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Joseph Smith Papers website debuts

By R. Scott Lloyd

Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 26 2011 4:00 a.m. MDT

That said, the content will be greater on the website. The print publication has been scaled back to 20 volumes, but all 30 of the volumes initially planned for print publication will be on the website.

"It's a major commitment by the church and by the Larry H. Miller family who are helping to fund the project," said Smith, who noted that at any given time, five to eight employees are working on the website.

"And compared to similar documentary editing websites, in terms of both quality and the technology involved, the Joseph Smith Papers website is really spectacular," Grow said.

Visitors will observe this as they access the site and go to the "Papers" tab, what Smith characterizes as the "meat of the project," the documents themselves. Here, one sees links to the seven series in the project: Documents, Journals, Administrative Records, Revelations and Translations, Histories, Legal and Business Records, and Other Contemporary Papers.

Clicking on the "Journals" link, one is taken to links to journals from 1832 to 1839, later journals, and an assortment of related materials, such as introductory text published in the letterpress volumes.

Going to the link for the Prophet's 1832-34 journal, one sees a digital scan of the cover the journal, with Joseph's own signature.

Moving to the first page, one sees his handwritten words:

"Joseph Smith Jrs Book for Record Baught on the 27th of November 1832 for the purpose to keep a minute account of all things that come under my obsevation &c— —

oh may God grant that I may be directed in all my thaughts O bless thy Servent Amen"

The words of each page may be easily read, because they are transcribed on the right side of the screen with Joseph's own handwriting designated in boldface type.

Clicking on the image itself, one can zoom in on the handwriting and view it in minute detail displayed in high resolution.

From the home page, the website visitor can click on the "Reference" tab, which pulls up a set of four links to people, places, events and topics in the Joseph Smith Papers. A fifth link, "Library," grants access to interesting pictures, such as a modern aerial photograph of Adam-Ondi-Ahman in Missouri and 1907 George Edward Anderson photo of the temple lot in Far West, Mo.

Of course, with computer technology, the Joseph Smith Papers content is electronically searchable with speed and convenience not possible in a printed volume, with links from text to glossary terms, biographical notes, place names, etc.

"It's the same information as in the printed volumes but available at the click of a mouse rather than having to look to the back of the book," Smith noted.

Beyond the boon to scholarly and casual research, the website brings a personal connection to history heretofore not possible for most people.

"I think there is a real power for people to confront the documents firsthand," Grow said. "I think it's powerful for people to be able to look at Joseph Smith's revelations in the original handwriting in which they were recorded, or to read some of the early letters from Joseph Smith or look at some of the minute books and get a sense of the early church meetings. I think it's really powerful for people to do that in a way that only a very small fraction of church members have ever been able to do up to now."

Email: rscott@desnews.com

 

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