General Editors: Ronald K. Esplin, Matthew J. Grow, Matthew C. Godfrey. Volume Editors: Matthew C. Godfrey, Brenden W. Rensink, Alex D. Smith, Max H. Parkin, Alexander L. Baugh. Salt Lake City UT: Church Historian’s Press, an imprint of the Church History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Hardbound, 7.25×10.25″, 712 Pages.
Accomplishing the “redemption of Zion” was Joseph Smith’s primary concern for much of 1834 and 1835. After the Latter-day Saints had been forcibly removed from their lands in Jackson County, Missouri—the place where they believed God had commanded them to build the city of Zion—Joseph Smith led numerous efforts to reclaim those lands and restore the Saints to their homes. Covering April 1834 through September 1835, the ninety-three documents featured in this fourth volume of the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papersshed light on Joseph Smith’s attempts to redeem Zion and reveal his maturation as a leader and prophet for a growing church facing nearly constant challenges.
The project of redeeming Zion placed large demands on Joseph Smith’s time and resources. He left his home in Kirtland, Ohio, in May 1834 to lead a company of about two hundred individuals, known as the Camp of Israel and later as Zion’s Camp, to Missouri to aid the beleaguered Saints there. Smith also sought to redeem Zion through the construction of the House of the Lord (or temple) in Kirtland, where the elders of the church were to receive an “endowment of power,” and the publication of the Doctrine and Covenants, a collection of revelations that provided instruction to the Saints on church doctrine and theology. Funding these projects proved difficult, however. In part because of the loss of the printing press in Jackson County and the mounting construction costs of the Kirtland temple, Smith and the church faced severe financial problems in the mid-1830s. Several documents in this volume describe these projects, the church’s financial strain, and the resulting assignments given to some individuals to collect donations for the church.
Meanwhile, the number of Saints in and outside Kirtland continued to increase. To address the challenge of growth, Joseph Smith further developed the church’s governing bodies and created a more complex administrative structure. Some documents presented herein, for example, detail the creation of new leadership positions in the church, including the offices of apostle, seventy, and church patriarch.
The types of documents included in this volume range from minutes and administrative documents to personal letters and revelations. Particularly prominent are a number of recorded blessings. These documents reveal the growing importance that Joseph Smith placed on giving blessings that provided personalized instructions and promises to various individuals, including veterans of the Camp of Israel and new church leaders.
The documents reproduced in this volume have been transcribed and annotated to the highest standards of documentary editing. Altogether, they open a window into Joseph Smith’s efforts to establish the kingdom of God on earth and his development as a leader of a growing religious movement. This volume is an indispensable resource for those studying the life of Joseph Smith during this formative and turbulent period.