Joseph Smith–History (abbreviated JS-H) is a book in the Pearl of Great Price which acts as an autobiographical record of some of the early events in Joseph Smith’s life.
The extract of JS-H, extracted by Elder Franklin D. Richards, was first published in 1851 as part of the first Pearl of Great Price pamphlet. It is an important work to Mormons, and the Mormon church has canonized it as part of their scripture. It not only provides insight into the life of Smith himself but also acts as an important doctrinal foundation for the Mormon religion.
For example, JS-H speaks of the appearances of the angel Moroni to Smith. It further outlines Smith’s ancestry, family members, where they lived, the religious excitement in western New York, Smith’s desire to seek wisdom, and how the Father and the Son appeared to Smith calling him into prophetic ministry. It also includes the story of Smith receiving, safeguarding, and translating the golden plates from which the Book of Mormon came into being.
Mormons believe that this historical record reveals “the guiding and protecting hand of the Lord” and that it therefore provides several important spiritual insights (1). These include (2):
1. That there was a Great Apostasy, namely, the idea that there were events that led to the loss of the true Church and its teachings (which Mormons believe is the Christian church).
2. That Joseph Smith was a prophet of God and that God used him to restore the true church of God.
3. That Jesus Christ is the saviour of the world and that there is a Heavenly Father. It further teaches that Jesus and the Father are separate, distinct, glorified beings with bodies of flesh and bones.
4. That Satan is a real being with power although the power of God is greater than the power of Satan. Satan uses whatever means he can to try to prevent human beings from attaining their divine destiny.
Mormons draw spiritual comfort from this text because they believe that it speaks of how God answers the sincere prayers of those who ask things of him in faith. It also elucidates Smith as an example of great faith because he himself experienced sorrow and persecution when people did not believe him concerning his vision.
1. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Joseph Smith—History 1:1–20: Teaching Manual. Available.
2. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Joseph Smith—History: Teaching Manual. Available.