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First printing of Joseph's journals

After years of anticipation, the first published volume in the Joseph Smith Papers Project is on store shelves.

Joseph Smith Papers, Journals, Volume 1:1832-1839 is available at Deseret Book and other LDS book outlets with a retail price of $49.95. Assistant Church Historian Richard E. Turley Jr. spoke with news reporters Dec. 1 about the book, which was officially released Nov. 24, the first product published under the new Church Historian's Press imprint. Eventually, at least 30 volumes will appear, covering six series in the Joseph Smith Papers Project: Journals, Revelations and Translations, History, Legal and Business, Documents, and Administrative.

The just-released volume is the first in the Journals series and includes the Prophet's journals from 1832 to 1839.

The Journals series was profiled in the Nov. 8 Church News, part of a series of articles about the project. (The latest article in the series is on page 14 of this issue.)

"Seeing the first volume on the shelf or in our hands has been a very gratifying experience for two reasons," Brother Turley said. "One, it represents the culmination of decades of work, and two, it represents the most accurate picture of Joseph Smith that we have had to date."

Through the volume, readers "can go directly to very accurate transcriptions of his journals, journals that were prepared by him personally or under his direction, and do that without the intervening filter of an interpreter, like a historian writing a biography," he said.

The hope is that, eventually, much of the content of this and other volumes in the project will be accessible on the Internet, Brother Turley said. "But we also feel that Joseph Smith, being a major figure in the history of the Church and American religious history, deserves a set of volumes on the shelf in libraries where people can access the papers in hard-copy form."

Brother Turley displayed four journals out of 10 that are considered to be Joseph Smith's. Three are included in Journals, Volume 1, including his earliest, the 1832 journal. Some of it is in the Prophet's own handwriting, though he did relatively little writing himself, preferring instead to dictate his words or assign the task to scribes.

The second journal, covering 1835-36, was kept by scribes and includes information from the important Kirtland, Ohio, era, Brother Turley said. It includes an 1835 account by Joseph of the First Vision in 1820 and the subsequent visit of the angel Moroni. The third journal is an 1839 "Minute Book" kept by Joseph's scribe, James Mulholland, telling, for example, of the April 23 arrival in Quincy, Ill., of Joseph and associates who had been imprisoned for months in Liberty Jail in Missouri. "He spent the rest of the next day greeting and receiving visits from his brethren and friends," the account reads.

More information on the project can be accessed at www.josephsmithpapers.org.

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