Spring along the Mississippi River is the most pleasant time of year. It is shockingly green. The air is not yet oppressive. Everything feels alive and smells deeply fecund. The pests are not out in full. I don’t know if Joseph Smith was inspired by his environment, but the spring of 1842 in Nauvoo is among the greatest seasons in the history of the Latter-day Saints. Like all things ecological, it is also so very complicated; but the recorders did inscribe at least some details in a book that was a nexus between times and spheres. And the Joseph Smith Papers editors have brought us into that space with the publication of the second volume of the Journals series.
Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith, and Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds., Journals, Volume 2: December 1841-April 1843 in THE JOSEPH SMITH PAPERS, general editors Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011). xl, 558 pp. Cloth: $54.95; ISBN: 978-1-60908-737-1.Volume Introduction
After the forward matter common to the Joseph Smith Papers is the introduction, designed to briefly bridge the time where Journals 1 left off in 1839 to the next extant journal, a period of three years. The editors also seek to contextualize some of the material important to that three years and then the seventeen months covered in Journals 2 (J2). Both Joseph Smith (JS) and the Church experienced several significant (and sometimes controversial) events, transitions and transformations during this period. The introduction carves out roughly paragraph subsections to briefly contextualize a selection of these items, and the January 19, 1841 (D&C 124) revelation acts as a bridge to J2 material.
The first of these subjects is the Nauvoo House, the importance of which as evidenced in the journal content (e.g., 369-370) may be unknown to many readers. The second is the Nauvoo Temple. I found the treatment of the temple to be unfortunately weak, focusing a single paragraph on superficial ideas of its liturgical importance and another on baptism for the dead, citing only Paul and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism on the ancient evidence for the practice. I am cognizant of my bias, and I understand the introductory constraints, but the temple (and its quorum) was central to JS’s cosmology, liturgy, preaching, and succession. It bridged life and death, both physically and spiritually. Many of the entries of the spring of 1842 require this context to be understood. It is possible, however, that editors reserved a more complete discussion of the temple to be included with Journals 3, the content of which more explicitly incorporates related materials.
I was glad to see a paragraph on the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo and think many observers were encouraged to see that JS’s participation in Freemasonry acknowledged. Two subjects receive relatively extensive treatment, namely polygamy and John C. Bennett. I think that both of these sections are rather odd. The material covered in polygamy is exciting inasmuch as a volume promoted by church-owned booksellers acknowledges some of the details of its practice and controversy in Joseph Smith’s life. However, with the editors’ understandable preference for source materials betrayed only to point to Bushman, it is a summary that doesn’t quite achieve the lofty and desirable goal of introducing Nauvoo polygamy to the reader while at the same time failing to contextualizing actual entries in the volume. For example, the revelation on polygamy which Joseph Smith received during the period covered in J2 [n1] is only cited as documentation of a particular plural marriage. Note that in Journals 1, editors promised a list of Joseph Smith wives to be included in a forthcoming volume. While J2 does mention several of JS’s wives by name, a full list is not included. I do understand that it is still on the docket for future publication, however.
John C. Bennett, the First Presidency member, Nauvoo Mayor, sociopath, and eventual excommunicant, looms over a very many journal entries. Much of the Bennett section is helpful, but the editors appear to be trying to sweep the proverbial leg, perhaps in an effort to undermine his credibility as a source or to help Mormon readers process such a grand failure of JS’s confidence. Most intriguingly, the editors also suggest that a letter to Nancy Rigdon commonly attributed to JS and even included in such orthodox compilations as Joseph Fielding Smith’s Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith may likely be a fabrication (xxix note 7; cf., 55 note 209). I understand that it will be included in the documents series, but this new criticism will have important ramifications due to the letter’s wide use.Documents
The content in J2 is derived from two major documents: The Book of the Law of the Lord, and the journal kept for JS by Willard Richards. The Book of the Law of Lord is particularly interesting as it served as a sort of cosmic record in explicit recapitulation of the Dueteronomists’ Book of the Law of God. It fulfilled the commandment to keep a record for heaven and earth. Its “sacred pages” (117) comprise a handful of revelations, and journal entries kept by recorder-scribes (one of which was Eliza R. Snow), punctuated with grand testaments to faithful people close to the prophet. It was also the ur-ledger for consecration and tithing. The document, like Revelations Book 1, has been in the custody of the First Presidency and like Jessee’s earlier edition, [n2] only the journal entry materials are included in J2. The balance of the material is currently restricted, but is analyzed in a forthcoming article by editor Alex Smith. That the entire document was not included in J2 may give some pause about the willingness of the project to fully disclose all JS materials; the reality is, however, that that the exclusion of donation lists from a Journals volume is tremendously reasonable. I think that the complete transcript of the Book of the Law of the Lord would be wonderful, and perhaps it may yet be included in the papers. The earliest extant version of all revelations will nevertheless be published in the Documents series.
The second source is a series of four small 16 cm x 10 cm memorandum books titled “President Joseph Smith’s Journal.” These are viewed as a single document by the JSPP and the document introduction in J2 is titled: “Journal, December 1842—June 1844,” (185) which made me look twice as J2 only contains material up through April, 1843. It is this perspective—viewing the four volumes as a contiguous document—that allows the editors to end J2 after only two months of entries from the second volume. This journal is more quotidian than the Law of the Lord, lacking the cosmological heft. It is more simply the journal of the Church President; nevertheless, it is still replete with important and interesting information.
The journal entries in this volume are variously moving, idiosyncratic, exciting and off-putting. We see a prophet who brags of physical violence and writes uncomfortably desperate letters to an eastern newspaper man; yet I was endeared to him as he slept on the couch night after night, and preached extraordinary and inspirational sermons. We see a prophet on the lam, and the detailed correspondence and plotting to evade extradition to Missouri. We see a prophet struggling to share his revelation.
Having read the content of the journals previously, I was very impressed with the presentation in J2, and saw things that I hadn’t seen before. Whereas the spring of 1842 is particularly rich with its April 28, May 1, and May 4 discourses, I also think that the sermon and subsequent Sunday meeting in April, 1843, when JS gathers the newly arrived British Saints to instruct them is a key moment for understanding Smith and his Church. It is a window into what was important to JS and his ruminations of faith and death, though somewhat lacking resonance to the modern believer, are saturated with pathos and insight (353-361). Beyond this, scattered throughout the journals are bits of thought and lived religion on diverse topics waiting to be integrated into grand narratives. I recognize that this is the type of content most interesting to me; other readers and researchers will find the extended legal materials to be of most value, pages of which I read without marking notes.
The editors have also gathered an impressive collection of images which enliven the heavily annotated text. The images of manuscript text are difficult to read, but everything else compliments and contextualizes nicely. Examples include the painting of a post-martyrdom Brigham Young grasping the Book of the Law of the Lord (366), the architectural renderings of the Tomb of Joseph (118), and the drawings of perihelia from JS’s journal (311 and 315).
One of the lasting contributions of the JSPP generally will be their highly meticulous transcription process. In the case of Willard Richard’s holograph materials this is particularly evident. J2 is an enormous improvement over Faulring’s typesctipt as presented in An American Prophet’s Record. [n3] There are sometimes examples of dramatic divergences, but even subtle improvements can be very important. For example, the March 2, 1842 entry documents a medical malpractice suit before the Mayoral Court. In one particular argument, J2 editors correctly render the name of a person used as a legal example as “Rush,” where Faulring transcribe “Brink,” the name of the defendant in the case. This correction markedly improves the coherence of the argument (281). In that same trial, J2 editors transcribe the judge’s requirement for “virodirce [voire dire?]” instead of Faulring’s “vis a vis” (282).
As with previous volumes, J2 is closer to a diplomatic transcription than most published editions. Richards’ January 5, 1843 report of Judge Pope’s extradition ruling is particularly abbreviated. Judge Pope published his ruling, and may have referred to these notes (Appendix I, 394). [n4] Faulring reproduced large swaths of the published ruling in his transcript of the entry, more than tripling the text in some sections and organized the material into paragraphs. J2, by contrast reproduces only Richards’ entry (note that here again, there are important divergences from Faulring’s transcript). While appearing more broken or disjointed, and perhaps more difficult to follow, J2 allows readers to approach the text instead of an interpretation of it.Annotation
The depth of the editors’ familiarity with every imaginable feature of the journals and their context is really quite astonishing. The amount of extant records documenting events in Nauvoo is orders of magnitude over those sources for the earliest years of the church and the editors consistently and meticulously explicate the legal, and financial context for the often sparse entries. They have ferreted out the most obscure references to people and places. In contrast, the editors are frequently not generous when presenting items of liturgical, theological, or religious significance. [n5] Biblical allusions are generally but not always indicated. And while I understand the desire to focus on primary documents for context, sometimes the events are so complicated or heavy that readers not familiar with the secondary literature will simply miss enormous chunks of JS’s life just under the surface of the entries.
An important and intriguing aspect of the editors’ annotation is the frequent reference to, and summation or reproduction of several items long unavailable to researchers. The William Clayton journal is often cited and is particularly important to documenting JS’s life (see REVIEW APPENDIX I, below). The Nauvoo Quorum of the Twelve minutes are also a frequent referent, as well as the Nauvoo High Council minutes. [n6] As a researcher, I hope that the incorporation of these sources into the JSPP volumes is indicative of future accessibility.
The bibliography is uneven in the sense that sometimes more accessible versions, whether digital reproductions of the holograph or manuscript, as in Selected Collections or a published typescript, are mentioned and at other times they are not. [n7]
In addition to the journals, J2 includes two appendices of supplemental information. In both cases the materials are transcribed without annotation, lengthy introduction, or provenance. Appendix 1 is a compilation of documents relating to the attempted extradition of JS to Missouri. Several of the twelve items included in this section are from the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, and while there are copies in the traditional Mormon repositories, it is nice to have transcripts of the originals accessible. These items include:
- Liburn W. Boggs, Affidavit, July 20, 1842.
- Thomas Reynolds, Requisition, July 22, 1842.
- Thomas Carlin, Proclamation, September 20, 1842.
- Joseph Smith, Petition for New Arrest Warrant, December 31, 1842.
- Arrest Warrant, December 31, 1842.
- Joseph Smith, Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, December 31, 1842.
- Writ of Habeas Corpus, December 31, 1842.
- Joseph Smith, Affidavit, January 2, 1843.
- Wilson Law and Others, Affidavit, January 4, 1843.
- Jacob B. Backenstos and Stephen A. Douglas, Affidavit, January 4, 1843.
- Court Ruling, January 5, 1843.
- Thomas Ford, Order Discharging Joseph Smith, January 6, 1843.
Appendix II is a transcript of William Clayton’s journal entries for April 1-4, 1843. The textual history for all of the post-Nauvoo Nauvoo-era additions to the Doctrine and Covenants is interesting. However, section 130 wins the prize for the most complicated. Bill Smith has the best write up of this history, but the summary is that William Clayton traveled with JS from April 1-4, 1843, and when he returned, Willard Richards, who was not there, used Clayton’s diary as the source for JS’s diary for the period. Historians in Utah later combined the Clayton and JS diaries to make the “Manuscript History” account covering these days. In the early 1870s, Orson Pratt then extracted the text of what is now section 130 from the “Manuscript History.” The most accurate account of JS’s teachings—Clayton’s journal—however, has not been available to researchers for some time (See REVIEW APPENDIX I, below). Consequently, the inclusion of a JSPP quality transcript of this section of Clayton’s journal is a tremendous boon to scholars, and, one hopes, an indicator to the availability of the journal more broadly in the future.Conclusion
Twenty years ago Dean Jessee published the second volume of the Papers of Joseph Smith–Smith’s journals up through 1842. The final year and a half of journals was to be next. With J2 we only have the first four months of 1843; we have a few more years to wait for the last fifteen months. Yet we have them and it has been worth the wait. In two decades we have seen the complete reconceptualization of the Joseph Smith Papers Project, and a level of professionalized precision that flirts with the incredible. It includes generous reference materials documenting civil and religious leadership, biographical details and local cartography. Journals 2 maintains the highest standards of the project’s preceding releases, while incorporating the vast and complex available context of the Nauvoo period.
- Joseph Smith, Revelation, July 27, 1842, MS 4583, Box 1, fd. 104, in Richard E. Turley, ed., Selected Collections from the Archives of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2 vols., DVD (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, [December 2002], 1:19.
- Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, Volume 2: Journals, 1832-1842 (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1992).
- Scott H. Faulring, ed., An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, 2nd ed. (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989).
- For an early copy of the decission in Willard Richards’ handwriting, see, Pope Decision, January 5, 1843, Joseph Smith Collection, 1827-1844, MS 155, box 4 folder 13, Selected Collections, 1:20.
- E.g., a quick review of the religious significance of perihelia would have been helpful to many readers of pp. 314-317. And I should probably get over the idea that baptism for the dead was only one of three baptismal rituals performed in the temple font will get much traction.
- The latter is available in less-than-critical editions. Fred C. Collier, ed., The Nauvoo High Council Minute Book (Hannah, Utah: Collier’s Publishing, 2005); John S. Dinger, ed., The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2011). Note that while the Dinger volume claims that the Nauvoo City Minutes are restricted at the CHL, they are not.
- In one aberrant lapse of standards, the editors cite an unreliable typescript instead of the holograph, viz., 199n62.
REVIEW APPENDIX I: The Nauvoo Journal of William Clayton
William Clayton was an early British convert with book-keeping experience. One year after he converted, Church leaders ordained him as a high priest and he served in the British mission presidency from 1838-1840, after which he emigrated to Nauvoo. In 1842 he began serving as Joseph Smith’s recorder and scribe. Clayton was privileged to observe Smith in the most important personal and institutional contexts. Clayton’s journal is the most detailed account of the last two years of Smith’s life. It is also the only contemporaneous account of many controversial aspects of that life: polygamy, the rift between Emma and Joseph over the topic, the temple quorum, the Council of Fifty, etc.
I am unfortunately unaware of the provenance of the Clayton journals. They were used by Church historians in the preparation of the “Manuscript History” in the 1850s and they appear to have landed, with many other important documents and items, in the personal papers of apostle and church historian, Joseph Fielding Smith. Smith eventually became Church President and a safe containing these papers became what is often referred to as the First Presidency vault. The materials archived by the First Presidency are outside of the purview of the LDS Church History Library and its registers are not public. [n1]
In the late 1970s the First Presidency granted access to several documents in their holding. It appears that three scholars received access to the Nauvoo era Clayton journals, namely James B. Allen, Andrew F. Ehat, and D. Michael Quinn. [n2] They each prepared typescripts of varying quality. As I understand it, Allen’s typescript is the most complete, with Ehat’s being the least, comprising approximately half of the holograph text. In my limited experience, Allen’s typescript is also the most accurate, with Quinn’s being the least. Each scholar used their typescripts for important scholarly contributions at the vanguard of the New Mormon History. [n3]
Ehat collaborated with Lyndon Cook on several projects, notably The Words of Joseph Smith [n4]. At the time, Ehat was a graduate student at BYU and Cook was on faculty. Ehat shared a copy of his Clayton typescript with Cook, who kept it in his office. As was common, his office was also used by student ward bishoprics. One bishopric member noticed the document, copied it, and circulated it fairly broadly. A copy eventually made it to the Tanners who published it. [n5] Lawsuits ensued. Ehat won, but the decision was overturned on appeal. [n6]
George Smith later edited the Ehat transcript and included it with publicly available Clayton journals and a transcript of a purloined copy of the Heber C. Kimball temple journal kept by Clayton in the widely cited, An Intimate Chronicle. [n7] Allen reviewed this volume and concluded that content selection of the Nauvoo journals was highly skewed, likely reflecting Ehat’s research interests. [n8]
Allen’s complete typescript has not been made publicly available beyond employees of the LDS Church History Library. However, in 2002 Allen published a revised and retitled version of his Clayton biography, which included an appendix of Clayton diary excerpts used as source material for the “Manuscript History,” which comes to most of us as the History of the Church. [n9] This appendix remains the only published transcripts of several important portions of the diary. For example before the release of J2, the source material for Section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants was only available in this appendix.
Quinn eventually donated his research papers to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University, his alma mater, and his Clayton typescript is open to researchers. An unidentified party accessed this material and released two small printings (50 and 100 volumes respectively) of Clayton’s Nauvoo diary. [n10] This volume apparently includes thirty percent more text than the Ehat transcript.
It is my understanding that the distribution of the Clayton diary was viewed by many within the Church hierarchy to be exploitative and a betrayal of trust. Since their release and until the JSP, no scholars have had access to the documents. This lack of access is a critical lacuna as scholars have, out of necessity, relied on less-than-critical (and less-than-legitimate) transcripts in the analyses of the most important aspects of Joseph Smith’s life.
- The most complete discussion of the “First Presidency’s vault” to date, including some of the spurious claims associated with it, is Richard E. Turley, Jr., Victims: The LDS Church and the Mark Hofmann Case (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992), index: “First Presidency—vault.” See also JSP, J2, 5 note 8; JSP, R1, 5 note 6; Jan Shipps and John W. Welch, eds., The Journals of William E. McLellin, 1831–1836 (Provo, Utah: BYU Studies/Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1994), xiii.
- While it is clear that Allen (and Dean Jessee) received access to the holograph journals, it is not clear whether Quinn and Ehat did or whether they worked from an existing typescript.
- All three published their earliest uses of the Clayton diary in BYU Studies articles. Perhaps the culmination of their respective work with the document is: James B. Allen, Trials of Discipleship: The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987); Andrew F. Ehat, “Joseph Smith’s Introduction of Temple Ordinances and the 1844 Mormon Succession Question” (MA thesis, Brigham Young University, 1982); D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994).
- Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith: The Contemporary Accounts of the Nauvoo Discourses of the Prophet Joseph (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, 1980).
- Clayton’s Secret Writings Uncovered: Extracts from the Diaries of Joseph Smith’s Secretary William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm, ).
- 780 F.2d 876, Tenth Circuit – Andrew F. Ehat, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jerald Tanner and Sandra Tanner, Modern Microfilm Company, Defendants-Appellants., US.FEDERAL.ca10.
- George D. Smith, ed., An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995).
- James B. Allen, “An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton [Book review],” BYU Studies 35, no. 2 (1995), 165-175. This review also includes more information on the publication history of Ehat’s transcript. See also the reprint of the review, with subsequent corresponding responses by Smith and Allen, “Editing William Clayton and Politics of Mormon History,” Dialogue 30 (Summer 1997): 129-156.
- James B. Allen, No Toil Nor Labor Fear: The Story of William Clayton (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2002), Appendix I.
- The Nauvoo Diaries of William Clayton, 1842-1846, Abridged (Salt Lake City: Privately Published, 2010). This volume was sold at Benchmark Books and was part of a series of short printing volumes based on the archival typescripts of yore, including The Diaries of Heber J. Grant, 1880-1945, Abridged and Minutes of the Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1835-1893.