Edited by Lavina Fielding Anderson
The Textual History of Lucy’s Book
[p.66]The creation of this critical edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s family history has been a long and rewarding exercise, not only in painstakingly establishing the words that make up the documents but in feeling for Lucy’s own voice behind the layers of words that have accumulated since its writing.
Lucy’s book has a very complicated documentary history. In any given passage, depending on the in-print edition, it is not always immediately clear if we are listening to Lucy’s voice or to that of Martha Jane Coray, Howard Coray, Orson Pratt, George A. Smith, Elias Smith, Preston Nibley, or even an anonymous British typesetter. (See chart, p. 218.) Rather astonishingly for a controversial work, it was not only condemned from the official ecclesiastical pulpit but later was reprinted by orders from the same pulpit.
Jan Shipps, in her masterful essay on “Getting the Story Straight,” in Mormonism: A New Religious Tradition, uses the fortunes of Lucy’s manuscript as a historic case study—Leonard Arrington’s years at the LDS Church History Department constitute the modern example—to show the importance church leaders have attached over time to controlling and authorizing versions of history. She concedes that Lucy’s rough draft suffers from “somewhat confused chronology and incomplete information,” but still “comes closer than the finished History to capturing the perceptions and emotions, ideas and feelings, attitudes and beliefs of the mother of the Mormon prophet” (95).
LDS historian Richard L. Bushman sees the narrative as centered on the Smith family—“its hardships, triumphs, sorrows, and happiness. Lucy’s pride was the pride of family … Her pride arose not from the family’s success but from the way in which they met adversity … Lucy Smith honored those who overcame. She made her narrative the story of many troubles, turning the misfortunes of Smith family history into exemplifications of their character” (Joseph, 10-11).
Joseph Smith biographer Donna Hill calls the work “mainly a reminiscence of the workings of God in [Lucy’s] life … a chatty account of family events and vicissitudes, in particular those in which she herself plays an important role. She presents herself as heroine, perhaps not unjustly … She leaves an impression of energy, confidence, ambition and native intelligence … [but also] personal pride and much concern for the social status of her family” (32).
One of Lucy’s editors, Assistant LDS Church Historian Preston Nibley, called her book “one of the most beautiful narratives and yet one of the most tragic in our Church literature. Never did a woman pour forth the true feelings [p.67]of her heart with more sincerity; expressing her gratitude to God for the blessings she had received; acknowledging His hand in the trials she had suffered and in the persecutions she had endured. It is the record of a great, true Christian life” (ix).
LDS writers Scott Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor, who edited a “revised and enhanced” version of Lucy’s history in 1996, term the 1844-45 rough draft
the raw, unedited Lucy, a reflection of her intellect and heart. What she expressed was her life as she saw it and the part that her family had played in bringing forth the Book of Mormon and the restored religion … a family history, a story of drama, spiritual adventure, and pathos, but most of all a personal story. Thus, without hesitation, she shared intimate details, probed feelings and made assessments, felt free to soliloquize. She was frank, for instance, to say that she looked forward to standing at the bar of God, where, after a lifetime of persecution, justice will finally reign and her persecutors will be brought to task. And though she shared her suffering, she was not full of self-pity, but rather grateful to be the mother of a prophet and part of a transcendent work. (xxi)
Mormon historian Maureen Ursenbach Beecher notes that the ratio of women’s writings to men’s listed in Davis Bitton’s 3,000-item Guide to Mormon Diaries is approximately one in ten, “a discrepancy, I suggest, created as much by our failure to value and preserve women’s life writings as by their failure to write” (xv). Lucy’s book both represents and deviates from that pattern. Its importance has never been doubted, yet it has been primarily valued for what it reveals about early Mormon history. I hope that this presentation and exploration will encourage a deeper appreciation of her book as a memoir and as a family history.
This essay will explain the complex and complicated history of composition that produced two almost-identical manuscripts and the publication journeys that each took from that point. The story begins, in the months after the assassinations of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, with two women: the bereaved, sixty-nine-year-old Lucy Mack Smith and twenty-three-year-old Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, a convert of fewer than five years and a young mother, whose grief at the death of Joseph Smith took the form of a thirst to understand his years before she met him in Nauvoo, Illinois. Out of these encounters, the idea emerged of writing a book, with Lucy dictating and Martha Jane as scribe.1 It was the shared vision of these two women that produced this most significant of early Mormon family histories and personal memoirs. Although both women are often obscured in the skirmishing of the men who took over the project, it is fitting to pay tribute to [p.68]their selfless service—one an elderly widow who was chronicling the devotion and suffering of her family, the other a young woman whose concern that her own children might know these stories impelled her to steal time from her other duties for this unremunerated service.
The project, which began in the winter of 1844-45, ended almost exactly a year later with the creation of two finished manuscripts (in addition to the rough draft). One of the finished manuscripts stayed in Nauvoo with Lucy and eventually came into possession of Orson Pratt, an LDS apostle, who took it with him to England and published it in 1853. It generated considerable controversy; and Brigham Young, twelve years after the fact, ordered the Saints to deliver up their copies to be destroyed. A “corrected” edition was published, but not until 1901-03, first serially by the Improvement Era and then as a compilation. This project was authorized by Young’s third successor, Lorenzo Snow, and implemented by his fourth, who also happened to be Lucy’s grandson, Joseph F. Smith. Meanwhile, the second finished copy had gone to Utah where it now reposes in the Historian’s Office.
As a convenient shorthand for referring to the three earliest versions, both here and more frequently in the parallel columns and notes that follow, I identify the 1844-45 rough draft that Lucy Mack Smith dictated to Martha Jane Knowlton Coray (and sometimes to her husband Howard) as Lucy or as Lucy: 1844-45. The 1845 fair (finished) copy that went to Utah I designate as Coray or as Coray 1845, although both Martha Jane and Howard were involved in making the copy. Since Lucy’s finished manuscript has disappeared, I usually describe it as the manuscript in Lucy’s or Pratt’s (depending on the time period) possession. The 1853 printed version that Orson Pratt arranged to have published by the Millennial Star office, from the first fair copy the Corays made, I designate as Coray/Pratt or as Coray/Pratt: 1853. (See “Which Came First?” pp. 91-93.) In addition, George A. Smith’s corrections to Pratt: 1853 are abbreviated GAS. The 1880 (and subsequent) editions published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints appear as RLDS. The Improvement Era editions of 1901-03, published by the LDS church, are referenced IE. Finally, Preston Nibley’s 1945 reprint of IE is abbreviated Nibley.
I would have preferred to present all three versions in parallel columns, since the Coray manuscript has never been published. However, permission from the LDS Church Copyright Office to publish the Coray manuscript was twice denied, with no reason given. Consequently, I include in the footnotes only such variations found in the Coray manuscript that I consider to be significant or helpful in understanding either the Lucy or the Pratt documents. These variations, though numerous, are, on the whole, not as significant as the reader might suppose. The vast majority consists of punctuation, spelling, and [p.69]minor word order variants. Below is a three-column arrangement of a single short chapter, describing the surgery performed on Joseph’s typhoid-fever-infected leg (Wirthlin, 327) when he was a boy, and a comparison will provide a fairly good sample of typical changes. However, even though relatively few of them alter the meaning in significant ways, it is interesting to see the progression from Lucy’s dramatic oral narrative in the 1844-45 rough draft to the more polished 1845 Coray version to the final published version in 1853. (Notes removed.)
|Lucy: 1844-45||Coray 1845||Coray/ Pratt: 1853|
|so and I shall here be under the necessity of turning the subject to my||
THE SUFFERINGS OF JOSEPH SMITH, JR., WITH A FEVER SORE—EXTRACTION OF LARGE FRAGTURES [sic] OF BONE FROM ONE OF HIS LEGS.
THE SUFFERINGS OF JOSEPH SMITH, JUNIOR, WITH A FEVER SORE—EXTRACTION OF LARGE FRAGMENTS OF BONE FROM ONE OF HIS LEGS.
|3 son Joseph who had so far recovered that he sat up when he <one day> sudenly screamed out with a severe pain in his shoulder and seemed in such etreme distress that we were fearful that something dreadful was about to ensue and sent immediately for the Doctor who said he was of the opinion it was a sprain but the child said this could not be the case as he had not been hurt but that a sharp pain took him very suddenly that he had not been hurt and <he> knew cause for it.||Joseph, our third son, having something like two weeks sickness, and having recovered from the typhus fever, screamed out, while sitting in a chair with a severe pain in his shoulder; and in a very short time appeared to be in such agony, that we apprehended <feared> the consequence would be something serious. We immediately sent for a doctor; who, after his arrival, examined the patient and said, that his opinion was that the pain was occasioned by a sprain. But the child declared, this could not be the case; as he had received no injury
whatever; but, that a severe pain had seized him all at once; and of the cause of which he was entirely ignorant.
|Joseph, our third son, having recovered from the typhus fever, after something like two weeks’ sickness, one day screamed out while sitting in a chair, with a pain in his shoulder, and, in a very short time, he appeared to be in such agony that we feared the consequence would prove to be something very serious. We immediately sent for a doctor. When he arrived, and had examined the patient, he said that it was his opinion that this pain was occasioned by a sprain. But the child declared this could not be the case, as he had received no injury in any way whatever, but that a severe pain had seized him all at once, of the cause of which he was entirely ignorant.|
|[p.70]The physician insisted upon <the truth of> his first opinion and anointed this the shou [sic] with bone linament but the pain remmained as severe as ever for 2 weeks||[p.70]However, the physician still insisted that it must be a sprain, and therefore anointed his shoulder with some bone linament; but this was of no advantage to him: the pain continued the same as before.||[p.70]Notwithstanding the child’s protestations, still the physician insisted, that it must be a sprain, and consequently, he anointed his shoulder with some bone linament; but this was of no advantage to him, for the pain continued the same after the anointing as before.|
|when the Doctor made a close examination and found that a very large fever sore had gathered between his breast and shoulder which when it was lanced discharged a full quart of of Matter||Two weeks of extreme suffering having elapsed, the attendant physician concluded to make closer examination; and he found that a large fever sore had gather<ed> between his breast and shoulder. He lanced it, and it discharged fully a quart of matter||When two weeks of extreme suffering had elapsed, the attendant physician concluded to make closer examination; whereupon he found that a large fever sore had gathered between his breast and shoulder. He immediately lanced it, upon which it discharged fully a quart of matter.|
|As soon as this sore had discharged itself the pain left it and shot shooting like lighning [sic] as he said down his side into the marrow of his leg on the same side, The boy was almost in total despair Oh Father said he the pain is so severe how can I bear it.||When the sore had discharged itself, the pain (using his own terms) left it, and shot like lightning down his side into the marrow of the bone of his leg; and Soon became very Severe. My poor boy at this was in almost total despair, and cryed out, “Oh, father, the pain is so severe, how can I bear it?”||As soon as the sore had discharged itself, the pain left it, and shot like lightning (using his own terms) down his side into the marrow of the bone of his leg, and soon became very severe. My poor boy, at this, was almost in despair, and he, cried out “Oh, father! the pain is so severe, how can I bear it!”|
|His leg immediately began to swell and he continued in the most excutiating pain for 2 weeks longer during this time I carried him in my arms continually soothing him and doing all that my utmost ingenuity||His leg in a short time began to swell; and he continued to suffer the greatest agony for two weeks longer. During this period I carried him much of the time in my arms, to relieve, as much as possible his suffering, on account of which||His leg soon began to swell, and he continued to suffer the greatest agony for the space of two weeks longer. During this period I carried him much of the time in my arms, in order to mitigate his suffering as|
|[p.71]could suggest untill to ease his sufferrings until nature was exhausted and I was taken severly ill myself||[p.71]I was taken very ill myself. The anxiety of mind that I experienced together with over physical exertion, was too much for my Constitution, and my nature sunk under it.||[p.71]much as possible; in consequence of which, I was taken very ill myself. The anxiety of mind that I experienced, together with physical over-exertion, was too much for my constitution, and my nature sunk under it.|
|Then Hyrum who has always been remarkable for the tenderness and sympathy desired that he might take my place Jo accordingly Joseph was laid upon a low bed and Hyrum sat beside him almost incessantly day and night grasping the most painful part of the affected leg between his hands and by pressing it closely in this maner the little sufferer was enabled the better to bear the pain which otherwise seemed almost ready to take his life||Hyrum, who was always rather remarkable for his tenderness and sympathy, now desired that he might take my place. As he was a very trusty good boy, we concluded that he might; and, in order to make the task as easy for him as possible, we laid Joseph upon a low bed; and Hyrum, for some length of time, sat beside him almost day and night, holding the affected part of his leg in his hands, and pressing it between them, in order that his afflicted brother might, the better be enabled to endure the pain, which was so excruciating, that he was scarcely able to bear it.||Hyrum, who was rather remarkable for his tenderness and sympathy, now desired that he might take my place. As he was a good, trusty boy, we let him do so; and, in order to make the task as easy for him as possible, we laid Joseph upon a low bed, and Hyrum sat beside him, almost day and night, for some considerable length of time, holding the affected part of his leg in his hands, and pressing it between them, so that his afflicted brother might be enabled to endure the pain, which was so excruciating, that he was scarcely able to bear it.|
|At the end of 3 weeks he became so bad that we sent again for the surgeon who, when he came <made> cut his leg open <an incision of 8 inches> on the front side of the leg between the <knee> and ancle the distance of 8 inches and by continual dressing his leg was some||After the lapse of three weeks, we thought it best to send again for the Surgion: when he came he made an incission of Eight inches, on the front side of the diseased leg, between the knee and ankle. This relieved the pain in a great measure; and he was quite comfortable until the wound began to heal, when||At the end of three weeks we thought it advisable to send again for the surgeon. When he came, he made an incision of eight inches, on the front side of the leg, between the knee and ankle. This relieved the pain in a great measure, and the patient was quite comfortable until|
|[p.72]what releived untill the wound commenced healing when the pain became as violent as ever||[p.72]the pain became as violent as ever.||[p.72]the wound began to heal, when the pain became as violent as ever.|
|the surgeon again renewed the wound by cutting to the bone the second time shortly it commenced healing the second time and as the healing prg progressed the swelling rose at last a councill of surgeons was called it was decided that there was no remedy but amputation||The surgion was called again: he this time enlarged the wound, cutting his leg even to the bone. It commenced healing the second time, soon after which it began to swell again; and it continued swelling till we considered it wisdom to call a council of Surgions; which being done, it was determined that amputation was the only remedy.||The surgeon was called again, and he this time enlarged the wound, cutting the leg even to the bone. It commenced healing the second time, and as soon as it began to heal, it also began to swell again, which swelling continued to rise till we deemed it wisdom to call a council of surgeons; and when they met in consultation, they decided that amputation was the only remedy.|
|When they rode up I went to the door & invited them into another room apart from the one where Joseph lay Now said I gentlemen (for there were 7 of them) what can you do to save my boys leg They answered we can do nothing we have cut it open to the bone 2 and find the bone so affected that it is incurable||Shortly after they came to this conclusion, they rode up to the door; and I invited them into a room aparte from the one in which Joseph lay. And when they were seated, I thus addressed them: “gentlemen,’ said I, “what can you do to save my boy’s leg?”
“We can do nothing’, answered they; ‘we have cut it open to the bone, and find it so affected, that we consider it as incurable; and amputation absolutely necessary to save his life.”
|Soon after coming to this conclusion, they rode up to the door, and were invited into a room, apart from the one in which Joseph lay. They being seated, I addressed them thus: “Gentlemen, what can you do to save my boy’s leg?” They answered, “We can do nothing; we have cut it open to the bone, and find it so affected that we consider his leg incurable, and that amputation is absolutely necessary in order to save his life.”|
|but this was like a thunderbolt to me. I appealed to the principle Surgeon <present> said I Doctor Stone can you not try once more by cutting round the||This was like a thunderbolt—I appealed to the principal physician; saying, “D<r>. Stone, can you not make another trial? Can you not, by cutting around the bone, take||This was like a thunderbolt to me. I appealed to the principal surgeon, saying, “Dr. Stone, can you not make another trial? Can you not, by cutting|
|[p.73]bone and taking out the affected part there may be a part of the bone that is sound which will heal over and thus you may save the leg you will you must take off the leg till you try once more to save it I will not consent to your entering his room till you promise <this>||[p.73]out the diseased part?—and perhaps that which is sound will heal over—and by this means you will save his leg—You will not, you must not take off his leg until you try once more.—I will not consent to have you enter the room, until you make me this promise.”||[p.73]around the bone, take out the diseased part, and perhaps that which is sound will heal over, and by this means you will save his leg? You will not, you must not, take off his leg, until you try once more. I will not consent to let you enter his room until you make me this promise.”|
|This they agreed to <this> after a short consultingion; then we went to the invalid:—the Doctor said, my poor boy, we have come again. “Yes,” said Joseph, “I see you have; but you have not come to take off my leg, have <you sir?”> No, said the surgeon, “it is your Mothers request, that we should make one moore <more> effort; and that is what we <have now> come for now.||After a few moments consultation, they agreed to comply with my request; and then went in to see my suffering son. One of the doctors on approaching his bed, said: my poor boy, we have come again.”
“Yes,’ said Joseph, ‘I see you have; but you have not come to take off my leg, have you, Sir?”
“No,” replied the Surgion, ‘it is your mother’s request, that we make one more effort; and this is what we have now come for.”
|After consulting a short time with each other, they agreed to do as I had requested, then went to see my suffering son. One of the doctors, on approaching his bed, said, “My poor boy, we have come again.” “Yes,” said Joseph, “I see you have; but you have not come to take off my leg, have you, sir?” “No,” replied the surgeon, “it is your mother’s request that we make one more effort, and that is what we have now come for.”|
|My Husband, look <who was constantly with the child,> seemed <for a moment> to contemplate my countenance; — a moment and then turning his eyes upon his boy, <at once> all his sufferings, <together with> and my <intense> anxiety seemed to rush<ed> upon his mind; & & he burst into <a flood of> tears, and sobbed like a child.|
|[p.74]The surgeons <immediately> now ordered cords to be brought, and to bind <him> the patient fast to the bedstead; But <he> Joseph subject child objected. and When the doctor insisted that he must be bound tha <confined> he said decidedly; “No, Doctor I will not be bound.” I can have endure <bear> the process better to be unconfined.” “Then,” said Dr. Stone, “will you drink some brandy.” No,” said the child, “not one drop.” Then said the Dr, “will you take some wine?” for You must take something, or you never can <never> endure <the severe> operation to which you must be subjected.||[p.74]The principal Surgion, after a minutes conversation, ordered cords to be brought, for the purpose of binding Joseph fast to a bedstead; To this Joseph objected; but he insisted that he must be bound; finally Joseph said, very decidedly: “No, D<r>, I will not be bound: I can bear the opperation much better, if I have my liberty.”
“Then,’ said Doctor Stone, “will you drink some brandy?”
‘No,” returned Joseph. “not one drop.”
“Will you take some wine”? rejoined the D<r>. “you must take something, or you can never endure the severe opperation to which you must be subjected.”
|[p.74]The principal surgeon, after a moment’s conversation, ordered cords to be brought to bind Joseph fast to a bedstead; but to this Joseph objected. The doctor, however, insisted that he must be confined, upon which Joseph said very decidedly, “No, doctor, I will not be bound, for I can bear the operation much better if I have my liberty.” “Then,” said Dr. Stone, “will you drink some brandy?”
“No,” said Joseph, “not one drop.”
“Will you take some wine?” continued the doctor. “You must take something, or you can never endure the severe operation to which you must be subjected.”
|Answered <“No, answered> the the boy, I will not touch one particle of liquor; neither will I be tied down: but I will tell you what I will do, I will have my Father sit on the bed close by me; and then I will bear do anything that <whatever> is necessary to be done, <in order> to have the bone taken out. But me Mother, I want you to leave the room, I know that you cannot stand it endure to see me suffer so. Father can bear it. But you have carred me so much,||“No,” exclaimed Joseph, “I will not touch one particle of liquor, neither will I be tied down; but I will tell you what I will do: I will have my father sit on the bed and hold me in his arms, and then I will do what is necessary to be done in order to have the bone taken out.” Then looking at me, he said: “Mother, I want you to leave the room: I know you cannot bear to see me Suffer So: father can stand it; but you have carried me so much and watched over me so long, you are almost worn out.” Then looking up into||“No,” exclaimed Joseph, “I will not touch one particle of liquor, neither will I be tied down; but I will tell you what I will do—I will have my father sit on the bed and hold me in his arms, and then I will do whatever is necessary in order to have the bone taken out.” Looking at me, he said, “Mother, I want you to leave the room, for I know you cannot bear to see me suffer so; father can stand it, but you have carried me so much, and watched over me so long,|
|[p.75]and watched over me so long you are almost worn out. Then looking up into laid he her <with his eyes swimming with tears> my face his <eyes> swiming with tears, he said beseechingly; Now Mother, promise me you will not stay, will you? The Lord will will help me to so & <that> I shall get through with it; so do you leave me, and go away off till they get through with it.||[p.75]my face, (his eyes swimming in tears) he continued: “Now, Mother, promise me that you will not stay, will you? the Lord will help me, and I shall get through with it.”||[p.75]you are almost worn out.” Then looking up into my face, his eyes swimming in tears, he continued, “Now, mother, promise me that you will not stay, will you? The Lord will help me, and I shall get through with it.|
|”I consented to do so; and <To this I consented: so,> after bringing a number of <folded> sheets to fold <lay> under his leg, I left him, went <going> some 100 <hundred> yards from the house.||To his request I consented; and getting a number of folded sheets, and laying them under his leg, I went several hundred yards from the house, in order to be out of hearing.||To this request I consented, and getting a number of folded sheets, and laying them under his leg, I retired, going several hundred yards from the house in order to be out of hearing.|
|The surgeons began by boring into the bone, first on one side of the affected part, then on the other after which, they broke it loose with a pair of forceps or pincers; thus, they took away 2 large pieces of the bone. When they broke off the first piece, he screamed so loud with the pain <of his leg,> that I could not repress my desire of goinge to him but as soon as I entered the room <he cried out> Oh! Mother! go back! go back! I do not want you to come in I will tough it if you will go||The surgion soon commenced opperation: he bored first on one side of the bone, which was affected, then on the other side: after which, he broke it off with a pair of pinchers; and in this manner, took away large pieces of the bone.
On breaking off the first piece, Joseph screamed out so loudly, that I could not forbear running to him. When I entered his room he cried out: “Oh, mother, go back, go back; I do not want you to come in—I will try to tough it out, if you will go away.”
|The surgeons commenced operating by boring into the bone of his leg, first on one side of the bone where it was affected, then on the other side, after which they broke it off with a pair of forceps or pinchers. They thus took away large pieces of the bone. When they broke off the first piece, Joseph screamed out so loudly, that I could not forbear running to him. On my entering his room, he cried out, “Oh, mother, go back, go back; I do not want you to come in—I will try to tough it out, if you will go away.”|
|[p.76]when the 3 fracture was was taken away I burst into the room again and Oh! my God what a spectacle for a Mothers eye the <wound> torn open to view My boy and the bed on which he covered with the blood which that was still gushing from the wound he was pale as a corpse and the big drops of sweat were rolling down his face every feature of which depicted agony that cannot be described||[p.76]When the third fracture was taken away I burst into the room again. And Oh my God! what a spectacle for a mother’s eye! The wound torn open, and the blood still gushing from it—and the bed litterally covered with blood. Joseph was as pale as a corpse, and large drops of sweat were rolling down his face; whilst the utmost agony was depicted in every feature.||[p.76]When the third piece was taken away, I burst into the room again—and oh, my God! what a spectacle for a mother’s eye! The wound torn open, the blood still gushing from it, and the bed literally covered with blood. Joseph was as pale as a corpse, and large drops of sweat were rolling down his face, whilst upon every feature was depicted the utmost agony!|
|I was forced from the room and detained till they finished the opperation and <after> placing him upon a clean bed with fresh clothing he clearing the room from every appearance of blood and any apparatus used in the extraction I was permite to enter||I was immediately forced from the room, and detained until the opperation was completed. When this was done, Joseph put on a clean bed, and the room cleared of every appearance of blood, as well as and the instruments removed which were used on the occasion, I was allowed again to enter. I now beheld him quiet, and, in a measure, free from pain; although pale as a corpse from exhaustion, and loss of blood.||I was immediately forced from the room, and detained until the operation was completed; but when the act was accomplished, Joseph put upon a clean bed, the room cleared of every appearance of blood, and the instruments which were used in the operation removed, I was permitted again to enter.|
|he now began to recover and when go he was able to travel his un he went with his uncle Jesse Smith to Salem for the benefit of his health hoping that the sea breezes might help him in this we were not disapointed for he soon became strong and healthy||Joseph immediately commenced getting better; and from this onward continued to mend, until he became strong and healthy.
Having so far recovered as to be able to travel, he went with his uncle Jesse Smith to Salem for the benefit of his health, hoping the sea-breezes would be of service to him;
|Joseph immediately commenced getting better, and from this onward, continued to mend until he became strong and healthy. When he had so far recovered as to be able to travel, he went with his uncle, Jesse Smith, to Salem, for the benefit of his health, hoping the sea-breezes would|
|[p.77]and in this he was not disappointed.||[p.77]be of service to him and in this he was not disappointed.|
|[p.77]After one whole year of affliction dis we were able once more to look upon our children and each other in health, and I assure you my gentle reader we realized the blessing for I believe <we> felt more to acknowlege the hand of God in preserving our lives through such a desperate siege of disease pain and trouble than if we had enjoyed health and prospeity during the interim||After about a year of sickness and distress, health again returned to our family; and we indeed realized the blessing, and felt to acknowledge the hand of God, more in preserving our lives through such a tremendous scene of affliction than had we seen nothing but health and prosperity in the same time.||Having passed through about a year of sickness and distress, health again returned to our family, and we most assuredly realized the blessing; and indeed, we felt to acknowledge the hand of God, more in preserving our lives through such a tremendous scene of affliction, than if we had, during this time, seen nothing but health and prosperity.|
In addition to documenting the historical markers of the controversy, exploring its possible causes, and analyzing the reasons usually given, this essay also describes the major landmarks of the book’s checkered publication history, the major editions historically and currently available, and the editorial methods used in preparing this parallel-column edition of Lucy’s 1844-45 rough draft and Pratt’s 1853 published book.
THE MARTHA JANE AND HOWARD CORAY MANUSCRIPTS
Martha Jane’s Antecedents
“Her brilliant black eyes had a piercing power,” say Martha Jane’s descendants (Weeks and Davis, 1). Martha Jane Knowlton Coray was twenty-three years old, a convert of fewer than five years, and the mother of two of her eventual family of twelve when she became involved in an intensive creative partnership with Lucy Mack Smith.
According to a sketch by her descendants, Martha was born 3 June 1821 at Covington, Boone County, Kentucky, to Sidney Algernon Knowlton and Harriet Burnham Knowlton, the third of their ten children. The family moved to Ohio and then, about 1835, to Bear Creek in Hancock County, Illinois, where the family became Campbellites. Martha Jane was teaching a Sunday school class by age ten and applied for baptism at twelve, “a request sufficiently unusual from one so young that the church officials were initially reluctant to grant it” (qtd. in Johnson, 2). According to Bear Creek Branch records, Martha Jane was the first of her family to be baptized Mormon—in [p.78]January 18402 by Apostle John E. Page through a hole chopped in the ice, even though it was “so cold that immediately after one was baptized, the place would skim over with ice” (Weeks and Cooper, 1, 3; Johnson, 2).
Martha Jane received her patriarchal blessing on 21 January 1840 from Joseph Smith Sr., met Howard Coray in Nauvoo when she drove into the city in a one-seated buggy to attend church services, corresponded with him for a few months, then, with the recommendation of Joseph Smith Jr., married him on 6 February 1841 at her parents’ home in a ceremony performed by Robert B. Thompson. She was nineteen and Howard was twenty-three (Knowlton, 23). They had at least two traits in common: a passionate absorption with Mormon history and a profound love for the prophet. For example, Howard commented that Martha Jane “greatly venerated Joseph Smith. I have frequently heard her say, that, he himself [Joseph] was the greatest miracle to her, she had ever seen; and that she valued her acquaintance with him above almost everything else” (“Autobiographical,” 11). While Joseph was alive, Martha Jane’s “unbounded confidence in him as the man of God” inspired her to take down “in common hand every discourse that she heard him preach and [she] has carefully preserved them,” reported an article in a Provo, Utah, newspaper. “Brother George A. Smith said that she had taken more pains to preserve the sayings of that great prophet and had accomplished more in that direction than any other woman in the church” (Territorial Enquirer, Saturday, 17 December 1881, both qtd. in Weeks and Cooper, 3). According to her namesake daughter, Martha Jane Coray Lewis, she “was a warm personal friend of the prophet and patriarch Joseph and Hyrum Smith. It was ever her custom when going to meeting to take pencil and note paper; she thus preserved notes of sermons that would otherwise have been lost to the Church. The late President Woodruff consulted her notes, when he was Church Historian, for items not to be obtained elsewhere” (Lewis, 439).
Howard’s feelings about Joseph Smith were equally strong. In a letter to a friend and kinsman in 1885, Howard testified:
I have had privileges beyond the most of my brethren—I was clerk for Joseph Smith in the year 1840—lived with him—Saw him under varied circumstances—with his family—his friends, as well as strangers. He was always self possessed and at home perfectly master of every situation, that I ever saw [him] in—I was present when he translated as a Seer on one occasion. I was also present when he received [p.79]a revelation in relation to Priesthood matters;3 and, if any sense of sight, of feeling, & of hearing can be trusted, I know Joseph Smith was no humbug—What I saw him do—what I know he did do, was as convincing to me, that God had called him to introduce the Dispensation of the fullness of times, as if I had seen him raise the dead. I know of these things in a way and manner in which there is no possibility of deception by the Holy Ghost—Shall I turn away <and deny what I know> because dark clouds are hovering over us? I hope I am not made of that kind of stuff. (Coray to Joshua)
At another crisis moment, after the martyrdom, Martha Jane and Howard attended the key meeting on presidential succession addressed by Sidney Rigdon, who was followed by Brigham Young. When Martha asked Howard whose leadership he would follow, he answered that they “would go with the records, that the Lord would not allow the records of the church to fall into the wrong hands” (Weeks and Davis, 5). In short, both Martha Jane and Howard were profoundly committed to the importance of Mormonism’s historical documents.
Fortunately this young couple had already surmounted what would prove to be a serious obstacle for many: accepting plural marriage. In early July 1843, Martha Jane had had “a peculiar dream which she believed had some significance” and asked Howard to come with her to Hyrum Smith for the interpretation. Howard recorded this important experience:
We went the next Sunday to see him (Brother Hyrum); but having company, he was not at liberty to say much to us. He said, however, if we would come the next Sunday he would interpret the dream, but wished to see us by ourselves, when there was no other present. Accordingly, the next Sunday we went; but found as many at his house as the Sunday previous; He said to us, come again next Sunday and probably it will be different; but in a day or so he called at our house, and invited us to take a ride with him in his buggy. We accordingly did so. When he had got far enough out of town to converse safely, without attracting the attention or being understood he commenced rehearsing the revelation on Celestial Marriage, and carefully went through with the whole of it, then reviewed it, explaining such portions of it as he deemed necessary. This was on the 22 July 1843. The [p.80]dream was in harmony with the Revelation, and was calculated to prepare her mind for its reception. She never doubted the divinity of it, nor reviled against it, and while still in the buggy, Brother Hyrum asked my wife if she was willing to be sealed to me; after a moment’s thought, she answered, Yes. He then asked me if I wished to be sealed. I replied in the affirmative, and after telling us what he knew by the Spirit of the Lord, that it was His will for us to be sealed, he performed the ceremony, then and there. (Qtd. in ibid., 4)4
Interestingly enough, despite this experience, Howard did not take a plural wife and, despite almost a quarter century of widowerhood, did not remarry after Martha Jane’s death.
Lucy and Martha knew each other from personal contact, not only as residents of the same city or because Martha’s husband worked for Lucy’s son. Their first meeting occurred in striking circumstances. The Times and Seasons of February 1840 included as a news item John Page’s report of baptizing the Knowlton family.5 No date is mentioned, but Martha Jane was baptized in January. Furthermore, the baptisms occurred before 21 January, when Martha Jane received her patriarchal blessing, an important part of the story.
According to Lucy’s account, Joseph Sr., who had been ill most of the winter, “got some better before spring so that he walked arround the neighborhood and even attended to blessing some few of the brethren among whom was Elder John E. Page and his wife” (chap. 52). Accompanying the Pages was a young woman
whom he had never seen before that day and who had not been in the church a fortnight when he blessed her he repeated a prophecy that had before been pronounced upon her head by Bro. Page word for word and told her <said> that the spirit testified <to him> that she was told these things in her confirmation this surprized her for She had just arrived in Nauvoo with Bro Page and sister Page and she knew that there had not one word passed between him and my husband upon the subject. (chap. 52)
Although Lucy does not name this young woman and no date is given for Page’s return to Nauvoo nor for the blessing meeting, the newly baptized con-[p.81]vert was Martha Jane herself and the meeting occurred on 21 January 1840, as dated by her patriarchal blessing. In it Joseph Sr. stated that he was giving her the blessing “by the consent of thy Father and by the request of Br Page thy Spiritual Father,” further confirmation that the blessing was given on the occasion Lucy records. He identified Martha Jane’s lineage somewhat generally as “of the House of Israel of the lineage of Joseph and of the Covenant of Abraham.” The blessing then continued with three predictions, any of which could have been the remarkably repeated promise:
and nothing can overthrow the[e] if faithful … and [thou] shall ere long be filled with the spirit of Prophesy [sic]—Gift of Tongues and instruct the Lamanites in needle work for the Spirit testifys these Things … Thou shalt not marry a Gentile for this is contrary to the Order of Heaven but if Thou wilt seek dilligently the Lord shall guide the[e] through the slippery paths of youth and shall give the[e] a Companion of his own choosing—thou shall have Children and if faithful they shall have <receive> the Priesthood and in after days shall arise and call you blessed—and now continue faithful and ere long Angels shall minister unto the[e] … and I say in the Name of the Lord Jesus thou shalt not die but shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye and shall be caught up to meet him in the air and I now Seal the[e] up unto eternal life Amen6
From Lucy’s record, it is impossible to tell if she was a woman who enjoyed social visits or made them very frequently. She mentions visiting only Joseph and Emma and Emma’s family in Harmony while they lived in Palmyra and visiting only her own relatives as part of a missionary journey in Michigan while she lived in Kirtland. However, she does make mention of a visit she paid to the S. A. Knowlton family on Bear Creek the winter after Joseph Jr. died. This was only a month or two before Martha Jane’s marriage and may even have been at her invitation. Lucy mentions the week-long visit because most of the pleasure was removed when she injured herself in alighting from the wagon, bringing on rheumatism in her knee that led to a prolonged illness that winter (chap. 53).7
[p.82]Howard Coray’s AntecedentsHoward Coray was born 6 May 1817 in Stueben County, New York, the son of Silas Coray and Mary Stephens Coray. The family moved first to Pennsylvania in 1827 and then, in 1838, to Pike County in western Illinois where Howard encountered Mormon missionaries and was baptized with his family on 25 March 1839. In April 1840 Howard visited Nauvoo, where a friend introduced him to Joseph Smith as “a collegiate from Jacksonville College. This was not true,” protested Howard, “and was not authorized by me” (qtd. in Johnson, 3). Joseph Smith, not holding the friend’s prevarication against him, immediately offered Howard employment as his clerk (Knowlton, 24-25). According to Joseph Smith III’s description, Howard had “lost his left hand in some way but had an artificial one made of cork or other light substance, on which he always wore a glove” (9). Howard wrote a legible and even elegant record with his remaining hand, making clerking a logical profession for him. “In about two weeks thereafter,” Howard recorded, “I was busily employed at his office, copying a huge pile of letters into a book—correspondence with the Elders as well as other persons, that had been accumulating for some time” (qtd. in Johnson, 3).
Joseph Smith’s published history does not mention Howard’s employment, so it is not clear how long this arrangement lasted, but it was probably until the fall of 1840 when he opened a school, which was sufficiently successful that he moved it to a large room, added for that purpose to Robert B. Thompson’s house. Joseph III remembers attending Howard’s school during 1841-42, and Howard says that he had about 150 scholars in 1844-45 when, first Martha Jane, then he, “gave up” the school to work full-time on Lucy’s book. Between 1841 and the spring of 1843, Joseph III remembers another incident. Howard, “tall and slender, lightly built but quite active,” was standing by the hitching rail when Joseph came out to mount. Joseph III, who turned nine in the fall of [p.83]1841, remembers that Joseph playfully seized Howard, mock-proposed a wrestle, and gave Howard’s
leg a little knock with his foot, to unbalance him. It was an apparently light blow, but it upset him, or would have, had not Father caught him as he fell.
Then it was discovered that the playful kick had broken the leg. Father carried him into the house, called a doctor, and had the bone properly set. Mother was installed as nurse and he was given the best of care until his injury healed. I still remember Father’s great remorse over the incident and how he not only took care of the unfortunate man and paid the physician’s bills, but saw to it that the teacher lost nothing financially by his enforced absence from the school. I am inclined to think Mrs. Corey [sic] kept us going until her husband returned to the schoolroom. (10)
Joseph III’s memory of the playful tone and of his father’s remorse are accurate, but his dating is mistaken. Howard was not married when this wrestle occurred. In his own writings, Howard dates the accident to June 1840. He and Joseph had looked at the prophet’s horses and were returning to the house, with Joseph’s arm draped around the smaller man’s shoulders:
When we had reached about the middle of the road, he stopped and remarked, “brother Coray, I wish you was a little larger, I would like to have some fun with you.” I replied, perhaps you can as it is,—not realizing what I was saying. Joseph, a man of over 200 lbs weight, while I scarcely 130 lbs, made it not a little ridiculous, for me to think of engaging with him in any thing like a scuffle. However, as soon as I made this reply, he began to trip me; he took some kind of a lock on my right leg, from which I was unable to extricate it; and throwing me around, broke it some 3 inches above the ankle joint. He immediately carried me into the house, pulled off my boot, and found, at once, that my leg was decidedly broken; then got some splinters and bandaged it. A number of times that day did he come in to see me, endeavoring to console me as much as possible.
Howard, during his convalescence, reminded Joseph Smith jokingly that Jacob had “received a blessing for wrestling with the angel.” Joseph responded by promising him that he would soon find a companion who “will be suited to your condition, and whom you will be satisfied with. She will cling to you, like the cords of death, and you will have a good many children.” Howard, with this blessing in mind, was scanning the congregation at Sunday meeting only three or four weeks later when he caught sight of Martha Jane sitting in a one-horse buggy. “She had dark brown eyes, very bright and penetrating,” he wrote. “At least they penetrated me; and I said to myself, she will do. The fact is, I was decidedly struck.” After the meeting, he “promenaded” about the grounds until he could effect an introduction from a mutual friend. The conversation that ensued impressed him further: “She was ready, off hand, and inclined to be witty; also … her mind took a wider range, than was common for young ladies [p.84]of her age” (qtd. in Johnson, 4). Their courtship prospered, especially as Joseph Smith made a point of talking to Martha Jane about Howard, assuring her “that I was just the one for her” (ibid.). Robert B. Thompson performed their wedding on 6 February 1841 and even housed the honeymooning couple.
In Howard’s patriarchal blessing, given at Nauvoo on 20 October 1840, Hyrum Smith had pronounced Howard’s lineage as being “of the Tribe of Caleb,” encouraged him to surmount his “infirmity,” and drew an explicit parallel with the biblical Caleb, sent by Joshua to spy out the land of Canaan:
The fruitful portions of the land your eyes would behold and that you would contribute with all your heart to God. The desolate portions of the land your would not be any stumbling block in your path, and your testimony on your return would be favorable because of your Zeal <for the cause> which is sacred. This is a Type for you and a blessing on your head.
Although Coray was then acting as Joseph Smith’s secretary and was engaged “in copying letters writing church history” (Knowlton, 25), Hyrum Smith tellingly concluded: “You shall be called an historian. In these things you shall improve greatly insomuch that there shall be few greater.”8 Almost certainly, Howard would have assumed that this blessing referred to the work he was then engaged in:
I continued the work of copying his letters until I finished the same. He then desired me to write up the Church history, saying that he would furnish all the material. I declined telling him that I did not [sic] myself competent for such a work—he said, if I would undertake it, I would be thankful for it as long as I lived: having more confidence in him than I had in myself, I engaged in the business of an historian. He placed in my hands some items and scraps of history for me to arrange cronologically and fix up as best I could. We had now moved into his new office—a two story building arranged to do the office work in the upper story.
He returns to the same episode in his second autobiographical sketch, this time explaining that Edwin D. Woolley was also engaged in the same project.
[p.85]The Prophet was to furnish all the materials; and our business, was not only to combine, and arrange in cronological order, but to spread out or amplify not a little, in as good historical style as may be. Bro. Woolley’s education, not being equal to mine, he was to get the matter furnished him in as good shape as he could; and my part was to go after him, and fix his up as well as I could, making such improvement and such corrections in his grammar and style as I might deem necessary. On seeing his work, I at once discovered, that I had no small job on my hands, as he knew nothing whatever of grammar; however, I concluded to make the best I could of a bad job, and thus went to work upsetting and recasting; as well as casting out not a little. Seeing how his work was handled, he became considerably discouraged; and rather took offence at the way and manner in which I was doing things, and consequently soon withdrew from the business.
Immediately after Bro. Woolley left, I succeeded in obtaining the services of Dr. Miller, who had written for the press, and was considerably accustomed to this kind of business. Now I got on much better. I continued until we used up all the historical matter furnished us by the Prophet. And, as peculiar circumstances prevented his giving attention to his part of the business we of necessity discontinued our labors, and never resumed this kind of business again. (“Journal,” in Jessee edition, 343-46)
Despite Howard’s direct involvement in writing Joseph Smith’s history, perhaps the memory of Hyrum Smith’s blessing was what encouraged his full cooperation as Martha Jane launched on her project with Lucy Mack Smith.
Like most men in Nauvoo, Howard also served a mission. Two years after marrying Martha Jane, he and his father-in-law served a six-month mission to Pennsylvania (November 1842-spring 1843), during which Howard “took cold in my eyes,” an ailment from which he suffered permanently (Knowlton, 25). Brigham Young called him on another mission with several other men on 8 October 1844 as part of a plan to have high priests “in all the congressional districts of the United States … to go and settle down, where they can take their families and tarry until the Temple is built, and then come and get their endowments, and return to their families and build up a stake as large as this” (HC 7:305-07). This plan of dispersal was soon abandoned in favor of a new exodus; there is no indication that Howard planned to move his family out of the city, especially since Martha Jane was engaged in her historical project with Lucy within a few weeks.
Origins of Lucy’s History
Three versions exist of how the project and collaboration began, although it is not possible to determine which most accurately describes the facts—nor does it particularly matter. The first version is that the idea was Lucy’s and that she asked Martha Jane for assistance. A Coray family memoir, quoting Periodicals and Works Published by the Church in 1853, says that Lucy “call[ed] to [p.86]her aid Mrs. Howard Coray, [and] wrote a history of her life and that of her family” (Weeks and Cooper, 5). Lucy was literate, but she had arthritis in her hands, and holding a pen or pencil for long hours would have been painful. There are no descriptions of how far this condition had progressed in 1844 when she turned sixty-nine in July, but Eliza R. Snow records that she “wrote a letter for Mother Smith” on 18 June 1843 (Beecher, 76). Howard Coray’s personal history corroborates that Lucy approached Martha Jane:
Sometime in the winter following 1844-45 Mother Smith came to see my wife, about getting her to help write the history of Joseph; to act in the matter, only as her, Mother Smith’s amanuensis. This my wife was persuaded to do; and so dropped the school [that she had been assisting Howard to teach]. Not long had she worked in this direction, before, I was requested also to drop the school … and help her in the matter of the history. After consulting President Young, who advised me to do so, I consented; and immediately set to with my might. We labored together until the work was accomplished, which took us till near the close of 1845. (Qtd. in Knowlton, 23)
In the second version, Martha Jane initiated the project. In her own statement made on 13 June 1865, Martha Jane described her desire to “transmit to paper what the old lady said” and “to secure all the information possible for myself and children,” with the modest secondary goal of preparing “a small book for the reading of the young” that would contain “simple stories” as Lucy told them. Daughter Martha Jane Coray Lewis corroborates:
I have heard her say that the cause of her writing the history of Joseph Smith was that she might preserve as much as possible of the history of our great prophet to read to her own children; she, accordingly, went to Mother Smith, and asked her permission to write what she could remember of her son’s history. Mother Smith gave her glad consent, and my dear mother went to her daily, and wrote until Mother Smith would grow weary. She then read over, several times, what she had written, making such changes and corrections as Mother Smith suggested. The work was undertaken purely as a labor of love. (Lewis, 40)
There is no question of Martha Jane’s diligence. She may also have sought spiritual guidance for the project. Her notebook contains a hasty draft of a blessing, partly in pencil and partly in ink. Neither the giver, the recipient, the date, nor the circumstance of the blessing is given. It begins by blessing her as Howard’s companion in his historical work. It should be remembered that Howard was no longer working for Joseph Jr. when they were married. The rest of the blessing lends itself to the hypothesis that this was a special blessing bestowed on Martha as she pursued her work helping Lucy with her autobiography:
Sister Allm I <beloved Sister> I lay my hands upon thy according to thy [p.87]requst & bless thee ac to the H. P. for an assi(s)tent to thy com for in all his labors as an historian and ordain thee to this power I ask my Heavenly Father to give the wisdom that you may be enabled to writ in that manner which is best calculatto gain the atten of the reader that thy composition shall be filled with intelligence thy pen may be guided by inspiration that thy days may be spent in usefulness in the name of Je(sus) C(hrist) I seal a blessing according to My calling and I ask God to give thee the Spirit of prophecy 2 enlatran(?) that thou may mayest Communicate wisdom to the understanding thy name Shall be known for it is writen in the Lambs book of life fear not thou shall find plenty work and thy name shall go forth into the name and be great is writen in the lambs book of life and dismiss all thy doubts and thy Years multiplied upon thy head I ordain thee to this power by the authority invested in me and I seal upon thee every blessing which is calculated to promote the interest of the Redeemers Kingdom[.] (“Copy,” 59-61)
The third version gives two different but not mutually exclusive scenarios by Lucy herself in a document closer in time to the actual period than either Martha Jane’s or Howard’s versions of events. In a letter that Lucy dictated to Martha Jane to her son William on 23 January 1845,9 when the project would have been recently undertaken, Lucy ascribes the origin of the project to the Quorum of the Twelve, although it is not possible to know whom, exactly, she meant by this: “I have by the Councill of the 12 undertaken a history of the Family that is a my Fathers Family and my own now.” She refers to it as a matter of “buisness,” neither as a sentimental reconstruction of the past nor as what we would today call grief therapy. I am aware of no contemporary documents from Brigham Young or the Twelve to support this position; and certainly, given Young’s later reaction, it seems unlikely that he would have taken credit for encouraging the project, although Howard Coray felt he had Young’s blessing in giving up the school to work full time with Martha. There is no question that Lucy hoped that the project would relieve some of the dire poverty oppressing her family. In a note written lengthwise in the margin on the first sheet of the letter, she says: “My son I intend, if I can accomplish the book I have commenced that it shall be an assistance to you and your sisters and believe it will be a benefit to you all[.]”
The letter is a rambling one. It describes Lucy’s stricken and bereft state, continues with a diatribe against the United States, laments that William is not there to comfort her and her three daughters as “the sole remaining <male> suport of your Fathers’ house,” inquires lovingly after Caroline’s [p.88]health (she was dying of “dropsy”—renal failure), and urges William to return to the anxious church and the welcoming Twelve. Scattered throughout this letter are references to her book:
People are often enquiring of me the particulars of Joseph’s getting the plates, seeing the angels at first and many other things which Joseph never wrote or published. I have told over many things pertaining to these matters to different persons to gratify their curiosity indeed have almost destroyed my lungs giving these recitals to those who felt anxious to hear them. I have now concluded to write down every particular as far as possible and tha if those who wish to read them will help me a little they can have it all in one piece to read at their leasure.10
Lucy returned later in her letter to the idea that the book would be a popular one: “I suppose <if> I were with the saints they would be glad to hear me relate those things which I design commithing [sic] to paper. The Bretheren here are very anxious about the matter and wou<ld> help me if they could but they are poor.” She urges William more than once to raise money through a subscription, collect as much cash as he could, buy paper (“I shall need at least $100 dollars wo worth of paper”), and return to Nauvoo (Lucy Smith to William).
Since Martha Jane wrote this letter at Lucy’s dictation, she would undoubtedly know whether the Twelve had, in fact, initiated the project or merely responded positively when Lucy proposed it. The fact that Martha Jane repeatedly told her family a different story, however, after knowing how Lucy was explaining it, suggests that Martha Jane did not accept Lucy’s version.
Chronology of the Composition
Although few details have survived of the actual working sessions between Lucy and Martha Jane, they were apparently very labor-intensive, refuting later reports that Martha Jane put her own words in Lucy’s mouth. According to Martha Jane’s and Howard’s daughter, Martha Jane went to Lucy’s “daily, and wrote until Mother Smith would grow weary. She then read over, several times, what she had written, making such changes and corrections as Mother Smith suggested. The work was undertaken purely as a labor of love” (Weeks and Cooper, 5).
According to a memoir and comparison of changes between Preston Nibley’s 1958 and Orson Pratt’s 1853 versions by great-grandson Robert P. Cooper, Martha Jane “started laboriously to copy the words as they came from the mouth of Mother Smith. There were some letters and documents which [p.89]Martha Jane could copy, but most of the history was coming word for word from the lips of Mother Smith as she remembered it” (Cooper, 1).11
Joseph F. Smith’s version, written as an introduction to the 1901 Improvement Era printing, says it was “written at the dictation of Lucy Smith … by Mrs. Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, who acted as her amanuensis. It was taken from the words of Mother Smith and dictated from memory mostly, but she also made use of such historical memoranda of the events related as were within her reach.” Of the actual method of composition, he says nothing.
In September 1844, Lucy, who had lived with Emma Smith in the Mansion House during the summer of the assassinations, moved with Arthur Millikin and Lucy Smith Millikin into “the Ponson house, hired for them by the church, which also hired a girl to wait upon her and help generally” (RLDS, 95). Work on her memoir began that “fall,” according to Heman C. Smith (ibid.), and during the “winter of 1844-45,” according to Howard Coray. The project was certainly well underway by January 1845 when Lucy noted her engagement in this “buisness” in her letter to William. The rough draft manuscript, corresponding to chapter 31 but in a passage without a printed counterpart, contains the scribal notation: “here follows a long detail—see notes March 22 1845.” If this notation was made on the day that part of the rough draft was written, then by 22 March 1845, Lucy and Martha Jane had reached the point in the narrative at which Joseph Smith negotiated the printing contract for the Book of Mormon with E. B. Grandin. In chapter 44, only six chapters from the end of the completed volume, Lucy refers to herself as being sixty-eight years old.12 Since her birthday was on 4 July, she must have dictated that passage after July 1845.
Then two weeks later, the rough draft (or possibly the intermediate draft) was completed, for on 18 July 1845 Lucy applied for and received a copyright for her manuscript, according to Illinois law. According to Heman C. Smith, Almon W. Babbitt did the necessary work for her (RLDS, 95). In seeking this legal protection, she may have been motivated by the memory of Joseph Jr.’s experience fifteen years earlier when the fact of having secured the copyright was significant in stopping Abner Cole’s pirating of the Book of Mormon for [p.90]his “Dogberry” paper. Her application is a statement of both her own identity and her purpose in writing:
“The History of Lucy Smith wife of Joseph Smith, the first Patriarch of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, who was the father of Joseph Smith, Prophet, Seer, & Revelator;—containing an account of the many persecutions, trials, and afflictions which I and my family have endured in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, and establishing the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints; and also an account of many remarkable dreams and visions never before published: a genealogy of our family for many generations and the history of the murder of my sons Joseph and Hyrum Smith in Carthage Jail” the title whereof she claims as author and proprietor in conformity to the act of Congress … (Copyright)
The rest of the summer must have been devoted to final revisions—the process of rewriting, reading it to Lucy, revising, and rewriting, making the final draft, and, perhaps (though less certainly), beginning the fair copy. The manuscript was definitely completed by 8 October 1845, for Lucy, addressing a general conference audience of an estimated 5,000 at her own request, “gave notice that she had written her history, and wished it printed before we leave this place” (Clayton and Bullock, 1013-14). This comment constitutes the first public announcement about Lucy’s book.
The next event pertaining to her manuscript occurred on 10 November 1845 when Brigham Young and several members of the Quorum of the Twelve “consulted on the subject of purchasing the copyright of Mother Smith’s history” (HC 7:519). It is not clear who was present. Young names Heber C. Kimball, Willard Richards, and George A. Smith but adds that “several of the Twelve and others called in the afternoon” when the discussion occurred. If they made overtures to Lucy about purchasing the copyright, no record has survived. Instead the group “concluded to settle with Brother Howard Coray for his labor in compiling the same” (HC 7:519). Jan Shipps sees Young as interpreting this payment as “sufficient indication of church proprietorship” (98). If this were, in fact, the case, it is not clear why Martha Jane and Howard kept the copy (as their descendants say they did) instead of giving it to Willard Richards and George A. Smith to be boxed up and taken west with the other church historical documents (as Brigham Young seems to say they did).
Howard’s memory that he and Martha Jane “labored together until the work was accomplished, which took us till near the close of 1845” allows us to date the completion of the two manuscript fair copies quite exactly (qtd. in Knowlton, 23). On 14 January 1846, when Howard was paid $200 “For Compiling the History of Lucy Smith,” he received a separate payment on the same day for $35 for “Transcribing the manuscript of sd history” with “Fifty dollars of the above bill to [be] paid in store goods” (Searle, 379-80). Tellingly, Martha [p.91]Jane received no wages for her services as secretary or copyist—and not even any acknowledgement of her contribution. It is true that B. H. Roberts, adding a footnote to the notation about “settling” with Howard “for his labor,” conscientiously explained: “The work of compilation for Mother Lucy Smith was really done by his wife, Sister M. J. Coray, who was also her amanuensis throughout. The work was finally published under the direction of President Joseph F. Smith in Salt Lake City, Utah, October 1901. It was revised by Elders George A. Smith and Elias Smith, close relatives of the author” (HC 7:519 note).13
Which Came First?
The existence of two fair copies raises the question: which came first and which second? As Jan Shipps further asks, was the second copy “a true copy or a further revision”? (Mormonism, 182n26).
According to the family, “Martha Jane Knowlton Coray kept the original manuscript in her possession.” Then, after reaching Utah, “Martha Jane gave her original manuscript to President Brigham Young” (Cooper, 3). Joseph F. Smith’s preface to the 1901 Improvement Era version also stresses the primacy of the Utah copy: “Of the original manuscript one copy was taken which was left with Lucy Smith, while the original was retained by the writer. This original Mrs. Coray held in her possession until her arrival in Utah, when she subsequently deposited it with President Brigham Young” (vii). Preston Nibley, who reprints this introduction in his edition, has silently altered this last sentence to read: “… deposited a copy of it with President Brigham Young.” It is unclear why Nibley would have made this change, since it muddies the meaning, suggesting that Martha Jane had an original manuscript in Nauvoo, made one copy for Lucy, and made a second copy of it for Brigham Young, while retaining the “original” of both in her possession. There is no historical evidence for this scenario. Rather, both Joseph F. and Cooper mean that Martha Jane kept the first complete copy and that Lucy had the second.
However, this scenario is also flawed. I argue that the Coray version is the second fair copy (or, more precisely, the only copy of the original fair copy retained in Lucy’s possession). External evidence that the surviving Coray 1845 manuscript is the second copy are Brigham Young’s instructions to “William Clayton, who was then chief Clerk, to have it copied off, every word. That copy [p.92]is now in the Historian’s Office” (“Remarks”). If this detail can be trusted out of Brigham Young’s rather inflammatory and not completely reliable discourse in 1865, then it indicates that he remembered the Coray fair copy as a copy and Lucy’s fair copy as the original finished manuscript. It also suggests that both were, within the limits of fallible human copying, identical. Additional evidence confirming Young’s memory is the voucher paying Howard $35 for “Transcribing the manuscript of sd history” (reproduced in Searle, 379-80). Martha Jane herself, in her June 1865 letter to Brigham Young, says that Lucy received “the first copy,” and surely it would seem appropriate that Lucy would have been presented with the first finished version, not the second, just because it was the first copy.
Strong internal evidence that the Coray manuscript is the second version, not the first, is that some language present in Pratt (and words that are grammatically required for the sentence to make sense) are missing from the Coray 1845 fair copy, suggesting that the scribe making a second copy—hurried, fatigued, or distracted—inadvertently omitted words that were in the first. It is possible but less likely that these same errors could have been made if the scribe had copied both documents from the intermediate draft (or a still later draft). However, it seems more efficient, and hence more likely, that the Corays would have copied from the best version available.
For example, in Sophronia’s blessing (chap. 52), we see an example of inadvertent omission suggesting that Coray/Utah was made as a copy from Coray/ Pratt. Lucy’s rough draft reads: “and thou shalt live as long as thou desirest life.” Pratt’s published version is identical: “and thou shalt live as long as thou desirest life,” while Coray drops out words in a way that leaves the phrase meaningless: “and thou desirest life.”
At the end of the same chapter, possibly because of scribal fatigue, two other omissions occur. (I strike through the omitted words, which appear in the Pratt document, for greater clarity): “I did not think that I could possible [sic] find, in travelling over it, a sorrow more searching, or a calamity more dreadful, than the present. But, as I hasten to the end of my story, the reader will be able to form an opinion with regard to the correctness of my conclusion.”
In chapter 18, the Pratt publication reads: “While these things were going forward Joseph’s mind became considerably troubled with regard to religion … ” The Coray fair copy reads: “While these things were going forward, Joseph’s mind became considerably troubled with regard to <excited upon the subject of> religion … ” Although the meaning is substantially the same, the fact that the wording of the Pratt publication appears in the Coray manuscript but has been marked out in favor of a variant wording strongly suggests that [p.93]the Coray/Pratt typesetter’s copy was written first and the Coray/Utah copy was written second.
Another example occurs in the genealogical tables of chapter 9 where George A./Elias Smith, Brigham Young’s designated revisers, seem to have borne down heavily in making corrections. Most of the discrepancies are just that: discrepancies. It is not possible to say which of two dates is the correct one without application to a third source. Nor is anything about the order of composition proved by additions to the finished fair copy. However, in one case, the Coray fair copy has more specific information than the Pratt published version. Sophronia, the second daughter of Don Carlos Smith and Agnes Coolbrith Smith, has only a birth year in Pratt’s volume (1838) but a full birth date (25 April 1838) in the Coray manuscript. This difference suggests that the Corays learned this full birth date after they finished the fair copy given to Lucy but before they copied the same chapter in the version that went to Utah. Hence, Pratt took with him to England the earlier, incomplete version.
In the second example from the genealogical tables, Pratt identifies a single child, Don Carlos, for Arthur and Lucy, whose surname he gives correctly as “Millikin.” The Corays, while using the spelling of “Milikin,” which appears in both Lucy’s manuscript and throughout the Coray manuscript, add a complete birth date for Don Carlos and also a second child, Sarah (without a birth date). This pattern again suggests that the fair copy in Lucy’s possession was completed first and that the Coray copy was made from it, with slight alterations for greater completeness. These alterations are purposeful, unlike those mentioned earlier, which are accidental.
The Corays in the West
Howard and Martha Jane were endowed in the Nauvoo temple in January 1846, wintered on the Missouri River with Martha Jane’s family, and departed for the West in 1850. Behind them in Illinois, they left Lucy and the first of the two fair copies. With them went the second fair copy (Coray/Utah), Lucy’s 1844-45 rough draft, and possibly the intermediate draft as well, since then mostly lost. (See discussion below.)
In Utah they completed their family of twelve children. They lived in Salt Lake City, Tooele County (1854), and Provo (1856-71). Martha Jane was the first secretary of the Relief Society in the Thirteenth Ward organized for Indian relief, thus fulfilling a clause in the patriarchal blessing received from Joseph Smith Sr.14 In Provo she became a trustee on Brigham Young Acad-[p.94]emy’s first board of trustees. Howard, who began as a clerk in the Presiding Bishop’s Office with a salary of $1,000 a year, tried a variety of professions: teacher, assessor, bookkeeper, accountant, and homesteading in Juab County where he also clerked, taught school, and ran a mill, none of them very successfully. In the fall of 1880, they moved back to Provo to treat Martha Jane’s persistent “cough,” but she died, possibly of tuberculosis, on 14 December 1881 (Knowlton, 26-27). The Salt Lake Herald praised her: “She was possessed of indomitable energy and besides being well read and cultured, and possessing in an eminent degree many womanly traits, she was almost masculine in her strength of character. Her mind was clear and comprehensive and she employed it to good advantage” (qtd. in Johnson, 1). The Woman’s Exponent went further: “She evinced a character in a degree somewhat rare for one of her sex—that is of decidedly doing her own thinking; hence, before adopting any principle of religion, law, or politics, whether proposed by father, husband, priest or king, she must clearly see and understand for herself the righteousness and consistency of the matter” (ibid).
After serving as a home missionary (spring 1882) and in Virginia (June 1882-April 1883), Howard “spent the next quarter century in rather uneventful retirement at the homes of his sons and daughters,” dying at age ninety-one on 16 January 1908 (ibid., 28-29). Joseph F. Smith spoke at his funeral.
We now turn to the travels of the documents.
ORSON PRATT’S PUBLICATION OF BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES
Everyone involved with Lucy’s history probably anticipated a quick publication, and Lucy certainly wanted it; but this was not to be. The next documentable action occurred in early 1853 when Orson Pratt acquired Lucy’s copy of the final manuscript. Several versions of how he did it exist, but this reconstruction seems to be the most reliable.
Pratt reached Washington, D.C., in November 1852, established a print-[p.95]ing office, and issued his first number of The Seer, on 1 January 1853. Few attended his lectures on temperance, but he was happy to pour his efforts into publishing lengthy treatises on Mormon doctrine, including polygamy, the preexistence, and the nature of God, initially with Brigham Young’s encouragement (England, 178). According to Horace S. Eldredge, who was presiding over a branch of the church in St. Louis, Almon W. Babbitt stopped in St. Louis on 11 February 1853: “He was on his way to Washington he had been to Nauvoo to get the Manuscript of Mother Smiths Life to have it published.” This diary makes it possible to date the manuscript’s transfer fairly precisely, since, five weeks later on 19 March, Babbitt again “passed through the city from Washington [going] home” (Eldredge, Journal). If Babbitt discussed financial details of the transaction, Eldredge did not record them. It also means that the transfer could have been straight from Lucy to Babbitt, since Lucy had, in fact, been living in Nauvoo with her widowed daughter-in-law Emma Hale Smith Bidamon since 1851.
However, every other version of the story is more complicated. Martha Jane Coray says in her letter to Brigham Young on 13 June 1865 that Lucy’s fair copy went to Lucy’s own son-in-law Arthur Millikin, probably during the 1846-51 period when she was living with him and her daughter Lucy, and from him to Almon Babbitt, and then to Isaac Sheen, a former member of the church, in Michigan. Sheen had married Babbitt’s sister Julia, a family connection that survived the different religious paths they took.15 B. H. Roberts omits Babbitt and adds William Smith. He says that the manuscript’s route was from Lucy to William, to Isaac Sheen, to Orson Pratt (CHC 1:14). Roberts must be mistaken in this hypothesis since Pratt’s 1853 letter to Lucy (cited below) makes it clear that, whatever the manuscript’s earlier provenance, it reached him from Babbitt.
According to Brigham Young’s intemperate and highly hyperbolic address in 1865 in Wellsville (see “Official Reaction,” below), Orson Pratt reportedly paid Sheen $1,000 for it. It is extremely unlikely that Pratt had such a sum. He was editing The Seer in Washington, D.C., which was doing reasonably but not extravagantly well; subscriptions would fall off sharply within a year. Another Coray family memoir mistakenly says that Pratt obtained a copy of “the original manuscript, which he purchased from a third party, who had obtained it from a [p.96]member of the Smith family after her [Lucy’s] death” (Knowlton, 23-34). Lucy was, of course, still alive in 1853.
Joseph F. Smith, in his introduction to the 1901 edition, says the manuscript went to William Smith and then to Isaac Sheen (JFS, vii). A family memoir, quoting Periodicals and Works Published by the Church in 1853, also reports that “the original manuscript was sold to Orson Pratt by Isaac Sheen, who as it subsequently appeared had fraudulently obtained possession of it” (qtd. in Weeks and Cooper, 5). George A. Smith likewise believed that Sheen had obtained the manuscript, then sold it to Almon Babbitt, although it is not clear how Sheen came by it. A possible reason why the family may have believed that the manuscript went from Lucy’s hands into Sheen’s before 1851 is that she was still living with daughter Lucy and son-in-law Arthur Millikin. After she moved to the Mansion House under Emma’s care, Babbitt would probably have been less welcome. Emma Smith had no use for Almon Babbitt, and neither did Joseph Smith III who rather hotly remembers that Babbitt, en route to Washington, D.C., as Indian agent from Utah, tried to persuade Emma to move to Utah. When she refused, after considerable argument, he
finally told her in plain terms, that it had been determined to make her so poor that she would be willing and glad to come out there for protection. He added that he had been appointed to accomplish that purpose and he proposed to do it. I remember Mother’s spirited reply to this astonishing statement:
“Almon Babbitt, it may be possible for you to make me poor, but you could never make me poor enough to induce me to follow Brigham Young.” (JS III, 38)
The persistent intrusion of Isaac Sheen into the provenance of Lucy’s book may have occurred because he was involved in the peregrinations of another important manuscript source, Joseph Smith Sr.’s 1834 Blessing Book. About 1838 Cyrus Smalling, a disaffected Mormon, stole it, then sold it to Oliver Granger at Far West, Missouri. Granger brought it back to Kirtland with him where he died. His son and heir, Gilbert, would not give or sell it to Joseph Smith, but instead gave it to Hiram Kimball (who had married Gilbert’s sister, Sarah), authorizing him to sell it to the church. Joseph Smith Jr., instead of buying it, got a warrant on 7 February 1843 and repossessed it as stolen property. It was rebound in two volumes, the blessing book and a blank-paged book which Joseph used for his manuscript history (Book B-1). In 1845 William Smith borrowed the blessing book, took it with him when he quit Nauvoo, and left it in 1850 with Isaac Sheen at Covington, Kentucky, after a violent quarrel. Sheen eventually gave it to his brother-in-law, Almon W. Babbitt, instructing him to sell it to the church. William Smith later accused Babbitt of stealing it; but Babbitt, defending himself against accusations of apostasy before the Pottawattamie High Priests’ High Council, 4 August 1850, claimed: “I have [p.97]got the records of Father Smith, etc. I have not stole them, but attached them legally for the archives of God.”16 Babbitt was apparently in no haste to transfer these records to the archives, for they were still in his possession when he was killed by Indians in 1856. Benjamin F. Johnson, an executor of his estate, took the book and gave it to George A. Smith on 31 January 1859. George A. summarized a history of its movements at the end and deposited it in the Historian’s Office on 11 February 1859 (Vogel 1:467-68; Rudd, 152).
Although the exact passage of Lucy’s manuscript may not be known unless new documentation is discovered, there seems no reason at this point to make it more complicated than the sources themselves: Almon Babbitt acquired it from Lucy in Nauvoo before 11 February 1853 and, before 19 March, transmitted it to Orson Pratt who, that summer, took it to England.
A fortuitous coincidence took Pratt to Great Britain: he had been researching his genealogical line and came across a Protestant minister in Connecticut who had advertised for descendants of a common ancestor and willingly shared the 2,000 names he had already collected. Excitedly, Pratt promised to search for more names in British parish registers and sailed to Liverpool at the end of May 1853, taking Lucy’s manuscript with him.17 While he was in England, he arranged with the church printer, Samuel W. Richards, to have the manuscript printed (England, 183). He told Lucy later that it “has cost me between two and three thousand dollars in order to get the same before the public,” and his biographer says that it “never bought him any remuneration” (ibid; Pratt to Lucy Smith, 1853).
Pratt spent “only a few weeks in England” (and got married in June to boot), thus raising some questions about the editing differences between Biographical Sketches and the Coray fair copy in Utah. Had Pratt, during early 1853, gone over the manuscript adding a heavy sprinkling of commas, correcting names where he knew better spelling, and reparagraphing? And if so, had he also added the British spellings to replace American spellings? (For a discussion of stylistic differences, see “inconsequential changes” under “Editorial Procedures” below.) Had he left these editing chores to Samuel Richards? Had Richards simply turned the manuscript over to the printer? Or had all three of them made some changes or some types of changes? Without more informa-[p.98]tion from the participants or an examination of the manuscript itself, any answers must be conjectural.
Most likely it became waste paper once the type was set; but if it survived, where is it and why has no one recognized such an extensive and easily identifiable text? Did the manuscript remain in Great Britain or was it returned to the United States? Orson Pratt was the British Mission president when he was withdrawn because of the Utah War. Did he bring the church papers back with him, or leave this manuscript in someone’s safekeeping?
Meanwhile, glowing (and not wholly accurate) promotions appeared at least twice in the Millennial Star, the first in May 1853. Apparently the final title had not been selected at this point:
Soon to be published, The Progenitors of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, for many generations. This work will also include many remarkable events connected with the discovery and translation of the Book of Mormon, and the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, never before published. The manuscripts containing this information, with the exception of the portion relating to his martyrdom, were written by the direction and under the inspection of the Prophet. This work will be exceedingly interesting to the Saints, and will be a most convincing evidence, to all nations, of the divinity of this great and last gospel message. It will most likely contain about 200 pages of the same size as the Star. (“New Work”)
Orson Pratt’s sincere but mistaken claim that Joseph Smith had been somehow involved in creating the history (perhaps misrepresented to him by Babbitt) would prove especially irritating to Brigham Young. Pratt (or his agent) repeated this claim five months later in a second promotional notice:
“Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors.”— This work … is now ready for sale. Any authentic circumstances connected with the history of the martyred opener of this last dispensation, are invested with no ordinary degree of interest to the Saints, and are beginning to be to the world … The early life of the Prophet, the diverse difficulties and trials through which he and his father’s family struggled, to become the benefactors of the world, will be read of with a commensurate degree of admiration for the firmness and integrity of purpose displayed. We do not imagine that any unprejudiced person can take up this work, and bestow upon it a careful perusal, without becoming deeply sensible of the divine mission of Joseph Smith. Being written by Lucy Smith, the mother of the Prophet, and mostly under his inspection, will be ample guarantee for the authenticity of the narrative.
Not only is the life of the Prophet given, but, as will be seen from the title, sketches of the lives of many of his progenitors are. Altogether, the work is one of the most interesting that has appeared in this latter dispensation. To the Saints we would say—Read the work, and your hearts will be cheered by its contents, and your gratitude to the Almighty increased. To the world we would say—Read [p.99]the work, and the Spirit of God will bear witness with your spirits, that he is the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, and is again manifesting himself as in days of old. (“Joseph Smith”)
As printed, Pratt’s volume had two titles: History of Mother Smith, by Herself and Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations, by Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet. Apparently Pratt made no effort to obtain the copyright (which he was not legally required to do) or to consult Lucy.
However, Pratt wrote affectionately to “Dear Mother Smith” on 28 October 1853 from Washington, D.C., reporting that he had purchased “some manuscripts relating to the early life of Joseph the Prophet” from Almon Babbitt “last winter” and asking for her permission, as copyright owner, to publish it in the United States. He promised her “a few of the best bound copies from England,” which should be available within a couple of months. “I will also, as soon as I can obtain the means, send you one hundred dollars cash as a present. Brother Babbit said to me that you were willing to sell me the copyright for $100.” He stressed: “I will send you that amount as a present, and if you feel disposed to let me have the copyright it will be thankfully received; if not you shall still be welcome to the $100; and I wish I was able to give you still more; but I am poor & my circumstances will not admit of it at present. Perhaps I may, at some future time, have it in my power to help you still more.”
The rest of the letter is a heartfelt reminiscence about “those happy days, when I first had the joyful privilege of coming under your roof in Waterloo, N.Y. I have been your true friend from that day to this.” He mentions how he revered the prophet Joseph; if Orson could live his life over again, “I could never do enough for his happiness and welfare.” He asks to be remembered with “kind love” to her children, grandchildren, and Joseph’s widow Emma.18
On 16 January 1854, Pratt wrote again, forwarding ten copies of the book. Lucy received only eight but responded gratefully two weeks later on 4 February, dictating the letter through her grandson Joseph III, with “my warmest thanks.” As for permission to reprint her book in the United States—she refers to “manuscripts” in the plural, as he had done in his letter—she has “studied over the matter and have finally concluded that you may make use of them in any way you see proper. I am not in a situation to have any printing done and you may as well receive benefit from it as any one. And you are hereby authorized to print, sell in this or any other country all those manuscripts you have once belonging to me.” The “favor”—the promised hundred dollars—she adds [p.100]“will be received with thanks to the almighty for his mercy to you and through you to me.”19
Although Lucy thus gave Pratt permission to print her book in the United States, the language of “present” and “permission,” rather than “sell” and “copyright,” means that she retained legal control. She did not sell it or transfer it to another individual. Further, her heirs did not renew the copyright after her death, thus allowing it to enter the public domain. In any case, it was a moot question, since Pratt did not bring out a U.S. edition and may have heartily wished, before Brigham Young was finished, that he had not done the British edition either.
Pratt remained in Washington until the summer of 1854, then led a party of emigrants across the plains. He arrived in the fall and plunged immediately into October conference, a series of tabernacle addresses, and promoting education in the territory. In November a shipment of Biographical Sketches reached Utah from Britain and became available in Utah for the first time (England, 188). A notice in the Deseret News on 16 November commends it: “This new and highly interesting work should be possessed by all Saints who feel in the least degree interested with the history of the latter day work. Many facts which it contains, and never before published, are of great importance to the world, and the work constitutes a valuable acquisition to the libraries of the Saints” (qtd. in Searle, 391). The Deseret News editor added a brief note on the same page: “From a brief inspection of the ‘Sketches,’ we cordially recommend the purchase and perusal of the book” (qtd. in Tanner and Tanner, 2). The book seems to have generated neither great enthusiasm nor great alarm, but that may have been because Young was more actively concerned about Pratt’s theology.20
OFFICIAL REACTION TO THE CORAY/PRATT 1853 VOLUME
Two factors are curious about the official reaction to the publication of Pratt’s Biographical Sketches: first, that it was so negative, and next, that its most wrathful moments came, not immediately after publication, but twelve years later when Brigham Young ordered the Saints to turn in their copies to [p.101]their bishops, who would forward them to him so that they could be destroyed. Repeatedly the “public” reason given for the suppression of Lucy’s book was its inaccuracy, but this reason can be described charitably only as a red herring, for the official reaction was out of all proportion to the actual inaccuracies. (See “The Question of Accuracy” below.)
An examination of the materials available documenting Brigham Young’s reaction suggests that he was really angry at Pratt over doctrinal matters and, about half the time, while dressing him down in public and in private, simply threw in Biographical Sketches for good measure.21 Young had already informed Pratt in the summer of 1853 that “‘many points in the Seer … are not Sound Doctrine’” (England, 189). During 1854 he took exception to Pratt’s disquisitions on the nature of the godhead and particularly to Pratt’s differing views on the Adam-God doctrine. On 31 January 1855 he wrote a letter to the Millennial Star requesting that an item called “Publications” be reproduced. This notice, published in the 12 May 1855 issue, requests that the Star not reprint any more items from The Seer because it “has many items of erroneous doctrine.” It also includes a denunciation of Biographical Sketches:
There are many mistakes in the work entitled “Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and of his progenitors for many generations, by Lucy Smith, mother of the Prophet.” … I have had a written copy of those sketches in my possession for several years [by this he probably means the 1845 Coray fair copy], and it contains much of the history of the Prophet Joseph. Should it ever be deemed best to publish these sketches, it will not be done until after they are carefully corrected. I take this seasonable opportunity to inform the public mind, in order that readers may not be surprised or disappointed at finding discrepancies, and may know which is the most reliable, in case a corrected edition is ever published. (Young, “Publications”)
On 21 March 1855 Pratt issued a somewhat ingenuous apology and retraction in the Deseret News, yet still ended up defending his work:
I was informed, at the time, that most of the work was written under the inspection of the Prophet; but from evidences since received, it is believed that [p.102]the greater part of the manuscripts did not pass under his review, as there are items which are ascertained to be incorrect.
These imperfections have undoubtedly arisen either from the impaired memory of the highly respected and aged authoress, or from the lack of correct information; or, which is most probable, from the carelessness of the scribe in writing from time to time isolated statements from her mouth without a sufficient understanding of their connection.
In future editions the work will be carefully revised and corrected so far as we have knowledge. In the meantime, it is believed that this history will be interesting to the Saints, and to the public generally, as from it they can make themselves acquainted with some of the greatest and most remarkable events of modern times.
If the schools of our Territory would introduce this work as a “Reader,” it would give the young and rising generation some knowledge of the facts and incidents connected with the opening of the grand dispensation of the last days. (Pratt, “Brief”)22
The Corays certainly would not have appreciated being made into scribal scapegoats, but there is no indication that they responded. They were hardly in a position to make public corrections or to point out that Lucy had been involved in repeated rereadings as the manuscript moved through at least three and possibly more drafts.
On 13 February 1859 Wilford Woodruff recorded that Brigham Young gave him some instructions during a conversation about Biographical Sketches:
He wished us [Woodruff was Assistant Church Historian] to take up that work & revise it & Correct it that it belonged to the Historians to attend to it that there was many fals statements made in it and he wished them to be left out and all other statements which we did not know to be true, and give the reason why they are left out. G. A. Smith & Elias Smith should be present. That Book makes out William Smith according to Mother Smith’s statement to be full of the Holy Ghost & the power of God while at the same time I herd him say in the presence of Heber C. Kimball while Joseph Smith was a prisoner in the hands of his enemies and I said that God would deliver him. William Smith said Dam him Joseph Smith ought to have been hung up by the neck years ago and Dam him he will get it now any how. (5:287)
It is not clear whether Woodruff is continuing to report Young’s statement (“I herd him say … ”) or whether Woodruff is contributing his own memory [p.103]here. The discussion continued, with Young bringing up the still-rankling matter of the carriage as an example of William Smith’s wickedness. He summarized: “Elder O Pratt published that work & bought it of A. W. Babbitt at a high Price. We had a Copy of it in our office. It is marvellous that He should have published it without my Council. Many other remarks were made by Brigham Young” (5:288).
George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff (but not Elias Smith) promptly set to work. George A. had already discussed at least one item with Brigham Young. Howard Searle records that George A. expressed skepticism to Brigham Young on 16 February 1859 about David Whitmer’s ability to do two days’ worth of harrowing in one while angelic messengers sowed his field with plaster of paris (used as a fertilizer) so that he could leave promptly to fetch Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery from Harmony, Pennsylvania (chap. 30). Young responded that he “was willing to believe a big story if it was true.” Five days later George A. wrote to Whitmer:
Dear Sir—I have been a firm believer in the Book of Mormon for the last 28 years. Your certificate of testimony appended thereto has been read a great many times with pleasure. . . . I always felt a warm and rather enthusiastic feeling in my heart towards you personally, and have always regretted that Providence had so dictated that you were not associated with us … There is a tradition that, in the days previous to your going to the appointed place to meet the heavenly messenger and see the plates, God in his providence enable you to do two days’ work in one at harrowing in wheat; and that several unknown hands spread a quantity of plaster that would have cost several days’ labour, thereby setting you at liberty to go at the call of Joseph Smith and to hear the voice of the Lord. Tradition also says that you drove your horses a journey of 135 miles in two days without injuring them. There is doubtless a foundation for these traditions. As the facts are within your knowledge, will you have the goodness to communicate them to me by letter? I can believe a supernatural manifestation of power if it is true, but I do not wish to give currency to a rumour that is false. If you comply with my request, … you need not apprehend that I will publish it contrary to your wishes. I desire a statement of the matter for my private satisfaction. If you are willing to have your statement published, please say so in your letter.
… Don Carlos Smith and myself helped you load 300 lbs of merchandise into a wagon and aided you in crossing a strip of sand by lifting at the wheels while your little span of horses pulled it through nobly. Your parting words to us were—“Success to you, boys!” I am thus particular that you may remember
Your friend and well wisher, George A. Smith (Smith to Whitmer)
Whitmer apparently never answered; but George A. did not strike the story out of any of the versions he worked on, apparently, Searle hypothesizes, because Whitmer had published “his own version of the incident” in the Millennial Star in 1849 (Searle, 395).
[p.104]The next day, 23 February 1859, George A. wrote two letters. One was to Solomon Mack, Lucy’s brother, to solicit his opinion of Mother Smith’s history of her family, “so far as you are acquainted with it.” He introduces himself by a full genealogy as “the oldest son of John, who was a younger son of Asael Smith and brother of Joseph Smith Sen. your brother in law.” In a strenuous effort to express a lack of confidence in the work while not insulting his correspondent’s sister, he wrote:
After the shocking massacre which deprived my Aunt of two of the noblest sons of Man, Joseph, and Hyrum, following almost in instant succession, by the untimely death of Samuel Harrison; so that in the short space of forty days, her three darling sons were placed in an untimely grave: Although she endured this privations [sic], in a manner truly astonishing to her friends; yet we could not conceal from ourselves that these terrible blows, had made visible inroads upon her mind, as well as upon the bodily strength of that venerable Mother in Israel.
… In the last fifteen years she got events considerably [mixed] up; and in a future edition it will probably be necessary to aid the reader to properly understand her narative [sic], to insert the dates of events in the margin: The early part of that history is entirely beyond my memory though I have heard my father and Uncles speak of many of the incidents narrated in the book of your venerable Father, and I recollect in my childhood of having seen a pamphlet giving an account of Solomon Mack’s adventures in the revolutionary, and french and Indian wars … (Smith to Mack)
Mack, who had died on 12 October 1851, naturally did not answer. The second letter, to John Bear, inquired about the circumstances of his conversion, since Lucy had credited William’s preaching skill with his baptism (see chap. 43). Bear responded that the account was inaccurate, and George A. vigorously X’ed it out on his copy of the 1853 published version.
Then the project seems to have lost momentum. Another gap—this one of six years—ensued. Although matters had been eventless where the history was concerned, Brigham Young and Orson Pratt had had another major conflict. Although Young appreciated Pratt’s skillful defense of polygamy and even though Pratt was unfailingly deferential and conciliatory, Pratt had continued to publish views on the godhead at variance from Young’s. He had gone to England as mission president in 1856, only to be recalled with the outbreak of the Utah War. That conflict was defused, but the theological disagreements were not. Pratt was chastised at a Quorum of the Twelve meeting in January 1860; and although he defended his views for hours, he capitulated and unreservedly apologized the next morning at the Tabernacle preaching service. “The Priesthood is the highest and only legitimate authority in the Church in these matters,” he affirmed. “When I say that Priesthood, I mean the individ-[p.195]ual who holds the keys thereof” (Clark 1:219, 217). His lengthy address was published in the Millennial Star.
On 31 January 1860, fresh from this apology, Pratt called on Young to offer personal apologies and humbly acknowledge his own “selfwilled determination.” After first denying that he ever had “any personal feelings,” Young admitted that he had “felt vexed” that Pratt had not consulted the Twelve before publishing Lucy’s book. Pratt meekly admitted wrong-doing, offering in extenuation that he had not seen it as wrong at the time. Magnanimously, Young said that “he did not have it in his heart to disfellowship but merely to correct men in their views” (Young, Office, 37).
But the wrangle was not over. Although the exact reasons that prompted Young’s next expression of displeasure are not clear, speaking on 8 May 1865 at Wellsville23 in Cache Valley, he announced that he was going to have his remarks published “to all the Saints in all the world,” then identified Lucy’s book by full title and Orson Pratt as the instigator of the publication:24
We have advertized to be have them gathered up and destroyed, so that there might not be any copies of it <the book> among the people. Brother Cannon, while on his mission to Europe, exercised his influence there to have those copies those book copies of <those> the book in the hands of the Saints there gathered in and destroyed. The inquiry arises at once, “why do you want to destroy these books?” It is because the book is a tissue of falsehoods. There are witnesses here present, in this room, who know that there are false statements in it; Brother Ames is one, so is Bro. Snow, and others. So far as I am acquainted with the statements in the book, they are palpably false, and I do not wish such a book not to be lying on our shelves to be taken up in after years and read by our children as true history. I took up one on Brother Benson’s table this morning. <and having the least> I had no idea that I should find a copy in the house of one of the Twelve Saints as I hoped they had been put out of the way. Bro. [Peter] Maughan has told me that he, also, has one. When I find brethren of the Twelve and Bishops and [p.106]men in authority in the Kingdom of God hugging such a book to their breasts, and keeping it in their houses, after what has been said and printed concerning it before, I must speak plainly concerning <on the matter>.
I require the Twelve, the High Priests, the Seventies, the Bishops, and every one in the Church, male and female, if they have such a book, to burn it up destroy it.25 If they do not, the responsibility of the evil results that may accrue from keeping it will rest upon them & not upon me. Without entering into the details of the history of the book, it may seem necessary to you to relate a few items connected with it. (“Remarks”)
He then launched into an attack on Martha Jane Coray somewhere between hyperbole and slander, cast doubts on Lucy’s mental competence in passing, and gave his unvarnished opinion of William:
… There is was a sister now lady living in Provo Nauvoo Sister Coray <by the name of> Corey [sic], a smart, active woman with a very bright mind, but her <she had a great taste as I understand> for novel novelty <reading>. I suppose that, when young, she devoured every novel, as it is termed, that she could lay her hands on. Her desire was to be a novel writer, <especially a novel writer,> and she begged the privilege in Nauvoo of writing the history of Mother Smith. We knew she was doing it, but did not know what she [was] writing in it. Mother Smith was very old and forgetful, and could <scarcely> recollect hardly anything <correctly> that had transpired. Sr. Cory <This lady> would get little items from her, and then she would write, write, write in the style of a novel and [take it to Mother Smith and read it. “is this so?” she would ask, reading what she had written: “Really, I do not recollect; it sounds very nice; I guess it must be so.” and thus it was passed as correct matter of history.
Writing of William When Joseph was taken in Missouri, <William Smith> he swore that he wished Joseph might never get back, but that he might be hanged; he came out of Missouri swearing like a devil, and heaping abuse on the name of the Prophet; yet according to this book Mother Smith would tells us that she knew William to be one of the greatest Saints of Latter-days. She knew <it> that was wrong, that he was not so. When the book was written Mother Smith sent it to me to examine. This was a year after Joseph’s death. With some others acquainted with the circumstances I read the manuscript, and we saw it was false <incorrect>. I instructed William Clayton, who was then chief Clerk, to have it copied off, every word, and said that at some future time we would look over the history and bring out something that would be correct for Mother Smith. <That copy is now in the Historian’s Office>.26
[p.107]Young then delivered a caricature of Pratt’s role in the publication, accusing him of being motivated by greed. Substituting the crushing poverty in which Pratt lived most of his life for “greed” might well provide a motive for publication; but Young overlooked the fact that Pratt could very seldom command a thousand dollars in cash, and it seems improbable that 1853 was one of those times. Although Pratt told Lucy that he had spent two or three thousand dollars of his own money getting the book published, he also apologized to her for not being able to give her more than $100. Young is also incorrect in stating that Pratt obtained the manuscript from Sheen; whatever Sheen’s role may have been, Pratt received the manuscript directly from Babbitt. Furthermore, Brigham Young himself knew better, since Wilford Woodruff recorded a conversation in Brigham Young’s office on the topic on 13 February 1859, “Elder O Pratt … bought it of A. W. Babbitt at a high Price.” It seems clear that Woodruff is recording Young’s statement in this instance, since he continues, “It is marvellous that He [Pratt] should have published it without my Council” (5:288). It also seems unlikely that the manuscript was stolen; if Lucy had felt defrauded, it seems improbable that she would not have mentioned the circumstances in writing to Pratt in 1854. Young continued:
To shorten the story, Almon Babbit … stole it from her; a few of the apostates and renegades got away this manuscript and the Mummies27 and some other things that were left to me, and they passed into the hands of Isaac Sheen,] from whom Orson Pratt obtained this Manuscript, and through his greed for money, published it in England. I do not know that Samuel W. Richards knew anything about the manner in which it was written or how Orson Pratt obtained it. He printed it as he would have done any other book, <I suppose>. Brother Pratt had it printed, and published it without saying a word <to the First Presidency or the Twelve> of what he was doing. [As nigh as we could learn he paid Babbit something like one thousand dollars for the Manuscript.] This (is) the way the book came into being. It was smuggled, juggled and gambled into existence as a book, and <all for selfish gain.>
Mother Smith knew nothing about a number of things that were written. Her memory was so <far> gone she could not tell whether they were as represented or not. According to the book, she is stated to have built a school house while [p.108]Joseph was in Missouri. She never did a stroke to the building of that house. I had the house buil [sic] myself. But I have not time to recite the various items that are incorrect. The book was looked over by some of the connections relatives of the Prophet who were acquainted with the history of the family. Here is <one of them,> Bro. Geo. A., a nephew of Mother Smith’s and a cousin of the Prophet’s, who knows that it is erroneous. Judge Elias Smith, in Great Salt Lake City, when he looked over the book, said it was a tissue of lies from beginning to end.]28
Young concluded by warning anyone who owned the book that he or she was “transmitting lies to posterity” and that “the curse of God will rest on every one who keeps these books in their houses.” He ordered the volumes turned in, either to him or to the bishop, so that they could be “destroyed,” and offered to pay for them, announced that Pratt would ordinarily have been “brought before the High Council and disfellowshipped, but we bore, and bore, and continued to forebear.” He concluded, perhaps inadvertently, by admitting a more pressing source of his spleen: “I wil not bear such things any longer. My words have been unheeded and my counsel disregarded in this matter and I will not endure it.”
When he returned to Salt Lake City, he sent a message to Martha Jane Knowlton Coray, asking about her role in its production.29 She wrote him a letter from her home in Provo on 13 June 1865 that was both conciliatory and defensive or, in Searle’s words, “telling him just about what he wanted to hear” (398):
I was her amanuensis at the time the Book was written. First, allow me to state the cause of my being found in that position: I was, and had been from the age of thirteen years, much in the habit of noting down everything, I heard and read which possessed any peculiar interest to me, in order to preserve facts. At this time I was occupied from time to time as occasion offered, in making notes of sermons, and other things which I thought reliable such as: discourses by yourself, the twelve, and other responsible men, when I observed that no clerk was present, this made it an easy task for me to transmit to paper what the old lady said, and prompted me in undertaking to secure all the information possible for myself and [p.109]children; further I hoped her simple stories might be compiled in a small book for the reading of the young. Mother Smith was, al [sic] the time she gave her history, in a very low state of health, at times suffering great pains with rheumatism and often much suffocated with an affection [affliction] of the chest. The baleful influence of her evil minded son William was another great cause of confusion. Hyrum and Joseph were dead, and thus, without their aid, she attempted to prosecute the work, relying chiefly upon her memory, having little recourse to authentic statements whose corresponding dates might have assisted her. The Book when finished by me, required a thorough revision by those who possessed better facilities for correcting it than were accessable to me. There were two Manuscripts prepared, one copy was given to Mother Smith, and the other retained in the Church. The first copy fell into the hands of Mr. Arthur Miliken: Mother Smith’s soninlaw, and went from him, I hear, to A. W. Babbitt Esq., and afterwards came into the possession [of] an Editor named Sheen, and was sold by him to Elder Orson Pratt who took it to England, and published it in its crude state. The Preface, printed by Elder Orson Pratt, claims, that the work was mostly written under the supervision of Joseph Smith; this was not true, as it was not commenced untill sometime after his death.
Mother Smith was a kind, warmhearted, noble and good woman, She rejoiced in her family, and had a natural desire to perpetuate their memory, and trusting too much to recollection, she was in some things mistaken—but who has thus never been mistaken? I wrote the Book, and my statements were faithful and true, as far as I could learn at that time; but upon further information, I am convinced, that it contains many unavoidable errors, and should not have been printed, in its present form, but being printed should be suppressed. I expected that it would pass through the hands of the Church Historian. but as it did not, its publication in its seems to <have been> improper.
Sir, with respect and honor, I remain, Your Sister in the bonds of the holy gospel, M. J. Coray (Coray to Young)
Martha Jane was obviously not in a position to argue with the president of the church about whether this statement or that in Lucy’s book was technically accurate, especially when it was far from clear which statements Young was taking exception to. In fact, she may well have agreed with him. As a convert of only five years, she may very easily have decided that Lucy was grossly though innocently misrepresenting what had happened before 1840. But while acquiescing to Young’s obvious distaste for the book, she defends what she can: Lucy’s motives as being the natural joy a loving mother took in her family, and her own care in transcribing Lucy’s words.
Within a few days, on 21 June 1865, Young, in the course of a sermon in Salt Lake City, “made some remarks on the book entitled ‘Joseph Smith and his Progenitors,’ requesting those who had copies to let him have them, and receive value for them if they desired it” (qtd. in Searle). On 23 July, according to Andrew Jenson’s Church Chronology, “a book, entitled ‘Joseph Smith the [p.110]Prophet,’ by Lucy Smith, the Prophet’s mother, published by Orson Pratt and Samuel W. Richards, in England, was condemned for its inaccuracy, by the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles” (Jenson, Chronology, 73).
In August 1865, the First Presidency and the Twelve, whether repeating or simply elaborating on their July action, published an editorial that again “condemned” the book “for its inaccuracy.” Although all three members of the First Presidency—Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, and Daniel H. Wells—signed the lengthy editorial published in the Deseret News (23 August 1865) and Millennial Star (21 October 1865), the document was clearly the work of one man, almost certainly Brigham Young himself (Clark 2:229-31), since it is basically a more polished version of his Wellsville remarks.30
He begins anecdotally, expressing some pique at being disobeyed:
Happening lately, while on a preaching trip to Cache Valley, to pick up a book which was lying on a table in the house where we were stopping, we were surprised to find that it was the book bearing the title, on the outside, of “Joseph Smith, the Prophet.” … Our surprise at finding a copy of this work may be accounted for, by the fact of our having advertized some time ago that the book was incorrect, and that it should be gathered up and destroyed, so that no copies should be left; and, from this, we had supposed that not a single copy could be found in any of the houses of the Saints.
We now wish to publish our views and feelings respecting this book, so that they may be known to all the Saints in all the world. In Great Britain diligence has been used in collecting and in disposing of this work, and we wish that same diligence continued there and also exercised here, at home, until not a copy is left. (Young, “Hearken,” 230)
To forestall requests for the reason for such an extraordinary procedure, he continued by harshly condemning the book—not just for containing errors but also, through his repeated use of false, for presumably malicious dishonesty. He also repeated his order to destroy it and warned of dire consequences for disobedience:
… We are acquainted with individual circumstances alluded to in it, and know many of the statements to be false. We could go through the book and point out many false statements which it contains, but we do not feel to do so. It is sufficient to say that it is utterly unreliable as a history, as it contains many falsehoods and mistakes. We do not wish such a book to be lying on our shelves, to be taken up in after years and read by our children as true history, and we, therefore, expect … every one in the Church, male and female, if they have such [p.111]a book, to dispose of it so that it will never be read by any person again. If they do not, the responsibility of the evil results that may accrue from keeping it will rest upon them and not upon us.
He next condemns, successively, Lucy Mack Smith’s mental competence, William Smith’s character, and Orson Pratt’s secretiveness. Though he names Martha Jane (by surname), she escapes the general censure, no doubt because of her cooperative letter in June, although he seems to confuse her with Howard when it comes to the matter of payment:
… Mother Smith was seventy years old, and very forgetful. Her mind had suffered many severe shocks, through losing a beloved husband and four sons of exceeding promise, to whom she was fondly attached, three of whom had but recently fallen victims to mobocratic violence, and she could, therefore, scarcely recollect anything correctly that had transpired. She employed as an amanuensis a lady by the name of Coray.
Those who have read the history of William Smith, and who knew him, know the statements made in that book respecting him, when he came out of Missouri, to be utterly false Instead of being the faithful man of God, and the Saint which he is there represented to have been, he was a wicked man, and he publicly expressed the hope that his brother Joseph would never get out of the hands of his enemies alive; and he further said that if had had the disposing of him, he would have hung him years before.
Young puts words in Lucy’s mouth by claiming she represented William to be a “faithful man of God” and a “saint,” although that may well have been her opinion. Furthermore, I have not been able to find documentation of any statement by William Smith wishing Joseph ill in the immediate post-Missouri period except that reported by Wilford Woodruff. While Joseph and Hyrum were still incarcerated in Liberty Jail but after the extended Smith family had managed to make their various ways to Quincy, William added a postscript to a letter Don Carlos wrote the two older brothers on 6 March 1839. In it he apologizes for not visiting Hyrum and Joseph in jail, pleading both the press of business and also his anxiety lest an excessive number of visitors arouse the suspicions of the Missourians that the Saints “would rise up to liberate you … [and] make it worse for you.” He added, “We all long to see you and have you come out of that lonesome place,” and promised, “Do not worry about them [your families], for they will be taken care of. All we can do will be done; further than this, we can only wish, hope, desire, and pray for your deliverance” (HC 3:274). While this letter might be interpreted as evidence that William was not overanxious to risk his own safety to visit his brothers, it provides no evidence that he found any satisfaction in Joseph’s and Hyrum’s imprisonment or wished them ill.
Nibley (343) states: “After Joseph was taken prisoner and the mob began [p.112]to drive out the Saints, William expressed himself in such a vindictive manner against Joseph that the Church suspended him from fellowship 4 May 1839 at a general conference near Quincy.” He gives no source. The published minutes of that three-day Quincy conference, at which Joseph Smith presided, are far less specific than Nibley’s unfootnoted information: “Resolved … that Elders Orson Hyde and William Smith be allowed the privilege of appearing personally before the next general conference of the Church, to give an account of their conduct; and that in the meantime they be both suspended from exercising the functions of their office” (HC 3:345). No details about their “conduct” are provided. The next conference was set for the “first Saturday in October” (3:346). However, William was restored to his office only three weeks later on 25 May, reportedly at the intercession of Joseph and Hyrum (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4, App. 1). That day’s entry in Joseph’s history is equally bland: “The case of Brother William Smith came up for investigation and was disposed of.” A footnote, presumably by George A., still fails to illuminate: “That is, Elder Smith who had been guilty of some wilful and irregular conduct while in the state of Missouri, was permitted to retain his standing in the quorum of the Twelve” (HC 3:364).
Brigham Young then continues basically the same statements he had made to the Wellsville congregation:
When the book was written, Mother Smith sent it to us to examine. In company with some others, who were acquainted with the circumstances alluded to in the book, we read the manuscript, and we soon saw that it was incorrect. We paid the amanuensis who wrote the book for Mother Smith for a copy of the work, and that copy is now in the Historian’s Office, and has been in our possession ever since we left Nauvoo. But the original manuscript was purloined, we suppose, from Mother Smith, and went into the hands of apostates, and was purchased of them by Orson Pratt. He had the work published in England. We do not know that Samuel W. Richards, who printed the work, knew anything about the manner in which it was written, or how brother Pratt obtained it. He printed it, we suppose, as he would any other book. But brother Pratt had it printed, and published it, without saying a word to the First Presidency or the Twelve about what he was doing. This is the way the book came into being. It was smuggled, juggled and foisted into existence as a book. (Young, “Hearken,” 230-31)
Young singled out for special condemnation the hapless Pratt’s mistaken statement from the preface that Joseph Smith had been involved in the book’s production. He then repeated his orders and threats:
Many of the Saints may not know that the book is inaccurate; but those who have been instructed respecting its characer [sic], and will still keep it on their tables, and have it in their houses as a valid and authentic history for their children to read, need rebuke. It is transmitting lies to posterity to take such a course, and [p.113]we know that the curse of God will rest upon every one, after he comes to the knowledge of what is here said, who keeps these books for his children to learn and believe in lies.
We wish those who have these books to either hand them to their Bishops for them to be conveyed to the President’s or Historian’s Office, or send them themselves, that they may be disposed of; and they will please write their names in the books, with the name of the place where they reside, and if they wish to hand them over without pay in return, state so; and if they wish to get pay for them, state whether they desire it applied on Tithing, or wish the value returned in other books.
The editorial continues to twice this length, lambasting Pratt’s theological views by quoting offending doctrinal paragraphs from The Seer, but without identifying the errors they contain. Young concludes, “This should be a lasting lesson to the Elders of Israel not to undertake to teach doctrine they do not understand” (ibid., 235).
This article was published in the Millennial Star 27 (21 October 1865): 657-63, along with a “Proclamation of the First Presidency and Twelve” detailing Pratt’s doctrinal errors at length and ordering members to destroy items reprinted from The Seer or cut them out of bound works. The mission president, Brigham Young Jr., added another notice (p. 667) referring readers to the First Presidency and Twelve article about “Joseph Smith the Prophet and other publications also mentioned. The reasons assigned are sufficient to justify this step.” Young Jr. then repeated an earlier announcement that “all copies of such works in possession of parties in this country, should be forwarded to the Liverpool Office. We are aware, however, that there are still several loose copies floating around through different parts of the Mission.” He asked “the brethren in the various Conferences” to collect and forward them “on the same terms” as the First Presidency’s: free, as tithing credit, or in exchange for “any of the standard works of the Church” (qtd. in Tanner and Tanner, 4).
Pratt, recuperating from what sounds like a case of pneumonia in London, read these announcements in the Millennial Star and meekly drafted an announcement on 25 October 1865, “To the Saints in All the World.” In it he expressed contrition “that I have ever published the least thing which meets with the disapprobation of the highest authorities of the Church; and I do most cordially join with them in the request, that you should make such dispositions of the publications alluded to, as counselled in their proclamation” (Clark 2:238). Ironically, Pratt had just reached England to replace Brigham Young Jr. as president of the mission. Brigham Young Sr. had praised his son from the pulpit as having exercised “diligence” in wreaking what Pratt’s biographer called “the sacred holocaust of his works” (England, 229).
THE “REVIEW” IN NAUVOO
[p.114]Much of the interpretation of Pratt’s role in the publication of Biographical Sketches depends on the accuracy of Young’s claim that he and knowledgeable “others” had read the manuscript in Nauvoo, counseled against its publication, planned on extensive revisions before publication, and ordered a manuscript copy made for that purpose (“Remarks”). Did this review in fact take place? And did Orson Pratt know about it?
First, had Brigham Young read the manuscript himself? It seems unlikely. The amount of leisure he had between June 1845 (or, more probably, November 1845, when the manuscript was finished) and January 1846, when Howard was paid for his copy, was virtually nonexistent. Intensive endowment and sealing sessions began in the temple in December, and he was sometimes there night and day before departing from Nauvoo in February. Reading a manuscript of this length could not have been done in less than a full day and probably, given Young’s limited reading skills, even longer. Almost certainly, if the manuscript came to him as he claimed it did, he assigned someone else to read it.
Who might this other reader or readers have been? Wilford Woodruff was in Great Britain on a mission for much of 1845-46. George A. Smith, a logical candidate, kept a diary which exists in an elegantly recopied form. In searching for references to Lucy or her history between the summer of 1845 and February 1846, I found only one reference—to the 30 June 1845 meeting over Lucy’s vision (see “Editor’s Introduction”). The published version of William Clayton’s diary for 1845-46 does not mention his reading this history, and the holograph version is not available. John Taylor’s published Nauvoo diary ends on 17 September 1845 without mentioning Lucy’s history after he read some of it in June. In any case, even Young and George A. Smith would have had first-hand knowledge of events only from Kirtland on. In short, there is, as far as I know, no corroborating documentary evidence from 1845-46 that either Brigham Young acting as an individual or “the Twelve” collectively read the fair copy and issued any advice. However, it strengthened Young’s authoritative position if he could claim—as he did—that he had earlier made known his wishes but that they had been disregarded.
However, assuming that this alleged review occurred, did Orson Pratt know about it? If Young had been so firmly convinced on first reading it in Nauvoo in late 1845 or early 1846 that the book was in error, then why had this fact not so much as made its way into casual conversation with Pratt, with John Taylor, who kept a daily diary during this period, or with the ubiquitous William Clayton? Pratt and Young were close at this period. They had been together in Massachusetts when the news of the assassinations had reached them. Young had personally taught Pratt about plural marriage and sealed his [p.115]first two plural wives to him in 1844. On 30 June 1845, Pratt was one of the apostles who was present at the meeting over Lucy’s vision of William beset by armed enemies. Pratt had spent July-December 1845 in New York, but he was back in Nauvoo by 11 December and was presiding at sessions in the temple during January 1846. In other words, Pratt’s and Young’s paths crossed often. It seems improbable that, in the course of the most ordinary greeting, they would not have asked each other what business they were engaged in and how it progressed—the nineteenth-century equivalent of “How are things going?” If Young had been spending a day or more of his valuable time reading Lucy’s book or had assigned someone else to do it, why was this fact of such negligible importance that he never mentioned it, especially given the vital interest of all Nauvoo’s inhabitants in Joseph Smith and especially if Brigham found it wanting? It seems even more improbable that Brigham would not have mentioned the project to Clayton or to Joseph’s kinsman, George A. Smith.
Of course, it is also possible that Pratt was simply out of the information loop, even though he was in Nauvoo. He certainly did not know—or at least had seriously misunderstood—that Lucy had written the history beginning in the winter of 1844-45 or he would also have known that Joseph could not have supervised any part of the work, as he mistakenly claimed in his preface.
The final question is: Even if Pratt did not know Young’s (possibly unspoken) views on the manuscript, should he have asked permission from Young and/or the Twelve before publishing it? It is difficult to say. Obviously Young thought Pratt had committed an egregious affront by not requesting this permission. Equally obviously, Pratt thought he had acted innocently and even commendably as an individual—spending his own money and making his own arrangements.
Joseph F. Smith, who worked with George A. Smith on the revisions in the Church Historian’s Office in 1866, perpetuates this version of Pratt as a greedy rebel in his 1901 introduction to the Improvement Era edition:
[He] took it to Liverpool with him, where, without revision and without the consent or knowledge of President Young or any of the Twelve, it was published under his direction in 1853. It was afterwards discovered that the book contained errors, occasioned by its not being carefully compared with historical data. Some of the statements in the preface written by Elder Pratt were also in error; one especially that the book was mostly written in the lifetime of the Prophet, and that he had read it with approval, was incorrect … For these reasons and others, mostly of a financial character, it was disapproved by President Young on August 23, 1865, and the edition was suppressed or destroyed. (JFS, 2)
While Joseph F. correctly points out that Pratt had made inaccurate claims of the prophet’s involvement in the project, the rest of this description raises fur-[p.116]ther questions. For example, if the historical errors were only discovered “afterwards” (after its publication), then it contradicts Brigham Young’s own (also possibly inaccurate) statement that the history had been read and disapproved of in Nauvoo. Also, Joseph F.’s hint of financial impropriety on Pratt’s part perpetuates an accusation Young made only in his most intemperate outburst on this issue, his Wellsville discourse of May 1865 (“Remarks”). Both comments seem to have been slanderous.
THE REVISION COMMITTEE
A year later—and seven years later after his initial instructions about revisions—on 22 April 1866, Brigham Young reactivated his revision orders. At a meeting of Brigham Young, Daniel H. Wells, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, Franklin D. Richards, and George Q. Cannon, Young instructed Woodruff: “As soon as G A Smith Comes home I want you to get Elias Smith & set down & Correct the Errors in the History of Joseph Smith as published by Mother Smith & then let it be published to the world” (Woodruff 5:287).
It is important to recognize that twentieth-century standards of history—particularly the concern for exact reproduction of historical documents that has developed in the late twentieth century—was not a standard which nineteenth-century historians recognized nor to which they can be justifiably held. (Of course, inaccuracies in genealogical data must be deplored, although my desire for meticulous manuscript reproduction collides here with my recognition that the reader’s interest in genealogical dates is very low.)
The issue is rather how to consider deliberate textual changes. Although I consider Brigham Young’s response to the 1853 edition to be an outsize tempest in a modest-size teapot and disagree with most of the editing inflicted on the manuscript from George A. Smith to Preston Nibley,31 I do not consider that any of these individuals defined their activities as deliberate misrepresentations and purposeful dishonesty, as such activities would have to be considered today. Although their effects worked mischief with Lucy’s document, their motives were not malicious. Dean C. Jessee reminds us that history, in Joseph Smith’s world, “was a branch of literature … where it was not uncommon to borrow other writers’ thoughts, a world where primary sources could be altered at will, a world where history was a form of promotional literature with a deep sense of mission” (“Joseph,” 139).
[p.117]George A. Smith’s collaborator, Elias Smith, was the son of Asael Smith Jr., the brother of both Joseph Smith Sr. and John Smith, George A.’s father. Both Elias and George A. were therefore first cousins to Joseph the prophet and nephews of Lucy Mack Smith. Born 6 September 1804, Elias served in many significant positions including chief justice of the Territory of Deseret, then as probate court judge for thirty-one years (1851-82), as business manager of the Deseret News, and then as its editor. Elias kept a daily diary during this entire period. He does not mention the publication of Biographical Sketches or any negative reaction to it. Interestingly, he does note a year after its publication on Sunday, 10 December 1854, the same month that the first copies reached Utah: “Spent most of the day in the Historians office by request of the Historian G. A. Smith, reviewing and revising certain items of history that had [been?] irregularly reported at the time.” Although he provides no details about these “items,” he does not return to the Historian’s Office, and calling the project “certain items” is different from how he later refers to Lucy’s history. Nothing of the 1859 uproar finds its way into his diary.
Elias’s diary entries are characteristically short: a report on the weather, a list of his activities that day, a meticulous listing of meetings attended with a complete list of speakers and, sometimes, a brief comment about their topics (both Brigham and George A. appear often in such entries), and any information on the family that is out of the ordinary, such as an illness or the arrival of a visitor. He sometimes summarized the more controversial cases he heard; and in much the same way, he makes a lawyerly note, with complete names and titles, on Lucy’s history in his first mention on 2 May 1866:
Got through with the session of court to day as soon as I could and the remainder of the day or some part of it I spent at the Historian’s office assisting George A. Smith Church Historian in the revision of a book written by Lucy Smith, mother of the Prophet Joseph and by some mistake, misunderstanding or other consideration published in England in [blank] as the history of “Joseph the Prophet” which was subsequently suppressed by the “First Presidency and the “Twelve,” in consequence of certain errors that had been incorporated in the work. It has of late been resolved by the President Young to revise and republished it, and my services have been solicited in the revision of the book or manuscript.
Two days earlier, on 30 April, Elias had “spent the evening at G. A. Smith’s and at the office of President B. Young.” He does not mention the subject of their discussion, but it was no doubt during this visit when the two solicited his assistance. Before the end of the month, he records a total of eight such sessions with a ninth (and last) following on 14 September. He never mentions any details of how they worked or what corrections they [p.118]made.32 He refers to the project once as “the revising job” and usually puts “Mother Smith” in quotation marks as though questioning her authorship. His final mention of the project seems pejorative in tone: “Went to the Historians office in the morning for the purpose of recommencing the work of revising the history of ‘mother Smith’ so called—the mother of the prophet Joseph” (14 September 1866). His reference to “recommencing” rather than finishing the revision suggests that, Joseph F. Smith’s later (1902) claims to the contrary, the two Smith cousins may have planned more extensive revisions than actually appear in the 1902 edition.
The Historian’s Office Journal provides a more detailed and a more complex picture of this project. Four days after the Brigham Young party’s return from Cache Valley, George A. spent most of two days on the project:
May 15, 1865. GAS in office. Corrections Jos. Smith the Prophet. R[obert] L[ang] C[ampbell] Compiling History & corrections Jos Smith the Prophet.
May 16. GAS correcting “Joseph Smith the Prophet” (his history by his Mother). RLC on History compilation & assisting Geo. A.
Over a month later, on Tuesday, 20 June, George A. and Franklin D. Richards helped George Q. Cannon “to get up an article on O. Pratts Writings and in relation to work entitled Joseph Smith the Prophet.” This entry is the last mention of the history for the rest of the summer and fall. Apparently George A. let the project lapse until either he had more time or (more likely) Brigham Young prodded him about it the following spring.
The Historian’s Office Journal records that on 30 April 1866, Robert Lang Campbell was “Re-copying portions of 1853 history.” This is the only day he did so and the only time for weeks that the term “re-copying” is used. That evening, as we have seen, Elias met, first with George A., then with George A. and Brigham Young together. Two days later a sustained effort began:
May 2, 1866, Wednesday. GAS p.m., with Elias Smith revising History of Mother Smith. RLC on historical items of 1853 History J[oseph] F. S[mith] … helping to read & correct Mother Smith’s history
Thursday, 3 May, GAS, Elias Smith, RLC, & JFS Revising History of Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet.
[p.119]Friday, 4 May. GAS, Elias Smith, RLC, JFS, Revising History of Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet.
Monday, May 7, 1866. GAS Writing to Cap. Hooper & on revision of Mother Smith’s history. RLC Drafting Hooper’s letter & on revision of Mo. Smith’s letter [sic]. JFS on list of apostates [This was a project he had started several days before the history revision began and was apparently unrelated to Lucy’s history] & on revision of history. Elias Smith—most of the day & evening reading history.
A hiatus of several days followed, during which Robert Campbell is innocently but amusingly described as “Re-writing history.” Then the project picks up again on Monday, 21 May 1866:
GAS with Elias Smith reading Mother Smith’s history. RLC a.m. copying letter to B. Young Jr. & p.m. reading Mo. Smith’s history.
Tuesday, 22 May 1866. GAS in office, p.m., revising Mo. Smith’s history with Judge Elias Smith. RLC [worked during the day on another task in the morning but then spent this evening] till 10 p.m. on Mother Smith’s History
Wednesday, 23rd. GAS In office p.m. with Judge Smith on Mo. Smith’s history
Thursday, 24th May 1866. GAS & Judge Smith Revising Mo. Smith’s history till one 1/4 p.m. RLC … evening on Mo. Smith’s History JFS. On list of apostates & p.m. & evening on Mo. Smith’s history.
Friday, May 25, 1865. GAS with Judge Smith reading Mo. Smith’s history forenoon.
Saturday, May 26, 1866. GAS a.m. with Judge Smith on Mo. Smith’s History. RLC a.m. ditto
May 29th, Tuesday. GAS In office. RLC Copy item [sic] of history 1853 [in morning] JFS. On apostate list.
Here follows another lengthy hiatus in which George A. Smith was frequently out of the office during the summer. The final entries that mention this history occur in mid-September:
Fri. Sep. 14, 1866. GAS with Judge Smith on Mo. Smith’s history … RLC on Mo. Smith’s history &c. JFS ditto & filing papers.
Saturday, Sep. 15, 66. GAS in Office on Mo. Smith’s book. RLC copying history & d[itt]o. JFS at endowment house & d[itt]o.
Sept. 17, GAS morning & evening with Judge Elias Smith on Mo. Smith’s history. RLC ditto & copying history. JFS ditto & on endowment record
Tuesday, 18th. GAS round about with bro. John L. RLC on Mo Smith’s record with Judge Smith & copying history
Sept. 21, Friday. GAS on Smith genealogy &c. RLC ditto & copying history. JFS ditto.
George A. Smith left for Provo the next day, Joseph F. returned to his apostates’ list, and Campbell returned to “copying history.” There is no record [p.120]of more work on Lucy’s history. Unfortunately, George A.’s personal writings do not cover this period. He wrote a retrospective life story before 1840, kept a daily diary from 1843 to 1847, then made sporadic entries for 1852, 1870-72, and 1874 (Dunford, 17n25).
While filling in important chronological details, the Historian’s Office Journal also leaves questions. Robert Campbell and Joseph F. Smith were obviously involved in some capacity. Assuming that the “morning” of a work week would have been four hours and an “afternoon” the same, with an “evening” being perhaps two hours (conservative estimates in comparison to the length of a farmer’s work-day during the nineteenth century), approximately seventy-eight man-hours were lavished on this revision project without any suggestion that the work was completed or finished.
What were they doing? Obviously, they “read” both the 1845 manuscript and the 1853 book, because notes exist on both; but either can be read through aloud at a most unhurried speed in about twelve hours. The few notes that exist could have been written down in no more than three or four hours, thus leaving approximately fifty hours unaccounted for. Were these four men looking up items in other documents? Discussing their memories? They seem to have consulted no other participants and do not mention writing letters of inquiry on matters that they may have had questions about.
THE QUESTION OF ACCURACY
The claim of inaccuracies, upon which Brigham Young’s unprecedented act of demolition was mounted, took two forms: first, that the facts themselves were wrong, and second, that Lucy herself was too old and too grief-stricken to function adequately.
What are the facts of the case? Lucy’s 1844-45 rough draft and hence the Pratt 1853 version unquestionably contain errors. In fact, as the textual notes in this volume document, Lucy was wrong on many more items than either Young or George A. seemed to recognize. But what errors were they upset about and what do these problems actually amount to? A handful of genealogical errors and a few narrative incidents with which George A. Smith takes exception. (For the sixth, William’s vision, see “Young’s Dislike” below.)
• Dates. While the misdating and misspelled names in the genealogical tables are, of course, regrettable, that material is irrelevant to the main subject of the book. It is important, for instance, that Stephen Smith, the brother of Joseph Smith Sr., be given the correct birth date of 23 April rather than 17 April; but the date itself has absolutely no impact on the narrative. Such de-[p.121]tails could have been silently corrected in a future edition without histrionics.
George A. Smith makes much of Lucy’s missing dates. In the obituary of Lucy that he published on 5 July 1856 in The Mormon, then being published in New York City, he praised Lucy’s history as “contain[ing] many thrilling incidents of herself as well as of her family, which was given in her own style, yet mingled somewhat with evidence of difficulty of her remembering dates” (“Obituary,” 559). George A. frequently (but not consistently) adds dates to events and states to the names of towns. Certainly, these additions are helpful and appreciated by the reader, but their omission does not make Lucy’s narrative inaccurate. Richard Anderson, after sorting through one of few places where Lucy was mistaken on a date, though not in the sequence of events, observes: “It is remarkable that when Lucy Smith’s dictated history is inaccurate in chronology, the deviation is confined to narrow limits” (“Reliability,” 27). Furthermore, George A. never changes the sequence in which Lucy relates her experiences; thus, even though she may not be able to identify the date of an event, he does not challenge her chronology. (In point of fact, she does reverse the order of a couple of events, including which came first—Zion’s Camp or the commencement of the Kirtland temple.)
• Lucy has identified young Jesse Smith, the son of Asael Smith Jr., as the son of Jesse Smith Sr., thus assigning her nephew the wrong father. Again, while this error is regrettable, the main narrative use of this incident is the sadness of the youth’s death, not his paternity, and a correction would be easy to make.
• Lucy tells of a group, bent on mobbing her son William as he preaches a sermon, but being first disarmed by his intriguing text and then convinced by his preaching so that the leader, a man named Bear, accepts baptism afterwards (chap. 43). George A.’s solution, after contacting one John Bear, was to omit the entire incident because it was apparently inaccurate in some respects, but Bear’s own account seems not to have survived. Is the entire story incorrect? Did William not preach the sermon? Was there no hostile intent on the part of some listeners? Was William’s text not “the poor deluded Mormons?” Was Bear not present? If present, was Bear not convinced? Was William actually mobbed instead of left to go free? Again, eliminating the account seems like an overreaction if a few changes could leave most of the story intact but correct the inaccuracies.
• En route to Missouri, Katharine gave birth to a child. Lucy’s rough draft incorrectly identifies the child as a daughter. (It was a son, Alvin, born 7 [p.122]June 1838.) The fair copy carries the same incorrect designation of “daughter” which George A. corrected on both Coray and Pratt, adding the child’s name on Pratt (see chap. 48).
• Lucy describes herself in Chapter 43 as taking over the construction of the school/meeting house from the laggard Reynolds Cahoon with her husband’s permission and pushing the project to a rapid conclusion. Although it is not completely clear what George A. and Elias take exception to, both seem to think that her role was much smaller than she gives herself credit for, and George A.’s note on Pratt suggests that Lucy did nothing while Brigham Young did everything on this particular building. Here is a flat contradiction of memories. The Smith cousins and Brigham Young were on Zion’s Camp, not in Kirtland, during the period when Lucy says she was raising money and proceeding with the work. They seem to be in a poor position to challenge her memory about procedures. She specifically remembers that the building was finished to the door and window frames by the time her sons Joseph and Hyrum returned and that they commended her on the successful completion. She remembers the sashes, the order of work, and even how much money still needed to be raised to pay the project off completely. Unless Lucy had an unchecked imagination—not borne out by the rest of the manuscript—these specific details seem more convincing than the Smith cousins’ generalized disapprobation or Young’s claim that he built it himself (as he states in one place) or had it built (in another).
• Lucy reports that William had a vision in Missouri showing that the Saints’ enemies would descend upon them. George A. Smith, to judge by the vigor with which he has marked out the passage (with horizontal, vertical, and diagonal lines) seems particularly offended by the implication that William may have had a vision. Yet William was an apostle and in good standing at the time of the vision; even if he had not been, there are ample scriptural and historical precedents that God is not limited to those of impeccable life when granting visions.
In short, “overreaction” is perhaps the most charitable way to characterize the rather obvious discrepancy between the staggering official denunciations and the relatively minor and infrequent errors (if indeed they are genuine errors) that Lucy actually makes. Therefore, inaccuracy cannot be the “real” problem. Howard Searle agrees, pointing out the plain fact that George A. Smith, charged with the revision, “made very few significant changes” (389).
Where Richard Lloyd Anderson comments, “It is remarkable that when Lucy Smith’s dictated history is inaccurate in chronology, the deviation is confined to narrow limits” (“Reliability,” 27), he cites examples to show that [p.123]when she misdates an event, they do still occur in generally correct order. He finds that “Lucy Smith’s memories of the early years of the rise of Mormonism have a demonstrable degree of accuracy” (“Circumstantial,” 391). His analysis of her manuscript has convincingly demonstrated that claims of inaccuracy simply cannot be maintained. In addition to corroborating Searle’s analysis of the comparative insignificance of the Smith cousins’ revisions (“less than 2 percent of the text was altered in any way”), he reports that over 190 of the 200 names in her history can be verified and that, although Lucy does not remember dates so accurately, most of those in error are “within a year or two” (qtd. in R. L. Anderson, “Circumstantial,” 390; Shipps, Mormonism, 97). Anderson reports checking the “some 200 names that she mentions” against “journals, newspaper articles, or other records of the time” and finding a “better than 95% score. This does not mean,” he concluded, “that there is historical perfection in Lucy’s record, but clear historical responsibility. She is an excellent source for what she observed” (“Emotional Dimensions,” 135-36; see “Confirmation,” 390-91, for specific examples).
What about the second charge—that Lucy Mack Smith was mentally incompetent during the period in which the book was produced? There are four indications that Lucy was quite competent. First, Martha Jane Coray writes sympathetically about Lucy’s physical ailments but nowhere implies that she was incoherent or disoriented because of grief. Second, John Taylor wrote in his journal on Tuesday, 17 June 1845:
Went to Mother Lucy Smith’s, by her request to read some of her history, to see if it was fit or ready for publication. I had an interesting conversation with the old lady; wherein she related many things concerning the family that pleased as well as instructed me; though now quite an aged woman [she would turn seventy in two weeks], the power of her memory is surprising, she is able to relate circumstances connected with the family, with great distinctness and accuracy; she is an honor as well as an ornament to the family she belongs. (Jessee, John Taylor, 60)
Third, between February and October 1845, Lucy Mack Smith addressed public gatherings three times: at a Sunday meeting at “Bishop Hale’s” on 23 February where she “gave a recital of the persecutions endured by her family, in establishing the church, and exhorted the brethren and sisters to bring up their children in the way they should go”; at the banquet given by bishops Whitney and Miller on 9 July for about fifty members of the Smith family, at which Lucy “addressed her kindred and the audience in a feeling and pathetic manner”; and by her own request at the October conference attended by about five thousand (HC 7:375; 433, 470-72). None of the accounts suggests that she was incoherent, confused, or suffering from [p.124]lapses of memory.33 In fact, the official minutes of her conference address note that she related her account “in a concise manner” (HC 7:471).
And finally, Lucy’s children, who lived through the same events, did not consider her history to be an inaccurate memoir—although they cannot be considered unbiased observers. Katharine was baptized at age sixteen immediately after the church was organized and accompanied her mother on successive moves to Kirtland where she married, to Missouri, and to Nauvoo. Six months before her death, interviewed on her eighty-sixth birthday, Katharine loaned the reporter a copy of Lucy’s book, calling it “the most authentic account of the Smith family ever published” (qtd. in McGavin, 104).
In evaluating the suppression of this book, Howard Searle notes that even Joseph F. Smith, in his 1902 preface, mildly observed that “its many merits were fully recognized by the authorities, many of whom were greatly disappointed at the necessity of issuing the order to temporarily suppress its further circulation.” Searle comments:
The Church Presidency’s censorship of Lucy Smith’s history appeared to many, at that time and afterward, to be an overreaction to the errors and deficiencies of a book that in many ways was not only useful but essential to an understanding of early Church history … The authoritarian manner in which the history was suppressed has appeared somewhat incongruous to the attitudes and practices of many later leaders of the Church and must be understood in light of some of the emotional issues surrounding the publication and content of the book …
The Church leaders wanted to protect readers from the misconceptions and errors they perceived in the book … Whether such paternalism was based on a distrust of the future Saints to judge the truth for themselves or the belief that those closer to the events could make this judgement better and easier, it was, nonetheless, felt to be necessary and appropriate. To those familiar with modern historical methods, there are obviously less drastic means than those adopted by the Presidency for correcting and preserving a historical narrative for posterity, [p.125]but these methods were not known, understood, or practiced by the Church Historians or the Church authorities in the mid nineteenth century. (Searle, 402-3)
OTHER REASONS FOR THE SUPPRESSION
After dismissing concern about accuracy as Brigham Young’s main motivation, Searle examines more plausible reasons for the disfavor into which the book fell with Brigham Young, George A. Smith, and others: (1) They disliked the warmth with which Mother Smith’s book presented her sole surviving son, William, and also Emma Smith, who had been a thorn in Young’s side since 1844; (2) The suppression was part of a long-standing disagreement between Brigham Young and Orson Pratt over doctrinal interpretations; and (3) The RLDS sons of Joseph Smith, soon to begin proselyting in Utah, posed a more immediate political threat to Young. Because Lucy’s history says nothing about polygamy, the omission seems to support Joseph Smith III’s claim that his father had nothing to do with the practice.34
Using dissatisfaction with Biographical Sketches to attack Orson Pratt’s doctrines when the history itself did not support or even mention the doctrines in question seems to indicate that the larger Young-Pratt controversy was a flash point. As already discussed, somehow the question of Pratt’s theological beliefs became conflated in Young’s mind with the unacceptability of Biographical Sketches. What about the other two reasons?
Young’s Dislike of William Smith
Brigham Young’s disdain for William amounted to contempt as the comments quoted above reveal. In probably his mellowest moment on the subject, Young listened to the Twelve discuss an alleged prophecy of Joseph Smith that William would become good when he became old, then summed up: “Whether Joseph said it or not I will say in the name of the Lord that if Wm. Smith lives untill He is 65 or 70 years old He will become a good humble man. He will do the best He Can. He will have to Answer for his sins. rite this Brother Woodruff & put it into the Church History. When a man give[s] way to the power of the Devil He finds it hard to recover himself again” (Woodruff 5:58). William died at age eighty-two; whether Young’s prophecy was fulfilled is less certain.
Nor was Brigham alone in his negative views of William. Orson Hyde, in only the first fourteen months (February 1849-April 1850) of editing the Frontier Guardian at Kanesville, Iowa, briskly lambasted William as “ever idle, lazy [p.126]and quarrelsome,” “unworthy the confidence of any upright and moral person,” a “notorious profligate,” “a poor, degraded, miserable, debauched man,” and leader of a “crime steeped clan” (by which he meant William’s few adherents to his short-lived church, not the Smith family), who “is a benefactor of his race in rendering absurdity ridiculous.” Hyde contemptuously denied “rumors” (“the very gangrene of revenge and malice”) that William was circulating: that the Mormons had burned the Nauvoo temple themselves; that they had disguised themselves as Indians to rob overland emigrants; that they maintained a “secret lodge of 50 men” among whom Brigham Young was crowned king (this “rumor” happened to be an accurate though ill-tempered description of the Council of Fifty), and that the Mormons swore a “secret” oath to “avenge the blood of Joseph Smith on this nation” (also fairly accurate).35
Wilford Woodruff preached a sermon on 17 September 1865 in which he proclaimed that all of Joseph’s family “died as Marters & will be crowned in the presence of God.” Then belatedly remembering William, who was still alive, he added: “Except William. If he had been a good man he would have been in the spirit world with his Fathers family long ago but he has not been fit to live or die” (Woodruff 6:246).
Daniel H. Wells told a Tabernacle congregation on 18 August 1867 that he had heard William “speak when he had the spirit of the Lord with him, and I have been much pleased with his remarks” but considered that he had “gone into darkness” and cited, as evidence, hearing William jokingly suggest laying hands in a healing blessing on a fiddle whose strings kept breaking. “‘You are a poor, miserable hypocrite,’” Wells thought at the time. “‘… You blaspheme against God’” (JD 12:137-38).
William had been excommunicated from the Strangites for adultery in 1847, founded a church in about 1850 designed to hold believers together until Joseph III was old enough, only to see it disintegrate after about a year, pled with Brigham Young in 1854 and 1855 to be restored to his apostleship (given the appearance of Biographical Sketches in 1853, both events probably intensified Brigham’s hostility toward both the book and William), made another overture in 1860, but then delayed, obviously hoping for a position in Joseph Smith III’s newly formed Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Searle, 406-7). Roger Launius cites Joseph III’s delicate handling of William as one of the most compelling pieces of evidence that he was a “pragmatic prophet”: Joseph made his uncle welcome in the church but avoided giving him the high office that he so obviously yearned for. William spent his de-[p.127]clining years writing rambling, grandiose letters that begged for relief from his chronic destitution and boasted pathetically of his chosen status (Launius, Pragmatic, passim). It was no doubt a relief to everyone, including himself, when he finally died in 1893, age eighty-two, in Iowa.
Yet it is hard to think that Brigham Young seriously believed that the inconstant and temperamental William could pose a threat to his own authority, unless he thought that somehow Lucy’s natural affection for both William and Emma could persuade his own followers to support the RLDS church. Surely he did not find his people so gullible or easily influenced? Tellingly, despite his public statements of contempt and condemnation for Emma, he mentions her nowhere in his public or private denunciations of Biographical Sketches, so the hypothesis that he wanted to downplay her role in Lucy’s history is not supported.
Richard L. Anderson argued in 1977 for the “William” thesis, noting that the deaths of five sons and her husband prompted Lucy to “[pour] considerable loyalty upon the remaining male of the family, the unstable William Smith. Judged by Brigham Young’s private remarks, Lucy’s glorification of William in a few passages of the original dictation caused him to react to the whole” (“Emotional Dimensions,” 129-30). In my opinion, Anderson has used glorification to minimize Brigham Young’s overreaction; a study of the text does not justify this term.
Jan Shipps likewise finds the William Smith thesis inadequate to account for the reaction since “inordinate attention is not devoted to William” in the narrative and perhaps most tellingly, “the revised edition [of 1902] continued to include most of Lucy Smith’s accounts mentioning her youngest son” (ibid., 101).
It is true that Lucy does not make a point of reporting William’s vices. But according to Irene Bates’s analysis (11-20), complaints about William’s “instability” and “immorality” were much exaggerated, especially in the context of the times. She shows that Joseph Smith did many of the same things that William is blamed for but without being condemned as William was. It is possible that Lucy did not know about some of the reports about William’s alleged misbehavior (some substantiated, some not) that drifted back from the mission field. On the other hand, it is difficult to believe that she did not know about a Kirtland incident in October 1835 when William, after “an altercation” with Joseph Jr., “returned his license as a symbol of resignation from his quorum,” although he was subsequently reinstated (Jessee, “Joseph,” 141). And she certainly knew about the disagreement between William and Joseph over William’s Kirtland debating society, a disagreement so intense that the two came to blows. Joseph Sr. acted as mediator in reconciling the two, at the conclusion of which Lucy and Emma were brought in as witnesses (HC 2:353-54). It is possible to argue that Lucy should, in the inter-[p.128]ests of full disclosure, have included such incidents; on the other hand, it is equally possible to argue that a mother is under no obligation to go out of her way to speak ill of her son, especially if the incidents are not directly related to the narrative she is engaged in telling.
When Lucy does talk about William, it is because he was in her presence and took part in an event she is talking about. She reports his courage as a teenager in turning out of their Palmyra house some men determined to seize some of Hyrum’s property. He was embarrassed en route to Kirtland by the idle and flirtatious behavior of their fellow Mormon passengers and asked Lucy to put a stop to it. He held an umbrella over her head in a pouring rainstorm as Lucy searched for a house in which the passengers could take shelter. He tried to defend his father from bodily assault in the Kirtland temple. He had a visionary dream in Missouri that persecution was about to break out—hardly difficult to predict, even awake, at that point—and that the family should move away—an eminently practical suggestion that would have avoided considerable suffering several months later. (This is the dream that Brigham Young denounced so violently as “utterly false.”) William’s dying father gave him a blessing praising him for persistence in doing missionary work. With a great deal of difficulty, he brought his dying wife back to Nauvoo after hopes that she would improve in another locale failed.
None of these passages “glorifies” William. Lucy does not show him as the mainstay of the family, as particularly wise or even as particularly spiritual; she reports visionary dreams by most of the family, including herself. An analysis of the number of times William’s name appears in Lucy’s rough draft, compared to those of Joseph Jr. and Hyrum, shows 320 for Joseph, 106 for Hyrum, and a comparatively few forty-two for William. Samuel is mentioned forty-one times; and Don Carlos, the youngest son, is mentioned twenty-five times. (This count omits the genealogy and quotations from other documents.)
Furthermore, George A. Smith’s revisions omit completely only one whole passage referring to William (the Bear incident) and then apparently because it did not reflect Bear’s conversion experience, not because William seemed “heroic” in it; George A. also strikes out parts of passages about William only in the case of his vision.
Shipps continues: “Perhaps animosity to Orson Pratt and William Smith is sufficient explanation for the recall of the book. But if not, and if the charges of inaccuracy cannot be substantiated, then why, in the face of the Saints’ obvious thirst for knowledge about the prophet and early Mormonism, was Mother Smith’s History condemned, recalled, and kept from them?” (ibid., 101). She argues that Brigham Young feared the appeal of Joseph’s and Emma’s now-adult sons. How persuasive is this hypothesis?
[p.129]The RLDS Proselyting Threat
A loosely organized group of Midwestern Saints had gathered in expectation of reconstituting the church under the leadership of the youthful Joseph Smith III. In December 1856, a month after Joseph III’s twenty-fourth birthday, Zenos Gurley and Edmund Briggs approached him with the invitation to head the church. He showed them the door; but over the next four years, he “received manifestations” to the degree that, in April 1860, he told the conference, “I have come in obedience to a power not my own” (Newell and Avery, 270). The first RLDS missionaries reached Salt Lake City in August 1863. They found considerable interest in their message and made some converts; Joseph III’s younger brothers, Alexander Hale Smith and David Hyrum Smith, made preaching visits periodically between 1866 and 1872. Brigham Young responded with ugly public insults about them and about Emma Smith, nor was he more compassionate or statesmanlike when Joseph III visited Salt Lake City in 1876. Three thousand converts had left Mormonism for the RLDS church by the time missionary work in Utah stopped in 1890.36
Young may have become alarmed in 1863 by the presence of RLDS missionaries; however, he waited two years to denounce Biographical Sketches—and this action came a year before the first of Joseph Smith’s sons visited Utah. If his uneasiness about RLDS influence impacted his suppression of the book, the sequence of cause and effect seems curiously mismatched and jerky. It is especially interesting, as mentioned, that he never linked Emma’s name with Biographical Sketches in any of his public denunciations of the book even though he seemed to blame her for the existence of the RLDS church and the behavior of her sons.
This thesis is, however, the one for which Jan Shipps argues, although she sets the argument in a broader historiographical perspective, one that Brigham Young may have “only intuitively understood” (Mormonism, 100). She argues that Lucy’s book “sets forth an understanding of the prophet and his church” that supported RLDS claims rather than Young’s views and that the suppression was part of “the process of institutionalizing orthodoxy” (101). The suppression of Lucy’s book is an opportunity to see Mormonism impose increasing order “on the present by imposing order on [its] chaotic generative years” (91).
She cites as evidence Lucy’s emphasis on the Smith and Mack families “with special attention paid to their religious histories” and to her own and [p.130]Joseph Sr.’s visions and religious manifestations.37 “That the prophet was Joseph was almost coincidental; it might have been Alvin or Hyrum just as well.” She also sees a persistent pattern of revisions between the rough draft and Coray/Pratt versions that substitute references to Joseph for references to “us” or to the family (102-3). In short, according to Shipps, the Mormonism of Lucy’s book is “familial, even tribal, rather than organizational and institutional” (104).38 This insight is crucially important in understanding and interpreting the documents, even though I suspect that the Corays’ reverence for the Mormon “records” provided a powerful countervailing force to the somewhat sinister undercurrent toward institutional orthodoxy that she sees.
It also explains to Shipps the twelve-year lag between the publication of the history and Young’s violent public reaction. Not William, but Joseph III was the danger Young was denouncing by the unprecedentedly drastic means of calling in and destroying printed copies of the book. Lucy’s history makes, in Shipps’s words, an “unstated yet perfectly obvious claim that the Smith family was the royal family in this the last dispensation” (105). This statement also seems somewhat exaggerated since Lucy mentions Joseph III only when he is born and when he clings to Joseph Jr. when the latter is arrested in Missouri.
In support of her thesis, however, is the observation of Valeen Tippets Avery, biographer of David Hyrum Smith, Joseph Jr.’s posthumous son, who proselyted with his brother Alexander in Utah in the fall of 1869. He had apparently not known until he arrived that Brigham Young had ordered the destruction of “Grandma Smith’s history” and had been planning on using it in his proselyting. “He thought its repression was indicative of an attempt to curtail Smith influence in Utah … Had the Smith sons not preached in Utah, and had the underlying message of Lucy Smith’s manuscript not favored the Josephite interpretation of familial succession to the church presidency, their grandmother’s book might have gone unremarked,” argues Avery. “To suppress Lucy Mack Smith’s book so completely that her grandsons could not use it violated David’s sense of the primacy of family rights” (112). Thus, she, like Shipps, sees Brigham Young as hostile toward the entire Smith family who were not firmly attached to the Utah church.
[p.131]Shipps is less shocked than Searle at what seems to be overkill in Brigham Young’s reaction. Young had developed an antipathy for William Smith, largely due to repeated aggravations by William himself, that had become unreasonable; Young saw him as a pawn of Satan and as an instrument of evil. True, William did exasperate most people sooner or later. Lucy is the only person I am aware of who has left a record of dealings over time with William that are unfailingly loving, and perhaps he was someone only a mother could love wholeheartedly and persistently. It is also true that Brigham Young had been remarkably generous, both with Lucy and with the Smith family in general, considering the church’s strained financial resources during the Nauvoo period. Furthermore, while ignoring William’s poverty, Young sent Katharine Smith Salisbury at least two gifts, of $400 and $200, the last in 1871 when she was in her late fifties. The accompanying letter spoke of the “deeply cherished” memory of Joseph Smith: “For his sake, his relatives and members of his family, notwithstanding differences of opinion, are kindly regarded and would be … received with open arms were they willing to adhere to the principles taught by the Prophet” (qtd. in McGavin, 106-7).
Richard L. Anderson presents a somewhat incomplete version of Brigham Young’s suppression of Lucy’s book, that minimizes Young’s overreaction, in the semi-official Encyclopedia of Mormonism: “The first edition of Lucy’s memoirs was recalled by Brigham Young. However, his goal was accuracy, not suppression, since he initiated a second edition … The President charged the careful Woodruff and two Smith family members to ‘correct the errors in the History of Joseph Smith as published by Mother Smith, and then let it be published to the world’” (Anderson, “Lucy,” 1357). While correct as far as it goes, Anderson, who has done otherwise impressive work with the documents and sources, neglects in this article to mention Young’s other reasons, does not account for (or mention) the fact that, although he lived another eleven years, Young did not have a corrected edition published, fails to mention the 1901 Improvement Era edition completely, and cites the Nibley 1945 version without a date, thereby allowing the careless or ill-informed reader to suppose that Brigham swiftly replaced a defective version with a proper one.
Such an approach does the historical facts a disservice. It is disturbing to contemplate this episode of intellectual and historical suppression, not only for its authoritarianism but for the tactics Brigham Young used. As someone who, like Lucy and like Martha, embarked on this arduous project as a labor of love, I find Brigham Young’s and George A. Smith’s behavior particularly painful. I do not think that God rejects gifts laid so lovingly on his altar. While it is common to admire Young’s vigorous expressions and to enjoy his “hyperbole,” it is no doubt much more entertaining and pleasurable to do so from a comfortable distance. There is nothing entertaining about Young’s behavior in this instance. It is dis-[p.132]tressing to see the president of the church slander the mental competence of a seventy-year-old woman when the documentary record, including her sharing the platform with him before five thousand, shows otherwise. It is unpleasant to hear a man revered as a prophet sneer at a faithful mother of twelve who donated her time and sacrificed her economic well-being, dismissing her as a sensationseeking would-be novelist. It is not edifying to watch him publicly browbeat, humiliate, and threaten an apostle with disfellowshipment over a nonmalicious mistake. And it is particularly disappointing to hear him justify all of these behaviors by accusations that the book is a “tissue of falsehoods,” an accusation that, on closer inspection, is itself a falsehood. In short, this episode does not reveal Brigham Young at his finest hour. Whatever his strengths—and he had many—he was not employing them on this occasion.
THE CORAY FAIR COPY IN UTAH
Meanwhile, both the 1844-45 rough draft and the 1845 Coray fair copy came to Utah and passed into the Church Historian’s vault, where they have remained ever since. When, exactly, did the church acquire them? Confusingly, most of the documents refer to a single “manuscript,” but it seems reasonable that the rough draft (partly sewed sheets and loose pages) and the fair copy in its sturdy ledger were kept together. According to the family, “Martha Jane Knowlton Coray kept the original manuscript in her possession for at least six years while she and Howard made preparations for moving west, aided the other Saints in the migration, and added three more children to their family. Some time after their arrival in Salt Lake City in 1850, Martha Jane gave her original manuscript to President Brigham Young” (Cooper, 3). B. H. Roberts, in his Comprehensive History of the Church, also reports that the manuscript came to Utah in Martha Jane Knowlton Coray’s possession (1:14). Jan Shipps reports a charming and widely circulated story that the manuscript “stayed in the possession of Howard Coray for many years until it was finally turned over to the Church Historian, for which consideration, oral tradition tells us, he received an overcoat.” She acknowledges that no source has been identified for this tale (Shipps, Mormonism, 97, 182n24). Martha Jane, in her 1865 letter to Brigham Young, does not date the transfer of the manuscript. Joseph F. Smith, in his 1901 preface, says that Martha Jane, not Howard, gave Lucy’s history (presumably both the rough draft and the fair copy) to Brigham Young (JFS, 1), but without specifying either a time or place. This scenario contradicts Brigham Young’s 1865 statement that the manuscript had been “in our possession ever since we left Nauvoo” (Young, “Hearken,” 230). His larger statement, however, contains a number of other hyperbolic statements and misstatements. It is possible that Young meant that he knew where he could lay his hands on the copy from the time it was completed in Nauvoo. This would certainly have been true if it had been in the Corays’ possession. A Coray family memoir, quoting Periodicals and Works Published by the Church in 1853, reports: “Previous to the Twelve leaving Nauvoo they obtained a manuscript copy of the work from Elder Howard Coray” (qtd. in Weeks and Davis, 5). While this statement supports Young’s, it is not clear where the information came from. In either case, there is no serious question about either the manuscript’s provenance or its destination.
Regardless of the manuscript’s location during this murky period, an 1855 inventory of materials in the Historian’s Office listed “Mother Smith’s history in manuscripts.” The plural wording suggests both the rough draft and the Coray fair copy (Searle, 384).
Although Brigham Young appointed a revisions committee in 1859 and announced a possible revised edition in both 1860 and 1865, no revised edition followed. According to Coray family tradition, “Martha Jane would never give her consent to the publication of the revised copy [as corrected by George A. Smith and Judge Elias Smith]. She maintained that the history was in the direct words of Mother Smith and should not be changed” (Cooper, 3). It is not clear why her consent was necessary or how she could have stopped a reissue—especially if Brigham Young had decreed otherwise, and most especially in light of her conciliatory capitulation in her 1865 letter to Young that the book should be suppressed. Did she tell Brigham one thing and her family another?
But as matters turned out, the question simply never came to the test. After the 1853 edition, a hiatus of forty-eight years in its LDS publishing history followed. According to Joseph F. Smith, George A. and Elias Smith followed their 1859 instructions “carefully to revise and correct the original work throughout,” which they did to Young’s “entire satisfaction. The revised and only authentic copy thus prepared and reported upon was retained by President George A. Smith” until his death (Preface, 2). George A. died in 1875, Brigham in 1877.
Joseph F.’s statement, while reassuring and clear, cannot be completely accurate since there were apparently three sets of revisions: (1) George A.’s and Elias’s marked 1853 volume, now at BYU; (2) another copy that Elias alone edited, reportedly at LDS Church Archives; and (3) George A.’s markings on the Coray manuscript. (Elias’s corrections on this manuscript—if they are Elias’s—are limited to fewer than half a dozen notations.) The corrections on the 1853 version at BYU and the Coray 1845 fair copy were by no means identical, as the footnotes on the text will show. Furthermore, the printed book became part of the George A. Smith papers contributed to Brigham Young University by the Provo, Utah, branch of the family (he settled three of his plural wives in Provo), while Lucy’s rough draft, the Coray fair copy, and the Elias Smith copy became part of the holdings of the Historian’s Office. The LDS Church Historical Department Library lists four copies of the 1853 volume as being held in its vault but does not specify which of them bears Elias’s notations. I was not allowed to see Elias’s copy.
Joseph F. Smith says that, after George A.’s death, “it” (the “revised and only authentic copy”) “was committed into my keeping where it has remained until now” (2). Since Joseph F. Smith had control over the Historian’s Office vault, he could have been speaking as though his personal possession and the manuscript’s location in the vault were one and the same thing; but based on this statement, Howard Searle has hypothesized another published or manuscript copy, now lost, that collates George A.’s and Elias’s changes.
This scenario is quite unlikely for two reasons. First, Howard Searle’s “thorough search of the L.D.S. Church Archives and First Presidency’s papers has not turned up such a copy” (418, 420). Second, the obvious purpose of Joseph F. Smith’s statement was to reassure readers of the Improvement Era version that they were reading “the revised and only authentic copy.” As a textual analysis of the Improvement Era version shows (see discussion below), the text used as the printer’s copy of this version was the published 1853 Biographical Sketches with virtually no substantive corrections or changes that cannot be accounted for by tallying up the existing George A. and Elias Smith annotations.
As Joseph F. Smith continues his brief history of the book’s publication, he notes that, after a hiatus of twenty-five years, from an unknown quarter came the proposal to print the work “as a serial in the Improvement Era,” a proposal to which the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association, publishers of the Era, gave “unanimous” assent, reinforced by church president Lorenzo Snow’s “sanction, and his hearty approval” (Preface, 2). After serialization, it was printed as a book by the Improvement Era in 1902 with the title History of the Prophet Joseph by his Mother Lucy Smith: As Revised by George A. Smith and Elias Smith.
STRUCTURE AND ANALYSIS OF LUCY’ S BOOK
An analysis of the space Lucy devotes to various events compared to the space each roughly occupied in chronological church history gives some idea about how the project developed. For instance, the sequential chapters on Lucy’s own siblings with which the book opens and the lengthy genealogy tables of Mack and Smith ancestry in Chapter 9 constitute a “pre-marriage” preface occupying 11 percent of the book. Lucy’s description of what may be called pre-Mormon material—from her marriage to Joseph Sr. until Joseph Smith Jr.’s first vision—occupies another 11 percent.39 The New York years—from first vision with the [p.135]traditional date of 1820 until the removal of the church to Kirtland in 1831, constituting 46 percent of the 1820-44 Mormon history—receive 31 percent of the text. The Kirtland (Ohio) 1831-38 period—29 percent of the chronology—is given 13 percent of the narrative pages. The Missouri period is an anomaly. Although it coexisted with the Kirtland period from 1831 until the Mormons were finally forced out in 1838-39, Lucy was there only from the summer of 1838 until February of 1839; 14 percent of the total pages are devoted to the events of those few months, but 63 percent of those pages are taken up by Hyrum’s affidavit of the Missouri conflicts, imprisonments, and expulsions. The five-year (21 percent of the history) Nauvoo period takes the final 4 percent of the narrative—suggesting both fatigue and haste—while an appendix containing writings by Don Carlos Smith and Eliza R. Snow takes the last fourteen pages. Although this final arrangement may not perfectly reflect Lucy’s intentions, the fact is that 22 percent of the material is pre-Mormon—a clear emphasis on the antecedents of the Mack/Smith families.
The main differences between Lucy’s 1844-45 rough draft and Pratt’s 1853 publication are omissions and additions. (For the purposes of this larger analysis, the Coray and Pratt versions can be considered as a unit.)
About 10 percent of Lucy’s original material was omitted, much of it personal family references and Lucy’s original preface, according to Searle. He concludes: “The over-all effect of the Corays’ revision [was] to make Lucy’s history less of a personal family record and more of a Church history and biography of Joseph” (Searle, 385). Searle is correct in contrasting the literary effect of Lucy’s rough draft with that of the Pratt 1853 book, but he may not be completely accurate in ascribing it to the Corays’ influence. Although it would be helpful to have a more exact description of the method of composition, documentary evidence exists that the manuscript went through at least three drafts (notebook —> Lucy’s rough draft —> intermediate draft of which only a few pages have survived), on which Lucy, by Martha Jane’s description, was consulted extensively, before it reached the finished form of the fair copies.
The first omission from Lucy’s rough draft is an important one, since it is Lucy’s own preface to the manuscript, a section not present in the Coray and Pratt versions. If it had remained, the reader would have first met Lucy in this very long and complex but clearly crafted sentence:
Having attained my 69[th] year, and being afflicted with a complication of diseases and infirmities many of which have been brought upon me by the cruelty of an ungodly and hard hearted world and do … many … times threaten to put a period to my Earthly existence, I feel it <a privilege as well as> my duty … to give … an account, not <Exclusively> … of my own manner of life from my youth up, but after saying somewhat concerning my ancestors, as well as myself, [p.136]to trace carefully up, even from the cradle to the grave The footsteps of some … whose life … has been such as … to excite an itense … cur<iosity> in the minds of all who ever knew them personally or shall hear of them hereafter. (Chap. 1)
Lucy here portrays herself with a bold humility, appealing to the reader’s sympathies by listing her advanced age, her ill health, and her unmerited sufferings before modestly announcing that she plans to talk, not of herself, but of her ancestors and the undefined “some” who excite “intense curiosity.” She thus positions herself as a link, not only between the generations of her ancestors and her posterity but also between the reader and the object of the reader’s curiosity. She thus enters into an immediate relationship with the reader, a personal and even intimate relationship, since her frank recital of ills is an appeal to the generosity of the reader’s sympathy.
I think it is also significant that Lucy describes the cause of her ills not as fate or as capricious suffering inflicted by God for his mysterious purposes but rather as the malignancy of human agency. This view in itself suggests the importance she assigns to human agency and human choice. She further communicates an important insight into her understanding of human nature by the two adjectives to which she ascribes the human “cruelty” that has caused her grief. These adjectives are “ungodly” and “hard hearted.” I think it is not reading too much into Lucy’s words to see here the twin sturdy foundations of republican thought: the best sources of civic virtue are a combination of proper piety toward God and responsible benevolence toward one’s fellow human beings.
As a second example, Lucy tells the story of her father, Solomon Mack, who had quite an adventurous life, first as a privileged son whose promise was betrayed by declining family fortunes—certainly a position with which Lucy could identify—then as someone whose early manhood was endangered by patriotic but unromantic service in the Revolutionary Army. In her rough draft, Lucy stands as the intermediary in translating this story for the reader: “I will firstly take up an old document which I have in my possesion writen by my father in the 80 year of his age and from which I shall perhaps make a […] number of extracts before I <conclude my> get through with my detail narrative My Parents (My Father) <Solomon Mack> writes as follows …” The 1853 version begins the same way: “My father, Solomon Mack, was born … His father, Ebenezer Mack, was a man of considerable property, and lived in good style … ” However, she (or perhaps the Corays) apparently saw that this method of telling the story was going to be cumbersome and ends, as Lucy began, by quoting Solomon’s narrative directly.
Given what I have said about Lucy’s positioning herself as a link between the generations of her family and between her story and her reader, the editor-[p.137]ial decision to recast this story into Lucy’s own words may have actually been the better choice. At the least, I have mixed feelings about it, especially given the inherent awkwardness of inserting large chunks of someone else’s text into a personal narrative. Unlike the quoted segments of Joseph Smith history, however, which Lucy lived through, participated in, and at least theoretically had her own opinion about, these events in her father’s life occurred before she was born.
When Solomon describes his marriage to Lucy’s mother, Lydia Gates, the editing impoverishes an important description of Lucy’s family of origin. The 1853 version reads simply: “In the spring of 1759 … I became acquainted with an accomplished young woman, a school teacher, by the name of Lydia Gates … To this young woman I was married shortly after becoming acquainted with her.” In contrast, this same passage in Lucy’s 1845 narrative, which also quotes her father’s autobiography, contains not only more information about Lydia but also, which is more to the point, Solomon’s feelings about Lydia and, hence, a glimpse into the marriage and family that formed the context and shaped the ideals that Lucy took into her own marriage with Joseph Smith. Solomon Mack says:
In the spring of 1759 … I became acquainted with an amiable and accomplished young woman a school Teacher by the name of Lydia Gates … to whom I was shortly united in the bands of matrimony, and <a> most worthy <and invaluable> companion <did> she prove to for I soon discovered that she was not only pleasant and agreeable by reason of the polish of Education but she also possessed that inestimable jewel which in a wife and Mother of a family is truly a pearl of great price namily <a> truly pious and devotional Charecter. (Chap. 1)
I think it is self-evident that, as Solomon prized these characteristics in his wife, Lucy grew up in a household in which the message was unmistakable that piety and spirituality were suitable adornments for a woman, enhancements of a wife and mother, and precious attributes to be taught to her own children.
As a third example, when Lucy fell ill with an unspecified but life-threatening ailment in Randolph as a young married woman in about 1802-03, the revised transcription reads: “I made a solemn covenant with God, that, if he would let me live, I would endeavour to serve him according to the best of my abilities. Shortly after this, I heard a voice say to me, ‘Seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.’” In contrast, Lucy’s manuscript shows her wrestling much more actively with God to extract the blessing from him—and phrasing her covenant in detailed terms that show she had thought seriously about the role of religion in her life:
<I> covenanted with God if he would let me live I would endeavor to get that religion that would enable me to serve him right whether it was in the Bible or [p.138]where ever it might be found even if it was to be obtained from heaven by prayer and Faith. At last a voice spoke to me and said Seek and ye shall find knock and it shall be opened unto you … (Chap. 11)
Lucy here casts her covenant in terms of finding a true religion, not just one in which she can serve God to the best of her ability, but “serve him right.” She catalogues three important traditional sources of knowledge: scriptural knowledge, the wisdom of the existing churches (I gather that this is what she means by “where ever it might be found”), and even by direct revelation (meaning that it is not currently found on earth). I think it is also important that in Lucy’s terms, she receives her answer “at last,” while in the Pratt version, she receives her answer “shortly.”
As a fourth and well-known example, Lucy’s narrative includes a casual reference to folk magic when she is talking about their farm labors and also about her husband’s remarkable visions:
… Let not my reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopt our labor and went <at> trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of buisness. (Chap 17)
Both the Coray manuscript and Orson Pratt eliminate completely any references to “the faculty of Abrac,” to drawing magic circles, and to soothsaying.
These examples are relatively simple ones. More complex are such editorial changes as the addition of the first vision narrative from the Times and Seasons, a topic which Lucy does not include in her rough draft at all, and an energetic reworking of the story of how Joseph received the gold plates from the angel—whom Lucy identifies as Nephi—to which have been added numerous details and expansions. Also, interestingly, Joseph Smith expresses a fear to his family that the possession of the gold plates will make them vulnerable to the violence of thieves “for the sake of the gold if they know we have them” while this detail is omitted completely from the 1853 version (Chap. 29).
It is important to realize that estimates of omissions and additions cannot be more than rough approximations. Whole pages are missing from Lucy’s rough draft, especially in the last quarter of the manuscript, and many pages are damaged, while rough notes, fragments, outlines, and at least two pages from the intermediate manuscript mean that all material counted as “rough draft” may actually be earlier or later material. Furthermore, the rough draft includes numerous strike-outs that duplicate significant portions of material included in the rough draft. If these limitations are carefully considered, however, there is some utility in looking at the composition. Using the computer’s word-counting capability, I eliminated all notes from both Lucy’s rough draft [p.139]and the Pratt 1853 version but left in strike-outs. This exercise showed that Lucy’s rough draft contains 85,997 words while Pratt’s is 8.7 percent longer: a total of 97,876 words. Of these totals, Lucy’s contains relatively few quotations, although there is usually a note to the reviser about where to find the material to be quoted. (I did not count her father’s autobiography as a quotation because it does not correspond to the published version of Solomon Mack’s Narraitve [sic].) Lucy’s rough draft contains 1,850 quoted words (2% of the total), while the 1853 version contains 9,219 quoted words (9 percent of the total).
Perhaps the most significant finding, however, is that passages in Lucy’s manuscript amounting to 12,453 words (14 percent of the total) constitute unique wording that does not appear in either the Coray or the Pratt manuscript, while double that amount, 28,166 words (excluding quotations), representing 28.7 percent of the 1853 book, have no counterpart in Lucy’s rough draft. If the quotations in Pratt are added to the total of “unique” material, the percentage of additions increases to 38 percent. Searle estimates these additions at about 25 percent. Naturally, not all of these passages contain new events; rather they are often “final” reworkings of events or episodes that appeared in truncated or sketchy form in Lucy’s rough draft. Furthermore, no significant extended passages appear in Pratt that do not have counterparts in Coray’s 1845 fair copy. And, as a final consideration, 4,869 words of the total 9,219 words quoted in the 1853 publication (53 percent) are in a single addition—the appendix that includes Don Carlos’s mission and letters, which are also written out in the Coray fair copy. In other words, comparisons of Lucy’s rough draft with Pratt’s 1853 version that do not also consider the 1845 Coray fair copy are likely to exaggerate the significance of the differences between the two volumes.
However, omissions are only part of the story. It is also important to recognize that, compared to the rough draft, a sizeable portion of the published version consists of quotations by someone else—letters, poems, genealogical material, Hyrum’s Missouri affidavit, the Solomon Mack autobiography, and sections of Joseph Smith’s history which had appeared serially in the Times and Seasons. Adding this material, particularly that of Joseph Smith’s official history—which was designed for quite a different audience, I would argue—makes Lucy sound as if she is simply walking off-stage while someone else performs. These dropped-in passages are introduced with fairly abrupt transitions, for example: “Here I shall introduce a brief history … given by my son … ” (chap 49). In my literary judgement, the copied material alters Lucy’s voice in the direction of greater impersonality.
DESCRIPTIVE SUMMARY OF DOCUMENTS
[p.140]This section briefly describes each—for want of a better word—“manifestation” of Lucy’s book.
Martha Jane’s Notebooks
There is some evidence that Martha Jane took down the original dictation in homemade notebooks and that she then used these hasty notes and her memory to create the first draft, identified and published here as Lucy’s 1844-45 rough draft. As evidence, among the loose sheets in the rough draft are half-sheets on which paragraphs have been hastily jotted down. These are arranged in no particular order, but they are obviously different from the full sheets, sewed along one side, that make up most of Lucy’s rough draft.
Chapter 52 contains a reference to “History rough manuscript continued from book 18 Page 8,” which I take to be a reference to these notebooks. One small, homemade notebook has survived—the only one of which I am aware—in Brigham Young University’s Archive of the Mormon Experience. Howard Searle identifies it as “the Joseph Smith, Sr., Family History Notebook.” It is written entirely in Martha Jane’s hand but cataloged, not under her name, but under Lucy Mack Smith’s (Searle, 362-63). A “Copy of an Old Notebook,” ACC. # 139126, is a typescript created at Brigham Young University in 1945 to look as much as possible, down to the size of the page, like the holograph notebook. It was acquired in 1977 as part of the Wilford Poulson Collection (Searle, 363).
The introductory material describes it as a “little home-made booklet of 64 pages of dimly-ruled sheets. It is sewed through three holes in the center and measures 4 1/8 inches by 6 3/8 inches.” The paper is “badly soiled and stained” and watermarked; the writing consists of both lead pencil and ink, “with at least three different kinds of ink.” In making the typescript,
an effort has been made to preserve the original spelling, capitalization and punctuation of the original writers. The material has also been carefully proof-read once and corrections made. Added material in ( ).
The copying was supervised by Prof. M. Wilford Poulson [of the psychology department], permission being obtained through the courtesy of Mrs. Harold S. Walker of Pleasant Grove, Utah by Mrs. Jaunita [sic] Brooks of St. George, Utah during the summer of 1944.
Its first five pages are an outline of Christianity under the Roman emperors, but p. 6 begins with text taken from John Smith’s missionary journal:
in the year 1836 joseph & John Smith went to new Portage town of Norton—while there administered P. blessings to the church baptized 16 heard that our mother aged 73  had arrived at Kirtland N. Y. distance 500 miles we returned directly home—found her in good health & excellent spirits much rejoiced to meet so [p.141]great a number of her children and grand children as she did not expect ever to see them again. [A footnote adds a cross reference to p. 213 of the Pratt 1853 book. Mary Duty Smith was actually ninety-two, not ninety-three.]
The next few pages give a brief summary of Mary Duty Smith’s death, and the second of Joseph Sr.’s and John’s missions, including Jesse’s abusive treatment and debt exaction from Joseph Sr., then continues with additional entries from John’s diaries. (Substantive differences from the Pratt version are identified in the notes.)
On page 23 is a chronological list, either as an aide-memoir for Lucy’s and Martha’s discussion, or to keep the sequence straight. Interestingly, the item about the first vision is inserted at a slant interlinearly into the list, obviously added as an afterthought.40
1811 William born 1st vision received
1811 moved to Lebanon
1813 taken sick in Lebanon
1814 moved Norrige
1816 moved to Kirtland Palmira in Jan
1819 moved Manchester
1820 Joseph received first vision
1822 Alvin died
The notebook then continues with Samuel’s first mission, corresponding to part of Chapter 34. (See notes for substantive variants.)
Lucy’s Rough Draft, 1844-45
The history of how this manuscript was created has already been discussed. The original is in the LDS Church Archives, available to view both on microfilm and in photocopy. There are no page numbers. It consists of approximately 208 pages with perhaps a dozen fragments on odd-sized or damaged sheets that clearly are part of the narrative history. An additional thirty pages or so are included in the rough draft microfilm, even though they consist of copies of revelations or miscellaneous papers and are not connected to the history.
Many of the pages have stitching marks running along the left margin, showing that the book had once been a ledger or (less likely) that Martha Jane had sewn her manuscript bundle together as she had earlier made her notebooks, by folding and stitching smaller pieces of paper.
[p.142]These unpaginated sheets are filled from the top to the bottom and to the very edges of the margins. Occasionally they contain asterisks referring to material added at the bottom of the page or contain a quickly sketched hand with a pointing finger, sometimes labeled “NB” (nota bene) as an aide-memoir. There are also hastily written reminders to add material at given points from other sources, usually the Times and Seasons. Although it is obvious that Martha Jane was writing quickly, for the most part her hand is legible and clear.
Martha Jane deals with word breaks at the right margin in three ways. First, if they lack only a letter or at most two, she writes them in above the word. I have included them silently in the word. Second, she will add up to a couple of syllables either above or below the line, usually writing very small and sometimes on a slant. Third, she will simply break the word at whichever letter reaches the margin, irrespective of syllabification (e.g., notw-ithstanding), and continue on the next line, sometimes with a linking = where we would use a hyphen and sometimes without.
Martha Jane’s characteristic misspellings include immagine, prarie, priviledge, opperation, maner, beaureau, sacrafice, seperate, saught, conveiniently, togather, buisness, and evill. Yet at the same time, comparatively difficult words such as ascertain, casuistry, subpoena, vehemence, and pursuance are spelled correctly.
“S/s” and “M/m” are particularly difficult to distinguish in Martha Jane’s hand since size is often the only distinguishing feature; and when the letters are written in haste, often size is quite subjective. In most of these cases, I have given the scribe the benefit of the doubt and let the sentence context determine capitalization.
The rough draft captures Lucy’s characteristic dialect and grammar, as when she talks about a Captain Martin in Missouri who defended her sons, ordering: “if any man attempts to . . . shoot them prisoners . . .” She also characteristically uses eat (probably pronounced et) in place of ate (“He finally consented and eat without him”). In reporting conversation, she uses the vigorous colloquialisms: “said I,” “said she.” She does not distinguish in the usual way between farther and further, using farther for both; frequently uses lay for lie (“every thing that lays in your power”; “another trouble laying at his heart”), and confuses nominative and objective pronouns (“It is me,” said Joseph). A hint at the pronunciation by Lucy or Martha Jane (or both) is the fact that Martha Jane twice wrote ages when she meant edges.
An unusual convention which appears throughout both the rough draft and the fair copy is the use of a comma instead of an apostrophe in possessive constructions: “from its mother,s arms.” (She also uses the more conventional apostrophe.)
[p.143]Cooper, Martha Jane’s great-grandson, adds that he
tried to determine if Martha Jane, who had been a teacher and a woman with a reputation for considerable learning, had contributed any of her own vocabulary or writing ability while writing for Mother Smith. None of Martha Jane’s writings gave any indication that this happened. Nowhere in her writings has she shown any inclination to use adjectives, adverbs, or the easily flowing language which is found in the History of Joseph Smith. From this book alone the writer can say with Preston Nibley that Mother Smith’s place as the “first woman of the Church” is secure, and the writer might also add that Martha Jane played a most emportant [sic] part in helping her to secure it. (Cooper, 8)
Martha Jane’s surviving diary supports Cooper’s analysis: “Aug. 6, 1873. Nellie Washed—Mary worked all around and Laura cooked—I herded forenoon—and cleaned Beadsteads [sic]—Mrs Mecum called—Haying goes on hauled 3 loads Hay to day.”
A photocopied reproduction of the Lucy Mack Smith rough draft is also available at LDS Church Archives and in the archives at BYU’s Lee Library. (David Whittaker, as mentioned earlier, loaned me his personal copy of this reproduction.) The Church Archives copy is not cataloged. It is bound with a perforated spine and covered in dark red plastic. It was sold by Deseret Book during the mid-1980s41 without any prefatory material or explanations of who made the arrangement of material, when it was done, or how, although it is obvious that the arrangement of sheets, particularly loose ones, generally follows that of the 1853 version.
The unidentified arranger has typed page numbers at the foot of each sheet (pp. 159 and 160 are reversed and numbered out of order) and added frequent notes above and below the manuscript itself on the photocopied sheets which were then, in turn, photocopied. These notes are made with a san-serif, electric typewriter, typical of the IBM Selectric model available from at least the early 1970s on. These typed head- and footnotes frequently omit punctuation, contain occasional misspellings or mistaken words (their for there), and contain other usage problems (“the Smith’s Tunbridge Vermont farm”), etc. These comments are also not always lucid: “shows how Lucy asked more specifically and how she dictated many additional incidents.” The arranger has also occasionally inserted hand-written page numbers between lines or paragraphs indicating which portion of the 1853 edition the holograph corresponds with.
[p.144]A supervisor at the LDS Church Archives told me that it was an unauthorized photocopy but knew nothing about its background. I was unable to learn anything about it from former Deseret Book personnel or from individuals to whom archival personnel referred me as possible leads.
The Intermediate Manuscript
Richard L. Anderson hypothesizes that between Lucy’s 1844-45 rough draft and the Coray fair copy at the Church Archives came a document he calls the “Coray Rough Manuscript,” which he thinks was taken to England (“Production,” 1). I argue rather that the next stage after Lucy’s draft was an intermediate manuscript, most of it lost, from which two finished fair copies were prepared—Lucy’s, which Pratt took to England, and Coray’s, which went to Utah.
Although Jan Shipps did not compare the Coray manuscript with Lucy’s rough draft or with Pratt’s 1853 Biographical Sketches, she correctly notes that versions of Lucy’s book after the rough draft stage represent increased distance between her oral history and the more polished final project. “Every alteration, substitution, addition, and deletion exaggerates the distance between Mother Smith and the readers of her history … The measure of documentary authenticity of the 1853 edition of Mother Smith’s History is in direct proportion to the amount of material carried over from earlier versions of the work without change” (Mormonism, 95).
The Proctors agree with Shipps that the Corays’ version, to which they argue Lucy gave final approval, weakened Lucy’s voice: “The Corays deleted many of her soliloquies, they axed intimate details of family life and affections, they sometimes avoided emotion, they polished her phrases. . . . The Corays’ edits led to a more fussy, formal speech pattern than Lucy is given to. Ironically, their changes sound old-fashioned to the modern ear, as opposed to Lucy’s more direct speech” (xxii).
I concur that comparisons of the rough draft and the 1853 Pratt book show a loss in immediacy and “rawness”—not considered literary felicities in the nineteenth century as in the twentieth. However, the distance between the 1853 Pratt and 1845 Coray versions is so slight that a different conclusion is inescapable: The majority of the changes between Lucy’s rough draft and the Coray fair copy entered the work at an earlier stage, one that I am calling the intermediate-manuscript stage, not at the final revision stage; and Lucy, by Martha Jane’s testimony, was intensively and repeatedly involved in rereadings and revisions at that point. Shipps also accepts Searle’s estimates that 25 percent of the 1853 Biographical Sketches consists of revisions while 10 percent of the rough draft has been omitted. In point of fact, he has overestimated the [p.145]amount of added material by about 11 percent. Omissions are best determined by identifying episodes such as the “faculty of Abrac.” (See discussion above.)
There is, to my knowledge, no information extant on how Howard, primarily, but to some extent Martha Jane, produced the intermediate manuscript. Scenarios of possibilities may begin, on the one hand, with Lucy’s closest attention and constant supervision—perhaps even with the Corays working in the same room, pausing to ask her about the possible rephrasing of a sentence or proposing a wording change and receiving her permission before it was written down. At the other extreme Lucy may have simply told the Corays to do what they thought best. Obviously decisions had to be made about material that appears in Lucy’s rough draft but not in the Coray fair copy or, conversely, material in the Coray fair copy which has no counterpart in Lucy’s rough draft. (Most cases of added material are uncomplicated—mere quotations from already existing material, such as extracts from Joseph Smith’s history published in the Times and Seasons.) Unfortunately, we have no indication of how these decisions were made.
As an example of the first instance—material in Lucy’s rough draft that does not appear in Coray’s—Lucy dictated an account of taking tea with the ladies of Palmyra and rebuffing their attempts to express sympathy (or perhaps to patronize her) because she was still living in a log house, pointing out that she knew where her husband was at night and that her sons were not drinking daily in the local groggeries (chap. 17). The sheet is loose and, in the existing condition of Lucy’s manuscript, it is not possible to determine where she meant to include it. Did Martha and/or Howard persuasively argue that this story was better left out lest it present Lucy as tactless? Was the story dictated as an afterthought and then simply overlooked on its loose sheet in the process of copying the manuscript, being discovered (if at all) after the Palmyra period was already written? Did Martha take down the dictation but later did she and Howard, or Howard alone, decide to omit it without consulting Lucy? Without more information, there is simply no way of determining what happened; but its existence in Lucy’s rough draft is revealing, both of her spunky refusal to define herself as socially less equal than these leading ladies and also, especially in light of later widespread reports of drinking among the Smith men, her willingness to guard her family’s reputation.
This semi-final intermediate draft, I hypothesize, was prepared on loose sheets, since one misplaced sheet from this version (chap. 34 in the 1853 version) has survived as an unattached fragment in Lucy’s manuscript. A comparison of this sheet with Lucy’s rough draft and the Coray fair copy shows the relationship distinctly. The writing in the intermediate draft is significantly more legible. The [p.146]addition of punctuation and paragraphing is particularly anomalous. It corresponds more exactly to the 1853 edition (note the use of rejoined), but additional changes have been made in the 1853 version):
|Lucy, 1844-45||Intermediate||Coray, 1845|
|the whooping cough or measels or some other ketchin disease and and if they come I’ll go some where else to board||the— Whoopping couch [sic] or measles or some other Kitchin disease. And if they come I’ll go somewhere else.”||the whooping cough or measles, or some other contagious disease, and, if they come, I will go somewhere else.”|
|Why Maddan [sic] said the landlord that is not necessa[ry] you can still have one large room.||“Why, Madam,” said the lanlord, that is not necessary, you can still have one large room.”||“Why, madam,” said the landlord, “that is not necessary, you can still have one large room.”|
|Well I don’t care said she I want them both and if I can’t have them I won’t stay.||“I dont care’ said she, “I want ’em both and if I can’t have ’em I won’t stay.||“I don’t care,” said she, “I want ’em both, and if I cant have ’em, I won’t stay—that’s it.”|
|Never mind said its no matter I will go some where else I presume I can get Some other room just as well.||Never mind said I it is no matter, I presume I can get some other room just as well.||“Never mind,” said I, “it is no matter; I suppose I can get a room somewhere else, just as well.”|
|No you can’t though avowed the lady for we hunted all over the town and could’nt find one single one till we came here||“No, you cant though, rejoined the lady, for we hunted all over town and we couldnt find one single one till we got here.”||“No, you can’t though,” rejoined the lady, “for we hunted all over the town, and we could not find one single one till we got here.”|
|This instance of human nature carries its own moral therefore it needs no remarks.|
|I left immediately and soon came to a long row of rooms and as one of them seemed to be almost at liberty I ventured to call and enquire of the owner if I could not rent it a few days I found the proprietr to be||I left without farther delay, and presently came to a long row of rooms; one of and as one of them seemed to be almost at liberty, I enquired of the owner if I could rent it for a few days, <whom> I found the propriete upon farther||I left immediately, and went on my way. Presently I came to a long row of rooms, one of which appeared to be almost vacant. I inquired if it could be rented for a few days. The owner of the buildings, I|
|[p.147]a fine cheerful old lady <probably near 70 years of age> A when I requested asked her if She had a roon [sic] which she could spare me at any price Well I stating the circumstances as I had don in the Land lord before—||[p.147]acquaintance to be a cheerful old lady near 70 years of age;
I mentioned the circumstances to her as I had to <the> lanlord before.
|[p.147]found to be a cheerful old lady, near seventy years of age. I mentioned the circumstances to her, as I before had done to the landlord.|
|Well I don’t know said She where did are you going to Kirtlang [sic] said I What are be you said she. be you baptists no said I we are Mormons. Mormons! said she in in a quick but low and good natured tone. Why I never heard of them before what be they||“Well I don’t know’ said she “where be you going.”
“To Kirtland replied I.
“What be you said she <she continued>. “be you baptists?
I told her we were Mormons.
“Mormons,’ she ejaculated she in a quick good natured tone, ‘What be they? I never heard of them before.
|“Well, I don’t know,” said she; “where be you going?”
“To Kirtland,” I replied.
“What be you?” said she. “Be you Baptists?”
I told her that we were “Mormons.”
“Mormons!” ejaculated she, in a quick, good-natured tone. “What be they? I never heard of them before.”
The second (and last-known) example of what I believe to be a surviving page from the intermediate version deals with Jerusha’s death. (See chap. 46, which contains two rough draft versions, and the 1853 published version.)
|Lucy, 1844-45||Intermediate||Coray, 1845|
|When Hyrum left home he requeste[d] Don Carlos to see to his family accordingly Don Carlos moved into the same house with them in a short time after Hyrum left Jerusha <Jerusha> his wife was confined had a daughter which she named Sarah as her heath continued very poor for some time after the birth of her child she it was taken care of by one Mrs Grenolds who stayed||About one year after my husband returned from his mission a misfortune happened our family that wrung our hearts with more than common grief. Hyrum being under the necessity of going to Missouri ’s wife Jerusha who was taken sick during his absence and after an illness of perhaps 2 weeks died while her husband was absent on a mission to Misouri. She was a woman whom every body loved that ever knew her for||About one year after my husband returned from this mission, a calamity happened to our family that wrung our hearts with more than common grief. Jerusha, Hyrum’s wife, was taken sick, and, after an illness of, perhaps two weeks, died while her husband was absent on a mission to Missouri. She was a woman whom everybody loved that was acquainted with her, for she was every way|
|[p.148]with its mother during Hyrums absence Jerusha’s health was still on the decline she became subject to fainting fits at last she sent for a physician who gave her some mild restoratnes[ve] and left her saying he thought she would be better soon she still grew worse and in a short time she sent for me and said she did not think before that her time to die was so near but she was sure she should not live but a very little while. She then sent for her children were then brought to her and She kissed them and took bid them and us farewell and immediately expired It was a time of dreadful mourning with us all when <that> followed this sad disaster—||[p.148]she was every way worthy and the family were so deeply attached to her that if she had been an own sister they could not have been more afflicted at her death.||[p.148]worthy. The family were so warmly attached to her, that, had she been our own sister, they could not have been more afflicted by her death.|
The Coray Fair Copy, 1845
The fair copy is a beautiful holograph document, filling a ledger approximately 7.25 by 12.25 inches of lined paper with each page hand-numbered. According to Searle, Howard Coray wrote the first 162 pages; then a page is cut out of the journal and the narrative, without a break, continues in Martha Jane’s handwriting from p. 163 to p. 307 where Howard completes the narrative and three appendices: a missionary journal of Don Carlos Smith, the letters of Don Carlos Smith 1836-39, and poems by Eliza R. Snow (Searle, 384). Because the verso of p. 162 is blank, pagination from the point where Martha Jane begins writing is conventionally rectos = odd, versos = even from that point to the end of the manuscript.
The title page reads, in elaborate and beautiful letters, “The History of Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet.” Each chapter number and heading is centered vertically with substantial white space above it. The chapters do not begin on new pages. Occasional corrections or comments are written in George [p.149]A. Smith’s blunt pencil and vigorous hand with a very few (only three or four) corrections in a very fine hand (probably Robert Lang Campbell’s) and a different color of ink. Written on the last page (a loose sheet but one that has simply come out of the binding), in George A.’s pencil is a list of items: (See textual notes.)
p. 76 – near bottom of “which had never entered into my heart that they were all wrong:—
p. 75 – which of them are right or are they all wrong. (See pt. 2)
p. 87th – about Joseph’s not getting the plates
p. 87-8 – about Alvin’s death
p. 101 – about Joseph showing his mother the Urim & Thummim
p. 103 – Urim & Thummim about Joseph’s person
105 – Bear paragraph.
p. 106 – about the U. & T. again
116 – par 2 Mrs. Harris snake story
p. 118 – Harris carrying home the Mss.
Chap 29 132 ex parte examination
p. 137 – Had Joseph ever met D Whitmer before
p. 140 He [rest of line blank]
p. 135 Joseph and O move to Waterloo. Qy [query] was it not Fayette Pa
137 last par. see Waterloo occurs again.
p. 155 – Elias furnished a note “something to be raised up in his family do good to mankind”
after 176 page 157 of book & next par.
167 – about Mrs. Green P. Young & Book of Mormon
p. 170 – John Whitmer presiding at Kirtland
p. 175 – Mother Smith leads the Coy
p. 194 – in history Vol. 14 pa. 150 Mill Star at [another?] about Sidney Rigdon’s story Is Rigdon’s saying the keys of the [sic] are taken from the Church in the history
p. 196 – Joseph’s Mission East
p. 197-98 Make a note for the persecutions in Jackson Co. Rev. Sec. 101 Chap 43 to be reconstructed.
p. 206 – Heb 6-17
p. 209 – see about Joseph’s going to Palmyra with Martin Harris
On the next page is a single half-line: “210 Date of”
As already discussed, Coray’s 1845 fair copy was copied from the original fair copy left in Lucy’s custody and can be considered a surrogate for it.
Orson Pratt’s 1853 Biographical Sketches
The history of the publication of this document has already been discussed, and the text is presented in parallel columns with that of Lucy Mack Smith’s 1844-45 rough draft for the reader’s inspection. Unfortunately it is not [p.150]possible in the notes to present every change made between the Coray 1845 fair copy and the Pratt version; ideally, such a presentation would make it possible to identify a pattern of changes. For instance, “my husband” in Coray frequently becomes “Mr. Smith” in Pratt. The meaning is not altered, but would a pattern of such changes be significant? Perhaps.
The book is bound in black with gold foil stamping on the cover. It measures 16 cm. The type is small by twentieth-century standards but not by historical standards. No information is available on the size of the print run or on reprintings.
The George A. and Elias Smith Corrections
George A. Smith made corrections twice, once on a copy of Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations, published by Orson Pratt in 1853 (see above), and once on the Coray 1845 fair copy (see discussion below). The two sets of corrections correspond roughly with each other but are not identical. George A. obviously did not copy one set of corrections to the next document but rather relied on his memory about what was “wrong.” Most striking to even the casual reader, however, is how few such corrections there are and, for the most part, how hastily they are made in both places.
George A. also adds the names of states after the names of cities, though not consistently, adds some dates to events, and inserts words omitted in copying that the sense and grammar of the sentence obviously call for.
In a few places (but not consistently), it also seems that George A. Smith was reading the Coray fair copy with Pratt’s Biographical Sketches in hand, since he follows it in preference either to Lucy’s rough draft (I found no examples where he accepted wording from Lucy so distinctive that it could not be explained by ordinary usage or grammar) or to solving a problem in a third way. In Chapter 28, Lucy says that Oliver Cowdery’s arrival was not “unexpected” to Joseph; Coray says Joseph was not “disappointed,” and George A. has changed this word to “surprized,” the same word that Pratt uses.
Some of George A. Smith’s changes are not really corrections but are stylistic editing of the kind no longer done on historic documents. For instance, in Chapter 50 on the Coray fair copy, he has edited this passage thus: “Soon after this the brethren were compelled to lay down their arms; and sign away their property. This was done quite near our house. [GAS: new paragraph] so that I could distinctly hear<d> General Clark’s notable speech on this occasion; and, without … ”
Some of George A.’s changes introduce confusion. For example, in Chapter 34 he has edited the account of Joseph Sr.’s baptism to remove the informa-[p.151]tion provided by Lucy that it happened on the same day as the organization of the church. It is unclear why he would have done this, or on what authority, since there is no evidence that Martin Harris, who was baptized on the same occasion, ever claimed a different date. Lucy was almost certainly present, and George A. absolutely was not, since his family did not join the church until 1832 and did not come to Kirtland until 1833. In fact, this editing inserts a confusing reading. The sequence suggests that, first, Joseph Sr. and Harris were baptized, then, second, the church was organized. However, Joseph’s exclamation is one of joy that his father was not just baptized, but baptized into the church.
There is some—but quite slight—evidence that George A. Smith wanted to reduce references to William Smith, Emma Smith, or to Lucy herself. For instance, when Joseph learns that the first 116 pages are lost, his first concern is for Emma’s reaction. He cries out that he cannot (strikeovers by GAS) “return to my wife with such a tale as this? I dare not do it, lest I should kill her at once.” George A.’s editings on some passages regarding William are included in the textual notes, but there is not enough information in most cases to determine whether the editing is motivated by a desire to reduce William’s appearances in the manuscript or because of external evidence that the passage is inaccurate. For instance, George A. struck out a passage regarding the conversion of Mr. Bear (chap. 47), but apparently on the basis of its inaccuracy. However, when he took out a passage in Chapter 50 about William’s vision of trouble in Missouri, it was apparently in response to Brigham Young’s claim that William had wanted Joseph to die in Missouri.
The corrections to Biographical Sketches are written in the margins of the small black-bound printed volume, held in BYU’s Mormon Americana collection. The catalog entry identifies George A. Smith and Elias Smith as the authors of the corrections.42 Most of the corrections have been made in a large, sprawling hand with a blunt pencil by George A. Smith, presumably, who in-[p.152]itialed one entry. The second set of corrections, presumably by Robert Lang Campbell, is made in exquisite and tiny cursive in black ink. The note on the flyleaf, signed by George A. Smith and Robert Lang Campbell, may have been written by Campbell. This note reads:
This work was written in Nauvoo in 1845 by Mrs. Howard Coray, from Narrations of Lucy Smith, Mother of the Prophet, after his death. Her memory having been very much impaired, and somewhat Shattered by the Successive losses of a husband and four Sons, as well as by care and old age, the work contains many things which are incorrect. It was entitled the History of Mother Smith by herself; the metamorphose [sic] in the title and preface were added without her consent or knowledge; and the Mss. was Surreptitiously obtained from her by Isaac Sheen, who sold it to Orson Pratt, who published it without the consent or knowledge of the First Presidency or any of the Twelve.
Geo. A. Smith, Rob. L. Campbell
The inside back cover of this volume bears the following biographical note signed by George A. Smith. There is no indication whom he is writing about:
after his wifes death, he came to Scott Co Ills—preaching, tarried 3 wks [illegible] him a wife then returned to Nauvoo hearing of [illegible] C’s death in Sept preached in Scott co. went to Nauvoo in November with Laura his wife & all his 2 children that winter of 41 & 2 stayed in Nauvoo & worked mostly for Joseph to sustain his family, he moved to Plymouth in the fall of 1842 summer of 1843 was in Nauvoo while back <forth> his wife 1843-4 chopped wood <stayed at Plymouth> & prepared his farm by making fences & cleared timber in the spring of 1844 he farmed near Plymouth. — Geo. A. Smith
In a second copy of the Pratt 1853 history, Elias Smith is reported to have separately marked editing changes, deletions, and corrections. This copy is in the LDS Church Archives (Searle, 418). My request to examine it was denied, but it seems doubtful that it contains significantly more or significantly different changes than those created in the jointly corrected copy since, as the textual notes show, only trivial changes have been made in the 1901-03 Improvement Era editions that are not in George A. Smith, cannot be accounted for by editorial fashion/preference, or that are not the introduction of new errors.
As discussed above, Searle believes that there may have been a third copy of the printed volume, whereabouts unknown, which collated the changes from both of the Smith cousins and came into possession of Joseph F. Smith after the death of George A. Smith in 1875 (418-19). I think it is more likely that Joseph F. Smith, in an effort to keep things simple, referred to the various corrected versions, none of which (except for Coray) was technically a manuscript, as a single document.
[p.153]The RLDS 1880 Edition
In February 1878, the Publication Board of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints appointed a committee of three—W. W. Blair, Joseph Smith III, and H. A. Stebbins—to prepare the 1853 text of Biographical Sketches for new publication. They also added some explanatory footnotes “to clarify what they considered confusing statements” (Pement and Edwards, 70), meanwhile retaining Orson Pratt’s 1853 notes. The type was set and the book published in 1880 at Plano, Iowa, then headquarters of the RLDS church.
This edition included a new preface by the RLDS committee along with Orson Pratt’s preface. The volume includes the mission report and letters of Don Carlos Smith (see Appendix) but not the poems of Eliza R. Snow commemorating the deaths of Joseph Smith Sr., Don Carlos Smith, and Joseph and Hyrum Smith.
The preface for the 1880 edition shows that the publishers were well aware of the LDS controversy over this work, then only fifteen years in the past. It begins:
The object that the Board of Publication has in the reissue of this work, is to place in the hands of those of the church, and others who may desire it, one means of becoming acquain[t]ed with the history of the Latter Day Saints during the lifetime of those with whom the work originated. “Mother Smith’s History,” comes into our hands in the same way that any other book, written and published by one connected with the church without authorization from the church, might do, and for this reason, we to whom the work of revision has been intrusted, give the work to the reader as we find it; with such additions as are deemed necessary, made by marks of reference and foot-notes. Nor do we vouch for the correctness of the statements made in the body of the work, being contented to let it pass with the statement that it is believed to be in the main correct.
Coming as it did three years after Brigham Young’s death and during a no-holds-barred contest over authority between the two churches, this statement is a critique of Young’s violent handling of the 1853 publication. This preface contradicts two major points Young made—the accuracy of Lucy’s memory and the inappropriateness of Pratt’s independence. (Tellingly, it does not challenge Young’s opinion of William Smith, who was still alive in Iowa at this point.) Joseph Smith III, who knew Orson Pratt in Nauvoo and had met him again only four years earlier when Joseph III had visited Salt Lake City in 1876, appraised Pratt in his memoirs as “quick, alert, active, pleasant-mannered, and perhaps one of the brainiest men that ever accepted Latter Day Saintism during the first years of the church’s existence … Truly it has ever been a mystery to me … that such a man as Elder Orson Pratt, of so brilliant a mind, with such love of humanity, and such willingness to defend what he believed to be right, [p.154]could ever have submitted to such domination as I have reason to believe was exercised over him” (JS III, 32).
In the second paragraph of the 1880 preface, this critique becomes a blunt attack on Utah Mormonism’s authoritarianism:
At the time the book was first published it was spoken and written of quite highly, the preface having been written by Orson Pratt, then, as now, one of the ablest men among the Utah Mormons. Soon after its publication, and after a large number was sold, President Brigham Young, under the plea that it was a false history and would do mischief, ordered its suppression; the Saints were counseled to give them up, either freely, or in exchange for other works of the church, that they might be destroyed. Under this order large numbers were destroyed, few being preserved, some of which fell into the hands of those now with the Reorganization. For this destruction we see no adequate reason; unless it be found in the fear that a plain story told by the mother of the first president of the church, might possibly convey views to the minds of its readers, opposed to the then ruling powers.
The present impracticability of giving a more extended and satisfactory history of Joseph Smith, under the supervision of the Reorganized Church; in connection with the fact that Elder E. W. Tullidge’s work, “Life of Joseph, the Prophet,” has been put upon sale, have determined the Board to publish this work without change in the text.43
The remainder of the preface is a quotation from the Millennial Star’s promotional articles, Brigham Young’s January 1855 denunciation of its “many mistakes,” and Orson Pratt’s March 1855 acknowledgement of errors.
This edition was reprinted at Lamoni, Iowa, in 1908. The editorial work for a new (1912) edition was undertaken by Heman C. Smith, apostle and Church Historian of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He initialed the contextual footnotes that he added to those from Pratt’s 1853 edition and the 1880 RLDS edition, and these have remained in later editions. Heman Smith was born 27 September 1850 in the now-defunct Mormon colony named Zodiac founded by Lyman Wight near Fredericksburg, Texas. The third son and fourth child of Spencer Smith and Anna C. Wight Smith, Heman was baptized at Zodiac on 7 October 1862 by W. H. Kelley. The family then moved to Nebraska where Smith was ordained an elder on 14 March 1874 in Gallands Grove District [p.155]Conference at Harlan, Iowa, and was appointed to Nebraska at the 1876 conference. He was ordained a seventy at the semi-annual conference near Council Bluffs by James Caffal and others, then ordained sixth president of seventies at the Independence annual conference in 1885 and appointed secretary. He married Vida E. Smith at Independence on 2 June 1886, and they had four children. On 30 March 1888, he was ordained an apostle. He served on the Saints’ Herald staff (1895-1900) and as Church Historian from 1897 until his death in Independence on 17 April 1919 (Knisley).
In 1969 Herald House in Independence reissued this 1912 edition in facsimile, again under the title Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet and His Progenitors for Many Generations. A fifth printing of 371 pages appeared in 1990, but the book is now out of print.
There are thirteen notes in the 1880 edition (counting those picked up from Pratt’s 1853 edition) and twenty-seven in the 1912/69 editions. In the footnotes accompanying the parallel edition, I use “RLDS” inclusively to refer to all three editions; if a note was added after the 1853 edition, I indicate the editions (1912, 1969) parenthetically.
Improvement Era Versions, 1901-03
The next documentary development was the edition of 1901-03, serialized in the Improvement Era under the title: “The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother,” with a preface by Lucy’s grandson, Joseph F. Smith. (Lorenzo Snow had approved the project just before his death on 10 October 1901.) It was published in thirteen monthly installments from November 1901 to January 1903.44 The appendix omits Don Carlos Smith’s diary account of his 1838 mission with George A. Smith but includes his two letters to his wife and the three poems by Eliza R. Snow.
In his introduction, Joseph F. Smith, who had worked on the book in 1866 as assigned by George A. Smith and who was now president of the church, gave a simplified and not totally accurate overview of the project’s [p.156]history, then justified the existence of the new edition with the popular explanation of factual inadequacies resulting from lack of documentation and Lucy’s mental deficiencies: “Some statements contained in the work were considered somewhat overdrawn,” he wrote, “—a circumstance easily accounted for when we remember the age of Mother Smith, the losses she had sustained in the death of a husband and four sons, and the consequent lapses of her memory” (JFS, 1).
In his journal Brigham Young Jr. recorded twice talking about the project with Joseph F. Smith. On 23 October 1901 Young unquestioningly asserted the standard view of its inaccuracy: “Pres. Smith is about to publish Lucy Smith’s book which was suppressed by Father because of its untruthfulness. He, Jos. will carefully revise it before publishing it in the ‘Era.’ I regret it for so many are dead who knew more than the living about this matter.” Two days later, again in Joseph F. Smith’s office, Brigham Jr. listened as the church president “read me [a] portion of manuscript from Lucy Smith Book. Her story I always understood was false. Geo. Q. C. in Life of Prophet was correct. Pres. Smith doubted Bro. Cannon.”45
In 1902 the serialized chapters were published as a book: History of Joseph Smith by His Mother Lucy Smith as Revised by George A. Smith and Elias Smith (Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1902), 296 pp., including Joseph F. Smith’s introduction and “The Ancestry of Joseph Smith the Prophet” by Archibald F. Bennett, reprinted from the April 1929 issue of Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine.
In tracing the pattern of changes from 1853 through George A. Smith (and his associates), the Improvement Era, and Preston Nibley in 1945, it is clear from the punctuation, word order, and word choice that the Improvement Era (IE) edition was typeset from a copy of the 1853 published version. This fact is a particularly ironic commentary on Brigham Young’s rage against its “tissue of lies.” The IE version includes virtually all of the changes George A. marked on the Coray 1845 fair copy. This printer’s copy was not, however, the 1853 George-Elias-[p.157]Robert Campbell volume now at BYU; some of George A.’s changes are the same in both volumes, but some changes, even for the same passage, are different from each other. In these cases, the IE edition follows the George A.-Coray version. This pattern suggests that the Historical Department vault copy, which I was not permitted to see, may contain the collated changes.
One of the unanswered questions about the Improvement Era edition is who, exactly, prepared the manuscript to be retypeset. While it is clear that an 1853 printed version was used, supplemented by the handwritten corrections on the fair copy by George A., someone made editorial decisions about punctuation changes, American spellings instead of British, a few rearranged paragraphs, and a number of small grammatical changes. Except for omitting Joseph Sr.’s dying blessings to his children except for Hyrum’s and Joseph’s, no material was omitted that had not been marked out or altered by George A. Smith. The editor of the Improvement Era in 1902 was Joseph F. Smith himself, but he probably confined himself to policy making and ceremonial functions. The IE edition still, however, constitutes the corrected revision that Brigham Young said he had ordered in 1845 in Nauvoo, delayed for more than half a century. As Howard Searle points out, the corrections “were not nearly as extensive as the furor over the book would suggest.” Searle classifies these changes as omissions of references to William, Emma, and other family matters; corrections in dates, names, and grammar; additions and deletions of historical events, omission of profanity and vulgarity, and omission of possible criticism of Joseph Smith or the church (422).
Preston Nibley 1945 Reprint of the Improvement Era Version
In 1945 Preston Nibley, then Assistant Church Historian, reissued a slightly revised edition of the 1901-03 versions, retitled History of Joseph Smith by His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith, with Notes and Comments by Preston Nibley (Salt Lake City: Stevens and Wallis). It begins with Joseph F. Smith’s 1901 introduction, then with Nibley’s own foreword. While praising the book as “one of the most beautiful narratives and yet one of the most tragic in our Church literature,” he again apologizes for it:
The first edition of this volume, published in England in 1853, was criticized by some of the Church Authorities, on account of inaccuracies of statement, as explained by President Joseph F. Smith in the preceding introduction. When one considers that Mrs. Smith was in her seventieth year when this history was dictated; that her life had been one of uncommon hardship and toil; that she had had little opportunity for book-learning and education—then one must agree that, if errors were made, they were errors of the mind and not of the heart. (ix)
The Improvement Era version created unique typographical errors, some of [p.158]which are carried over into the Nibley edition. This fact makes it clear that he did not return to an earlier source or one closer to the original, but continued from the recent (i.e., 1901-03) printed version.
Nibley made relatively few substantive changes, shifting paragraphs to a different order in two cases and omitting some material considered indelicate (profanity and reports of Missouri rapes), three times indicating the omissions with ellipses but usually not. (See text notes.) The Improvement Era editor and Nibley both make minor grammatical corrections (e.g., from “my nature sunk” to “my nature sank”). Nibley also, while leaving in indications of oaths (e.g., “d——d”) silently omits profanity (e.g., “for God’s sake”). He includes Joseph Sr.’s dying blessings only for Hyrum, Joseph, and Samuel.
In addition to keeping the comparatively few notes Orson Pratt added to the text, which Nibley designates with asterisks, he adds others more lavishly, designated with numbers. (The first of his notes on a page is always “1.”) While supplying helpful dates and other items from the History of the Church, his notes sometimes only restate the obvious. For example, in describing the illness that afflicted Lucy en route to Missouri and Katharine’s childbirth, he comments: “These circumstances illustrate the difficulty the Smith family had on their journey to Missouri in the summer of 1838.” Nibley follows Pratt in having full and exact chapter summaries on his contents page, altered only by the few corrections inserted earlier by George A. Smith. Nibley does not include titles with the chapters, which are identified only by number. He uses arabic, rather than roman numerals for the chapters, the first time this is done.
Interestingly, Nibley has a pattern of changes in quoted documents (especially Hyrum Smith’s lengthy affidavit in Chapter 49—Nibley, chap. 48), while the Improvement Era retains the wording of the 1853 version, which in turn follows the Times and Seasons version. (See text notes.)
Nibley moved the Smith and Mack genealogical data (chap. 9) to an appendix, added another appendix with information about Lucy’s children, and dropped the original appendix containing the diary/letters from Don Carlos Smith and the poems of Eliza R. Snow. As a result of moving Chapter 9 to the appendix, Nibley’s chapter numbers from that point on are one less than those of Pratt and the Improvement Era.
Martha Jane’s and Howard Coray’s great-grandson Robert Cooper (7-18) in 1965 compared the Pratt 1853 and Nibley 1958 versions and identified 282 changes in nine categories, not including the preface and appendices:
2. Date or time (9)
3. Grammar (19)
[p.159]4. Transpositions (11)
5. Minor additions (38)
6. Major additions (1—the inclusion of Joseph Smith’s 1838 first vision account)
7. “Vocabulary” (112)
8. Minor omissions (67)
9. Major omissions (25). One of these omissions comes from Hyrum’s affidavit, not from Lucy’s language, and deletes his report of rape in general and one gang-rape in particular (chap. 49).
According to the analysis by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, a comparison of Nibley’s 1954 printing and the Pratt 1853 Biographical Sketches shows the addition of 436 words, changes in 220, and deletions of 1,379—a total of 2,035 changes “without any indication,” while 736 words “have been deleted with the omissions properly indicated” (Tanner and Tanner, 4). Genealogically speaking, it would have been more useful if both they and Cooper had compared Pratt’s 1853 edition with the Improvement Era version, rather than Nibley’s, since the more significant changes were made at the earlier point.
It is difficult to determine the number of printings and differences, if any, among Bookcraft’s printings of Nibley’s book, but there were new printings in at least 1954, 1957, 1958, 1965, 1975 (as Vol. 18 of the forty-volume LDS Heritage Library “with notes and comments by Preston Nibley”), and 1979.
Nibley’s edition was used as the text for Roy W. Doxey’s Study Guide for Special Interests, published by the MIA general boards in 1958. “Special Interests” was a class provided for single people in the LDS church over the age of about twenty. This forty-page typeset manual for 1958-59 moves systematically through the book in twenty-five lessons and is helpful in showing how Lucy’s narrative has been officially assimilated as faith-promoting material, in contrast to its faith-destroying status under Brigham Young. Consider, for instance, these comments and questions:
Show wherein the Prophet’s mother was a religious person yet she did not affiliate with any church in the early period of her life. What bearing do you think this has on our life and that of her own life and that of her gifted son, the Prophet? (2)
It is important to note that Lucy Mack’s life was preserved to later write the history of her son Joseph. (3)
(Chap. 20) Assuming that there is no L.D.S. meeting to attend, is it better to go to the churches of the world or to read the Bible? What would be your answer in the light of what is given by Joseph Smith? (9)
The footnote on p. 142 suggests that you read the History of the Church 1:39 and compare it with the information on p. 142 … [and] Pearl of Great Price, [p.160]Joseph Smith 2:68-75. [This footnote, annotating Joseph’s and Oliver’s baptisms of each other, refers the reader to the story of John the Baptist restoring the Aaronic priesthood.] Discuss the information given above in pointing out the necessity of baptism and authority to administer the ordinance.
This study guide misidentifies Lucy’s brother Daniel as “David” (1).
Modern Microfilm Photomechanical Edition, 1965
In 1965 Jerald and Sandra Tanner of Modern Microfilm Company produced the first photomechanical reproduction of the 1853 text under the title, Joseph Smith’s History: The Book Brigham Young Tried to Destroy, by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Modern Microfilm Co., 1965). They borrowed a copy from a collector of rare Mormon books for their facsimile edition. They argue that the Improvement Era version was a “falsified reprint”; they correctly point out that the History of the Church description of its printing history (7:519) omits all mention of the Pratt 1853 version and, by saying it “was finally published … in October, 1901,” leaves the impression that “it was never printed prior to 1901” (Introduction, 1).
The detailed introduction reviews the history of the book’s recall, quotes liberally from the public documents and articles about it, and provides a ten-page listing of changes made between the 1853 and 1954 versions. The year of the Tanners’ reissue, with deliberate irony, was the centennial of Brigham Young’s suppression of the 1853 version, and they concluded their introduction with the statement: “The changes we have shown … should give the reader an idea of the way in which the Mormon Historians ‘revise’ history.”
Arno Press Facsimile Edition, 1969
The second photomechanical reprint appeared in 1969 after Edwin S. Gaustad queried Leonard J. Arrington, then a professor of economics at Utah State University (Logan), about out-of-print works that “might be suitable for inclusion in the Arno Press Religion in America facsimile reprint series” (Shipps, Mormonism, 91). After reviewing the explosive history of official reactions to Biographical Sketches for Gastaud, Arrington countered Brigham Young’s description of the book as “‘a tissue of lies from beginning to end,’” calling it instead “‘informative, basically accurate, and extremely revealing of Joseph Smith’s early life and his family background … [that] perhaps tells us more about Mormon origins than any other single source’” (qtd. in ibid.). Arrington also hypothesized that Young was hypersensitive to Lucy’s “‘favorable references and space devoted to William Smith’” (qtd. in ibid.)
This version identifies the author as Lucy Smith and the title as Biographi-[p.161]cal Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet. It has no notes or appendices and only Orson Pratt’s introduction (Searle, 426).
Grandin Press Reproduction, 1995
In 1995 Lyndon Cook’s Grandin Press of Orem, Utah, brought out the third photomechanical reproduction of the 1853 edition. In an editorial decision that was both merciful and helpful, Cook enlarged the type to 140 percent of the original, bringing it to a comfortable size for reading (approximately 12 point) on a conventional 6×9-inch page. In this edition, on p. 87, line 2 after the beginning of Chapter 20, a small superscript holograph cross appears after “Alvin,” thus making it possible to identify the specific 1853 copy used in the reproduction. This edition begins with Pratt’s preface and includes the appendix containing Don Carlos Smith’s personal writings and Eliza R. Snow’s three commemorative poems.
Cook’s brief “Publisher’s Note” reads: “At age seventy-eight [actually sixty-eight] with the help of scribes, Lucy Mack Smith followed her father’s example and wrote an autobiographical narrative. It was published in England in 1853 through the efforts of Orson Pratt.” He quotes a descriptive statement from Donna Hill, author of Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, about the narrative, provides a paragraph of biographical information about Lucy herself, and notes the photomechanical enlargement of the type. His only evaluative comment about the content itself is: “As the narrative progresses, Joseph Smith, the Prophet, becomes the leading figure throughout a large portion of the book—thus his prominence in the title of the work.”
The Proctor “Revised and Enhanced History,” 1996
In 1996 Scott Facer Proctor and Maurine Jensen Proctor produced a 504-page edition, The Revised and Enhanced History of Joseph Smith by His Mother (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft). The Proctors are part-time institute teachers, the parents of eleven children, and a husband-wife artistic/writing team. They have co-produced a popular series of books about LDS church history sites, Book of Mormon locations, the Holy Land, and the Mormon exodus across the plains. Former editors of This People, they focused in this edition on providing readers with an easy-to-read narrative history that simultaneously includes textual materials used previously only by scholars. They thus supplement or replace material in the 1853 edition with Lucy’s 1844-45 rough draft or with text from Martha Jane’s notebook or “their own [the Proctor’s] words” (Leonard, 213) where the rough draft is more vivid or more detailed, without interrupting the text by scholarly apparatus. They explain that they use the rough draft as “the foundation of the text” supplemented by the Pratt 1853 version “to supply [p.162]structure, chapter divisions, and some transitions, as well as to fill in missing gaps” (xxx).
They enrich the text with chapter endnotes, numerous attractive photographs, and helpful maps. They follow Nibley in shifting the genealogical material (chap. 9 in Pratt’s 1853 edition) to an appendix and supplement it with a simplified genealogical chart for the Joseph and Lucy family. The book includes a chronology, bibliography, and index, the latter particularly welcome since none of the 1853 reprint/reproductions or any of the Nibley editions do so, making their use as reference works difficult.
They state as their own purpose: “to find Lucy buried in the material, be true to her voice, and at the same time create a book that [is] accessible and inviting to a wide audience” (xxxiii). Probably in an effort to achieve accessibility, they silently standardize spelling and punctuation, including in quotations in endnotes. They also silently delete material that they consider problematic in content, a decision they do not discuss in their extensive and generally clear introduction on editorial methods. For instance, where Lucy’s rough draft reads: “… let not my reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopt our labor and went <at> trying to win the faculty of Abrac drawing Magic circles or sooth saying to the neglect of all kinds of buisness we never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation … ” (chap. 17), it appears in the Proctor text as: “… let not my reader suppose that because I shall pursue another topic for a season that we stopped our labor. We never during our lives suffered one important interest to swallow up every other obligation … ” (87)
The Vogel Parallel-Column Partial Edition, 1996
Also in 1996 appeared the most thorough scholarly edition of Lucy Mack Smith materials: Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 1, compiled and edited by Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996). It reproduces Lucy’s 1844-45 rough draft in parallel columns with Pratt’s 1853 Biographical Sketches, the first edition to do so.
Vogel painstakingly reconstructs the text, including strikeovers, inserts, superscripts, and Martha Jane’s distinctive practice of breaking words at the end of the line between any two letters with an equal sign instead of a hyphen. He omits chapter headings from the 1853 published version, thus making correlation between other versions difficult, but emphasizing the degree to which the two versions match each other. He omits, with a note, most of the material quoted from the Doctrine and Covenants, Pearl of Great Price, Times and Seasons, etc. Because of Vogel’s focus, he omits the “progenitors” material (chaps. 1-7, 9) and ends with the migration of the church from New York to Ohio—[p.163]the fourth paragraph of Chapter 39. Thus, it covers only to 1831 of Smith family and early Mormon history. The Lucy Mack Smith history is also only 238 pages of this 708-page book. The rest of the text consists of documents from other members of the Smith family (both nuclear and extended) and various legal, vital, and township records—more than 450 documents in all projected for his multi-volume series.
The text includes illustrations (but unfortunately only one map), a bibliography, an index, and extensive source, biographical, and contextual footnotes. The use of footnotes rather than endnotes makes it particularly easy to use this work as a reference. It won the Mormon History Association’s 1997 award for Best Documentary Book.
Early Mormon Documents Vols. 2 and 3, compiled and edited by Dan Vogel (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1998, 1999) continue this massive documentary compilation from the same time period with the collections of Philastus Hurlbut, William H. and Edmund L. Kelley, Chester C. Thorne, Arthur B. Deming, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and John H. Gilbert, newspapers from Palmyra, early converts, a publisher who refused to print the Book of Mormon, neighbors, merchants, public and church records, and newspaper items. The books have some illustrations, extensive footnotes, a bibliography, and an index. Although of uneven utility, these documents shed further light on the Smith family and on events covered in Lucy’s book. Vogel projects an eventual total of five volumes in his Early Mormon Documents series. He is the author of two other books about early Mormonism: Indian Origins and the Book of Mormon: Religious Solutions from Columbus to Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986) and Religious Seekers and the Advent of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1988), and is the editor of The Word of God: Essays on Mormon Scripture (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1989).
Strikeouts are rendered as such. Insertions above the line are indicated in angle brackets < > unless the insertion is a single letter. All of my own additions are in square brackets [ ], but I do not supply inadvertent omissions in Lucy’s rough draft or remove accidentally doubled words from her text.
In Martha Jane Coray’s manuscript, words frequently continue to the very edge of the paper as far as possible with the letter or letters that will not fit appearing on the next line, whether that point represents a conventional syllabic break or not. Sometimes, but not always, she marks these continuations with =. I have silently omitted the equal signs from this version.
Although neither Lucy Mack Smith nor Orson Pratt consistently give names for actors in their narratives, sometimes it is possible to identify them. [p.164]For example, Lucy praises Sidney Rigdon’s wife, whom she does not name, but sources are readily available to identify her as Phebe Brooks Rigdon. All individuals whose names (or at least surnames) are given or can be deduced are listed in “Biographical Summaries.”
I have not added capitalization or punctuation, even though Martha Jane very frequently omitted terminal punctuation in the rough draft.
There are no conventional paragraphs in the Coray manuscript. Very rarely a sentence ends and the rest of the line to the margin is left blank. Since these half-lines correspond with subject breaks typical of conventional paragraphing, such points are paragraphed in the typeset version.
Martha Jane used a combination of extra spaces, single dashes, double dashes, and longer dashes in the place of periods or semi-colons as terminal punctuation. In all cases, I have omitted extra spaces, since they appear inconsistently within sentences as well, standardized all dashes to M-dashes, with no spaces, and added no other terminal punctuation if it does not appear in the original.
Where a word or portion of a word is illegible, I have bracketed that word, written the discernible letters, and used a period to represent each illegible letter, although the results can, at best, be considered only an approximation. I have used [sic] sparingly and only in cases when the word in question could more easily be explained as a typographical error.
Although the footnotes in the two-column portion of the text are voluminous, much of the historical and biographical material that the readers may expect to find in the footnotes appears in the “Chronology” in the front matter and the “Biographical Summaries of Named Individuals” in the back matter. I reserve the textual notes to document variations from the rough draft and the 1853 published version as they appear in the 1845 Coray fair copy; in holograph corrections by George A. Smith, Elias Smith, and Robert Lang Campbell on both the fair copy and on the published text, in the Improvement Era edition, and in the Preston Nibley edition.
A few “Contextual Notes” appear in the text as interruptions of the two-column material. Although such interruptions are unwieldy, I hope they will be seen as helpful, since they contain additional documentary material that is too long to fit conveniently into a footnote.
In the notes, I use these shortened designations for the variants:
1. “Coray,” meaning “Coray fair copy.”
2. GAS, meaning the writers of holograph corrections on the Coray fair copy and on the 1853 printed edition at the BYU library. “GAS on Coray” means that the correction appears on the fair copy. “GAS on Pratt” means that it appears in the 1853 printed edition.
3. IE, meaning the Improvement Era edition.
[p.165]4. Nibley, meaning Preston Nibley’s editions.
5. RLDS, meaning the two separate (and one facsimile) editions prepared by the RLDS Church.
I do not include variants from the Proctor edition.
I do not try to capture in the notes inconsequential changes among the Lucy rough draft, Coray fair copy, and Pratt publication, examples of which are:
1. Minor paraphrasing. Lucy: “in consequence of”, Coray: “in consequence of which”, Pratt: “consequently”; “these facts” for “those facts” (when only one set of facts is under discussion), “did all that was in his power” to “did all in his power,” etc.
2. Punctuation and capitalization. Pratt—or whoever prepared the manuscript for printing in 1853—added commas with a heavy hand and substituted British for American spellings.
3. Numbers spelled out or given as numerals
4. Variations in abbreviating or spelling out titles (e.g., “Colonel,” “Major”) and months. These abbreviations are used inconsistently within and between editions.
6. Open or closed hyphenation in compound words
8. British/American spellings (e.g., travelled/traveled, marvellous/marvelous, neighbour/neighbor, towards/toward, etc.). The RLDS edition, for instance, while faithfully reproducing the 1853 edition, silently reverses its British spellings back to American ones. Although I do not note spelling changes, I do identify typographical errors, since they are useful to scholars in determining editions and printings.
9. Word order: “She suffered in her sickness beyond description … ” in Coray becomes in Pratt: “She suffered beyond description in her sickness … ”
10. In editions from 1853 on, I have not usually added footnotes about the inclusion of words obviously called for by the grammar and sense of the sentence: “… the whole of which was a dense forest.”
Even though the Coray fair copy can be considered a surrogate for the Coray/Pratt 1853 printed version, in a few passages I note the Coray wording even when it is identical to the Pratt version because it contains what I consider to be a substantive change and I wished to let the reader know exactly when the change entered the text. (This assumes, of course, that the Coray fair copy in Salt Lake City corresponds exactly to Lucy’s fair copy, which Pratt acquired from Almon Babbitt and took to England. For the reasons discussed in the text, it is impossible to know whether this assumption is accurate in all cases.)
And finally, the reader will note that footnotes in the parallel passages are [p.166]numbered consecutively within each column down to the next paragraph break, then begin numeration with the second column until it reaches the parallel paragraph break, and so forth.
Jan Shipps, who was the first to explain in a published work the provenance and textual history of Lucy’s book, stressing the role of the Corays in producing it, summarizes its importance in this way:
Every reference in the typescript Introduction to the unpublished Journal History of the LDS Church is taken from Mother Smith’s History, … as are all references to events in 1830 and 1831 …
[The Arno Press facsimile edition] quickly became the premier printed resource for information about young Joseph Smith and the beginnings of Mormonism.
Except for the slender store of scattered autobiographical statements left by the Prophet, his mother’s history is practically the only direct source of information about Joseph’s early life. Moreover, although it is obviously retrospective, Lucy Smith’s narrative is a rare and valuable firsthand account provided by an observer closely connected to the primary participants in the early development of the Mormon movement. Her work occupies, therefore, a place of central importance in the Mormon historical corpus …
Mother Smith’s history not only provides invaluable information about the Mormon prophet and early Mormonism, but information about the process by which Mormonism survived the death of the prophet as well. (Shipps, Mormonism, 181n6, 92, 93)
But Lucy’s book is more. It is a spiritual autobiography, a family memoir, and a woman’s document. Without in any way diminishing its enormous contributions to early Mormon historiography, it is time to critically establish its text as a contribution to the field of women’s history and to count it among the treasures of Mormon women’s personal writings.
2. Howard Coray’s diary mistakenly gives the date of Martha Jane’s baptism as February 1840. He rebaptized her on 27 October 1850 at Salt Lake City, and she was reconfirmed the same day (Weeks and Davis, 2).
3. Coray reports in one of his autobiographical sketches: “One morning, I went as usual, into the Office to go to work: I found Joseph sitting on one side of a table and Robert B. Thompson on the opposite side … They were … hunting in the manuscript of the new translation of the Bible for something on Priesthood, which Joseph wished to present, or have read to the people the next Conference: Well, they could not find what they wanted and Joseph said to Thompson ‘put the manuscript [on] one side, and take some paper and I will tell you what to write.’ Bro. Thompson took some foolscap paper that was at his elbow and made himself ready for the business. I was seated probably 6 or 8 feet on Joseph’s left side, so that I could look almost squarely into Joseph’s
left eye—I mean the side of his eye. Well, the Spirit of God descended upon him, and a measure of it upon me, insomuch that I could fully realize that God, or the Holy Ghost, was talking through him. I never, neither before or since, have felt as I did on that occasion. I felt so small and humble I could have freely kissed his feet” (Coray in Jessee, 344).
4. While Joseph Smith III was in Provo, Utah, in 1885, his former teacher, Howard Coray, called on him, “very anxious” to testify to him of plural marriage during his father’s lifetime. In the course of their conversation, as Joseph III put question after question to him, Coray explained that this sealing in the buggy was not intended to replace a civil marriage but was “only intended for those already married, who were desirous of continuing in the next life their associations as husband and wife” (231). In short, according to Joseph III, Coray denied that this experience was an explanation of the principle of plural marriage; and indeed, although every circumstance of time, situation, and parallel experience would lead the reader to the conclusion that polygamy was what Hyrum was teaching by “celestial marriage,” the document itself does not use that term.
6. Martha Jane Knowlton, Patriarchal Blessing by Joseph Smith Sr., 21 January 1840, Coray Family Collection, Box 1, fd. 6. Hyrum Smith gave her a second patriarchal blessing on 8 November 1841 in which he “pronounced upon you the promise of Eternal Life, irrevocable, for you shall not fall, but shall be saved, & your Name written in the Lambs Book of Life never to be blotted out, & this shall be your Comforter, in the days of your Pilgrimage, even the promise of Eternal Life which is the second Comforter, to Comfort your years in the Days of your Tribulation, which shall be many … Wisdom & Understanding is your Gift, & in these things you shall be blest, even with the Riches of the Grace of God, & Wisdom & Knowledge which shall make you Wise unto Salvation … You shall not suffer, to any great extent for the want of this Worlds Goods … ” (ibid.).
7. Unfortunately, Lucy’s rough draft is not paginated. Its current (spring 2000) order on the LDS Church Archives microfilm reflects some arranging Jan Shipps did during the 1970s and may or may not be the original order of the pages, especially if the work is remicrofilmed in the future. A bound photocopy of the microfilm, to which pagination has been added, is available at both the LDS Church Archives and at Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University. Dan Vogel, Early Mormon Documents, Vol. 1, and D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, both cite different paginations in their references. Since the entire text of the rough draft will be presented in this volume and since I have considerable confidence that the order of the 1853 Pratt volume follows Lucy’s intention as reflected in the 1845 Coray manuscript, I key all references to the chapters of the 1853 published version rather than to page numbers. Fortunately, the chapters are very short, limiting the researcher’s searching time and, I hope, frustration at trying to find an exact quotation. The reader also using the Nibley (1945-present) and Proctor (1996) editions should keep in mind that both have shifted Chapter 9 into an appendix, thereby changing the numbering of the chapters from that point on to one less than the chapter numbering in Pratt, all RLDS (1880, 1912, 1916) editions, and the Improvement Era (1901-02) edition. All of these editions are described in the section “Descriptive Summary of Documents” in this essay.
8. Howard Coray, Patriarchal Blessing, 20 October 1840, Coray Family Collection, Mss 1422, Box 1, fd. 5. Howard received two additional patriarchal blessings from John Smith, the first in 1851 and the second in 1857, a fourth from Edward Dalton in 1889, and an undated one by Zebedee Coltrin which identified his lineage as “of the seed of Abraham of the house of Joseph and lineage of Ephraim.” This blessing promised that “thy sons shall become mighty men before the Lord—many of them shall become Kings & Priests unto the most High and shall become mighty people in the midst of Zion. And thy daughters shall become women of great renown and they shall become mothers of holy men and women—and many of their sons shall become prophets, and Apostles, and Evangelists before the Lord upon the Earth.”
10. Jemima Hough, a convert from Great Britain, reported in a letter from Nauvoo on 4 June 1845 that she hoped to make Mother Smith’s acquaintance: “Mother Smith spends much of her time in relating to visitors an account of the rise and progress of the church, which is highly interesting” (“Extracts”).
12. The same passage in Coray gives her age as ”seventy.” This passage is somewhat puzzling. Lucy mistakenly believed her birth year was 1776, although she was actually born in 1775. Thus, when she says she was seventy, even by her own count, she would have turned sixty-nine in July 1845. She must have meant that she was in her seventieth year, much as Joseph Smith referred to himself as being in his fifteenth year when he experienced his first vision and much as Lucy gives both ninety-two and ninety-three as her mother-in-law’s age at the time of her visit to Kirtland and subsequent death.
13. While commendable in pointing out that Martha Jane also played a role in the production of Lucy’s book, Roberts has obscured that of Howard and has left a false impression that the first publication was in 1901, thereby completely omitting Pratt’s 1853 publication. Roberts, in his own Comprehensive History of the Church, gives another brief overview of the printing history, attributing all of the transcribing and all of the copying to Martha Jane Knowlton Coray—thus misrepresenting Howard’s role (1:14).
14. Twenty-two of these associations sprang up spontaneously in 1854 after Brigham Young called missionaries to take the gospel to Indians in southern Utah. Within the year, they had become ward organizations (although not all wards had them) and made a transition into broader-based Relief Societies during 1855-58. Interestingly, Richard Jensen notes that the Thirteenth Ward, in which the Corays lived, had one of the most active organizations. It called itself the “Female Indian Relief Society.” When the name was proposed, Martha Jane Coray “‘objected to the word Female as no Association could be virtually sustained by females but must of necessity be kept by their Husbands Fathers or Guardians.’” Matilda Dudley explained that “‘the labor required was female labor’” and that the proposed name was therefore appropriate. Dudley was the ward president and had been one of the four women who had spontaneously organized themselves after hearing Brigham Young’s sermon appealing for compassionate aid for the Indians. These Relief Societies solicited donations, cut rags for carpets and wove them, sewed, and knit many different articles of clothing. “In the Thirteenth Ward at the peak of activity, each of forty-one women donated an average of almost one day per week to this work” (Jensen, 112-15). Though interrupted by the Utah War, these organizations were considered precursors to the systematic organizing of ward Relief Societies throughout the territory begun in 1867-68 under Eliza R. Snow.
15. Isaac Sheen had not followed Brigham Young to the West and, just a few years later, would be rebaptized when he joined the RLDS church in 1858. He was put in charge of the RLDS printing establishment in Plano, Illinois, during the Civil War, a position he held for many years. He presided over the Plano Branch and worked closely with Joseph III, who took charge of the press in 1865 and characterized Sheen as “a persistent and almost pugnacious debater” (JS III, 107, 114, 119, 136, 176, 218).
16. My appreciation to Greg Whitman for calling this reference to my attention. In the same meeting, Babbitt acknowledged, “I have been engaged in dirty and smutty work for this people” but “the interest of this kingdom has … to be contested in various ways” (Pottawattamie).
19. Lucy Mack Smith, Letter to Orson Pratt, 4 February 1854, holograph, MS d 5081, LDS Church Archives. Shipps misdates this letter as 4 February 1853, thus seeing Lucy as more involved in the publication of Biographical Sketches than seems to be the case.
20. For the running battle between Brigham Young and Orson Pratt, see Bergera, 7-49, and England, esp. chaps. 9-10. One of very few mentions of the published book that I have been able to find is in a letter that Israel Barlow, a missionary in Birmingham, England, wrote to his wife, telling her that he was sending home a packet of fabrics, ribbons, trinkets, and a copy of “history of Mother Smith and of Joseph life.” He was writing in March 1854 or possibly 1855 (Barlow).
21. The Historian’s Office Journal contains its own annual index, although the entries are far from comprehensive. I searched these indices from 1853 to 1866 for references to Orson Pratt, Biographical Sketches, or Lucy Mack Smith without finding any comments on Brigham Young’s attitude toward the book. On the bottom of the page for 17 February 1854, a pencilled notation reads: “Mother Smith’s funeral.” This woman, however, is Clarissa Lyman Smith, wife of Church Patriarch John Smith, who had died three days earlier. The entries for 29-30 January 1860 report the Twelve’s chastisement of Orson Pratt for teaching false doctrine and his apology at the meeting the next day in the Tabernacle but not that Biographical Sketches formed part of the agenda. Young took Pratt to task again on 4 April 1860 for a sermon Pratt had delivered on 22 February, but again there is no mention of Biographical Sketches.
22. This statement was reprinted in the Deseret News on 29 March and 4 April and in the Millennial Star 17 (1 July 1854): 396. Both the Tanners (2) and Searle (394) quote a recollection by A. A. Gottfredson that “a small book called Joseph Smith, by His Mother” constituted the reading primer in the local school in 1861. Martha Cragun Cox, as an eight year old in St. George about 1860, recalled receiving a copy of Lucy’s book. “I found a sunny place by the pile of logs and not easily seen from the house, and here I secreted myself until I read the book.” She followed up with the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and a volume of the Journal of Discourses (Kinkead, 93-94).
23. Young’s choice of Wellsville as the site for his denunciation of Biographical Sketches is somewhat curious. According to the Historian’s Office Journal, Young and his party, which included John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, George A. Smith, Franklin D. Richards, George Q. Cannon, and “several others,” left Salt Lake City on 3 May and returned 11 May, preaching on their way. Young stayed with Cache Stake president E. T. Benson (the hapless “Brother Benson” whom he publicly rebukes) on the night of 5-6 May, then preached twice the next day in the Bowery to “the largest [congregation] ever convened in Cache Valley.” It was in Benson’s home that he saw the offending volume; if he was concerned about getting the message to the largest possible number of people, the record crowd in the Logan bowery on 6 May was the logical setting. Benson, an apostle, had been president of Cache Stake since 1860.
24. E. S. Sloan’s holograph transcript of this speech apparently served as the printer’s copy for its later publication in the Deseret News, since it contains numerous interlinear additions in faint pencil, not all of which I have attempted to reproduce. The scattered brackets, not always in pairs, are in the original.
25. In his two-sentence summary of this address on 8 May 1865, Wilford Woodruff focused on this point: “President Young said He wanted all the Saints to burn up every Copy they have of the History of Joseph Smith by his mother Lucy Smith for it is Not True. Much of its fals” (6:223).
26. Young would most likely have given these instructions not earlier than June 1845 (since the manuscript would not have been finished at that point) and more likely not before November 1845 during the discussion about purchasing Lucy’s copyright and February 1846 when Howard Coray was paid for copying it. The Historian’s Office Journal for that period was being kept by Thomas Bullock (CR 100 Vol. 1). Although Bullock occasionally mentions Clayton, he nowhere mentions the Corays, instructions to have a copy made, or Lucy Mack Smith, except on 8 January 1845 to note her presence at a “meeting of the 12 and the Young family.” He gives one-sentence summaries of each speaker, ending with “Mother Smith spoke her experience—altogether a delightful happy day.”
28. This “tissue of lies” statement may well have been Elias’s opinion, but how did Brigham Young know it? It is possible, of course, that Elias had met with Young and did not note it in his diary, but it seems unlikely. He did not associate with Young on a daily basis and seems to record their occasional social contacts scrupulously; he even conscientiously records every time he heard Young give a public sermon, although he does not often mention even the topic. He had had no private meeting for years with Young at this point. He had also recorded no private meeting or even a social encounter with his cousin George A. for months. Elias himself, even during the months he collaborated with George A. on the proposed revision, made nothing like a “tissue of lies” statement in his diary nor does George A. attribute such a statement to him.
29. No letter of this nature is catalogued among Brigham Young’s outgoing correspondence in the LDS Church Archives. Either it has not survived, he sent an oral message by someone, or he had someone else write to her. The catalogue of George A. Smith’s correspondence from the Historian’s Office, the second most likely source, does not show such a letter either.
30. An excerpt from “Hearken” was reprinted as “Incorrect Doctrine,” in the Millennial Star 56 (3 December 1865): 777-78, but it deals only with The Seer. There is no mention of Biographical Sketches.
31. The Proctors, in creating their “revised and enhanced” version, discussed below, are forthright in presenting the document as an amalgamation of various sources silently stitched together. Although such a work does not meet the minimal editing criteria for a historic document, the reader is not in doubt about whether he or she is reading an “original.”
32. I made an entry-by-entry search of Elias Smith’s diary from December 1853, the month that Biographical Sketches was published, until June 1878 (a year after Brigham Young’s death and almost three years after George A. Smith’s death on 1 September 1875), but found no additional mention of Orson Pratt except as a speaker at various conference sessions, Lucy Mack Smith, Martha Jane or Howard Coray, or George A. Smith except for occasional family visits and conscientious notations about when he gave public addresses. Checking his diary against the Church Historian’s Office journal shows that Elias omitted four working sessions, all of which occurred during the intensive May and September periods.
33. The clerk’s finished notes (tentatively identified as taken by Curtis E. Bolton, not the rough draft tentatively identified as by William Clayton) for the October 1845 conference, if reporting Lucy’s address accurately, show that she jumbled the sequence of events in her summary of Missouri events. She talks about William’s vision, then the arrests of Joseph and Hyrum, then her defiant invitation to the militia officers who announce they have come to kill the heads of families to do it quickly, then her heart-rending farewell to Joseph in the wagon. She also starts to tell the story of Joseph going to Washington to plead the case of the Saints with the president, then backtracks to describe the family’s grueling flight from Missouri to Quincy in rain and snow. (Uncatalogued minutes of general conference, Wednesday, 8 October 1845, access no. 211325-ARCH-94, fd. 4, 8 a.m. session.) This sequence differs from that Lucy reported in her rough draft and in the Coray fair copy. The chronological confusion is avoided in the published Times and Seasons version by the use of summaries, leaving the matter unclear about whether the confusion in the Bolton minutes was Lucy’s or his (Clayton and Bullock, 1013-14).
36. See Launius, Pragmatic, chap. 10, for a discussion of the Utah missions, and chap. 11 for the legal and public relations efforts Joseph Smith III made to outlaw polygamy; see also Newell and Avery, esp. chap. 21.
38. See also Searle: “The work is more of a memoir and family record than a Church history. It is not a balanced account of the rise of Mormonism, but more of a narration of how the Smith family struggled and sacrificed to establish the Church” (1). On this point, he is paraphrasing Richard L. Anderson, “Emotional Dimensions,” 131: “It is … the record of how the family sacrificed to bring about the church.”
40. In the minutes of Lucy Smith’s October 1845 general conference address, she gives the date of Joseph’s receiving the plates as 22 September 1827 (“It was Eighteen years ago <last> 22nd of September … ”) but continues “it is 18 years since I begun to receive this gospel of Glad tidings to all people” (Lucy Smith, Minutes, Bolton version, pp. 8-9). This sequence suggests that she considered the Book of Mormon and not the first vision to mark the beginning of the restoration.
41. Michael Marquardt heard that this rough draft was available in June 1986. Wesley P. Walters purchased his copy, labeled “Martha Coray MS,” from Deseret Book in Salt Lake City for $30 plus tax the next month.
42. Howard Searle, who consulted Dean Jessee on the handwriting, says that Thomas Bullock made notes on pp. 198 and 200, while Robert Lang Campbell made notations on pp. 198 and 202. Although the sprawling hand “has the general appearance of some of George A.’s writing, it does not compare favorably on some specific letters. With such a small writing sample, a positive identification of the unknown editor is not very likely. Whether George A. dictated, approved, or actually wrote some of the notes is still problematical” (Searle, 418). To my unpracticed eye, the handwriting in the BYU volume is the same rough, pencilled scribble as that which appears throughout the Coray fair copy and especially on the last page where the editor has made a list of pages where changes are desired. It is true that some of these corrections may be by Elias Smith, for Elias’s diary (MS 1319, holograph, LDS Church Archives), though usually written in black ink, is also somewhat difficult to read. In fact, his 1866 entries show a distinct tremor. Pending more exact identification, calling this writer “GAS” is a convenient shorthand.
43. Tullidge published The Life of Joseph the Prophet in 1878, claiming in the preface that Joseph F. Smith and Eliza R. Snow had read and revised the manuscript. Both denied doing more than reading it “informally” and offering “a few minor suggestions.” After receiving a commendatory letter from Joseph Smith III in May 1879, Tullidge sold the copyright to the RLDS church, was received into membership that fall, was ordained an elder, and became RLDS Church Historian. An 1880 second edition of The Life of Joseph the Prophet took the orthodox RLDS position that polygamy was a creation of Brigham Young. For a discussion of this history and its ambivalent reception in RLDS circles, see Walker, Wayward, 310-11.
44. Joseph F. Smith’s introduction and chaps. 1-3, appear in 5, no. 1 (November 1901): 1-16; chaps. 4-12, 5, no. 2 (December 1901): 81-102; chaps. 13-16, 5, no. 3 (January 1902): 161-71; chaps. 17-19, 5, no. 4 (February 1902): 241-59; chaps. 20-23, 5, no. 5 (March 1902): 321-38; chaps. 24-28, 5, no. 6 (April 1902): 401-21; chaps. 28-34, 5, no. 7 (May 1902): 481-99; chaps. 35-37, 5, no. 8 (June 1902): 561-73; chaps. 38-41, 5, no. 9 (July 1902): 641-60; chaps. 42-47, 5, no. 10 (August 1902): 737-58; chaps. 48-49, 5, no. 11 (September 1902): 817-42; chaps. 50-54, 5, no. 12 (October 1902): 913-38. A note on this last page reads: “An appendix containing a mission journal and letters by Don C. Smith; poems by E. R. Snow on the death of Joseph Smith, Senior, and Don Carlos Smith; and on the martyrdom of the Prophet and Patriarch, will begin in No. 1 vol. 6 of the Era.” The appendix contains Don Carlos Smith’s letters to Agnes Coolbrith Smith on 25 June 1836 and 25 July 1839 but not his mission journal, which appears in the 1845 Coray version and the 1853 Pratt version. This appendix appears in 6, no. 1 (January 1903): 209.
45. Young does not specify the episodes about which he and Joseph F. disagreed, nor is it clear whether Brigham Jr. had ever read Lucy’s book. A reading of George Q. Cannon’s reverential and formally written biography, drawn largely from History of the Church, also fails to disclose conspicuous differences. For instance, Cannon says Joseph Jr. returned from a trip to the East three days after Joseph III was born on 3 November; the birth actually occurred on 6 November and Joseph Jr. had returned 5 November (145). Cannon dates the birth of Joseph’s and Emma’s first child after the loss of the 116 pages, rather than before (55); he describes David Whitmer’s arrival as completely spontaneous, without either the visit from Joseph Sr. and Lucy or the letter from Joseph Jr. requesting aid (65); and names Lucy only twice in Cannon’s biography: once at her marriage to Joseph Sr., and once when she engages a militia unit in Missouri in conversation while Joseph Jr. is writing a letter (25-26, 264).