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New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

October 29, 2019

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes around 150 administrative records from the Nauvoo City Council from May through December 1842, as well as documents and introductions for nine new Ohio and Illinois legal cases and the calendar of documents for Documents, Volume 9.

During the period in church history these records cover, John C. Bennett resigned as mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, and Joseph Smith took his place, with Hyrum Smith replacing Joseph as vice mayor.

Many of the documents in this release pertain to the day-to-day business of running a growing city, from regulating sanitation efforts to creating public servant positions and hiring people to fill those roles. Highlights from the Nauvoo City Council records include the following:

  • John C. Bennett’s letter of resignation as mayor.
  • Note of Joseph Smith’s election as the new mayor and Hyrum’s election as the new vice mayor.
  • Appointment of William Clayton as treasurer.
  • Description and illustration of the seal of the municipal court.
  • Documents concerning animals, such as a motion to establish of a pound, an ordinance listing the duties of the pound keeper, and an ordinance concerning the handling of rabid animals.
  • Sanitation ordinances and petitions regarding carrion removal, slaughterhouse placement and cleanliness, and removal of logs creating dirty, stagnant water.
  • Ordinance outlawing brothels and fining patrons and adulterers.

In the Legal, Business, and Financial Records series, we have added introductions and documents for three Ohio legal cases and five Illinois legal cases involving Joseph Smith. These include five cases involving merchant and tavern keeper Amos Davis. Between 29 November and 6 December 1842, Davis was accused of violating multiple city ordinances and was tried in five legal cases in which Joseph Smith was either justice, complainant, or witness. The accusations included violation of the city’s temperance ordinance by selling liquor, assault against William Walker, and slander against the characters of Ira S. Miles and Joseph Smith.

Another noteworthy item in this release is an introduction to documents regarding the first attempt by Missouri officials to extradite Joseph Smith to Missouri for criminal prosecution. Most of the other cases are financial in nature, concerning unpaid debts.

Documents, Volume 9 Is Now Available

The Church Historian’s Press is pleased to announce the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 9 covers December 1841 through April 1842 and features 102 letters, revelations, meeting minutes, deeds, sermon accounts, and other documents.

This volume chronicles developments in the church and community during these important months in Nauvoo, Illinois, including the creation of the Relief Society and the establishment of a Freemason’s lodge in Nauvoo, both of which organizations taught virtue and encouraged moral uprightness in the community. Other documents relate to the opening of Joseph Smith’s store, which not only supplied the community with mercantile goods but also quickly became the center of civic and cultural activity. The rich documentary record also offers a unique portrait of the breadth of Joseph Smith’s daily activities as he served as a military leader and vice mayor of Nauvoo, took advantage of the nation’s new bankruptcy law, sold land to immigrating converts, and continued to instruct Latter-day Saints near and far through discourses and correspondence. During this period, he also became editor of the church’s newspaper, Times and Seasons, and published new content, including a narrative account of the church’s history that included statements of belief that were later canonized as the “Articles of Faith” and portions of the Book of Abraham, which was later canonized as scripture.

The overarching narrative revealed by these documents is one of growth—for the church and the city of Nauvoo generally as well as for Joseph Smith personally. Readers will come away from this volume with an increased understanding of the prophet’s life and this pivotal period in the creation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Documents, Volume 9 was edited by Alex D. Smith, Christian K. Heimburger, and Christopher James Blythe, with Stephanie Steed as the lead production editor. The volume is now available for purchase from Deseret Book and Amazon.

 

New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web release, which includes around 160 administrative records from the Nauvoo City Council from February 1841 through April 1842, as well as documents and introductions for twelve new Ohio and Illinois legal cases and the transcript for the 1837 Book of Mormon.

During the early 1840s, Joseph Smith was a city councilor and was then elected vice mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois. The documents in this release pertain to many basic early administrative issues such as naming and opening streets, establishing taxes, setting wages for public servants, and regulating licenses. Highlights from the Nauvoo City Council records include the following:

In the Legal, Business and Financial Records series, we have added introductions and documents for ten Ohio legal cases and two Illinois legal cases involving Joseph Smith. These include seventy-five additional documents from the 1843 case Dana v. Brink, an exceptionally well-documented medical malpractice case over which Smith presided in the Nauvoo mayor’s court. Plaintiff Charles Dana brought charges against physician William Brink for causing his wife, Margaret Kennedy Dana, to give birth prematurely after misdiagnosing the baby as dead in utero. The newborn was healthy, but after the delivery Dana reported experiencing long-term medical problems because of Brink’s treatment.

In the 1837 case Ohio v. Ritch, also included in this release, Joseph Smith charged Painesville constable Abram Ritch with “unlawful oppression by color of office” after Ritch arrested Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and others, detained them all day, and finally released them only to arrest them again. Most of the other cases are financial in nature, concerning unpaid debts.

 

Newest Joseph Smith Papers Volume Now Available

The Church Historian’s Press is pleased to announce the release of the latest volume of The Joseph Smith Papers. Documents, Volume 8 covers February through November 1841 and reveals a city humming with activity as Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints worked to develop the newly established Nauvoo, Illinois.

“The months covered in Documents, Volume 8 highlight great growth and development in the city of Nauvoo,” explains Brent M. Rogers, one of the volume’s coeditors. “From the increase in church members gathering to the banks of the Mississippi and the beginning efforts to construct the temple to the organization of city government, Joseph Smith’s experience in 1841 Nauvoo is fascinating. It is a time of relative calm, hope, and optimism. But the months covered in this volume are not without their difficulties. One can see an approachable and relatable Joseph Smith as he deals with debt repayment and the death of family members—life experiences that continue to resonate today.”

 

New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web content release. Included in this publication are several legal cases from PennsylvaniaOhioMissouri, and Illinois, in which Joseph Smith was either plaintiff, defendant, witness, or judge. One case he presided over involved burglary by a former member of the church, Oliver Olney. Smith found Olney guilty but remarked that doing so was “the most painful thing I ever had to do” and that he “would have fed & clothed him if he had come to me.” Another case involved sexual assault. In a time when legal recourse was difficult for women who were victims of violence, Lovina Patterson Woolsey’s neighbors came to her aid, and her assailant was found guilty. Other cases involved debts incurred by Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio (Patterson and Patterson v. Cahoon, Carter & Co. and Rigdon, Smith & CowderyKelley v. Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery; and Scribner v. Rigdon, Smith & Cowdery).

Also published in this release are almost a hundred additional documents from November 1835 through January 1838, including marriage licenses, priesthood licenses, promissory notes, and other financial documents. Several more land deeds from the 1840s have been added as well. Updated reference material includes new biographical entries for people appearing in the added court cases; glossary entries for some of the Kirtland, Ohio, businesses; several hundred new calendar of documents entries for February through November 1841; and updated topics pages for Joseph Smith’s correspondence and Sources for Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

 

New Content on the Joseph Smith Papers Website

The Joseph Smith Papers is pleased to announce its latest web content release. Included in this publication are all the documents, introductions, and annotation found in Documents, Volume 5: October 1835–January 1838, which was published in print in 2017. Documents, Volume 5 includes documents relating to the dedication of the House of the Lord in Kirtland, Ohio, in March 1836; to Joseph Smith’s endeavors to learn Hebrew and his translation of Egyptian documents, including the Book of Abraham; and to the Kirtland Safety Society Bank and Joseph Smith’s store in Chester, Ohio; and many other minutes, letters, revelations, and financial documents.

Also published in this release are new introductions for fifteen court cases, including the trial of Joseph Smith and other church leaders for treason in 1839. Other introductions summarize cases Smith heard as judge of the mayor’s court in Nauvoo, Illinois, in the 1840s, with issues ranging from theft and assault to violating the city’s temperance ordinance. Several new biographical and geographical entries have also been added, including an updated source for Elijah Able that gives the date of his ordination to the priesthood.

The Joseph Smith Papers Project also recently published on its website the volume introduction to Revelations and Translations, Volume 4, titled “Book of Abraham and Related Manuscripts.”

A new feature has also been added to the website that allows easy linking to other versions of documents. For example, Vision, 16 February 1832 [D&C 76] has a link at the top for “Additional Versions.” Clicking on that link opens a list of all versions of the vision that are currently on the Joseph Smith Papers website, any of which users can then navigate to. This feature will appear on every document for which there is more than one version on the website, including minute books, journals, revelations, and so forth. If users are looking at something other than the featured version (which has a historical introduction and annotation), the “Additional Versions” link will point them back to the featured version (denoted by an asterisk); see here, for example. Note that not all versions are currently available on the website, but in the future we hope to make all versions accessible.

 

Call for Papers: Joseph Smith Papers Conference 2019

On October 11, 2019, the Joseph Smith Papers will host a conference in Salt Lake City. The conference will focus on the history of Joseph Smith and the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, from September 1839 to April 1842. We invite proposals for papers that engage with the theme “Joseph Smith’s Expanding Visions and the Practical Realities of Establishing Nauvoo.” See here for additional details.