Conversations with Craig Manscill and Rachel Cope

The Hyrum Smith Papers: A Conversation with Craig K. Manscill

Interview by Katie M. Skovran

Craig K. Manscill (craig_manscill@byu.edu) is an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU.

Katie M. Skovran (katieskovran@gmail.com) is a senior in the English language major at B.

Q: Could you explain a little about what the Hyrum Smith Papers are?

A: The Hyrum Smith Papers consist of two diaries (1831–35), a record book, an account book, thirty-nine letters, and fifteen discourses that Hyrum gave over the course of his ministry. The largest contribution is his record book and his account book (1831–44), which include all his expenses. For example, Hyrum was part of the literary firm at the Church, and it is obvious from the account book that he was the custodian of the first publishing and printing of the Book of Mormon in Palmyra. When the Saints went to Kirtland, Hyrum held five thousand copies of the Book of Mormon, which in total cost three thousand dollars. His account book indicates that he was selling the books.

Q: How did you become involved in the Hyrum Smith Papers?

A: Since the papers are here at BYU, I was involved in the transcription of them. Three of my students and I transcribed over eighty-one documents of Hyrum’s, including his letters. I’m really excited about seeing the Hyrum Smith Papers come to fruition. Scholars will have an opportunity to see firsthand Hyrum in a way they’ve never seen before.

We learn several things about Hyrum from his papers. He was very dutiful in all that he was asked to do. He served several missions, and while in the eastern states, he received a letter about the death of his first wife, Jerusha, during childbirth. We also see that Joseph trusted Hyrum and assigned him to the building committee for the Kirtland Temple. Hyrum’s mission was not just to build the temple; it was also to prepare the Saints in Kirtland for the great spiritual manifestations which were about to come.

The papers include letters between Hyrum and his second wife, Mary Fielding Smith, during the time he and Joseph were in Liberty Jail. These letters contain information that no one has known about Church history; they were parallel to the letters between Joseph and Emma. One letter from Hyrum reads in part: “We’ve done all we can to make our escape from this prison and not to endanger our lives. There are a few religious bigots that are kept to guard us. . . . They’ll shoot us if they could get a chance, and we have to be very careful what we do. . . . Some friend put some augers into the window and an iron bar. We made a hole in through the logs in the lower room and through the stone.”

The letter goes on to say that Joseph and Hyrum had actually dug all the way through the wall and were going to escape, but when they pushed that last stone out, someone noticed, and they were stopped.

From this we learn much more about the Liberty Jail experience. Several places within the papers contain the same language as that of the Doctrine and Covenants. Hyrum was there when revelation was being received by Joseph, and he wrote them down in his diaries and letters. He is essentially a second witness and testimony of the Doctrine and Covenants.

Q: What would you say was Hyrum’s legacy or biggest contribution?

A: One of Hyrum’s greatest contributions was the raising of the Kirtland Temple. He was one of the first to dig the foundation. After four months of waiting to obtain the deed to the property, he received revelation to start digging the foundation and rushed to do so. Hyrum’s obedience displayed his urgency to have the keys restored. Today we do temple work and have over 130 temples because of the urgency of the restoration of these keys of sealing and missionary work. Hyrum was quite instrumental in bringing that about.

Many people thought that Hyrum had the statute and the demeanor of a prophet more than Joseph, who was sometimes criticized for his levity and fun nature. But that never got the best of Hyrum. He knew his place and knew that Joseph was the prophet of the Lord. Hyrum was instructed to strengthen the Church continually, which included strengthening the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was obedient to that. He was first and foremost the elder brother of Joseph. He believed Joseph about the First Vision and the Book of Mormon, and he was one of the Eight Witnesses. He was also one of the charter members of the Church and was involved in every aspect of early Church organization. Hyrum was of course with Joseph at the Martyrdom and sealed his testimony with his blood too. His greatest contribution was that he was Joseph Smith’s right-hand man and confidant. Joseph could always depend on Hyrum.

Nineteenth-Century Women: A Conversation with Rachel Cope

Interview by Joany O. Pinegar

Rachel M. Cope (rachel_cope@byu.edu) is an associate professor of Church history and doctrine at BYU.

Joany O. Pinegar (joan_pinegar@byu.edu) is an administrative assistant at the Religious Studies Center.

Q: You are working on research dealing with women and conversion in the early nineteenth century. What interested you in this subject?

A: For me, personally, “femaleness” has been a central part of my academic experience. It has influenced why I study, what I study, how I study, and what I want to do with my studies. Initially, it was a catalyst.

My focus on women and conversion, then, stems from my commitment to including women in the historical narrative. Indeed, each of my research projects contributes to the idea that accounts of female religiosity are not appendages to American history; they are American history. I discovered this, most poignantly, when I became acquainted with the personal writings of a Methodist woman named Catherine Livingston Garrettson. Because I wanted to know everything about her, I traveled to her house, stood at her gravesite, visited her church, and explored her hometown.

As I continued to read women’s journals, diaries, and correspondence, I saw more how women worshipped, what they read, how often they prayed, what they wrote in their journals, with whom they interacted, to what extent they shared their beliefs and served others—these things mattered to them.

All this has influenced the overarching theme of my broaching academic career—how women lived and expressed their religiosity in nineteenth-century America, and how these experiences impacted conversion and shaped and reshaped their identities.

Q: What effect do you see conversion having on the women you study?

A: Initially, I was interested in women’s conversion experiences at revivals, but as I immersed myself in their spiritual diaries and journals, my interest shifted from the moment of conversion to conversion as a lifetime experience. As I have considered how conversion affected women’s lives over time, I have discovered a beautiful process of transformation. It’s the inner transformation I find most intriguing. I firmly believe that we live to change.

Q: What would you say the greatest contribution of your main subject was?

A: Catherine Livingston Garrettson was involved in multiple charities, she was a leader in her local Methodist community, she shared her home and her wealth with many, and she was an evangelist who focused on bringing people to Christ. But to me, her greatest contribution is her realness. It’s the ordinary, rather than the spectacular, that draws me to this woman.

Due to the longevity of Catherine’s life, readers literally witness the internal changes that took place in her heart and mind while poring over decades’ worth of journal entries she wrote. In her final years, she shifts from frustration (why am I not sanctified yet?) to understanding (sanctification is a process, and I have been being transformed bit by bit since my initial conversion experience). I love Catherine because I can relate to Catherine. I love the universality and the uniqueness of her spiritual pilgrimage.

Q: What did you learn that surprised you?

A: I was most surprised by, and drawn to, some of the atypical aspects of Catherine’s life. Although she was a member of one of the most affluent and aristocratic families in early New York, she chose to become a Methodist (at the time, Methodism was considered the religion of the lower classes). Her conversion did not come at eighteen or nineteen, but rather at thirty-five, while reading the works of John Wesley. She eventually fell in love with the Methodist itinerant antislavery preacher Freeborn Garrettson. The two married when Catherine was forty-one. They had one daughter, whom they named Mary. Catherine lived until the age of ninety-six and remained a vibrant part of her religious community until her death.

Q: How does one maintain faith in an academic environment that focuses on women’s history?

A: My intellectual queries are connected to my spiritual curiosity. My research interests are an outgrowth of my faith, and, in many cases, an answer to my prayers.

On occasion, I have heard people imply that one has to choose between academia and spirituality. I have always believed it is possible to integrate the two. Intellect enhances spirituality, and spirituality refines the intellect.

My research and the journals I have read revealed beautiful examples of spiritual seeking, discovery, growth, and conversion. I saw myself in the experiences of other women. The Atonement became more meaningful and real. Life became more powerful and purposeful. My heart and mind aligned in ways I had never experienced before. My spirituality flourishes, in part, because of my scholarship, not despite it.

For a more extensive interview, please visit our news section at http://rsc.byu.edu.