Historical Documents | Page 5 | BYU Studies

Historical Documents

John M. Bernhisel Letter to Brigham Young

Dr. Bernhisel wrote this letter to Brigham Young, now a part of the Phillip Blair Collections of the Marriott Library at the University of Utah, on 23 April 1850 while serving as an appointed delegate to the U.S. Congress. The letter contains an informative account of the tensions dividing the nation over the admission of California, the organization of the remainder of the Mexican Cession... Read more

B. H. Roberts and the Woodruff Manifesto

Recent historical writing about President Wilford Woodruff 's Manifesto on plural marriage has stressed its continuity with previous policy. For instance, historians have found that a year prior to its issuance the First Presidency had stopped new polygamous marriages and drafted a preliminary but uncirculated resolution stating the Church's new course of action. The latter has been labeled by a... Read more

The Kirtland Diary of Wilford Woodruff

The diary of Wilford Woodruff, fourth president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, is one of the significant documents of Mormon history. Covering the years from his acceptance of the faith in 1833 until his death in 1898, President Woodruff's diary offers a keenly perceptive view of life in the early Church from the perspective of a leading official. Joining the Church during... Read more

Authorship of the History of Brigham Young: A Review Essay

In this pointed review, Howard Seale leaves Leland Nelson with no justification for his inaccurate and misleading "journal" of the Prophet Joseph Smith. Nelson has compiled an interesting narrative of first person passages from the history of the church in an attempt to expand the familiar Joseph Smith story into an entire volume. In doing this he has included a great deal of material that was... Read more

A Little Known Account of the Murders of Joseph and Hyrum Smith

Jan Shipps, a Methodist historian of Mormonism, transcribes a letter written by non-Mormon H. H. Bliss of La Harpe, Illinois, in June 1844 to show an outside perspective of the murders of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum at Carthage Jail in Carthage, Illinois. Bliss wrote the letter to reassure his family in the East that the situation in Illinois was not as dangerous as the... Read more

Joseph Smith's 19 July 1840 Discourse

This article compares the ambiguous copy of an unpublished address titled, "A Few Items from a Discourse Delivered by Joseph Smith, July 19, 1840," with a recently resurfaced original manuscript from which the foregoing copy was taken. It includes the text of the original, in the handwriting of Martha Jane Knowlton and Howard Coray. This new discovery gives some clarification of the question of... Read more

Eliza R. Snow's Nauvoo Journal

The detailed diaries kept by Eliza R. Snow as she crossed the Great Plains from Nauvoo to the Salt Lake Valley have long been useful to historians of that period of Mormon history, and the thought that there might be extant a similar account of her Nauvoo experiences has tantalized scholars for years. Recently just such a volume surfaced, and was presented to Nauvoo Restoration Incorporated for... Read more

New Documents and Mormon Beginnings

Editor's Note: Please be aware that the documents described in this article are Mark Hofmann forgeries. For more information, see Richard E. Turley Jr., Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992). Read more

A Letter Regarding the Acquisition of the Book of Abraham

Among the "Miscellaneous Manuscripts" in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress is an 1835 letter from Albert Brown to which he expresses his feelings about the Church in Kirtland and also provides interesting corroborative details concerning the history of the acquisition of the Egyptian mummies and papyrus records. His report that the price of $2400 was paid to Michael Chandler for... Read more

Early Mormon Imprints in South Africa

The appearance in Cape Town, South Africa, on 8 June 1835 of Some of the Principal Doctrines of Belief of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints marks the printed beginnings of the Mormon missionary effort in that area of the world. Its author, Jesse Haven, was the first president of the South African Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Called during a special... Read more

Oliver Cowdery's Kirtland, Ohio, "Sketch Book"

As a witness of significant events in the rise of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Oliver Cowdery's importance is superseded only by that of the Prophet Joseph Smith. With the exception of Joseph's First Vision and the appearances of Moroni, Cowdery participated with the Prophet in the key events of the Restoration. The scope of his experiences include the translation of the Book... Read more

Sickness and Faith, Nauvoo Letters

The exchange of letters between John and Leonora Taylor reveals in striking detail the weight of sickness upon the Church and specifically upon the Taylor family in the late summer and fall of 1839. These letters are also important as illustrations of the dedication and faith required for the apostles to answer the call to England at that difficult time, with their families suffering from poverty... Read more

The Writing of Joseph Smith's History

On April 6, 1830, the day the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized, Joseph Smith conveyed a Revelation to the Church which began, "behold there shall be a record kept among you." From that time Joseph Smith and his associates regarded record keeping as a duty imperative. That this 1830 Revelation motivated Joseph Smith's history-writing and record-keeping efforts is evident... Read more

Appendix: The Clark Memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine (an extract)

HEREWITH I transmit a Memorandum on the Monroe Doctrine, prepared by your direction, given a little over two months ago. . . . It is of first importance to have in mind that Monroe's declaration in its terms, relates to the relationships between European states on the one side, and, on the other side, the American continents, the Western Hemisphere, and the Latin American Governments which on... Read more

Metallic Documents of Antiquity

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The Willard Richards and Brigham Young 5 September 1840 Letter from England to Nauvoo

A visitor strolling down a Salt Lake City street in 1870 would have heard a clipped British accent almost as frequently as a flattened Yankee drawl, as a third of the people in Salt Lake County in that year were British-born. Why had the English ground proven so fertile for the Latter-day Saints? An 1840 letter written by two prominent Mormon apostle/missionaries provides partial answers. Willard... Read more

To the Saints in England: Impressions of a Mormon Immigrant

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William E. McLellan's Testimony of the Book of Mormon

In 1880 James T. Cobb, a graduate of Dartmouth and Amherst colleges and a resident of Salt Lake City, was making an attempt to establish the falsity of the Book of Mormon through an extensive examination of its origins. Among those to whom he directed letters of inquiry was William E. McLellan, whose close association with Joseph Smith and the witnesses of the Book of Mormon in the early years of... Read more

A Wall to Defend Zion: The Nauvoo Charter

The Nauvoo Stake of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized in October 1839. For a time, the Saints treated the stake officers as the city government. Since the Church was instructed to function within the existing government, a committee was appointed to draft a bill for the incorporation of the City of Nauvoo which was sent to the Illinois State Legislature in October 1840... Read more

Two Rare Missouri Documents

Description and discussion of two contemporary Mormon imprints dealing with the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Missouri. One is of the extra issue of the Church newspaper in Kirtland, Ohio, The Evening and the Morning Star, from February 1834. This issue reprinted text from a Missouri circular The Upper Missouri Enquirer and gives a comprehensive account of the... Read more

An Impressive Letter from the Pen of Joseph Smith

Because of rivalry and jealousy among the Missouri Saints, the Prophet Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Newel K. Whitney were appointed to sit in council with them in April 1832. This was the second visit by Joseph Smith to the Missouri area. After grievances were amicably settled, the three brethren returned to Kirtland by stage via St. Louis and Vincennes, Indiana. At a point between Vincennes... Read more

"What Crime Have I Been Guilty Of?": Edward Partridge's Letter to an Estranged Sister

The letter reproduced in this article reveals the faith of Edward Partridge, the first Mormon bishop. Partridge's writing also discloses other aspects of Partridge's life and thought. He was obviously better educated than most of his contemporaries: the grammar and spelling are generally correct (we have left them as they appear in the original); the expression is forceful (much more so when... Read more

Missouri Persecutions: Petitions for Redress

When the Latter-day Saints first appealed to the U.S. Government in 1839–1840 for redress of wrongs committed against them in Missouri, Church President Joseph Smith said, "About 491 individuals gave in their claims against Missouri, which I submitted to Congress. . . ." More than 200 of these same claims or affidavits plus other important original documents relating to Mormon history in Missouri... Read more

Writing to Zion: The William W. Phelps Kirtland Letters (1835–1836)

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. These letters, many published for the first time, give important details about the lives and teachings of Latter-day Saints as the Church flourished in Kirtland, Ohio. William Wines Phelps (1792–1872) was the LDS Church's first editor and hymnist and was perhaps the best... Read more

Eliza R. Snow Letter from Missouri

This article reproduces a letter from Eliza R. Snow to the Streators, dated February 22, 1839. Included in her correspondence are two transcriptions. The first is a record of General Clark's anti-Mormon speech. The second is an excerpt from a letter by Lorenzo Snow. Despite the persecution and suffering she describes in Missouri, Eliza reaffirms her testimony of Joseph Smith and her great faith... Read more

Conjectural Emendation and the Text of the Book of Mormon

The process of studying early manuscripts and recommending corrections is called conjectural emendation. It is conjectural because it is based on circumstantial evidence and by its nature is unverifiable since it attempts to go beyond the earliest extant manuscript. A possible need for conjectural emendation in the Book of Mormon arises from its unique origin as a dictated translation. Phonetic... Read more

Hinman Collation of the First Edition of the Book of Mormon

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The Kesler Collection

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The Story of The Truth, The Way, The Life

Interwoven throughout the Book of Mormon are images of eating and drinking that serve as symbols and metaphors inspiring readers to flee degredation and partake of eternal life. In significant ways, the Book of Mormon employs images of eating and drinking or the absence of them to develop implications of survival, social relations, and covenants. Its metaphorical use of these images is especially... Read more

John C. Calhoun Jr., Meets the Prophet Joseph Smith Shortly before the Departure for Carthage

This article reproduces a letter from Senator John C. Calhoun to his brother shortly after visiting Nauvoo and meeting with the Prophet Joseph Smith just a few days before he was martyred. This letter contains several interesting, new, or confirming details, and it gives a vivid glimpse into life on the Mississippi River in 1844. Read more

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