Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Joseph Smith Papers

I have been watching the video series that the Church did called The Joseph Smith Papers.  It touted that it was going to chronicle the research done in preparation of publishing the Joseph Smith papers books, which are volumes of things that Joseph wrote or others wrote about his experiences.

I thought it was going to be a discussion of the methods they used to get the information and preserve the documents and all that, which it was.  I was fascinated at one point where they talked of how they chose what to include.  They were very careful to check sources.  They classified the information they were considering into how reliable it was.  I think they said they had several levels of reliability.

Additionally, the series covered the material that was in the papers.  There were many episodes going through Church history and discussing what the project had found on those events.

At one point they discussed the events at Carthage jail and the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith.  I have been to Carthage when I was you and heard the story of the bullet being stopped by John Taylor's pocket watch and saving his life.  They discussed in the program that they had recently discovered that the watch had not been struck by a bullet, but by the corner of the window.  The back of the watch, I think they said, had the appearance of a bullet crushing it, but in reality was just parts of the watch that had been compacted by the window corner.  I can't remember how they got on to chasing that.  Perhaps they were doing a Myth Busters sort of thing and read through the papers finding no mention of this and then looked more closely at the watch.  Nonetheless, it appears that John Taylor came out of the ordeal, never having been struck by any of the bullets.  He just took a beating from the window.

The Joseph Smith Papers video series also discussed Emma and her family after the Saints headed West.  I have always been very torn on what to think of Emma.  She stood by Joseph through everything and was in key roles during the translation of the Book of Mormon and during the early days of the Church.  Then to see her stay behind and not go West with the saints and to see her posterity start up this other Church with themselves as false prophets.

As I listened to the presentations I wonder if it wasn't God's will.  Yes the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was not Christ's church, but perhaps it was necessary to preserve thing Church sites out East like the Kirtland temple.  Perhaps it was to leave some contention behind.  The project talked about times where the brethren would make a decision and some of the people would turn to Emma for what she wanted them to do.  I guess there was a hymnbook she created and the brethren at one point made a hymnbook to be the official hymnbook of the Church and there was contention about not using Emma's.

Why did Emma join with her children in the other Church?  Maybe she had gotten the revelation that she needed to stay behind and not go West with the saints and this other church was the closest thing she had to the truth.

There have been many generations of Joseph' descendants that were not members of the true Church of Christ and only recently have some of them joined the Church.  This seems so sad and we want to say, "How can this be part of the plan?"  How often do people say that a just God would not do this or that when there is pain or tragedy?  He can see beyond the tears to the hope.  He can see what good those tears brought forth and that would not have come forth without those tears.  He can see that this life is just a blink and that death is not some vile abyss, but just part of our eternal existence.  So for Him to use death for the benefit of man is reasonable.  Death is not the end, just a change and our next step.  All the same is true for what happened with Joseph's descendants.  God has a plan for them to be saved, even though he left them in a hard situation.

I am still working my way through all of the episodes of The Joseph Smith Papers, but so far I find them very instructive and interesting, and I highly recommend them for viewing.