As a young man in central New York and Pennsylvania, Joseph Smith (1805-1844) put forth the discoveries and messages that marked the origins of religious groups, usually labelled "Mormons," which now have a worldwide membership of about seven million. For the last twelve years of his life Smith kept diaries and journals, in his own hand or with the aid of a secretary, that now have a scriptural significance for Mormons and other of his descendants, and are also important sources for the history of the United States and New York State. This volume marks the first publication of Smith's diaries and journals under one cover. It includes his autobiographical sketch, written in 1832, and diaries and journals for the years 1832-1836, 1838-1839, 1841-1844. Most of the material relates to Smith's years in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois, but there are numbers of entries that relate to New York and New Yorkers. Scott Faulring's editing is sensible and meticulous, and he includes a detailed index. In light of current costs, the price of this weighty volume is extremely reasonable. --New York History
With the publication of this volume there now exists for the first time in on book the entirety of the personal diaries and journals of the foudner and first president of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith. Large parts of these documents had appeared in print before, most notably in the edited works of H. Michael Marquardt (1979-82) and as excerpts in Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, eds., The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Religious Studies Center, 1980). The editor desires that his work be viewed as objective scholarship in the best tradition of historical editing. While Scott Faulring is a loyal member of the Mormon Church (officially known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and has published this book at the request of Smith Research Associates and by arrangement with the Joseph Smith Family Association, he is acutely aware of "the justified criticism that in the past some of the editors of official LDS and RLDS (the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) publications have deliberately tampered with original documents." Furthermore he has chosen to publish this work with Signature Books, the independent and academic-oriented Salt Lake City publishing house. Following his 1983 graduation from Brigham Young University with a degree in history, Faulring worked for two years in preparing for publication the nine-volume journals of another Mormon president, Wilford Woodruff. Faulring's goal in the current work is to present the Smith document in a manner that is both clear and honest ("a readable format without adversely affecting the meaning or spirit of the originals"). In this he identifies as his model the modern American historical editing tradition introduced by Julian P. Boyd (The Papers of Thomas Jefferson) in the 1950s. For most consumers of this book, its primary value will be as a reference tool. While parts of the narrative are especially engaging (e.g. Smith's description of his original visions in his "Autobiographical Sketch, 1832" and his 1844 diary entries during the period preceding his death and assassination), much of the book does not provide for easy, natural reading. Most readers will not follow the book to the end as Smith's recordings become increasingly disjointed and paranoid as his life became more complex and difficult. Yet the book is important because it is now the single best source of the private writings of the founder of what has become the largest religious organization to have its origin in America. Because of the book's reference value, the quality of the index is very important. The 21-page index is good in citing people and places but less thorough in listing ideas; perhaps a later edition of the book could redress this imbalance. --William C. Ringenberg, Church History
Billed as the first complete (but see below) and unexpurgated publication of the ten extant manuscript diaries and journals identified by historians as written or dictated by Joseph Smith or written by a secretary of the prophet, this volume also contains the earliest autobiographical sketch by Smith, composed in 1832. With the permission of the Joseph Smith Family Association, Faulring transcribed most of these documents from microfilm copies of the originals. In the case of "The Book of the Law of the Lord" (500-plus manuscript pages), however, only previously published excerpts are included because Faulring was denied access to the original in the custody of the LDS church. Surely this is a compilation of primary importance, for it places the reader as close to Joseph Smith's side as it is possible to get. The prophet appears, in Faulring's words (p. xiii), as "a sincere and sometimes impassioned participant in the events described." The portrait Smith paints of himself is not likely to disturb many of the faithful, for there is no "evidence of pretext or deception, even though the documents may at times relate a story different from traditional accounts. --Utah Historical Quarterly
About the Author
Scott H. Faulring, editor of An American Prophet’s Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith, is a graduate of Brigham Young University. A career Air Force officer, he and his family have lived in Vogelweh, Germany, and in Izmir, Turkey, but returned to his alma mater so he could teach military history there. He is now employed by the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History, located on the BYU campus, and is preparing a documentary history of Oliver Cowdery.