The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sheds some light on the life of Joseph Smith with the release of the authentic fourth volume of the Joseph Smith Papers on May 9.
The Joseph Smith Papers Project contains documents created by Joseph Smith and others he directed, including revelations, translations, journals, discourses and even some legal documents, according to The Joseph Smith Papers website.
The documents are published in chronological order.
Volume four of The Joseph Smith Papers covers Joseph’s life from April 1834 to September 1835 and contains 93 documents, according to The Joseph Smith Papers website.
The documents include information and history from many important times in Church history, including the building of a temple in Kirtland, Ohio, calling the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and an expedition to reclaim land in Jackson County, Missouri.
Matthew C. Godfrey, co-editor of The Joseph Smith Papers, said that this volume is a record of one of the first major setbacks faced by Joseph Smith and the early Latter-day Saints.
“This volume shows Joseph Smith confronting one of the Church’s first major setbacks — the Saints’ expulsion from Jackson County, Missouri,” Godfrey said, according to The Joseph Smith Papers website. “He is trying to understand why God allowed the expulsion, and this is really where we see Joseph Smith beginning to develop into a seasoned leader and experienced prophet.”
John Thomas, a religion professor at BYU-Idaho, said the Joseph Smith Papers may not be extremely exciting to read; however, they can help members of the Church understand more about Joseph Smith and what was important to him.
“One of the most impressive things that I think that you have to take away from this project is that Joseph Smith is really serious about leaving a record,” Thomas said. “He is really serious about putting on paper a record of his interaction with God.”
Thomas said Joseph’s effort to keep these records helps prove his desire to show that what he taught was true and from God, not something that he had made up.
“It doesn’t look like a guy who thinks he is just running a con,” Thomas said. “It looks like a guy who thinks he has got some really important stuff to pass on to the next generation.”
Thomas said another benefit of the papers is that they have changed the way members of the Church think about revelation, especially the process of truth revealed through Joseph Smith.
“God speaking is a beautiful thing,” Thomas said.
Greg Williams, another religion professor at BYU-I, said it is important for young members of the Church to have a personal testimony of Joseph Smith and the Restoration.
Williams said that Joseph Smith’s experiences serve as an example of inquisition. “Everything that I do in all my classes is to show them that Joseph is teaching a process to get individual direction,” Williams said.
Williams said that if someone has not experienced for his/her self or does not know for his/her self, it is easier to fall into doubt about the truthfulness of Joseph Smith and the Restoration. Williams said that Joseph Smith’s question and desire to find the truth is what led him to find an answer.
Sheri Dew, CEO of Deseret Book, spoke about questions at devotional on Tuesday.
“My dear friends,my message today is simply questions are good,” Dew said. “Questions are good if they are inspired questions asked in faith and asked of credible sources where the Spirit will direct and confirm the answer.”