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Gail Miller Shares Why Her Family Helped Financially Support the Joseph Smith Papers

Latter-day Saint businesswoman and philanthropist reflects on the project her family substantially supported over two decades

Joseph Smith Papers
Joseph Smith Papers
Gail Miller speaks about donating to the Joseph Smith Papers project in the Church Administration Building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, January 25, 2022. Photo by Jeffrey D. Allred, courtesy of Church News. Copyright 2023 Deseret News Publishing Company.

This story appears here courtesy of TheChurchNews.com. It is not for use by other media.

By Trent Toone, Church News

When The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held a press event June 27 to announce completion of the Joseph Smith Papers, Church leaders acknowledged that finishing the project would not have been possible without the Larry and Gail Miller family.

The Miller family provided an initial $10 million investment to the project with significant subsequent financial support until its completion — a duration of more than 20 years.

“We express deep appreciation to the Larry H. and Gail Miller family, who have generously supported the Joseph Smith Papers project from its inception until today. Their deep spiritual commitment has been crucial to this effort,” said Elder Gerrit W. Gong, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

The Joseph Smith Papers (shown here in the Church History Library on Temple Square) comprise 27 volumes — featuring 1,306 journal entries, 643 letters and 155 revelations.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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The Miller family remained committed to the project after Larry Miller’s death in 2009, despite uncertain economic times. Their contribution to the Joseph Smith Papers cannot be overstated, said Elder Kyle S. McKay, a General Authority Seventy who serves as the Church’s historian and recorder.

“They are the reason we are here today, and we are so grateful to them,” Elder McKay said. “They have given generously, and we have been blessed by it.”

Businesswoman and philanthropist Gail Miller reflected on her family’s contributions to the Joseph Smith Papers, as well as her testimony and commitment to the Church, as a guest on the Church News podcast.

How the Miller Family Became Involved

The Miller family’s involvement with the Joseph Smith Papers began years ago when a friend was called to be the first director of the new Kirtland Visitors’ Center in Ohio and arranged with the Church to learn more about its history. The Millers were invited to participate and were fascinated to see a table covered with original Church documents, including diaries, manuscripts and song books. Gail Miller said they were “awestruck by being in the presence of these valuable, sacred documents.”

The experience lingered in Larry Miller’s mind and compelled him to return to speak with Ronald O. Barney, a Church historian and archivist who taught the group about Kirtland history.

Larry Miller felt he was supposed to help the Church History Department with something, but it wasn’t initially obvious. With time it became clear to both men that it was the Joseph Smith Papers, which at that point was in its infancy with the work of Dean Jessee.

“They had started to gather more and look at a major project that would include all of Joseph Smith’s writings,” Gail Miller said. “That’s how we got involved.”

Elder Kyle S. McKay of the Seventy; Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles; philanthropist Gail Miller and her husband, Kim Wilson, prior to a news conference on the completion of the Joseph Smith Papers project at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, June 27, 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Why the Millers Donated to the Joseph Smith Papers

Gail Miller carried the project to the finish line after her late husband’s passing. She talked about some of the reasons for their decision to donate to the Joseph Smith Papers project.

  • The Church has historically relied on its members to help support projects.
  • It was an opportunity to support a project that was personally meaningful to the Miller family and the Church.
  • The project was necessary for future scholarship and transparency regarding Joseph Smith and early Church history.

“You can’t know the man until you know everything there is to know about him,” Gail Miller said. “That was the aim of the Joseph Smith Papers project: to have millions who know Brother Joseph again.”

She added that she has been blessed with a lot, but doesn’t consider any of it hers.

“Everything I have has come as a result of membership in this Church and the feeling that I have about where it came from,” she said. “Donating has been a privilege.”

How the Millers Influenced the Joseph Smith Papers

A “top-notch product” was important to Larry Miller. When the first budget was created, Larry insisted they double it, Gail Miller said.

“To do this right, they are going to have to have the resources to hire the brightest, the best, the finest, those who can do the best job in research, in writing, in editing,” Gail Miller said. “Everything had to be top quality.”

Over the last two decades, the Millers have watched and appreciated the dedication and intense work of all who have contributed to the project. She knows her late husband would be pleased with the final result.

“Everyone has done a masterful job of making sure this project was done right,” she said. “It’s been a monumental effort over the 20 years, and everyone who has worked on it — I believe they would say it’s been the highlight of their career.”

One of Joseph Smith's journals at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, on Tuesday, June 27, 2023.2023 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.
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Blessings of the Joseph Smith Papers

In a way, Gail Miller is sad to see the Joseph Smith Papers project come to an end because of the blessings her family has received along the way. She hopes the papers will inspire faith and testimonies for generations to come.

“If people really take the time to read and study about Joseph Smith, I don’t believe there is any way they could not accept the truth of it,” she said. “If they’re open-minded, if their heart is in the right place, if they are looking for truth, they will find it in the right places. And this is the right place for Joseph Smith history to develop testimonies.

She continued: “The project itself will strengthen testimonies all over the world. I know my testimony has been strengthened to know that Joseph Smith is exactly who he said he was, that he testified of Christ, which is the real message that we want to get from the Joseph Smith Papers: that Christ is at the head of this Church, that Joseph is the one who brought His gospel back to the earth.”


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