Editors’ Preface

Editors’ preface to Exploring Book of Mormon Lands: The 1923 Latin American Travel Writings of Mormon Historian Andrew Jenson, eds. Justin R. Bray and Reid L. Neilson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center; Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2014), ix–xiii.

Andrew Jenson’s thirty-eight travelogue-letters, essentially lost in heaps of Deseret News weeklies for nearly ninety years, are an important piece to the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Latin America.

After careful searching, we have been able to locate all the letters Jenson sent to Salt Lake City from his four-month expedition to Central and South America in 1923. While Jenson included an abbreviated day-to-day account of the journey southward in his autobiography [1], the Deseret News letters are a much fuller, more detailed chronicle of this unique fact-finding mission. We attached a complete list of the letter citations as an appendix to this volume. Jenson’s letters help twenty-first century readers better understand some of the signal events and experiences that seemingly led to the opening of the South American Mission in 1925 by Church leaders. This important chapter from Jenson’s life and Church history has rarely been told in over seven decades and is heretofore virtually unknown by most Mormon historians.[2]

We divided the letters into six chapters, which are based on the geographical segments of Jenson’s north-south journey. In order to provide additional detail and context to the already rich collection of letters, we decided to include some annotation of the people, places, and other miscellaneous references Jenson makes along the way. However, because of the extensive and descriptive account of most of his encounters, we resolved not to annotate the people, places, and other objects we felt Jenson already sufficiently explains. For some of the people that we chose not to footnote, we included their full, proper names in brackets the first time they are mentioned in the text, if possible. We have also added to the appendix a biographical sketch of Jenson by Louis Reinwand as well as transcriptions of Jenson’s report to the First Presidency on missionary possibilities in Latin America and his post-tour address “Ancient Ruins in South American Lands Held to Be Evidence of Divine Authenticity of Book of Mormon,” given in the Salt Lake Tabernacle. We hope these appendices provide helpful context about Jenson as a Mormon historian and his 1923 travels to Latin America.

Editorial Guidelines

About one-third of the manuscript copies of Jenson’s letters are available at the L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah. However, these letters are an assortment of original handwritten letters, typed drafts, and other miscellaneous notes. Thus we present the letters as they appeared in print in the Deseret News. In publishing these letters, therefore, we considered the printing process during Jenson’s tour. Jenson wrote the letters, which he then sent via the early-twentieth-century postal system from Central and South America to the News in Salt Lake City, Utah, for typesetting and printing. As a result, at least a couple of editorial layers exist between what Jenson wrote and what exists in print in the News. So it is possible that orthographic and grammatical errors are not those of Andrew Jenson but those of the editor, typesetter, or printer.

To improve the clarity of Jenson’s record, we have chosen to correct much of his grammar, orthography, punctuation, and usage as long as these changes do not alter Jenson’s meaning. In many cases we have done this silently to decrease the visual editorial apparatus of documentary editing, which could be obtrusive to the readability of Jenson’s record. We have silently added missing articles and missing prepositions, and we have corrected verb tense or number as appropriate. We have occasionally bracketed clarifications to the text.

We have made these corrections according to the sixteenth edition of The Chicago Manual of Style, the third edition of the Style Guide for Publications of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the eleventh edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.

The following is a list of common editorial corrections made throughout the volume.

Book titles: We have italicized book titles that appear in quotation marks in the original.

Date header: Each letter begins with a day, month, and year. We have standardized these headers and have bolded them for ease of reference: “Monday, March 7,” for example. We have also bolded the day of the week and the date whenever Jenson indicates a new entry. We have silently corrected dates so that the entries appear in proper chronological order.

Each letter in the News included a heading (“Jenson’s Travels”) and a lengthy subheading (“Excerpts from the Journal of Andrew Jenson on His Journey to the Pacific Coast, Central America, South America, and Other Parts of the Western World”). These subheadings were an addition made by the News editors, and we removed them from the text.

Dates: Dates have been standardized according to Chicago. “The 2nd of March” becomes “March 2” and “Feb. 28th” becomes “February 28,” for instance.

Diacritics: We have used diacritics for the Spanish and Portuguese place names.

Foreign words and phrases: We have italicized unfamiliar foreign words.

Geographical coordinates and times of day: For ease of reference, geographical coordinates have been standardized (“Lat. 34 degrees, 24 minutes North” becomes “latitude 34°24′ N”). We have also standardized times of day (“3:00 o’clock p.m.” becomes “3:00 p.m.”).

Indecipherable characters or words: Occasionally a printing error or the age of the printed page renders a letter or word indecipherable. In some instances the letter can be deduced from its context. If the letter is indecipherable but is clear from the context, we have filled the letter in without brackets. In cases where the letter or word is not decipherable, we have provided our best guess and have placed the letter or word in brackets followed by a question mark to indicate our interpretation.

Incorrect or outdated spelling of place names: Occasionally there are multiple misspellings of the same place name. We have decided to modernize and standardize the spelling of place names according to official current government spellings. In the United States these spellings are from the Board on Geographic Names, which are used on the US Geologic Survey maps. If Jenson has translated a place name, we have left it as it appears in Jenson’s text. Occasionally we have been unable to identify a place name, in which case we have let Jenson’s spelling stand. If the modern name is substantially different from the name Jenson uses, we have included the modern name in a footnote.

At times Jenson uses “Panama” and “Panama City” interchangeably. We added “City” to clarify whether he is referring to the capital city or the country. He also uses “Argentine” and “Argentina” interchangeably. We have standardized these to read “Argentina,” unless preceded by “the,” in which case the country is called “the Argentine.” We have also inserted an “El” where necessary in front of “Salvador” in order to distinguish the country of El Salvador from Salvador, the capital of Bahia, Brazil.

Inscriptions or quotes from original documents: We have not applied our style to inscriptions or to primary documents from which Jenson is quoting (see, for example, “Neptune’s Certificate,” chapter 2).

Names of people: We have chosen to clarify the names of people. We have spelled out names that are abbreviated in the text. “Wm.” becomes “William,” and so forth. We have also corrected misspelled names.

Names of ships: Ship names appear in quotation marks in Jenson’s text. We have chosen to italicize them according to Chicago.

Numbers: We have chosen to follow Chicago’s rule for the treatment of numerals, ordinal and cardinal numbers (spelling out numbers one through one hundred and large round numbers), and fractions.

Quotes from books or newspapers: Jenson crafts his narrative using extensive quotations or paraphrases from the books and newspapers available to him. We have applied our style to these quoted portions to create a more stylistically coherent volume. Jenson often includes parenthetical information or edits the text of the source from which he is quoting, even when he is not paraphrasing. We have not corrected every instance where Jenson deviates from the original printed source (a change in verb tense, for instance) because often the change is minor and does not significantly change the passage’s meaning. We have not placed quotation marks around paraphrased material. But we have corrected Jenson’s text according to the original in cases where the original is clearer or have added a footnote for clarification. We have inserted bracketed ellipses, “[. . .],” to show when Jenson skips portions of the original text, except when he omits a heading. The bold headings that appear in the quoted material are from the Deseret News. We honor the way Jenson delineates his quotations.

Titles of Church offices: We have lowercased “elders” unless referring to General Authorities; we have capitalized “Saints” according to Church style. We have capitalized “Historian’s Office” to make clear that it refers to the Church Historian’s Office, although Church style suggests including “Church” before “Historian’s Office.” We capitalize “Church” when it refers to the LDS Church.

Also, in a number of places throughout the letters, Jenson wrote “Mormon” in scare quotes. We have removed the scare quotes.


[1] Andrew Jenson, Autobiography of Andrew Jenson: Assistant Historian of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1938).

[2] For one of the only references we have located, see Keith W. Perkins, "Andrew Jensen: Zealous Chronologist" (PhD diss., Brigham Young University, 1974), 204-5.