In 1992, the second volume of Dean C. Jesse’s “The Papers of Joseph Smith” was published, containing the journal entries of 1832-1842. Many of us waited for years for the third volume, which would cover the remainder of Joseph’s life, before finally finding out that Jesse’s work was being expanded into the Joseph Smith Papers Project. Finally, with the recent release of volume 3 of the Journals series, the journals have all been published.
The volume begins with a timeline of Joseph Smith’s life, maps, an introduction that outlines the events of the last year of a very busy life, and the usual explanation of the editorial method being used for the Joseph Smith Papers Project. It then contains the text of the journals followed by three appendixes which are relevant excerpts from journals kept by Willard Richards and William Clayton detailing Joseph Smith’s activities during this time period. There is also a section of reference materials containing things like a chronology, pedigree chart, glossary, and organizational charts of the church and Nauvoo. There is a full index of all three volumes in the Journals series. (Previous volumes didn’t contain an index due to this planned combined index, but individual indexes can be found online and were provided in print on request.) There are also photos scattered throughout of things like the actual journals, the Kinderhook plates, the first issue of the Nuavoo Neighbor, a list of marriages and sealings that was added at the end of one of the journals later, and the guns in the possession of Joseph and Hyrum Smith at Carthage Jail.
The introduction explains several things that the journals mention, such as Joseph Smith’s candidacy for the United States presidency, his last plural marriages, the Council of Fifty, the Anointed Quorum, the destruction of the press of the Nauvoo Expositor, and Joseph’s resulting arrest. It also points out that the journals during this period were all kept by Joseph’s private secretary, Willard Richards. This means it was based on observation, and that some of the information was written after the fact from memory, or using secondhand sources, which sometimes resulted in inaccuracies.
Most of the actual journal entries are very terse, and the majority of the detail is in the footnotes, which often take the majority of the page. For example, on page 202, the entry at the top of the page begins with “Monday- 11. March- 1844 At home 9. A M. in council. in Lodge room.” The footnote for that says:
This meeting continued the discussion from the night before, with those present agreeing “to look to some place” where they could go “and establish a Theocracy either in Texas or Oregon or somewhere in California &c.” They also spoke of creating a constitution “according to the mind of God” that would serve as a “‘standard’ to the people an ensign to the nations &c” and appointed John Taylor, Willard Richards, William W. Phelps, and Parley P. Pratt to draft it. Under JS’s direction, those present also organized themselves into a council – later known as the Council of Fifty or Kingdom of God – with JS as chairman, William Clayton as clerk, and Richards as recorder. Twenty others were present, all of whom became the founding members of the council. After a vote to keep their proceedings secret, JS “laid down the order of organization after the pattern of heaven”: all were expected to be in attendance, all decisions had to be made unanimously, and seating and voting would be by age. “The most perfect harmony prevailed during the whole of this council,” Clayton wrote, “and the brethren all feel as though the day of our deliverance is at hand.” (Council of Fifty, “Record,” title page, 11 Mar. 1844; see also Clayton, Journal 11 Mar. 1844; and Woodruff, Journal, 11 Mar. 1844.)
This concluding volume of the Journals series was worth the wait. With all of this information being made available, this is truly a great time to be studying the origins of the Church. While these volumes are primarily intended for scholars to use as primary sources, they should be of interest to anyone who wants to learn more about Joseph Smith and the Restoration.