SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has commissioned former Assistant Church Historian and Recorder Richard E. Turley Jr. to write a new biography of Joseph Smith called “Joseph the Prophet.”
President Dallin H. Oaks made the announcement during the close of his keynote speech at the seventh annual Joseph Smith Papers conference today. The conference took place in the Conference Center Theater in Salt Lake City.
“With the completion of the Joseph Smith Papers [in June 2023], a firm foundation has been laid on which additional works can be solidly built,” President Oaks said.
Those working on the project will include Church History Department scholars, including many who have worked on the Joseph Smith Papers, staff and volunteers of the Family History Department, professors from BYU, along with “seasoned legal scholars” and interns from the J. Reuben Clark Law School.
The new biography will reportedly rely on research from these groups and other scholars, who are “expected to generate a number of publications with detailed findings on which the biography can rely,” a press release states.
The project will reportedly take years to complete.
In 2013, The Church made changes to the “contextual information” in over half of the section headings of the Doctrine and Covenants due to what was learned in the Joseph Smith Papers, according to the release.
Larry H. and Gail Miller, prominent Utah philanthropists who owned an automobile sales empire and the Utah Jazz basketball team, among other enterprises, funded the Joseph Smith Papers project in 2001 after being “deeply moved” by historical documents at Church headquarters.
The first volume was published in 2008 and the remaining 26 volumes were published at a rate of two per year, “an unheard-of pace for documentary editions,” President Oaks said.
Church officials said Turley has already written more than 20 books and served as the managing director of the Church Historical Department, as it was then called, going on to work with The Church as chair of the Joseph Smith Papers editorial board, a volume editor, managing director of the Family History Department, and managing director of the Public Affairs and Communication Departments.
He will now be writing Smith’s new biography, “Joseph the Prophet.”