Thanks again to the crew of the JSPP for their participation. Part 1 available here.
Stapley: The Papers’ General Editors wrote in the introduction to Journals 1 that the project “gathered every known Joseph Smith document” for publication. I noticed in note 30 of page 61 that it indicated that several patriarchal blessings delivered by Joseph Smith will be published in future volumes. Will the Patriarchal Blessing Book have a volume of its own? Note 47 on page 67, which introduced the Kirtland Egyptian Papers (KEP), did not carry a similar indication. Will the KEP be published, and if not why would they not be considered a Joseph Smith Document? The Nauvoo Council of Fifty Minutes are another document that folks (myself included) have pointed to as not being definitively commented on for inclusion.
Mark: We classify the patriarchal blessings given by Joseph Smith Jr. as JS texts and will include them in the Documents series. Some of the KEP material has JS handwriting and therefore meets our criteria for document inclusion. So this material will also appear in the Documents series. Other KEP manuscripts do not contain JS’s handwriting and are of uncertain authorship. Because these documents do not meet our criteria they will not be included in the Documents series. It is possible that they will appear later down the road as auxiliary material in a Book of Abraham volume in the Revelations and Translations series. We haven’t gotten that far yet. Same with the Council of 50 minutes.
Robin: One of the most misunderstood aspects of our work derives from our document selection process. The Joseph Smith Papers is not a collection of documents about Joseph Smith (a documentary history) but a comprehensive collection of documents created by, for, or owned by Smith (a “papers project”). Some people are surprised when they find out we are not publishing the Hurlbut affidavits, for instance. This is not like Dan Vogel’s important Early Mormon Documents series. As a result we’re limited on the criteria we have implemented. When JS stops keeping records, we have a lull in the flow of documents we are publishing. The Book of Mormon translation period is the center of many reminiscent accounts, but almost nothing by way of contemporary documentation other than revelations. JS’s attempt at documenting “Zion’s Camp” failed and as a result we’re left with a very small number of letters and other documents. The latter half of 1836 and 1837 seems to be a “black hole” of record keeping for JS—I think you see the problem. If the document fits our criteria of a Joseph Smith document, we’ll publish it; if not, we won’t.
Stapley: I don’t think I understand the classification rubric used for inclusion. Why would the KEP, with which project JS was involved and portions of which were written by him, not be considered his papers, whereas a letter written by a scribe or ghostwriter might be?
Mark: Rather than being applied to a group of related documents, the classification rubric is applied individually on a document-by-document basis. The key criterion is authorship (liberally defined). We don’t know that JS should be considered an author of each document belonging to the KEP.
Robin: There are a range of definitions as to what might be considered a JS document—all centered on his involvement in the creation of the document. There is the obvious—a letter or other document that he himself conceived, wrote, and signed. Few documents meet this standard. Even Dean C. Jessee’s Personal Writings of Joseph Smith follows more liberal selection criteria. And The Joseph Smith Papers are far more liberal than that. But we do have to draw the line somewhere. We simply cannot publish everything which might have had some JS involvement. Let’s look at a few examples in order to get a feel for what we might include. JS conveyed his views on the national government to W. W. Phelps and assigned him to write them up for a publication, which then appeared under JS’s name. Although JS did not compose this document, he commissioned it and claimed it as his own. We will publish these types of documents (explaining in an introduction the commission and the ghost-writing). What about the Nauvoo City papers created under JS’s tenure as Mayor? Nauvoo city produced many documents during this period—some with direct involvement from JS and others because of law, policy, or other procedural workings of the government. The questions of authorship will be taken to each document, but the more JS is directly involved the better chance it will appear in our edition. JS wrote that the church should keep careful records of baptisms for the dead. Does this mean that all such records—which are still being created—are JS documents? JS instructed Mormon elders to keep journals. Does this make them JS documents? Of course not. The point is that there is a wide spectrum of what must be thought through and considered for inclusion. We’ve tried to consider everything and we’ve taken a liberal approach to selection, but we do have to draw the line somewhere. And, the burden of proof rests on the demonstration of JS authorship. Did JS have some kind of authorial oversight controlling the production of the various KEP documents? Or was it more of a collegial endeavor? We don’t know.
Stapley: You mentioned that the KEP portions would be included in the Documents series. I understand that the Revelations will appear there as well as in the Revelations and Translations series. Could you explain what exactly the Documents series is and how documents that appear there will be treated differently from the other series?
Mark: You can think of the Documents series as the master series of the edition. Imagine the entire corpus of Joseph Smith documents arranged in chronological order. Most of these documents can be dated with a single date or they can be dated to within a short period. And, most are relatively short: one to twenty pages in length. If you dipped into a section of this chronologically arranged collection, you might come across a letter followed by a revelation followed by another letter, followed by a written agreement, and so forth. However, a relatively small number of very large documents disrupt this document-to-document march through the days and months of JS’s life. The journals, the histories, and the record books—which might cover a year of JS’s life or more—don’t fit well in this arrangement. We have pulled these documents out of the Documents series and put them in the Journals series, the History series, and the Administrative Records series. The massive Book of Mormon will appear in the Revelations and Translations series. Also, while most of the legal documents are short, they make little sense if they are not gathered together with the other documents belonging to the same legal case, which might stretch over many years. So, rather than publishing the legal documents in the chronologically arranged Documents series, they will be gathered by case and published in the Legal and Business series.
Robin: The major difference between the revelations as they appear in the Documents series and in the Revelations and Translations series is how they are presented. The document series, as a chronological construct, treats the revelations in the order of their reception. In most cases, we don’t have the documents in which these revelations were initially inscribed. So we do a careful analysis of the extant versions to determine the most original. The text of this version then stands as the “copy text” for the original revelation and falls into the chronologically arranged Documents series by the date the revelation was originally received (not the date on which the best extant version was inscribed). In addition to arranging the revelations in this chronological order, the Documents series also places them in their original historical context. While the document’s source note will provide information regarding the provenance of the featured version, its historical introduction will provide the background and context of the revelation as originally received. This selection and annotation methodology applies throughout the Documents series—not just for the revelations. We are using the Revelations and Translations series to provide some special treatments for the revelations. Dean Jessee has described it as the crowning series of the JSP. The first volume—to be published this year—will include two extant manuscript revelation books, which contain most of the earliest known texts of the revelations. Whereas the individual revelations are the featured texts in the Documents series, in this volume the revelation books themselves will be the featured texts. The introductions, then, will concern the historical creation of the copy books, not the content of the individual revelations found therein. So, for information on the historical background of any single revelation one should consult the Documents series, while a researcher who needs more information on the documentary context may turn to the Revelations and Translations series.
Stapley: What future volumes are each of you working on and can you give us any insight as to what fun to expect in them?
Mark: I have been working on the third (and final) volume of the Journals series and on the first volume of the History series. The principle contribution of J3 will be the accuracy of the transcript. We just haven’t yet seen a great transcript (much of this thanks to the scrawling of Willard Richards). Consider, for example, the entry for 30 June 1843 as transcribed in a previously published edition of the journal. JS speaks of “One spiritual minded circuit Judge and several fit men” (Faulring, An American Prophet’s Record, 390). Our transcript is significantly different: “one spindle shanked circuit Judg[e] – & several fat men”. I think the principle contribution of H1, aside from the transcripts, will be the volume’s editorial information on the beginning of JS’s historical efforts and the larger context of early Mormon record keeping.
Robin: I too am working on the third volume of the Journals series. I am currently working on a very exciting volume which will coming out this year: the first volume of the Revelation and Translation series. This volume contains two manuscript revelation books. One of which—the so-called “Kirtland Revelation Book”—has been published in various media and quality in the past. The second manuscript revelation volume is actually the one composed first: the “Book of Commandments and Revelations,” which has never been published before. For most of the early JS revelations, this books contains the earliest extant versions, and it contains the only extant version of the so-called “Canadian copyright” revelation (see here). This is an exciting time for Mormon textual studies.