Read more

Angus M. Cannon and David Whitmer: A Comment on History and Historical Method

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Inside Brigham Young: Abrahamic Tests as Preparation for Leadership

Rare personal (holograph) writings where Brigham Young bares his soul during times of trial provide some of the best windows to his inner self. Of these, none is better than a recently available holograph letter from Brigham Young, written while he was in England, to his wife, who remained in Nauvoo. This letter—really a series of letters—was written more than a year after Brigham's last glimpse... Read more

A Letter from Brigham Young and Daniel H. Wells, 1857

On July 24, 1857, while the residents of the Territory of Utah gathered in Big Cottonwood Canyon to celebrate the decennial anniversary of the pioneers' entrance into Salt Lake Valley, a runner arrived with the news that an army was approaching Utah to quell what was understood in the East to be an outright rebellion. Brigham Young and his advisers began immediate plans for the defense of the... Read more

John Hyde, Junior—An Earlier View

John Hyde, Jr., is familiar to most students of Mormon history as one of the most famous apostate writers of the early Utah period. Having joined the Church in England, he spent a short time on a mission to France and the Channel Islands. After migrating to Utah, he was called on a mission to the Sandwich Islands during the Conference of April 1856 and set out on his journey. On the way, he... Read more

The Banishment of the Mormon People

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Notes on "Lehi's Travels"

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The Dogberry Papers and the Book of Mormon

On September 2, 1829, a new paper was born in Palmyra, New York, called The Reflector and published by O. Dogberry, Jun. The object of the papers was to "correct the morals and improve the mind." O. Dogberry was the pseudonym for a certain Esquire Cole, an ex-justice of the peace, who had obtained access on Sundays and evenings to the use of the idle E. B. Grandin & Co. press, the same press... Read more

The Newell K. Whitney Collection

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The Newly Found Manuscript of Doctrine and Covenants Section 65

Among the papers of William E. McLellin recently discovered in the Church archives are handwritten copies of four revelations long included in the Doctrine and Covenants as sections 22, 45, 65, and 66. These texts, along with McLellin's six journals ranging from July 18, 1831, to June 6, 1836, will be published by BYU Studies in the near future in a supplementary volume. This note features... Read more

The Keep-A-Pitchinin or the Mormon Pioneer Was Human

Utah pioneers have not been known for their humor, but Keep-A-Pitchinin, one of the West's first illustrated journals and humor periodicals, testified to a warmer, more human side than had been seen of the Mormons in Utah. Led by publisher and editor George J. Taylor, eldest son of John Taylor, Keep-A-Pitchinin, was written by distinguished men of talent, usually under pseudonyms. The journal's... Read more

We Had a Very Hard Voyage for the Season: John Moon's Account of the First Emigrant Company of British Saints

By 1840 the spirit of gathering to America was beginning to excite the British Saints. Even though the official call to gather did not come from Church headquarters until that August, many British Saints had anticipated it and were ready to go. Mission leaders were concerned, however, thinking that perhaps the emigration was premature, but on April 15 they finally decided to allow it. A number of... Read more

Howard Coray's Recollections of Joseph Smith

So contradictory is the source material pertaining to Joseph Smith that serious students of the Prophet are forced to invest considerable time in checking its reliability. Although many witnesses claimed firsthand knowledge of Joseph Smith, careful consideration must be given to their competence to report what they claim to have observed. Among those who had more than a passing acquaintance with... Read more

Truman Coe's 1836 Description of Mormonism

One of the most descriptive summaries of the early history of the Restored Church and concise analyses of the distinguishing beliefs of the Latter-day Saints written by a nonmember during the 1830s was prepared by Reverend Truman Coe, a Presbyterian minister who had lived among the Saints in Kirtland for about four years. Published in the 11 August 1836 issue of The Ohio Observer, this article... Read more

A Newly Discovered 1838 Wilford Woodruff Letter

In 1838 Wilford Woodruff was thirty-one years old and had been a member of the Church five years. He had already completed three missions, one to the Southern States and two to the Fox Islands. Woodruff's parents, his half-sister, Eunice, and his full brother, Azmon, had accepted the gospel. But there were others of the family for whom he was concerned. One of these was his half-brother, Asahel... Read more

James Gordon Bennett's 1831 Report on "The Mormonites"

In the summer of 1831 James Gordon Bennett demonstrated the enterprise which was to make him one of America's greatest journalists by investigating the circumstances surrounding the coming forth of the Book of Mormon. Born in Scotland in 1795, and for several years a student in a Catholic seminary at Aberdeen, young Bennett, "on a sudden impulse," migrated to Nova Scotia in 1819. For a while he... Read more

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