Preserved through years of toil, travel, and persecution, The Joseph Smith Papers provide answers to questions about early Church history.
Joseph Smith once told a congregation, “You don’t know me—and you never will.” Joseph’s life may remain a mystery to some, but The Joseph Smith Papers —a vast collection of revelations, journals, meeting minutes, and other documents kept by the Saints—answer questions about the restored church and its first prophet.
The introduction to The Joseph Smith Papers was coauthored by Richard Lyman Bushman, author of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, and by Dean Jessee, the world’s leading expert on Joseph Smith’s papers. Both of these authors were founding members and general editors of the Joseph Smith Papers project, and both continue serving as members of its National Advisory Board.
In their introduction, they write that “the publication of [these] papers will permit readers to observe the origins of this resilient religious culture and throw light on the achievements—and the complexity—of its intrepid founder.”
Some of the issues recorded in the papers answer common questions regarding the early Church. Here is a sample of four questions and answers.
- How was the name for the Relief Society chosen?
Emma Smith chose the word “relief” for the organization, as recorded in the minutes of the first Relief Society meeting.
- How did Joseph Smith obtain the Egyptian papyri that contained the Book of Abraham?
Saints in Kirtland, Ohio, bought the papyri in July 1835, as recorded by William W. Phelps.
- How many different accounts did Joseph Smith give of the First Vision?
Joseph Smith and his scribes wrote five versions of the vision.
- How was the Book of Mormon translated?
Joseph Smith used various methods to translate the Book of Mormon, and some contemporaries kept a record of the process.
The Joseph Smith Papers include thousands of pages of information, and it can sometimes be hard to find what you’re looking for. Two good places to start are the search bar at the top of the home page and the “Finding Aids” section, which organizes information topically.
Read Richard Lyman Bushman and Dean C. Jessee’s full essay, “Joseph Smith and His Papers: An Introduction.”
Source: The Joseph Smith Papers
—Angela Marler, Mormon Insights
Photo courtesy of LDS Media Library
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