Church Archives House Major Joseph Smith Collection
April 1974

“Church Archives House Major Joseph Smith Collection,” Ensign, Apr. 1974, 26

Church Archives House Major Joseph Smith Collection

An extensive collection of legal and financial records, letters, and diaries of the Prophet Joseph Smith are being kept in a special section of the Church archives.

The records are open for research by “qualified and approved researchers,” whether or not they are members of the Church, according to Earl Olsen, Church archivist.

Included in the collection are books containing copies of the Prophet’s letters, including counsel given to Church leaders in communities away from Church headquarters, and answers to inquiries from curious nonmembers.

Also included in the collection are formal pleas to the federal government requesting assistance in righting the wrongs inflicted on the Church. Most of the petitions are from the periods when the Saints were driven from Missouri and when they encountered difficulty in Illinois.

The judicial and legal papers in the collection detail the numerous civil and criminal cases brought against Joseph Smith during times of heavy persecution. The scope of the Prophet’s work is suggested by his financial papers. He served simultaneously as mayor of Nauvoo, Illinois, as President of the Church, and as owner of a general store.

After Church members moved to Utah, an extensive effort was made to gather the Prophet’s speeches in one location, where they are now contained in the Joseph Smith Collection.

Three important areas of the Prophet’s life are also represented elsewhere in the archives.

The first major area is the Book of Mormon manuscript in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery, in poor condition due to moisture damage and mold caused by storage in the Nauvoo House cornerstone. The Church collection contains most of the known existing pages of the manuscript.

Also in the archives are records of a number of revelations given to the Prophet and retained entirely in the handwriting of scribes. It is not definite that these documents are original, however.

The final area pertaining to Joseph Smith’s life is a collection of manuscripts used in writing the Documentary History of the Church.