The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement Wednesday seeking to quell Internet speculation about an old daguerreotype photograph long owned by the Community of Christ.
News reports in recent days have suggested the photograph may be of LDS Church founder Joseph Smith, but neither the Community of Christ (formerly the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) nor the LDS Church has vouched for the authenticity of the image, which has been in the Community of Christ archives since the mid-1990s.
"On the basis of available evidence it is not possible to confirm that the image is, in fact, of Joseph Smith," the LDS Church statement said, adding that speculation and claims about whether church officials "have verified or are verifying its authenticity ... are not true."
The release said the church "does not have or own this photograph or any image of Joseph Smith other than several early artists' portrayals of him and some early photographs of those portrayals. The church does have the death mask of Joseph Smith."
One local news station reported earlier this week about heavy Internet traffic in conjunction with the photo, and on Tuesday, a small local publishing house, Eborn Publishing, announced it soon will release a book and documentary DVD that focus on the photograph.
That press release stated the publisher "was holding back announcing the products until they were actually available. However, due to a massive e-mailing of false information regarding the project, and the subsequent news coverage, they have decided to announce both products at this time."