Joseph Smith Papers 'Histories' volume released

Published: Wednesday, March 21 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Joseph Smith, "Latter-day Saints," 1844. This is an updated version of the Wentworth letter. It was submitted at the request of Israel Daniel Rupp. Unlike the Wentworth letter, this version was, in fact, exposed to a national non-Mormon readership, as Rupp included it in his encyclopedic anthology, "An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States."

An appendix is included in the book, apostle Orson Pratt's 1840 work, "A(n) Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions," published in Scotland. This is because the Wentworth letter is largely drawn from Pratt's work. Shaded type indicates which portions were used in the Wentworth letter.

So what is new or useful in the new Joseph Smith Papers book?

Speaking at a March 19 launch for the new volume at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Mark Ashurst-McGee, one of four volume editors, answered that question.

"Many historians of early Mormonism and Joseph Smith know several of these, not all, but most of these documents, transcripts, have been previously published," he acknowledged.

But he gave some examples of "value added" by publication of the new work:

"First of all, the transcripts have been re-verified as carefully as we can, and we've spent dozens and scores of hours with the handwriting of these people," he said. White light, magnification, ultraviolet light and multi-spectral imaging were used where necessary.

Beyond that, he said, "You'll find much more new material than has been published before in the document analysis that is available to you now in the physical descriptions and historical introductions to these documents" in the new book.

And, he said, it is now known and pointed out in the book that the "Extract" history is based on an earlier text, Joseph Smith's bill of damages against the state of Missouri.

Email: rscott@desnews.com

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