Biographical Sketches

Biographical SketchesShortly following the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, and into 1845, Lucy Mack Smith dictated her recollections and family story to Nauvoo schoolteacher Martha Jane Coray. Coray worked with her husband to compile these books of notes and other sources into a manuscript, which was then copied.

One copy was given to Brigham Young, and the other stayed with Lucy Smith in Nauvoo. Eventually, Orson Pratt obtained Lucy’s copy and published it in 1853, to great controversy.

After its publication, Brigham Young declared the book to be a “tissue of lies” and wanted corrections made. In the Millennial Star in 1855, he said, “There are many mistakes in the work… I have had a written copy of those sketches in my possession for several years, 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.”

In 1865, Young ordered the church members to have their copies destroyed. There was no “corrected” version until the church published a 1901 serialization and 1902 book, which were done under the direction of Joseph F. Smith, Lucy’s grandson.

Later historians theorized that Young opposed the book because of his own conflicts with its publisher, Orson Pratt, as well as the book’s favorable references to William Smith.

LDS historian Leonard Arrington saw the book as “informative, basically accurate, and extremely revealing of Joseph Smith’s early life and family background,” and felt it “perhaps tells more about Mormon origins than any other single source. Richard L. Anderson called it one of “the essential sources for Mormon origins.” Non-Mormon historian Jan Shipps identifies this history as being “of central importance in the Mormon historical corpus.”

This reprint edition is of the 1853 Liverpool Edition published by Orson Pratt.

6″ x 9″
298 Pages

Hardcover: $34.95