Joseph Smith Papers Project, Histories Volume 2

An announcement of The Joseph Smith Papers: Histories Volume 2, Assigned Histories, 1831-1847 edited by Karen Lynn Davidson, Richard L. Jensen and David J. Whittaker (volume editors) was made Sept. 25, 2012 at a blogger event. Some key members of the team working on this volume made remarks. Following are my notes of their comments.

2nd and final volume of the Joseph Smith ‘Histories’ series

Karen Davidson (volume editor)

The previous and current volume of the Histories series largely covers the same period of time, with volume 2 covering history from 1831 to 1847. The first volume includes materials in which Joseph Smith was directly involved. Volume 2 includes four histories assigned by Joseph Smith to others, over which he exercised no control. These assignments were to compose history, not just collect documentary material.


1. John Whitmer’s history was originally mandated in 1831. He probably took notes early on, but he did not start writing his history until after 1835 (his references to revelations include references to the 1835 D&C rather than earlier published revelations).

Whitmer went on to finish his history after his 1838 excommunication, and he ignored requests by the church for his notes. His anger towards Joseph Smith is evident in his writings.

Several pages that were torn from the back of the history have not been recovered. This volume has been printed twice before, and is familiar to the historical community. The Community of Christ was very helpful with this history.

2. W. W. Phelps was an editor of the Evening and Morning Star newspaper. It was thought that a history of the church would make the paper more interesting.  He fulfilled a request for such an article which is the shortest of the histories in this volume, appearing in 1833 in the Evening and Morning Star.

3. John Corrill was assigned to write a history in 1838 to replace the excommunicated John Whitmer as an assigned historian. Corrill later became disaffected with Joseph Smith, but still published his history. It includes his own personalized statement for joining and leaving church.

Corrill is the best writer of the histories. His sorrow over the direction of the church is evident in his writings. He felt Joseph Smith’s claim of prophetic leadership was empty. This history has not been previously published, and is the most anticipated piece in this volume.

Not a lot is known about Corrill, but we do know he was involved in a number of church endeavors. His disaffection was, in part, likely due to his independent thinking, his knowledge regarding the bible, and his probable higher level of education.

4. Edward Partridge. From liberty jail, Joseph Smith asked Bishop Partridge to write a history of the persecutions of the church. Three installments were published in the Times and Seasons newspaper. Before the installments were completed Partridge passed away. The editors included additional installments from others to complete the story.


Davidson talked about why the Joseph Smith Papers project included histories antagonistic to the church (by Whitmer & Corrill). She said it was important to include them in order to maintain the credibility of the project as a scholarly enterprise. She issued a challenge to bloggers to explain why these antagonistic histories can be beneficial to members of the church.

Davidson also notes that Richard Jensen put together a useful chronology sorting out the confusing series of events in Missouri. An index covering both volumes is also included.


Richard Jensen, Nathan Wait and Karen Lynn Davidson discuss the new volume

Richard Jensen (volume editor)

Bishop Edward Partridge was in a good position to write about Joseph Smith and record the injustices the saints had suffered, although his account is biased in favor of the church.

He traces the escalating history of hostile attitudes towards the church.  In the spring of 1832, a county-wide meeting in Jackson County was called to discuss how Missourians could rid the county of the Mormons. Nothing materialized due to intervention by certain patriotic individuals including Marsden Clark, an Indian agent who confronted the Missouri settlers. Partridge said Clark stood up for the constitutional rights of a minority.

In 1833, hostilities resurfaced.  Some Mormons were given the option to denounce the church and continue to live peaceable in Jackson County. Some took the settlers up on that option and were not molested.

Partridge died in the spring of 1840 and only three installments of his history were published in the church paper, the Times and Seasons. The editors may have written a bridge summary, filling a history gap, followed by excerpts of Parley P. Pratt writings about persecutions. Pratt repeatedly calls the Missourians robbers. He talks of the problems of voting in Gallatin, and the siege of DeWitt, and the Saints’ exodus from there.

Writings by Rigdon were also included to fill in the narrative. He states that by the advice of Alexander Doniphan and General Parks, the saints took the offensive in Davis County to prevent themselves from being driven out. There are some issues with Rigdon’s account (which are discussed in the volume by the editors).

The narrative then switches back to Pratt regarding the battle of Crooked River and through the Far West confrontation with the militia. Pratt is then taken prisoner with Joseph Smith in Liberty Jail.

Rigdon account continues from this point with the extermination order by Missouri Governor Boggs, the surrender of Far West, and the court martial ordering the execution of Joseph Smith.  The editors take issue with a lengthy footnote by B. H. Roberts in the History of the Church regarding the execution ordered by the court martial.

Rigdon then goes on to tell of the Hauns Mill Massacre, using affidavits by some Saints which were to be used for the appeal to congress. The last episode of this history has to do with a speech by General John B. Clark.

Pratt & Rigdon’s narratives are not included in the volume.


Nathan Wait regarding online data (Associate Production Manager)

Documents are on the website related to the materials published in this volume. The A1 and B1 histories are now on the website, with C1 planned by the end of the year. Eventually the full set of these histories will be online.

Also online is Edward Partridge’s manuscript, which came from the First Presidency (along with Revelations Book 1).

Yesterday morning six Book of Abraham documents were published, the 1835 Hymn Book, and a comparison of versions of revelations. Biographical data continues to be added over time.

Coming soon on website is Joseph Smith’s 2nd letterbook and more Egyptian documents. Improvements to the search engine will occur over the next month as well.

Notes from Q&A about the overall Joseph Smith Papers Project

All sustentative sermons of JS will be eventually printed. However, minor items such as just mentioning that he gave a sermon will not be included.

The printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon will be done in facsimile style, similar to Revelations Book 1.

It is still undecided if the Council of 50 Minutes will be included in any forthcoming volume.

Next year, two “Documents” volumes will be published, likely in the fall. Eventually the Documents volumes will make up about half of the entire set.

The following videos about this volume are now available:


Joseph Smith Papers Project, Histories Volume 2 — 4 Comments

  1. The Whitmer and Corril histories were not included in order to maintain the credibility of the project as a scholarly enterprise. They were included because they met the criteria for the contents of Histories, volume 2. Nothing more, nothing less. The credibility issue is just a fringe benefit.

  2. I spoke to two editors about the Council of 50 minutes at a conference recently. One was uncomfortable and said we don’t know but maybe sometime.

    The other was very forthright and said that they had made the request not to publish anything in them, but just to take a look at them to verify the date of Joseph’s last charge. The request was denied.

    I hope we will get to see them soon, but hard to be optimistic when the editors haven’t even seen them yet.

    I hope that the replacement of the very open and transparent Elder Jensen doesn’t affect the possibility of these coming forth. I’d love to see them included as they would be the last thing held back antagonists could accuse the Church of hiding.

    Does anyone involved in the project anticipate that they will be printed?

  3. I’m trying to be optimistic about it. I can understand that the church wouldn’t want to have people accessing them during a Romney candidacy or presidency, so I’m hoping that the restriction will be lifted after Romney loses or ends his term.