The earliest published document by Joseph Smith containing a consecutive narrative of the history of the Church was what is known as the Wentworth Letter.
The letter was published in the March 15, 1842, issue of Times and Seasons.The letter was written in response to a request from John Wentworth, editor and proprietor of the Chicago Democrat. Wentworth asked that the Prophet present a "statement of the origin and progress of `Mormonism.' "
In A Comprehensive History of the Church (1:55) Elder B.H. Roberts declared that the Wentworth Letter "is one of the choicest documents in our church literature."
Elder Roberts, in the second volume of the history, observed that the letter is "the earliest published document by Joseph Smith, making any pretension to consecutive narration of those events in which the latter-day work had its origin; and for combining conciseness of statement with comprehensiveness of treatment, it has few equals among historical documents, and certainly none that excel it in our Church literature.
"In a few pages [less than six in Elder Roberts' history] it gives a remarkably clear statement of the leading events in the Prophet's life and in the history of the Church, together with an epitome of its doctrines, which has since been called `The Articles of Faith.' "
Elder Roberts further noted that the Articles of Faith were not produced "by the labored efforts and the harmonized contentions of scholastics, but were struck off by one mind at a single effort to make a declaration of that which is most assuredly believed by the Church, for one making earnest inquiry about itsT history and [its] fundamental doctrines."
The combined directness, clarity, simplicity and comprehensiveness of the statement of the doctrine of the Church, wrote Elder Roberts, "is regarded as strong evidence of a divine inspiration operating upon the mind of Joseph Smith."
Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the gospel doctrine course of study.
Information compiled by Gerry Avant and Elayne Wells
Sources: The Articles of Faith by James E. Talmage; History of the Church by Joseph Smith, volumes 1 and 4; Relief Society History; God, Family, Country, by President Ezra Taft Benson; Messages of the First Presidency, compiled by James R. Clark; Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball.