Sunday, October 11, 2009

The Joseph Smith Papers -- Impressions and Reflections No. 3

The Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Vol. 1, 1832 -1839 (JSP Journals Vol. 1) has an exhaustive editorial method of interrelating all of the documents and marking the writer of each portion of the documents. Joseph Smith used a number of scribes, some of whom wrote in their own words. Only a minor portion of the text originally appeared in Joseph Smith's own handwriting. In considering those portions of the text actually in Joseph Smiths' handwriting, one of the more obvious conclusions is that the style, spelling, word choice and every other aspect of the writing differs dramatically from the text of the Book of Mormon. None of the writing of Joseph Smith (hereafter "JS") in his journals, unless directly quoting scripture, even vaguely reminds the reader of the narrative of the Book of Mormon.

It is this dissimilarity that likely gave initial impetus to the accusations that the Book of Mormon was written by someone other than JS. Interestingly, it is abundantly clear that JS never claimed authorship of the Book of Mormon. The title page of the Book of Mormon declares its ancient origin as "an abridgment of the record of the people of Nephi and also of the Lamanites." It is only if you make the unwarranted assumption that the Book of Mormon is not what it claims to be that there is any issue over the authorship. Tellingly, in the 179 years since its publication, no one has come up with a believable alternative to the authorship. The Book of Mormon can only be what it purports to be, that is a translation of an ancient scriptural record.

One example will suffice. JS uses the term "Oh God" as in "Oh may God" several times in his writing in the first pages of the JSP Journals Vol. 1. See page 29 for a random example. However, the injunction is not found in the Book of Mormon and in fact is only partially used once in the entire scriptures in Job 11:5. The more expanded term, "Oh may God," does not appear at all.

It is not even remotely possible that a person who used such a phrase in his common speech could avoid its usage entirely in a long a complicated book, any more than I could avoid using "however" or "for example." The publication of the JSP Journals Vol. 1 is yet another testimony of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. It is what it claims to be.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Listen to the words

Then you will know where nothing has a place.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Joseph Smith Papers -- Impressions and Reflections No. 2

One of the unique features of The Joseph Smith Papers publications is the simultaneous publication of the documents online on the Joseph Smith Papers Project Website. The Rights and Use Information for the Website is extremely restrictive. Even as a practicing attorney, I had to think for some time about whether or not to even comment on the publications in fear of violating the restrictions. I will proceed with my commentary but will avoid using any of the material from the Website directly. Where necessary for understanding, I will refer to either the pages of the physical books or refer the reader to Website for further review. Normally, I would use short quotes from the source Website in my commentary, but in this case, given the restrictive nature of the use policy, I will refrain from quotes of any of the materials contained in the supplementary writing, not directly from the historical sources.

The entire transcription process will be contained in thirty volumes. The publication schedule proposed two volumes per year beginning in 2008. However, it is now 2009 and the second volume was just published. I may not live long enough to see the end of this project, or what is more likely, I may not have enough money at the end of the project to purchase the volumes or have the eyesight or understanding left to read them.

One of my concerns in starting such a project, a commentary on books to be published, is that the material may be so specialized as to lack general interest. However, the subject, Joseph Smith, is of such importance that all of the materials will likely have relevance no matter how obscure the documents may be. Another concern is whether I can keep going on such a project, long enough to cover the material. That remains to be seen. Hopefully, the use restrictions are not so onerous as to make me lose interest in the project altogether.

So here is goes. My commentary of impressions and reflections on The Joseph Smith Papers.

The Joseph Smith Papers -- Impressions and Reflections No. 1

One of the dominating trends of modern historical research is the refreshing trend towards reliance on primary source material, such as diaries, letters, interviews, speeches, photographs, census records, newspaper and magazine articles written at the time of an event. See "Finding Primary Source Materials for History", University of Wisconsin, Whitewater, Anderson Library. See also, "Using Primary Sources on the Web," Reference and User Services Association. Many older histories were based more on interpretation and opinion than actual source material. The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is no exception to the old rule. It is only recently that historians have place more reliance on source material than on interpretation. One example of the existing works is the so-called Documentary History of the Church, actually cited as:

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Henry Roberts, Joseph Smith, and E. Keith Howick. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: An Introduction and Notes by B.H. Roberts. Salt Lake City, Utah: published for the Church by The Deseret Book Co, 1951.


Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Joseph Smith, B. H. Roberts, and Brigham Young. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co, 1932.


Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and B. H. Roberts. History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Salt Lake City, Utah: Deseret News, 1902.

It is not my intention to offer a review or critique of the Roberts' work. I refer to it here to illustrate one example of a work that relied on 19th Century scholarship and use of primary source material. The original work began as a handwritten history in six volumes finished in 1856. The original six volumes were featured as a serial publication in the Church's Times and Seasons publication beginning in 1842. Because of the inaccessibility of this earlier work, Brigham H. Roberts, at the time, assistant Church historian, was commissioned to compile and edit the document. He produced the currently available six-volume publication.

The newly released volumes of The Joseph Smith Papers, now (2009) in the process of being published are partially being released to provide exact transcriptions of the original source documents. Many of the documents included in this to be released, lengthy series are only being made generally available for the first time to the general public. The two volumes currently available are:

Smith, Joseph, Dean C. Jessee, Mark Ashurst-McGee, and Richard L. Jensen. Journals. Volume 1: 1832-1839. Salt Lake City, Utah: Church Historian's Press, 2008.


Smith, Joseph, Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard L. Bushman. Revelations and Translations. [Vol. 1], Manuscript Revelation Books. Salt Lake City: Church Historian's Press, 2009.

These volumes differ from all previously published materials, in that the commentary is directed almost entirely at the documents themselves and not at an interpretation of the individuals or events of the past.

The topic of this series is Joseph Smith, the American Prophet. Publication of the original source material concerning papers will certainly not diminish the controversy surrounding his life but, at least, will correct some of the grosser errors and falsehoods commonly disseminated. This and future posts, will examine the volumes from the perspective of a lay historian and scholar. I do not have any specific credentials that would give my opinions any more weight than those of any other reader. I do have a lifetime of experience as an active trial attorney for more than 34 years and a substantial background in genealogy and family history. I am more than casually acquainted with the history of the LDS Church and have visited many, not all, of the historical sites in the Church's history. It is my hope that this commentary on the books will interest the reader in even greater investigation into the history of the Church and its first prophet, Joseph Smith.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The Internet Safety Wiki

The Internet Safety Wiki is described on their Website as follows:
How Does the Wiki Work? Want to find out what Twitter is all about? Not sure exactly what "sexting" is? We recommend that you start by typing a word or phrase into the search bar. From the initial page on any given topic--cyberbullying, spyware, Facebook, you name it--you'll be taken to a concise definition of the term with a brief explanation of the associated dangers. Most importantly, you'll find tips, suggestions, and guidelines for keeping your kids safe from the risks associated with each technology term. In the wiki, you'll find articles on more technical topics like viruses , but you'll also find information on the common websites your child may visit and talk about, such as YouTube, Facebook, or Pandora. Basically, you've arrived at a one-stop shop for all of your family's Internet safety needs.

If you are at all paranoid about the Internet, this site will keep you awake at night worrying.