Two of the General Editors of The Joseph Smith Papers Project team were kind enough to invite us to the official release of the fourth entry in the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers. Matthew J. Grow and Matthew C. Godfrey were there to talk about the production of the volume (Godfrey was also lead editor for Documents 4) future plans for the papers series and of course, volume 4.
Documents 4 covers the period from April 1834 to September 1835. Major events in Joseph Smith’s life and for the Church included Zion’s Camp, the successful printing of Joseph Smith’s revelations as the Doctrine and Covenants, and the establishment of new church administration bodies, the Twelve Apostles, and the Seventy, the financial preparation for, and construction of, the Kirtland House of the Lord, and the Book of Abraham. Documents 4 contains critical foundational documents relating to all these events.
Like the other volumes in the Joseph Smith Papers, Documents 4 features numerous contextual devices. I tend to get immersed in the documents themselves but the back matter of these volumes is a treasure of research, biographical and geographical directories, maps, source notes for multiple entry documents referenced in the volume, and all serve the complete range of readers from professional historians, to someone looking for the literature of faith.
The Documents series is the backbone of the Papers imprint, it will represent the largest number of volumes by far and the last volume of the Papers series will coincide with the final Documents volume, winding up Joseph Smith’s life. That should happen in 2022.
One thing that I failed to mention: the increasing online presence of the Papers project. Print volumes, including notes, front matter and back matter, and document introductions in the case of Documents series are presently scheduled to appear at JosephSmithPapers.org 18 months after volume printings. This is great news for researchers and others interested in early Mormonism.
The Papers project has assembled and developed a mountain of documentary expertise and one hopes that when 2022 rolls around, it won’t disappear. Have no fear. It looks like plans are in the works for more volumes like The First Fifty Years of Relief Society and the Journals of George Q. Cannon. To say nothing of possible new Papers projects. Anyone for Brigham Young? The massive amounts of Young documents would never allow for a complete imprint from the Church Historian’s Press. But the said online abilities developing with the JSP means that economies could work out. Stay tuned for that.
About 4,000 copies of Documents 4 are now in stores and warehouses. The modest print run means you’ll have to wait for any bargains to appear. The Project team has been working on breaking through the library ordering scheme for academic presses. That’s the only way to get the Papers volumes into research libraries worldwide. Part of the problem is that Church Historian’s Press is a new press. It’s hard to get into the automatic ordering cycle. Fortunately, some sponsors of the JSPP have made it possible to seed JSP volumes in libraries around the world.
 If you keep up with these sorts of things, general editorship of the Papers has changed hands over recent volumes. Journals 1 began things with Dean Jessee, Ron Esplin, and Richard Bushman. Jessee and Bushman were eventually replaced by Matt Grow, and then with this volume, Matthew Godfrey was added to the list of general editors. Godfrey has edited other volumes in the Papers.
The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Volume 4: April 1834—September 1835
Hardcover May 2016.
Matthew C. Godfrey, Brenden W. Resnik, Alex D. Smith, Max H. Parkin, Alexander L. Baugh.
The Church Historian’s Press, Salt Lake City, Utah