News Release

Final Volume of Joseph Smith Papers Published, Completing Monumental Historical Work

“Documents Volume 15” marks the end of the 27-volume project that began in 2001

On the 179th anniversary of the martyrdom of Joseph Smith (June 27, 1844), the Church Historian’s Press released the final print volume in its landmark 27-volume work, “The Joseph Smith Papers,” which got underway in June 2001.

The project brings together Joseph Smith’s surviving papers, including the foundational documents of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, into an easily accessible collection. The comprehensive collection, available online (for free) and in print, includes complete transcriptions, helpful introductions, annotations and extensive reference material.

The culmination of the print edition now completes an essential resource for scholars and students of Smith’s life and work, early Latter-day Saint history and American history and religion. Principal documents featured in the 27 volumes include 1,306 journal entries, 643 letters and 155 revelations.

Downloadable B-roll & SOTs

A media event was held at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City to announce the completion of the project on Tuesday, June 27, 2023. 

“Every document that we know of that was produced by or under the direction of Joseph Smith, or written to him directly, has been published with annotations,” said Elder Kyle S. McKay, Church Historian and Recorder.

“When you read these documents, … it’s not novel style. It’s not a narration. It’s document after document after document. And you kind of put the narration together. But you do get a sense for how God uses an ordinary person and creates something magnificent,” said Elder McKay.

“To prepare these documents will only make us more effective in telling the story of the ongoing restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ in all the world as we move into the future,” said Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

“This scholarly project includes, as we noted, 27 volumes, 1,306 journal entries, 643 letters, 155 revelations, 18,822 pages, 7,452,072 words and 49,687 footnotes — and even meticulous footnotes on footnotes,” said Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Philanthropists and business leaders Gail Miller and her late husband, Larry, recognized the importance of the Joseph Smith Papers project early on and supported the legacy project for a period of more than 20 years.

Thanks to this project, Gail Miller said, “Joseph Smith will be known by billions.”

With the Millers’ generous support, the Church of Jesus Christ hired a large team, including PhD-educated historians and professional editors, to produce the Joseph Smith Papers. These are now the most reliable resource available for understanding Joseph Smith and the foundations of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Joseph Smith, the first president and prophet of the Church, lived from 1805 to 1844. He left an extensive literary record that provides a fascinating window into the early days of the Church he founded.

“He’s revered as a prophet by millions of members throughout the Church, but he was also just a man. … We know the weaknesses, the challenges that he had, that he overcame in order to serve and act as prophet,” said Robin Scott Jensen, historian for the Joseph Smith Papers project.

“To be a part of a project that is bigger than myself. It is bigger than my colleagues who have worked so much and contributed so much of their time and effort and their lives to this work. To see that and what it’s become — it’s been extremely gratifying. I’m looking forward to how it will be used and how it will improve scholarship in the early Church, as well as scholarship on Joseph Smith,” explained Sharalyn Howcroft, project archivist for the Joseph Smith Papers project.

Historical Transparency

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been praised for its commitment to historical transparency.

“The Church didn’t want to hide anything about Joseph Smith,” said Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer Prize winner in history and the 300th Anniversary University Professor, Emerita, at Harvard University. “They felt confident that if the actual records, the primary sources, were available, responsible scholars would consult them.”

Additionally, the scholarly approach in these volumes was endorsed by the National Archives as meeting the most rigorous criteria for documentary editing. Thomas P. Slaughter, Arthur R. Miller Professor of History at the University of Rochester, further noted: “The project’s high standards for documentary editing are complemented by maps, biographies, thorough historical introductions to the transcribed manuscripts, and stunningly detailed notes. This project remains the gold standard in the field of historical documentary editing.”

Laurie Maffly-Kipp, Archer Alexander Distinguished Professor at the John C. Danforth Center on Religion and Politics, observed: “The level of scholarship is outstanding in the Joseph Smith Papers Project. I have been astounded by the thoroughness of the editing process and the painstaking ways in which the scholars have annotated the text and added clarification here and there where it was needed. I would say it ranks with the best kinds of scholarly sources I’ve seen.”

The final volume to be released, “Documents Volume 15,” covers the tumultuous final six weeks of Joseph Smith’s life and the events leading to his murder in Carthage, Illinois. It features 105 documents, including his correspondence, accounts of his discourses, administrative minutes, municipal documents, military orders and legal papers.

R. Eric Smith, a general editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, said: “The Joseph Smith papers are completely priceless. There’s no way of measuring their value. The papers are our sacred history. They’re the history of where we came from as a people.”

In addition to the printed volumes, the project makes all its resources available for free on its website,

This article will be updated.

Additional Resources

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