“Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.,” July 1839
JS, “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.,” in Times and Seasons (Commerce, IL), July 1839, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 2–9; edited by and ; includes typeset signature. The copy used for transcription is currently part of a bound volume held at CHL.
The eight-page article is the second item in the first number of the Times and Seasons. This issue comprises eight leaves, making sixteen pages that measure 8⅝ x 5¼ inches (22 x 13 cm). The text on each page is set in two columns. It is unknown how long this copy of this issue of the Times and Seasons has been in church custody.
The historical account contained in “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.” was composed in the aftermath of the 1838 armed conflict between the Latter-day Saints and other Missourians, a struggle that culminated in the incarceration of JS and the expulsion of the Saints from the . On 20 March 1839, from the in , Missouri, JS wrote to the Saints instructing them to document “all the facts and suffering and abuses put upon them by the people of this state and also of all the property and amount of damages which they have sustained.” A month later, on 16 April, JS escaped from the custody of Missouri lawmen, and on 22 April he was reunited with the Mormon exiles in , Illinois. Within days he arranged extensive land purchases for Mormon settlement at nearby , Illinois, and across the in . JS himself was among the initial Latter-day Saints to relocate to Commerce in May 1839. On 4 June 1839, during a visit to Quincy, JS created a record of his own Missouri losses, titled “Bill of Damages against the state of Missouri.” Written in the handwriting of JS’s recently appointed clerk, , the bill of damages was created as a petition to the federal government for redress, and it became the basis of “Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.,” published in July 1839. The reference to a “private journal” in the title notwithstanding, the article was not in fact based on a journal source; JS’s bill of damages is the only known manuscript source. The manuscript is much more than a simple bill of damages, however, and the historical narrative it contains bridges the chronological gap between JS’s last Missouri journal and his first journal.
After an introduction stating that JS encountered enmity from the moment of his arrival in in March 1838, “Extract, from the Private Journal” covers most of the significant episodes in the Missouri conflict. The first specific historical event is the siege of the Mormon settlement at in Carroll County. The article then narrates the subsequent conflict around in Daviess County, the battle at with militia from , and the siege at in Caldwell County. Also recounted are JS’s capture, imprisonment, and indictment, as well as the exodus of the Latter-day Saints to . The narrative draws to a close with JS’s escape and his flight from Missouri. Where the bill of damages ends with a list of losses and sufferings for which remuneration is sought, the “Extract” concludes with an address to the American people at large, appealing to the principles of liberty and justice.
“Extract, from the Private Journal of Joseph Smith Jr.” was published in the first issue of the church newspaper Times and Seasons. The prospectus published at the end of the issue declared that the newspaper would provide “a history of the unparallelled persecution, which we, as a people, received in ”; the lead article in the issue, an “Address” from the editors, similarly announced that the newspaper’s mission included publication of “a detailed history of the persecution and suffering” experienced in Missouri. “Extract, from the Private Journal” directly follows, taking up half of the issue’s sixteen pages. Times and Seasons editors and printed only about two hundred copies of the July 1839 issue before a malaria epidemic left them debilitated. Months later they published a reprint of the first issue, including JS’s “Extract,” under a November 1839 date. JS’s account of Missouri sufferings constituted part of a new genre of Mormon historical writing, and in the next issue, the Times and Seasons began publishing an eleven-part series on the Saints’ Missouri persecutions.
JS’s bill of damages was revised for publication as the “Extract” sometime between 4 June 1839, when the bill of damages was composed, and 12 July, when recorded “looking over the proof sheet of the first number of the Times & seasons.” JS returned to from on 5 June and remained in the area until 12 July, except for a 15–26 June journey through western . Therefore, JS’s narrative of persecutions was likely revised in Commerce between 5 and 14 June or between 27 June and 12 July. The first issue of the Times and Seasons was probably published within a few days of 12 July, the day Wilford Woodruff helped check the proof sheet.
The first two-thirds of the “Extract” was based closely on “Bill of Damages,” with only minor editorial changes. The changes softened some of the manuscript’s more strident rhetoric, omitted particulars regarding JS’s personal losses, and added details to emphasize the suffering of the Saints. Significant differences between the two documents are explained in footnotes herein. The final section of the article, which did not come from the bill of damages, may have been dictated or written by JS, perhaps with help from clerical assistants , , and . The published “Extract” was disseminated to Saints throughout the nation via the newspaper, and the document shaped their memory of the persecution in and their pattern for rehearsing it. JS clearly intended to reach not only the Latter-day Saints subscribing to the church newspaper but also the greater American public. As part of JS’s effort to gain sympathy in the court of public opinion, this document became part of the broadening agenda of gaining redress for grievances suffered in Missouri.
JS et al., Liberty, MO, to the church members and Edward Partridge, Quincy, IL, 20 Mar. 1839, in Revelations Collection, CHL [D&C 123:1–2]. In a letter to the church written three months earlier, JS had reflected on some of the causes leading to the expulsion. (JS, Liberty, MO, to “the church,” Caldwell Co., MO, 16 Dec. 1838, JS Collection, CHL.)
Revelations Collection, 1831–ca. 1844, 1847, 1861, ca. 1876. CHL. MS 4583.
Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL. MS 155.
The last entry in JS’s September–October 1838 journal is 5 October 1838. On that day, JS left Far West, Missouri, with a detachment of Mormon men to reinforce the besieged Saints in De Witt, Missouri; after an introductory overview, JS’s “Bill of Damages” begins with the De Witt conflict. The bill ends with JS’s escape from his captors on 16 April 1839 and his arrival in Quincy, Illinois, on 22 April 1839; the first two entries in JS’s 1839 journal resume JS’s journal keeping precisely at this point.
It appears that there were three printings of the first issue of the Times and Seasons: the first in July; the second in November, from the same typesetting; and a third sometime thereafter, from a new setting of the text. The third printing, perhaps issued to satisfy increasing demand for the newspaper, retained the November 1839 date. Although minor spelling and punctuation changes appear in the later printings of the “Extract,” no changes were made to the wording. (See Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 1:94–95.)
Crawley, Peter. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. 3 vols. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997–2012.
JS’s journal records that he was “dictating History” 10–14 June and 3–5 July 1839, which may have included the historical narrative in the “bill of damages” along with his ongoing work on a complete history of the church. (JS, Journal, 10–14 June and 3–5 July 1839.)
from the private journal of
JOSEPH SMITH JR.
On the fourteenth day of March, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and thirty eight, I with my family, arrived in , Caldwell county Missouri, after a journey of more than one thousand miles, in the winter season, and being about eight weeks on our Journey; during which we suffered great affliction, and met with considerable persecution on the road. However, the prospect of meeting my friends in the west, and anticipating the pleasure of dwelling in peace, and enjoying the blessings thereof, buoyed me up under the difficulties and trials which I had then to endure. However, I had not been there long before I was given to understand that plots were laid, by wicked and designing men, for my destruction, who sought every opportunity to take my life; and that a company on the Grindstone forks of , in the county of , had offered the sum of one thousand dollars for my scalp: persons of whom I had no knowledge whatever, and who, I suppose, were entire strangers to me; and in order to accomplish their wicked design, I was frequently waylaid &c.; consequently, my life was continually in jeopardy.
I could hardly have given credit to such statements, had they not been corroborated by testimony, the most strong and convincing; as shortly after my arrival at , while watering my horse in , I distinctly heard three or four guns snap, which were undoubtedly intended for my destruction; however, I was mercifully preserved from those who sought to destroy me, by their lurking in the woods and hiding places, for this purpose
My enemies were not confined alone, to the ignorant and obscure, but men in office, and holding situations under the of the , proclaimed themselves my enemies, and gave encouragement to others to destroy me; amongst whom, was , of the fifth Judicial circuit, who has frequently been heard to say, that I ought to be beheaded on account of my religion[.] Expressions such as these, from individuals holding such important offices as ’s, could not fail to produce, and encourage persecution against me, and the people with whom I was connected. And in consequence of the prejudice which existed in the mind of this , which he did not endeavor to keep secret, but made it as public as he could, the people took every advantage they possibly could, in abusing me, and threatening my life; regardless of the laws, which [p. 2]
JS’s bill of damages notes that expenditures for the journey amounted to “about two hundred dollars.” JS later recounted that tavern keepers in Paris, Illinois, had combined to deny the Latter-day Saints lodging, which JS and others secured for their families only after threatening the use of force. (JS, Journal, 29 Dec. 1842; see also JS, Journal, 29 Mar. 1838.)