Joseph Smith Papers Project: Documents Volume 2

Volume editors Matthew Godfrey and Mark Ashurst-McGee with some original documents that were included in the Documents series of the Joseph Smith Papers Project

The second volume of the Joseph Smith Papers (JSP) “Documents” series has been released.  At an announcement event this month, the editors noted the Documents series lies at the core of the JSP project. The 2nd Documents volume contains materials written between July 1831 and January 1833, beginning with the announcement that Jackson County was the central gathering place for the saints. Jackson County continues as the primary theme for the period covered in this volume.  Questions of who is in charge of what locale, procedure, migration, various difficulties encountered, and some insight into Joseph Smith’s personal side are among the topics covered.

The introduction to this volume overviews the history covered by the documents. It is insightful, and as a scholarly work, is objective in its approach, avoiding apologetic interpretation of history. The presentation of the documents, editing, interpretative text and aides are done at a high standard, continuing the tradition of quality set by the JSP project.

About 2/3rds of the documents are revelations which are presented in their earliest available form. Several previously unpublished revelations are included. Theological developments are particularly apparent in sections 76, 84 & 88.

Efforts were taken to closely inspect the physical documents, with editors noting details such as Joseph Smith’s finger prints. An X-ray analysis was done to identify different inks which demonstrated that some documents were not always signed when first authored, and in one case the technique was used to identify an incorrect dating of a revelation (January 5th, 1833 as opposed to 1834).

Signatures of major church history figures included in JSPP docs v.3

Signatures of major church history figures

The editors pointed out that recent adjustments to sections of the Doctrine and Covenants were informed by research done for the Documents volumes. Justification for those changes can be found in the volumes.

The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents, Vol. 2: July 1831 – January 1833 was edited by Matthew Godfrey, Mark  Ashurst-McGee, Grant Underwood, Robert J. Woodford, and William J. Hartle.

Forthcoming JSP Volumes

A fiery mishap destroyed the 1st print run of Volume 1 of the Documents series, delaying it until recently. It is now available along with volume 2. The 3rd volume should be available next fall, followed by the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon (2 volumes) and then the 3rd and final Journals volume covering the latter part of Joseph Smith’s life in Nauvoo.

A recent exciting announcement that the First Presidency has granted permission to publish the Quorum of Fifty minutes has the JSP team adjusting their publishing schedule trying to fit this volume in sooner rather than later.  Previously unavailable to researchers, these minutes will shed further light on Joseph Smith’s efforts in the final months of his life.


It was pointed out that the JSP website is updated quarterly with new materials. The most recent ‘release’ includes important historical materials including:

  • Kirtland Egyptian Papers
  • Lucy Mac Smith history documents
  • Manuscript History of the Church C3 (3rd volume)
  • Joseph Smith correspondence through 1841
  • Joseph Smith journals  (that have been published so far by the JSP project)
  • First Vision accounts

Next quarter, additions to the website will include the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar, and four reports of the King Follet Discourse.


Joseph Smith Papers Project: Documents Volume 2 — 4 Comments

  1. Thanks for the write-up, Clair. Apart from the actual publications, the entire project is obviously building a lot of capacity and credibility for the Church History Department. I think the changes seen in the new postings at Gospel Topics in, such as the Race and the Priesthood article that is getting so much attention, are one result of that new institutional capacity.

  2. When the announcement was made that the minutes of the Council of Fifty would be incorporated into the JSPP I had heard a number of people stating that their inclusion would only be in the form of limited excerpts used as footnotes for other related documents. Can anyone speak about this? Are there plans to publish the minutes in toto?

  3. Yes Dave, I believe you’re correct. Things have changed at the church, with the Joseph Smith Papers not only as a growing intellectual resource, but in influence. I believe some of them have been consulted in the new gospel topics articles, for example.

    NoCoolName_Tom, currently the JSP people are using the Q-50 material as supplemental material for the volumes currently being worked on. However their plans are to publish a dedicated JSP volume containing the Q-50 minutes from the Nauvoo era.

  4. Hi Clair,

    Great overview.

    FYI, the Egyptian Alphabet and Grammar (a.k.a. “Grammar & A[l]phabet of the Egyptian Language”) has been available on the JSPP site for some time. See here…

    Kind regards,