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An American Prophet's Record: The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith Paperback – February 15, 1989

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Editorial Reviews


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.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Signature Books; 1 edition (February 15, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0941214788
  • ISBN-13: 978-0941214780
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 2.4 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,149,774 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By frumiousb VINE VOICE on May 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
In the 1842-43 journals, it's written "I wish you had my soul long enough to know how good it feels." I suppose that I came to this book trying, in a sense, to borrow a little bit of Joseph Smith's soul long enough to see how good it felt-- or at least trying to understand a little bit of the person behind the history.
It's more opaque than that. Although there are flashes of personal insight-- particularly religious insight-- these journals are more the record of Mormonism and the issues about it that concerned Smith as he moved across the country. From lists of payments and donations, to intra-faith quarrels, to visions of Nauvoo, to complaints about lawsuits, it gives a clear day-to-day picture of the man and his movement.
The diaries and journals were written by a mix of Joseph Smith and various secretaries acting in his name. In the introduction, the editor comments that he was trying for ease of reading rather than faithful photostatic reproduction-- and I have to say that I would have hated to see what happened if he'd tried for faithful, because the major problem I had with the book was that I found it very difficult to read-- all shorthand, omitted words, crossed out words, and misspellings were noted as they occurred in the text and while I'm sure that it's more valuable as a scholarly text because of the inclusion, it was very distracting. Also, some annotations about historical events wouldn't be amiss rather than the reader always being forced to refer to the (very sketchy) timeline at the beginning. I suppose that most people who will read this would be scholars of Mormon history rather than people with a more casual interest, but it would have illuminated parts of this book much more clearly for readers like myself.
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Format: Paperback
This is one of several books that attempt to get at the root texts of Joseph Smith. We are in an unusual position with Joseph Smith: we have no autograph manuscripts of previous church leaders, such as Buddha, Moses, Mohamed, or Jesus Christ, but whit Joseph Smith, we have a tidal wave of primary documents that can be studied.
This book has the precious 1832 autograph history which has the second earliest version of the First Vision ever recorded, the earliest being D&C 20:5. It also has transcripts from his official journals. It is wonderful to have this book of the real words of Joseph Smith. The most surprising thing is to see that there was no monkey business going on with Joseph Smith's official history.
This edition is by Signature Books, which is a publishing house not friendly to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which makes this book even more interesting. The problem comes with the silent editing (p. xvii) that occurs with the book, especially with the disputed texts, such as the 27 July 1838 entry (see footnote p. 198), or the 26 September 1843 entry associated with the temple endowment, where the silent editing becomes rather loud.
The font is somewhat small, but it is quite readable, and this edition contains the manuscript strikeouts and misspellings, which impede reading a bit. This book has great biographies on people mentioned in the journals, and has a superb index, and a chronological overview of Smith's life. On the down side, there are no illustrations, except for the RLDS portrait of Joseph Smith.
This is a good one-volume alternative to the two-volume "Papers of Joseph Smith" published by Deseret Book, since it covers his entire life, stopping days before his assassination on 27 June 1844.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Journal entries by JS's scribes, his own thoughts, and a little varnished history as seen only as those of his time and himself could see their own versions of truth. Interesting read if you care to know facts from inside JS's thoughts as he had them and as his scribes documented them in their own words.
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Format: Hardcover
This edition of Joseph Smith's diaries was released in a very limited hardback edition in 1987, and now is available only in paperback. It was, and remains, valuable because it presents some of the unvarnished writings of this most enigmatic man, an unschooled farm boy who claimed divine revelation, and founded in 1830 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (the Mormons), now one of the largest denominations in America, well on its way to being a world-wide Church.
It remains to be seen how this edition will stand up, in light of the LDS Church's decision to release the complete Joseph Smith diaries and writings. Volume 1 of that multi-volume project has just been released, and if it is any indication, that set will be absolutely indispensable for researchers and scholars. It's interesting that it took the institutional Church 20 years to respond to Faulring's opening salvo.
Nonetheless, this single volume is still the best collection of Smith's writings now available, and presents a unique opportunity to enter into his mind and world. For anyone interested in exploring Mormonism, whether as a member of the Church, an inquirer, or a debunker, Faulring's volume is a great aid.
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