Coinciding with the anniversary of Joseph Smith receiving the ancient plates that he would later translate as the Book of Mormon, the second volume of The Joseph Smith Papers was released today. Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was presented one of the first copies by Elder Marlin K. Jensen, Church Historian and Recorder, in a special ceremony in the Church History Library attended by members of the media.
Elder Nelson said, “Serious students will appreciate the magnificence and value of this great book,” He also said it would help readers, "draw closer to the Lord, his prophet and the process of revelation.”
The facsimile edition of Revelations and Translations: Manuscript Revelation Books opens a new series of The Joseph Smith Papers. The volume provides new access to priceless documents dating from 1828 to 1834. For the first time, readers can be transported back in time by viewing photocopies of original writings in the actual hand of early Church leaders such as Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery and Sidney Rigdon.
“Some of these documents are among the earliest surviving record-keeping endeavors of Joseph Smith’s life,” Elder Jensen said. “The bulk of the first three years of his prophetic career is scripture, whether it’s revelations or translations.”
The existence of these documents demonstrates the importance Joseph Smith and other early Latter-day Saints placed upon sacred writings and their commitment to create and preserve texts that chronicle their dealings with God.
The 180-year-old historic documents, which have been protected in glass display cases and climate-controlled vaults, have now been reproduced in a full-color volume of nearly 800 pages. The high-resolution reproductions of the revelations include the “Book of Commandments and Revelations”and the “Kirtland Revelation Book.” Kirtland, Ohio, is where the majority of revelations were received. This is the first time both manuscript texts have been published in their entirety, and they include a few texts that exist nowhere else. Reporters were able to view these priceless original handwritten manuscripts through a protective display case.
“Seeing the handwritten revelations for yourself is a powerful spiritual witness,” said Elder Paul K. Sybrowsky, assistant executive director of the Church History Department. “It brings you closer to the Prophet Joseph and to these foundational scriptural texts.”
Elder Jensen has called The Joseph Smith Papers “the single most significant historical project of our generation.” When finished, it will be the most complete and authoritative collection of documents related to Joseph Smith.
Besides being the first in the Revelations and Translations series, this volume is also the first of a small number of volumes in The Joseph Smith Papers to be presented in a facsimile edition, which is designed to allow readers maximum access to the original texts. A photographic facsimile of the handwritten text is placed side-by-side with a meticulous transcript of that text to assist readers in deciphering the content. Other features of this volume include:
-Verified transcripts that reproduce the original manuscripts of these foundational documents just as they appear today, preserving corrections and revisions.
-A color key that renders each scribe’s handwriting in a different color to facilitate analysis of original inscriptions and revisions.
-An oversized format that allows the photographic facsimiles and transcripts to be highly readable.
-Series, volume, and document introductions that place the manuscripts in their historical context.
-Charts to facilitate comparison of the texts with other important versions of those same texts.
The focus of Revelations and Translations is on the handwritten texts, the raw materials that scholars and others can use in studying the composition and the history of these foundational documents. Designed to last for generations, the heirloom volume is printed on custom-milled, acid-free archival paper with Smyth-sewn bindings.
Eventually consisting of 30 volumes, the landmark Joseph Smith Papers is published by The Church Historian’s Press and is organized into six series: Journals, Revelations and Translations, History, Documents, Administrative Records, and Legal and Business Records.
For information on The Joseph Smith Papers, visit JosephSmithPapers.org.