McGee, et al, “The Joseph Smith Papers Documents Volume 6: February 1838 – August 1839” (reviewed by Andrew Hamilton)

Review
======

Title: The Joseph Smith Papers Documents Volume 6: February 1838 – August 1839
Editors: Mark Ashurst-McGee, David W. Grua, Elizabeth A Kuehn, Brenda W Rensink, Alexander L Baugh
Publisher: The Church Historians Press
Genre: Documentary History
Year Published: 2017
Number of Pages: 775
Binding: Cloth
ISBN: 13:978-1-62972-353-2
Price: $54.95

Reviewed by Andrew Hamilton for the Association for Mormon Letters

Modern Mormons hold so many meetings that we have developed a running cultural in-joke that our “Fourteenth Article of Faith” starts: “We believe in meetings…” Well, the first thing that I learned from the Joseph Smith Papers Documents Volume 6 is that the Mormon obsession with holding meetings goes all the way back to the early days. Ten of the 32 documents in Part One of Volume 6 are minutes of meetings, but I promise they are all interesting meetings! Honestly though, these Joseph Smith Papers “Documents” volumes are getting a little hard to review. The scholarship is always excellent, the documents are always fascinating, the books are always beautifully produced and bound…One could almost review these volumes by saying “Excellent job ladies and gentlemen, carry on!” But methinks that I am supposed to say a little more than that, so here I go.

All hyperbole aside, okay, some hyperbole aside, aw nuts, all the hyperbole is absolutely necessary because this is an important volume about a fascinating time period in the life of Joseph Smith (and yes, I will likely say that about any of these volumes that I end up reviewing, but golly, gosh darn, and heck, 1838 to 1839 really was a fascinating and important time for Joseph Smith that was full of important documents!) For those who need a brief refresher or primer in Restoration history, 1838-1839 encompasses the “Mormon Missouri War” period, the excommunication or withdrawal from membership of many notable LDS leaders including Thomas B. Marsh, the fall of Far West, the arrest of Joseph and Hyrum Smith and many others, their time in Liberty Jail, and the removal of the Mormons to Hancock County, Illinois.

There are over 125 interesting and fascinating documents of various kinds in this volume: the minutes of meetings that I alluded to, lots of letters, a number of discourses, several revelations, “Questions and Answers,” receipts, promissory notes, etc. These many and varied documents address a great number of historical, operational, and revelatory aspects of Joseph Smith and Mormonism. I could never review or discuss them all so I will try highlighting a few of the things that really stood out to me. Even then, this review may be a tad long (“We believe in meetings, we believe in long meetings, and we believe in long discussions of our long meetings!”)

The Joseph Smith Papers editors have become known for providing excellent renditions of important documents and for setting them in their historical context with excellent historical essays. One of the wonderful things that these essays often do is to correct historical errors and misunderstandings that have crept into Restoration history. Sometimes they even slay a few sacred cows along the way. They continue to do just that in “Documents Volume 6.” I will address several such historical stories and facts that are clarified by this volume.

First, I really appreciate the way this volume was fair and even in its treatment of Thomas B. Marsh. Marsh, of course, was the first leader of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles chosen by Joseph Smith. The traditional narrative (which was supplied entirely by George Albert Smith, largely from an account that came 20 years after the fact) was that Marsh was loyal to Smith and the Church until his wife Elizabeth got into a fight with Lucinda Harris over a pint of cream. After a series of church courts sided against the Thomas and Elizabeth, Marsh left the Church and provided the damning testimony against Smith that gave the Missourians the excuse that they needed to arrest Smith and then drive the Saints out of Missouri. There are, as many of you are aware, a lot of holes in that traditional version of the story.

Marsh deserves better treatment than he has tended to receive in the past. Documents Volume 6 gives Marsh the fair hearing that he deserves. He is mentioned in a number of places in this volume for his loyalty to Joseph Smith and for his role in setting the Church in Missouri in order during the time that a number of other top leaders, including the entire Missouri Stake presidency, were being investigated and eventually excommunicated (see for example pp. xxii, 15, 45, 58, 130, 152-153). There is also a letter from Marsh included in the collection that outlines what he was involved in to help the Church during this time (see pp. 10-26).

These mentions alone provide a much different picture of Marsh than most Mormons are used to hearing. But I particularly want to focus on what is said about him (and Orson Hyde) in relation to why Marsh left the LDS Church. The introduction to Part 3 of this volume says the following about Marsh and why he left the Church:

“Reports of Latter-day Saint military operations spread quickly throughout northwestern Missouri. Several non-Mormon eyewitnesses prepared affidavits on 21 and 22 October, describing what they had seen. Likewise, apostles Thomas B. Marsh and Orson Hyde, who had recently defected from the Church because they opposed the preemptive strikes in Davis County, descried the military operations in an affidavit prepared on 24 October in Richmond, Ray County Missouri.” (p. 268).

Marsh and Hyde come up again in a footnote that relates to a letter dictated by Smith from Liberty Jail on 16 December 1838. That footnote says in part:

“Marsh … strongly supported JS during the 1837-1838 problems that resulted in the removal of the Missouri Church presidency. Marsh subsequently became president pro tempore of the Church in Missouri. His support may have wavered when other church leaders sided with Lucinda Pendelton Harris in a dispute with Marsh’s wife, Elizabeth Godkin Marsh. Although he opposed the June expulsion of dissenters from Far West, he remained president of the Twelve and President pro tempore of the Church in Missouri until late October, when he dictated an affidavit describing the Danite society and the Saints’ military operations against the Davis County vigilantes. On 25 October Marsh explained in a letter to his sister, Ann Marsh Abbott…his decision to leave the church “for conscience sake alone” and he alleged that JS and Sidney Rigdon were permitting theft, Arson, and other crimes in Daviess County” (p. 308).

These details and narrative provided by the editors of Volume 6 are far superior, and far more fair and balanced than any previous treatment that Marsh has received from any official LDS source. The editors of this volume are to be greatly commended for their efforts to set the record straight on Marsh.

Another thing that I really like about Documents Volume 6 that gives a different story than what many have heard or been taught is how the editors handled and wrote about the events that led up to the Mormons being cast out of Missouri. This is especially true in their discussions of the “Danites,” Sidney Rigdon’s controversial sermons, Mormon vigilantism, and the Justice Adam Black incident. Although I will say that, while I mostly liked their handling of Missouri, I also think that to a certain extent, the editors were with this subject, to borrow a cliché, trying to have their funeral potatoes and eat them too.

Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s I received many church lessons about how horribly the early Saints were treated in Missouri. I remember lessons and talks about the abuses, tortures, mobbings and murders of early church members in Missouri that were so detailed and had such a strong impression on me that I had bad dreams about them. The way that I recall these talks and lessons is that in them all the blame for what happened in Missouri was always placed on the Missourians. The reason that was always given for why the Saints were treated so badly was always because “the Church was true” and “Satan was trying to stop the Church and make people hate it.” After all these years I do not know if these were “official” lessons, or if it was just the way they were filtered through the local culture and Church members, but they are the things that I was taught. The truth, of course, is far more complex and nuanced than that, and Documents Volume 6 handles that complexity fairly well.

Before the Joseph Smith papers, in any sort of publication or lesson that was at all “official” within the LDS Church that I am familiar with, and in many of the unofficial books and biographies about Smith, the Danites were generally very quickly handled and dismissed as being an organization made up entirely of the misled, “apostates,” zealots, and renegades. It was also always put forth that all of their activities and their very existence were without the knowledge or endorsement of Joseph Smith. Smith was said to be very angry when he found out about them, supposedly after he was arrested and imprisoned in Missouri. In my experience, this is a common understanding among people who are LDS even now. In fact, just after I got my copy of Documents Volume 6, I was involved in a discussion on Facebook with a number of individuals (all believers in Joseph Smith) who were convinced that Joseph Smith never heard of the Danites until *after* he was in Liberty Jail. The essays and notes in Documents Volume 6 clear up that timeline and make Smith’s knowledge about, and involvement with, the Danites a lot more clear.

The Danites are covered fairly extensively in this volume. They are discussed in the “Volume Introduction,” the “Part 2 Introduction,” and in relation to several of the documents included in Volume 6. I won’t cover everything that I’ve read about the Danites in this book, but I will mention a few of the things that stood out to me. The Volume Introduction acknowledges that a few individuals formed “a private militia, known as the Society of the Daughters of Zion – later called the Danites,” whose purpose was to “support the members of the First Presidency and their policies, as well as to defend the church against any future aggression.” It was formed at about the same time as a number of excommunicated leaders were threatened into leaving Caldwell County (p. xxiv). It next mentions that this was followed by Sidney Rigdon’s 4 July 1838 sermon where he “declared” that the Saints “would not only defend but also avenge themselves” (p. xxiv). It also comes right out and says that many of the “armed men” who accompanied Joseph Smith in his attempt to intimidate justice Adam Black into supporting them were “a large body of Danites” who were “led by Danite officer Lyman Wight” (P. xxv).

Part Two of the volume contains the bluntest documentation about the Danites that I have ever seen in any official LDS publication and repeats some of the information contained in the Volume introduction. Like the Volume Introduction, the Part Two introduction discusses their formation as “the Society of the Daughter of Zion” and calls them a “private militia” that was formed “in response to fears” related to “church dissenters.” It also states that they were responsible for driving the dissenters out of Far West and soon came to be known as “the Danite Society” (p. 169-170). The editors quote John Corrill who stated that Joseph Smith and the First Presidency attended and addressed one of the early meetings. They then quote Abner Scovil who wrote about Joseph Smith speaking in this same time period and said that Joseph Smith told the Saints:

“If the people would let him alone he would conquer them by the sword of the spirit, but if they would not he would beat the plow shears into swords & their pruning hooks into spears & conquer them” (p. 170).

The editors then write “JS and the Danites were determined to defend the Saints, even threatening retribution against any mob that sought to oppress church members” (p. 170). This leads right into a discussion of the Independence Day Celebration that included Sidney Rigdon’s now infamous oration. The editors directly state that “Danite officers” participated in the event along with other militia and church officials (p. 170). This is when Rigdon declared that the Saints would fight a war of “extermination” if necessary. After Rigdon concluded Smith led the audience in a shout of “Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna” (p. 172). Joseph Smith had the church publish the oration and suggested that every member buy a copy. The Section 3 introduction next mentions that after Smith received several revelations directing the Saints to pay tithes and offerings, in Adam-ondi-Ahman it was the Danites who were given the responsibility to collect the offerings (p. 172). Other mentions of the Danites in this section introduction include: their being present during the Election Day fight at Gallatin, “Danite commanders” marching with the First Presidency into Daviess County on August 7th, 1838, and their presence when Smith confronted Adam Black (pp. 172-173).

There are three documents of note that relate to the Danites and have them mentioned in their supplementary material. A particularly interesting document that seems to demonstrate Smith’s connection or at least sympathy for the Danites is called “Motto, Circa 16 or 17 March 1838.” On the surface, the casual reader would never notice the connection, but the footnotes provided by the editors bring the connection to light. The document introduction describes the motto as “a patriotic declaration extolling republican virtues and condemning political vices” (p. 44). The second paragraph states in part, “Wo to tyrants, Mobs, Aristocracy, Anarchy and Toryism” (p. 45, as capitalized in document). The word “Toryism” has a footnote that mentions the expulsion from Jackson County and Joseph Smith’s tarring and feathering. It then states:

“Use of Tory or Toryism in this context refers to what might be called ‘resident enemy sympathizers.’ Sampson Avard later testified that in October, 1838, during the Mormon conflict in Missouri , JS stated that Saints in Caldwell County who ‘did not take up arms in defence of the Mormons in Davi[es]s should be considered as tories, and should take their exit from the county’.” (p. 45, fn 224).

While this may not be proof that Smith was attending Danite meetings or directing Danite actions, it certainly seems to show sympathy for the Danite cause on Smith’s part and at least a possible knowledge of their existence and purpose.

In the introduction to the document that became LDS D&C section 119 (revelation on tithing) it discusses how the revelation was read to a congregation of Saints before stating that Smith’s journal entry for 27 July 1838 reads:

“Some time past the brethren or saints have come up day after day to consecrate, and to bring their offerings into the store house of the lord,…They have come up hither Thus far, according to the ord[e]r of the Dan-Ites” (p. 186 ellipses in source).

The editors then write, “Officers in the Danite Society had attended the leadership meeting in which JS apparently dictated this revelation and members of the society were now helping to gather the consecrated goods” (p. 186). Next the editors state that when the donations slowed, according to John Corrill who was the storehouse keeper, “that the Danites ‘set out to enforce the law of consecration; but this did not amount to much’” (p. 186).

The last major mention of the Danites in relation to a document, and the one that gives the most direct connection between Smith and the organization, is in the introduction to the document “Discourse, 29 July 1838.” The discourse was delivered in Adam-ondi-Ahman. The editors write that at least part of the purpose of that trip was “the formal integration of the Danites at Adam-ondi-Ahman into the broader Danite organization, which was headquartered at Far West.” They cite William Swartzell, who stated that the Danites met on July 28, 1838 during this visit, and then they write that “the Danites at Adam-ondi-Ahman…were placed under the command of a brigadier general and other officers. JS and Rigdon presumably attended this meeting and may have addressed the men prior to their reorganization” (p. 209).

While none of this is a direct admission that Joseph Smith led or orchestrated Danite actions, it is a direct acknowledgment (and repudiation of what has been taught in the past) that he knew of them and had at least some interaction with the Danite organization. It is important to note that they could have said more. I mentioned that the editors quote Joseph Smith’s 27 July 1838 Journal entry. This is actually a document that they have previously published. As quoted above in Volume 6, the journal entry stops with the word “Dan-Ites.” The next line in the journal entry is:

“we have a company of Danites in these times, to put to rights physically that which is not righ[t], and to clense the Church of verry great evils which hath hitherto existed among us, inasmuch as they cannot be put to rights by teachings & persuaysons, This company or a part of them exhibited on the fourth day of July. They come up to consecrate, by companies of tens, commanded by their Captain over ten” (The Joseph Smith Papers: Journals Volume 1, p. 293).

If you want more details and understanding of Smith’s involvement with the Danites in an excellent, direct narrative admission and discussion, see the recently published official Community of Christ official church history “Journey of a People” Volume 1 pp, chapters 13 and 14, especially pages 291-295 and pages 301-302.

Before that long discussion on Danites I mentioned that there were some other things that “Volume 6” contains in relation to the Saints’ expulsion from Missouri that I thought were handled really well. One of these items is an admission in this book that counters the traditional narrative that I was raised with about the attack on Hawns Mill. I was taught and have read that the attack on Hawns Mill happened because of the “Exterminating Order” issued by Governor Boggs. But the Introduction to “Documents 6” sets this record straight too. It states that rather than an attack that happened because of the Extermination Order, “The attack was apparently a retaliatory response to the Saints’ recent military operations in Daviess County” (p. xxvi). To me, having been raised on stories of “evil Missourians led by Satan,” this is a huge admission that the Saints’ own bad behaviors, including mob-like behaviors, led to at least some of their sufferings.

Separate from the discussion of Danites, “Volume 6” gives some further information on Mormon vigilantism during this time that is beyond the normal discussion in most Church history sources. The Introduction to Part 3 explains that Joseph Smith and other leaders felt “that the failure of state authorities to protect the Saints necessitated aggressive self-defense” (p. 265). It is then discussed that “about three hundred Latter-day Saint men from Caldwell County marched to Adam-Ondi-Ahman” where for the next few weeks they engaged in skirmishes with the Anti-Mormons in the area (pp. 265-266). Among other details that are included is the information that “David Patten, an apostle and a member of the pro tempore Zion presidency, led a targeted raid on Gallatin, the county seat,” that Lyman Wight “directed a similar raid on Millport,” that Seymour Brunson “led a third raid on Grindstone Fork,” that Mormon men, “dispersed anti-Mormons, destroyed buildings – including a store, a mill, and several houses – and confiscated property as wartime appropriations,” that Joseph Smith sent a letter to the Saints after this declaring “victory,” and that after Joseph Smith returned to Caldwell County, the Saints in Daviess County continued to burn non-Mormon homes and steal their goods (see p. 266). While this is not the first discussion about how the Saints too were involved in the mob violence of the time, it is one of the most blunt and direct accounts that I have read, especially from an “official” LDS source.

As to the idea that, to an extent, the editors of Volume 6 were trying to “have their funeral potatoes and eat them too,” the following excerpt comes from the second paragraph of the Introduction to “Volume 6” so it is one of the very first things that a reader is likely to see:

“The Mormon Experience in Missouri illuminates the broader culture of antebellum America. During the early nineteenth century, the United States saw a general increase in the number and intensity of violent conflicts between differing cultural, racial, and political groups. The Latter-day Saints had typically been viewed by other Missourians as outsiders – they came mostly from the North, whereas most Missourians came from the South. Their conflict can be seen in part as a representation of the cultural divide between North and South that was widening in the mid-nineteenth century….The conflict between the Saints and other Missourians took place in the far reaches of the state. Western Missouri had weak legal institutions that easily gave way to vigilantism and violence. The experience of the Saints thus highlights the young nation’s regional dynamics” (pp. xix-xx).

On one hand I really like that this statement gets away from the “blame Satan and the evil Missourians for what happened to the Mormons” rhetoric that I have written about hearing in my youth. But, while other parts of the book seem to allow the mistakes and aggressive posture of the Saints against ex-Mormons and Missourians to have been a cause of their suffering, this seems to be allowing the editors an “out” at the very beginning of the book. It seems to me to be an attempt from the start to plant in the readers’ minds the idea that, “Hey, the whole country was violent, that area was especially violent, there was a weak legal system, *SO* we really can’t blame the early Mormons if they were behaving poorly because they were just behaving like everybody else.” Maybe I am biased, maybe I am reading too much into it, but that is how this paragraph came across to me. For an alternative view on Joseph Smith and the occurrences of violence in Mormonism during this time, read “The Culture Of Violence In Joseph Smith’s Mormonism” by D. Michael Quinn, in the October 2011 Sunstone Magazine and the previously mentioned chapters in “The Journey of a People.” The Quinn article also provides more information on Smith’s connections to the Danites.

The editors for Documents Volume 6 did their homework, and maybe someone else’s homework too. This book contains a lot of contextual and historical information. A lot of information. A lot. A great many of the introductory essays are longer than the documents they are about. They are fantastic in their depth and wealth of information. The information that they provide is priceless (I said that there would be deserved hyperbole!) The same can be said about the footnotes. They are detailed, excellent, and thorough. The longer footnotes are detailed enough that they have their own footnotes. Footnotes with footnotes!

Everyone who reads this book will get filled with a bountiful feast of historical and background information. Therefore, I found it interesting when the editors chose to leave out or be indirect about certain information. Again, overall, there is a great wealth of information in this book, and the editors are not shy about addressing certain aspects of Church history that have heretofore been considered controversial as I have just explained in probably too much detail.

But at least one aspect of Restoration history is apparently still too controversial to be directly addressed in the volume. I understand that this volume was produced by the LDS Church and they will address what they want to address. I also realize that it could be said that what I am about to mention is not necessarily the main subject being addressed in the text. But considering how much information is provided in this volume overall, to leave out, or be indirect about, selected information seems to be agenda-driven, not history or scholarship-driven.

Given the great amount information provided on so many other subjects in this book, I found it quite interesting that the editors of Volume 6 seemed, in my opinion, to give the soft shoe treatment to Joseph Smith’s polygamy. The introduction to Part One of this volume mentions that, after Joseph Smith left Kirtland, Ohio and arrived in Far West, Missouri, he stayed for a time in the home of George and Lucinda (Pendleton) Harris and that while he was there he produced some of the documents that are included in this volume (see p. 7). It also explains that while Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail, Emma once again stayed in the home of the Harrises (p. 279). Lucinda Pendleton Harris is also mentioned in relation to her possible dispute with the wife of Thomas B. Marsh (p. 308 fn 206). George comes up multiple times in the text due to the callings that he held and the meetings that he was involved in, including the excommunication of Oliver Cowdery (see for example pp. 16-17, 25-26, 85, 90-91, 93, 95, 99, 120, 125, 128, and many more).

More detail is provided about the Harrises in relation to a letter that Joseph Smith wrote to George W. Harris on 24 May 1839. This letter and its introduction speak of the Harrises, of Smith’s general relationship to them, and of how he was giving them a lot across the street from one of his in Nauvoo (pp. 469-470). The very next document is a letter to John and Sarah (Kingsley) Cleveland from 24 May 1839. This letter is similar to the one addressed to the Harrises and states that Smith is giving them a lot across from him and next door to George and Lucinda. The introduction to this document states that, after Smith escaped from Liberty Jail, he and Emma stayed for a time in the home of the Clevelands in Quincy, Illinois. It then speculates that:

“JS likely chose the specific lots for the Clevelands to show appreciation for the Clevelands’ hospitality and friendship” (pp. 471-473).

The footnotes to this document, especially footnote 200 on page 471, give a lot more information on who the Clevelands were and about their relationship to Joseph and Emma Smith and to the Church. But in all of the information that is provided on Lucinda Harris and Sarah Cleveland, even in the speculation as to why Joseph offered the Clevelands a home lot across from his, it is never once mentioned that both of these women were, or eventually became, plural wives of Joseph Smith. The same thing happens in regard to Presendia Huntington Buell. She is the only woman besides Joseph’s wife Emma to receive a letter addressed directly to her while Smith was in Liberty Jail. The letter and its accompanying contextual information are found on pages 352 to 356. Quite a bit of contextual information on Presendia is provided in the introduction and footnotes.

But as with Sarah and Lucinda, it is never mentioned that Presendia, the only woman besides Emma to be favored with her own letter from Liberty jail, would become a plural wife of Joseph Smith. In fairness to the book and the editors, Sarah Cleveland and Presendia Buell are both mentioned in the biographical directory at the end of the volume. Here it is mentioned that Cleveland is “identified in some sources as a plural wife of JS” (p.620 ) and that Buell was “later identified as a plural wife of JS” (pp. 632 – 633). This is better than no mention of the plural relationships with these women, but to me it seems to be as buried as it could possibly be. Lucinda Harris does not have an entry in the Biographical Directory and her relationship to Smith is never mentioned.

There is one other odd thing about “Volume 6” that I want to mention. This is not a complaint, just something that didn’t make sense to me. I’m very sure that the editors of this volume had reasons for, and can explain why, they did everything the way that they did. Maybe there was something that I missed. But there was one small piece of information that was left out of this volume that seemed different based on past practices of the JSPP volumes. In all of the volumes of this series so far, including this one, when a document is included that later became a part of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants, it is noted in brackets in the heading to the document and is also often discussed in the text. For example, here is a list of documents in this volume that are noted as having become a part of the LDS D&C:

“Questions and Answers, between circa16 and 29 March 1838-A [D&C113:1-6]” (pp 50-53)
“Questions and Answers, between circa16 and 29 March 1838-B [D&C113:7-10]” (pp54-55)
“Revelation, 26 April 1838 [D&C115]” (pp112-118)
“Revelation, 8 July 1838-A [D&C118]” (pp 175-180)
“Revelation, 8 July 1838-C [D&C119]” (pp 186-188)
“Revelation, 8 July 1838-D [D&C120]” (pp 189-190)
“Revelation, 8 July 1838-E [D&C117]” (pp 191-193)

Part B of this last revelation did not make it into the Doctrine and Covenants. The information that was left out, the apparent deviation from what has been the apparent standard practice so far, relates to Joseph Smith’s letters from Liberty Jail, parts of which became LDS Doctrine and Covenants 121-123. The document/documents known as “Letter to the Church and Edward Partridge, 20 March 1839” (see pp. 356-372) and its second part “Letter to the Church and Edward Partridge, 22 March 1839” (pp. 388-401) were eventually edited by Orson Pratt into what is now LDS Doctrine and Covenants Sections 121, 122, and 123. This is very common knowledge, and I would have assumed that it would have been noted in “Volume 6” like all of the rest of the LDS D&C sections were. It’s not a problem that it was not mentioned, it just seems weird that it was not mentioned and that there was no noticeable explanation as to why this was not mentioned.

I will mention two final things as I wrap up that I really liked about this book. In some of the documents included in this volume, the readers get a great glimpse into Joseph Smith’s human side. These are not necessarily new documents, but they are presented together with greater background and insight than has heretofore been available. In many past biographies and in almost all of the LDS produced pamphlets, films, etc. Joseph Smith almost always comes off as nearly mythical and larger than life. But in this volume the reader catches brief insights into the emotional, human Joseph Smith. For instance, in the introduction to the “Letter to the Church in Caldwell County, 16 December 1838” the editors discuss Joseph Smith’s various frustrations and are blunt in stating that in this document “JS vented his emotions in a lengthy letter to the church” (p 296). They further state that “much of the letter is colored by JS’s indignation toward the Church’s opponents.” As you read this letter, you definitely get a sense for Smith’s frustration and indignation. Two earlier letters, both in Joseph’s own hand and addressed to his wife Emma, give a picture of Joseph’s loving, emotional side. In the first letter to Emma (4 November 1838) he writes:

“those little are subject of my meditation continually, tell them that Father is yet alive, God grant that he may see them again Oh Emma for God sake do not forsake me or the truth but remember, if I do meet you again in this life may God grant that we may meet in heaven” (p. 282).

And from a letter written to Emma in Joseph’s hand on 12 November 1838:

“tell little Joseph, he must be a good boy, and Father loves him a perfect love, he is the Eldest must not hurt those that smaller than him, but comfort them tell little Frederick, Father, loves him, with all his heart, he is a lovely boy Julia is a lovely little girl, I love hir also She is a promising child, tell her Father wants her to remember him and be a good girl…little Elexander is on my mind continualy Oh my affectionate Emma, I want you to remember that I am true and faithful friend, to you and the children, forever, my heart is intertwined around you[r]s forever and ever” (p. 292).

I will close by mentioning a few final great things about Documents Volume 6. As has been true in all of the previous volumes in the Joseph Smith Papers series, the scholarship and research involved in providing the context in the extensive, intricate, and detailed historical introductions and footnotes in this volume is top notch. As I wrote earlier, the editors did their homework, lots and lots of homework. The “Works Cited” page for this volume consists of 33 pages of fairly small type. Here is just a small sampling of the authors and works that are cited: James Allen, “American Slavery as It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses,” Leonard Arrington, Gary Bergera, “The Unkindest Cut; or, Who Invented Scalping,” Don Bradley, “The Wheel of Fortune in Shakespeare’s Historical Plays,” Lyndon Cook, Jill Mulvey Derr, Carol Cornwall Madsen, Todd Compton, “This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War,” Leland Gentry, “Cholera, Christ, and Jackson: The Epidemic of 1832 and the Origins of Christian Politics in Antebellum America,” Roger Launius, Stephen LeSueur, D. Michael Quinn, Andrea Radke-Moss, “The Relation of Plumbing to Public health (1898)”, and others by Michael Shannon Riggs, William Shephard, H Michael Marquardt, Richard S VanWagoner, and Dan Vogel.

All told, the “Reference Material” section of this book is just over 200 pages. Along with the Works Cited and the Index it includes Extended Source Notes, a Chronology for the time covered by the book, a Geographical Directory, a Biographical Directory, Maps, and a number of organizational charts that explain the make-up and relationships of the various quorums and groups referenced in the book.

Admittedly Documents Volume 6, like the previous JSPP volumes, is a bit pricey. It may eat up a significant portion of your book or gift buying budget, but like all the previous volumes, it is worth the cost. Fifty-four dollars is a lot, but it is a small price to pay for access to priceless documents, many previously unavailable, the excellent contextual information, the well written and informative document introductions, the intricate and detailed footnotes, excellent, excellent, excellent. While I offered a few criticisms in this review, they are small, related to how I might have done things differently. If you are into Joseph Smith studies, either for scholarly or devotional reasons, Joseph Smith Papers Documents Volume 6 is an essential book for your library.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *