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Early writings on Book of Mormon available in online database

The most extensive collection of writings about the Book of Mormon published between 1829 and 1844 has been made available as an online database.

The collection, “19th-Century Publications About the Book of Mormon (1829–1844),” includes nearly 600 publications, with close to 1 million words of text. It is intended to comprise everything published during Joseph Smith’s lifetime relating to the Book of Mormon.

For more than 10 years, Matthew Roper, a research scholar at Brigham Young University’s Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and head of the project, has been collecting this literature. Through the auspices of the Digital Collections at BYU’s Harold B. Lee Library, this collection can be accessed at lib.byu.edu/dlib/bompublications.

The collection was inspired by the earlier efforts of Francis W. Kirkham, an educator for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. According to Roper, during the 1930s Kirkham began collecting rare newspapers relating to early Church history. Subsequent researchers and historians have discovered many additional items, all of which are included in this new collection.

The collection is a valuable resource for scholars and anyone interested in Church history.

“Published literature relating to the Book of Mormon that appeared during the Prophet Joseph Smith’s lifetime is one of the best historical windows for understanding how this ancient American scripture was interpreted, used and understood by early readers,” said Roper. “Publications of this period can often enrich our perspective on early Latter-day Saint history.”

This database is intended to assist researchers in that task. The collection includes works by defenders as well as detractors and contains references to the Book of Mormon published in newspapers, books, pamphlets, hymns, broadsides and early reference works, much of it formerly inaccessible to the public.

“We’ve done several things to make this collection valuable and easy to use,” said Roper. “First, we have gathered all of the publications relating specifically to the Book of Mormon into one collection, saving researchers the considerable time involved in identifying articles, tracking them down and obtaining microfilm of rare books. Second, the database includes transcripts as well as images of these publications. The collection is also fully searchable, allowing scholars to more easily identify and access those publications relating to their area of interest.”

For more information on “19th-Century Publications About the Book of Mormon (1829–1844),” send inquiries to earlypub@byu.edu.

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