If I were looking for a published edition of Joseph Smith’s papers, which edition should I choose? Any assistance that readers could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Some background: Last weekend, I was looking to identify published editions of the Joseph Smith papers for library acquisition and discovered that there is an older edition of his papers, as well as a current, ongoing project to publish a definitive edition.

The newer project is headed by Richard Bushman and Dean Jessee. Bushman is best known for his biographies of Joseph Smith. (Rough Stone Rolling, his most recent, offers a great look into the life of the founder of the LDS Church.) Thus far, only two volumes have been published, so while having them would be useful, they won’t meet the need for a definitive edition for many years.

The older edition, edited by Jessee, is a two-volume work. Jessee also edited Smith’s personal writings a few years ago. I’m not sure what the difference is between the two Jessee works, nor do I know how definitive they are. From what I can tell, though, Jessee is the authority on Smith’s writings.

To complicate things, there apparently is a critical text edition of the Book of Mormon consisting of several volumes. I don’t think our undergraduate students would be interested in this set, but it would be interesting to examine the book’s evolution. By the way, if you are at all interested in Mormonism, textual analysis, or historic preservation, you should read the two-part series in my last link. Absolutely fascinating!