Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Joseph Smith Papers

Larry and I have recently been watching episodes of the TV series that was produced by KSL5 in Utah about the Joseph Smith Papers project and have been exploring the website that gives access to the documents that are being cataloged.

Here is some basic info about the project from the FAQ page at the website:

The Joseph Smith Papers Project is an effort to gather together all extant Joseph Smith documents and to publish complete and accurate transcripts of those documents with both textual and contextual annotation. All such documents will be published electronically on this website, and a large number of the documents will also be published in print. The print and electronic publications constitute an essential resource for scholars and students of the life and work of Joseph Smith, the early church, and nineteenth-century American religion. For the first time, all of Joseph Smith’s known surviving papers, which include many of the foundational documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, will be easily accessible in one place.
Producing a definitive, scholarly edition of Joseph Smith’s papers will allow increased and better scholarship on Joseph Smith and the early church. Scattered documents will be gathered into one source with both print and electronic components, and manuscripts of varying legibility will be carefully transcribed and verified. In addition to making the content of these documents more accessible, transcription and publication will help preserve these delicate documents, which are subject to the ravages of age and handling and to potential damage or loss.
Included among Joseph Smith’s papers are the earliest handwritten texts of the foundational documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, such as his revelations and translations. The Papers will provide insights into Smith’s life and times through his correspondence, journals, discourses, court cases, and business dealings. The edition will also include minutes of important church councils, reproductions of the Latter-day Saints’ scriptural canon as it existed during Smith’s lifetime, official histories, and records pertaining to church institutions that were under Smith’s direction or that reflect his personal instruction or involvement.
This comprehensive project will publish all known, accessible documents that meet the project’s criteria as Joseph Smith documents. The project has complete access to the library and archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and of the Community of Christ (formerly The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints). Some documents are in the possession of families or individual collectors, and to the extent that permission and access can be obtained, these will be published. All documents will be published electronically on this website, and a significant number of the documents will also be published in print.
The project can trace its roots to Joseph Smith himself, and collecting Smith’s papers continued after his death. In February 1846, the documents—then in possession of Brigham Young and other church leaders—were packed into two boxes for the westward trek from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the Salt Lake Valley. Over the following one hundred years, numerous volumes and articles were published that drew on these and other early historical documents.
The current effort to publish Smith’s papers began in the late 1960s—and continued in subsequent decades—with the work of Dean C. Jessee. He published one volume of Smith’s personal writings and two volumes of an earlier series, The Papers of Joseph Smith. The effort to expand resources and move beyond a one-man initiative eventually resulted in the comprehensive plan that is now being carried out. In April 2001, the Joseph Smith Papers Project was officially established as a collaboration between the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History at Brigham Young University and the Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That relationship continued until 2005 when the institute closed and those working on the project became employees of the Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and transferred to the Church History Library in Salt Lake City—the main repository holding Joseph Smith’s papers. This change consolidated resources and streamlined organization so that the papers could be published more quickly. Today, the project continues with several dozen researchers, historians, writers, archivists, editors, volunteers, and other staff.


From a scholarly standpoint, this is a huge and very impressive undertaking that will provide a tremendous insight into American history during the 1800's.    As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints it is even more significant, as it will give people all over the world easy access to rich information about our founding prophet and the history of the church.

However, all evidence aside, building a testimony of the reality of the First Vision and the validity of the Book of Mormon as an actual ancient record that was translated by the spirit of God is something that can never be "proven" by even the most thorough research.   Each person must discover this knowledge themselves through spiritual seeking..

When I first became active in the church after Larry and I were married I did not have a testimony of Joseph Smith as a prophet and I wasn't sure what I believed about God, eternal life, or any of the rest of the things the LDS faith professes.  Coming to accept this faith as strongly as I have did not come easily or quickly for me.

But it DID come.  It came by study.  It came by prayer.  It came through fasting.  It came through personal revelation.
Larry and I are now on our fourth read of the Book of Mormon since this mission started.  Each time we read it, I come to love that book more.  It truly was preserved for our day.
I have a testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and I believe that studying the words of the Book of Mormon with faith and prayer can bring peace, can provide answers to many of life's questions, and can help us grow closer to God than any other means.

I look forward to learning more about the life and times of Joseph Smith.  But I don't need "proof".   I have faith that has been confirmed by the witness of the Holy Ghost.  That counts for a lot to me.

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