Joseph Smith as Editor of the Times and Seasons

There are some Times and Seasons articles frequently cited as evidence for the proposition that Church leaders were not opposed to including Central America in a potential Book of Mormon geography.  Rod Meldrum has argued (correctly) that two of these articles were likely not written by Joseph Smith.  Has also argued, (I believe incorrectly) that this was done without Joseph's knowledge or consent because the Prophet was in hiding.  The historical problems with this view are laid out here.

One of many flaws in this argument is that there are also articles signed "ED"--Editor--in the Times and Seasons in this period, and "ED" also uses Central American ruins as evidence for the Book of Mormon.  Every writer which I have seen has treated these as authored by Joseph Smith.  These articles are not mentioned by Meldrum in his DVD presentation.

Given FAIR's recent concerns about Meldrum's claims, he has now argued that "ED" means someone other than Joseph Smith.  Meldrum's argument, and my reply, are available here (Greg's comments have been removed), if he has not followed through on his threat to ban me from posting.  :-)  If that happens, I will provide the material elsewhere.

As luck would have it, I'd previously done some study on this question.

Thus, given recent discussion about the degree to which Joseph Smith had input or control over material published in the Times and Seasons [abbreviated as T&S], I thought a brief review of its history would be helpful (or at least potentially make my amassed research notes on this topic of some value to someone). Except where indicated, my source for dates and names is an article by Andrew Jensen.[1]

Scanning these publications visually is eye-tiring work--if I have missed something, I welcome additions, deletions, or corrections. I found this an interesting forensic exercise--who was "ED"?

(Footnotes are numbered in the order I entered them.)

Spring 1839

"messengers were sent from Commerce back to Far West, Missouri, where they, in Brother Dawson's yard, dug up the type which had been used for the publication of the "Elders Journal" the previous year, and brought the material to Commerce, where a printing press was put up in the basement of a building, and the publication of "The Times and Seasons" commenced."

The first publishers of the T&S were Ebenezer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith, brother of the prophet.

November 1839

First number of the Times and Seasons printed. "Each number of the paper consisted of 16 large octavo pages, the printing matter on each page measuring 4 1/4 by 8 inches."

1 Dec 1840

Partnership with Ebenzer Robinson and Don Carlos Smith was dissolved; Don Carlos becomes sole editor.


Robert B. Thompson becomes Don Carlos Smith's partner in T&S publishing.

7 August 1841

Don Carlos Smith dies.

16 August 1841 (Times and Seasons 20/2)

Ebenezer Robinson (who had been partners with Don Carlos Smith earlier) rejoined the T&S, publishing one number of the paper with Thompson. Thompson was to die 20 days after Don Carlos.

27 August 1841

Robert B. Thompson dies. This leaves Ebenezer Robinson in sole charge of the T&S. He publishes nine issues of the paper.  Gustavus Hills begins working with Robinson at the press (Hills was a self-described "Professor of Music," and stocked music books in the print shop's books for sale section.)[10]

20 November 1841

Seven of the Twelve Apostles met in council at the house of President Young, on the subject of the Times and Seasons; they not being satisfied with the manner in which Gustavus Hills had conducted the editorial department since the death of Robert B. Thompson.[8]

30 November 1841

It was voted that Ebenezer Robinson be solicited to give up the department of printing the Times and Seasons to Elder Willard Richards.

Voted, that if Brother Robinson does not comply with this solicitation, Elder Richards be instructed to procure a press and type, and publish a paper for the Church.

Moved by Elder Young, and seconded by Elder Woodruff, that Lyman Wight and John Taylor present these resolutions to Brother Robinson.

The Twelve and Joseph presented Robinson with an ultimatum--either he should sell the paper to them, or they would start their own.

1 January 1842

Several of the Twelve spent the day at Sylvester B. Stoddard's and in the city council, which lasted from 6 p.m. until midnight, on the trial of Gustavus Hills.[9]

Hills was part of John C. Bennett's practice of illegitimate plural marriage.  In August 1842 he was disfellowshipped; he confessed to impregnating a woman he had seduced, and paid money toward the child's support. [11]

15 January 1842

Gustavus Hills is announced as assistant editor in the T&S. [7]  It is apparent from the discussion among the Twelve (and Joseph, at some meetings) in November 1841 that Hills was already having some informal input into the paper's contents before this date.

17 January 1842

Nauvoo high council "were unanimously opposed to Robinson's publishing the Book of Mormon and other books."[12]

28 January 1842

Joseph receives a revelation (not the D&C):

Verily thus saith the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph, go and say unto the Twelve, that it is my will to have them take in hand the editorial department of the Times and Seasons, according to that manifestation which shall be given unto them by the power of my Holy Spirit in the midst of their counsel, saith the Lord. Amen.[15]

3 February 1842

"Elder Woodruff took the superintendence of the printing office, and Elder Taylor the editorial department of the Times and Seasons; and he commenced by taking an inventory of the establishment this day."[16]

4 February 1842

Joseph "closed a contract with Ebenezer Robinson for the printing office…also the paper fixtures, bookbindery, and stereotype foundry, by proxy, namely, Willard Richards, cost between 7,000 and 8,000 dollars."[13]  The price was considered high, but Brigham Young noted, "The reason I paid such a price was [because] the Prophet directed the Twelve to pay him whatever he asked."[14]

2 March 1842

Joseph takes over as editor of the T&S: "I read the proof of the Times and Seasons, as editor for the first time, No. 9, Vol. III."[2]

9 March 1842

"Examining copy for the Times and Seasons, presented by Messrs. Taylor and Bennett...."[17]

15 March 1842 (T&S 9:3)

Formal announcement (see 2 March for him proofing this edition) Joseph announces that he is taking over as editor from Robinson and Hills:

This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward. I am not responsible for the publication, or arrangement of the former paper; the matter did not come under my supervision. JOSEPH SMITH [3]

In context, it seems clear that this statement is disavowing Joseph's sanction for some of the recent previous editions of the T&S, the "former paper." (As we have seen, neither Joseph or the Twelve were happy with how Hills and Robinson had been handling things.)

Joseph is here described as willing to endorse "all papers having my signature henceforward." This seems more than an endorsement of individual articles, but rather newspaper(s) for which he is listed as the editor.  The term "papers" does not mean "documents" in this context, it means newspapers published with Joseph as editor.

This issue of the paper also bore the note, "The Times and Seasons IS EDITED BY Joseph Smith." [4]

1 April 1842

Times and Seasons contains an extensive editorial on "Try the spirits."  History of the Church denominates this as "The Prophet's Editorial in the Times and Seasons."[18]  It is not signed in Joseph's name, but as "Ed."[19]

15 April 1842

Times and Seasons contains another editorial by Joseph on baptism for the dead [HC 4:595-599], again signed as "ED."[20]

2 May 1842

Times and Seasons contains another editorial by Joseph on the temple, [HC 4:608-699] again signed only as "ED."[21]

15 June 1842

Times and Seasons contains editorial concerning the presence of Mosaic traits among the Aztec in Mexico, and uses this as an argument for the Book of Mormon (citing part of Ether).  It is again signed, "ED."

We have derived the subject of this plate from Baron Humbolt's volume of (Researchers in Mexico), who found it painted on a manuscript book, made of the leaves of some kind of tree, suitable for the purpose....[extensive discussion of Aztec myth]

There are many things contained in the above that go to support the testimony of the Book of Mormon, as well as that of the Mosaic history. The Mexican records agree so well with the words of the book of Ether (found by the people of Limhi, which is contained in the Book of Mormon) in relation to the confounding of languages, that we insert the following: [Ether 1 quoted]

These accounts, then, precisely agree, one of which was found in Ontario county, N.Y., [i.e., the Book of Mormon plates] and the other in Mexico....The coincidence is so striking that further comment is unnecessary.[22]

Another editorial on the Holy Ghost is also signed "ED."[23]

The author also speaks as "ED" when he writes of a letter to the editor:

"We publish the foregoing letter entire; and for the information of the citizens of the neighborhood where the circumstances transpired, take this opportunity of expressing our decided, unqualified disapprobation of the proceedings of William and Alford Young. If they have ever been united with this Church and are not cut off, we withdraw fellowship from them until they make satisfaction for what they have done...."[24]

It is difficult to see how anyone besides Joseph Smith who would unilaterally declare, "we withdraw fellowship from them."

1 July 1842

Following an editorial signed by William Law, "Ed" again makes remarks about Nauvoo.[25]

Joseph addresses remarks on the John C. Bennett affair, noting that "It becomes my duty to lay before the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the public generally, some important facts relative to the conduct and character of Dr. JOHN C. BENNETT...."  Joseph signs his remarks with his full name--not surprisingly, since he is here acting in his role as Church president and civic official to "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and to all the honorable part of the community."[26]

15 July 1842

Another editorial is again signed "ED," on "the Government of God," after which "ED" gives us an article on "American Antiquities," discussing areas as diverse as Canada, the United States, Florida, the Mississippi, and Guatemala as providing evidence for the Book of Mormon.  Specifically mentioned is Stephens and Catherwood's book about Central American ruins.  The final paragraph reads:

If men, in their researches into the history of this country, in noticing the mounds, fortifications, statues, architecture, implements of war, of husbandry, and ornaments of silver, brass, &c. were to examine the Book of Mormon, their conjectures would be removed, and their opinions altered; uncertainty and doubt would be changed into certainty and facts; and they would find that those things that they are anxiously prying into were matters of hisy would find their conjectures were more than realized -- that a great and a mighty people had inhabited this continent -- that the arts sciences and religion, had prevailed to a very great extent, and that there was as great and mighty cities on this continent as on the continent of Asia. Babylon, Ninevah, nor any of the ruins of the Levant could boast of more perfect sculpture, better architectural designs, and more imperishable ruins, than what are found on this continent. Stephens and Catherwood's researches in Central America abundantly testify of this thing. The stupendous ruins, the elegant sculpture, and the magnificence of the ruins of Guatamala, and other cities, corroborate this statement, and show that a great and mighty people -- men of great minds, clear intellect, bright genius, and comprehensive designs inhabited this continent. Their ruins speak of their greatness; the Book of Mormon unfolds their history. -- ED. [27]

In this edition, Joseph signs his name (with other leaders and apostles) about the disciplinary action taken against a Church member.  This is a reproduction of a Church document, not something written as editor.[28]

1 August 1842

"ED" continues Joseph's repudiation of John C. Bennett.  Of note, we read "It may be asked why it was that we would countenance him so long after being apprised of his iniquities, and why he was not dealt with long ago. To this we would answer, that he has been dealt with from time to time; when he would acknowledge his iniquity, ask and pray for forgiveness, beg that he might not be exposed, on account of his mother, and other reasons, saying, he should be ruined and undone."[29]  This account relies on details of which only a very few were aware; of Joseph, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff, only Joseph had been present for all the sordid details.

15 August 1842

"ED" again speaks of Bennett and false accusations.[30]

1 September 1842

Articles labeled "Opinion" and "Persecution of the Prophets" appear with no byline.[31]  "Baptism" follows by "ED."[32]

15 September 1842

Extract From Stephen's "Incidents of Travel in Central America" is published with commentary.  There is no byline.[33]  There is nothing from "ED," though a letter to the Church signed by Joseph is included.[34]

1 October 1842

An unsigned article on "Zarahemla" again uses Stephens' Central America as evidence for the Book of Mormon.[35]  There is again nothing from "ED," though another letter to the Church signed by Joseph appears.[36]

15 October 1842

"ED" makes is still absent, but "Es," ["editors"?] makes a first-time appearance writing "To the Saints of God."  There is no letter or other communication from Joseph Smith by name, though Es discuss Joseph in the third person.  While this could be a rhetorical move on Joseph's part, it seems more likely that his assistants are penning this (Elders Woodruff and Taylor?).[37]

1 November 1842

No publication for this date.

15 November 1842

Joseph resigns editorial duties to John Taylor:

I beg leave to inform the subscribers of the Times and Seasons that it is impossible for me to fulfill the arduous duties of the editorial department any longer. The multiplicity of other business that daily devolves upon me renders it impossible for me to do justice to a paper so widely circulated as the Times and Seasons. I have appointed Elder John Taylor, who is less encumbered and fully competent to assume the responsibilities of that office, and I doubt not that he will give satisfaction to the patrons of the paper. As this number commences a new volume, it also commences his editorial career.


John Taylor wrote immediately thereafter:

The patrons of the Times and Seasons will unquestionably be painfully disappointed on reading the above announcement.

We know of no one so competent as President Joseph Smith to fill the editorial chair, of which the papers that have been issued since he has been editor are sufficient evidence.

We do not profess to be able to tread in the steps, nor to meet the expectation of the subscribers of this paper so fully as our able, learned and talented prophet, who is now retiring from the field; but as he has promised to us the privilege of referring to his writings, books, &c., together with his valuable counsel, when needed, and also to contribute to its columns with his pen when at leisure, we are in hopes that with his assistance, and other resources that we have at our command, that the Times and Seasons will continue to be a valuable periodical, and interesting to its numerous readers.


A discussion is also held of ruins in the Yucatan, by an unnamed author, who concludes only "Speculation upon the origin of these ruins I leave to others. The subject is one that should excite the deepest interest in the minds of Americans. It is as yet wrapped in profound mystery, which it will doubtless require many years of laborious research to unfold.'"[38]  The paper ends with a note that "The Times and Seasons IS EDITED BY JOHN TAYLOR.  Printed and published about the first and fifteenth of every JOHN TAYLOR & WILFORD WOODRUFF."[39]

1 December 1842

No article is attributed to "ED."

15 December 1842

No article is attributed to "ED."

2 January 1842

For the first time since Joseph's resignation as editor (that I can see--please indicate if I've missed some!), "ED" makes an aside following a letter from a correspondent.[43]

16 January 1842

No article is attributed to "ED."

1 February 1843

"ED" appears after an article ("Ancient Poetry"), the first I've seen since Joseph's resignation.[40]

15 February 1843

An aside after an article is made by "ED."[44]

1 March 1843

"ED" makes a parenthetical comment in the midst of a long letter from a correspondent and another fairly brief aside.[41]

15 March 1843

No article attributed to "ED" found yet.  A short aside is so labeled.[44]

1 April 1843

No article attributed to "ED" found yet.

15 April 1843

No article attributed to "ED" found yet.

1 May 1843

"ED" expresses condolences after publishing a letter announcing the death of an LDS Elder.[42]

15 May 1843

No article attributed to "ED" found yet.

1 June 1843

"ED" introduces an article on Judaism.[45]

AFTER JOSEPH"S DEATH, I have only done electronic searches, and have not scanned the entire text as above.

1 January 1844

"ED" explains the placement of some articles and provides commentary (p. 390), and prefaces a discussion of Amerindians ruins in Texas by writing:

Every day adds fresh testimony to the already accumulated evidence on the authenticity of the "Book of Mormon." At the time that book was translated there was very little known about ruined cities and dilapidated buildings. The general presumption was, that no people possessing more intelligence than our present race of Indians had ever inhabited this continent, and the accounts given in the Book of Mormon concerning large cities and civilized people having inhabited this land, was generally disbelieved and pronounced a humbug. Priest, since then has thrown some light on this interesting subject. Stephens in his "Incidents of Travels in Central America," has thrown in a flood of testimony, and from the following statements it is evident that the Book of Mormon does not give a more extensive account of large and populous cities than those discoveries now demonstrate to be even in existence.[46]

15 November 1844

"ED" provides latitude and longitude in a short aside.[47]

15 Feb 1846

Last number of the Times and Seasons printed, prior to the exodus from Nauvoo to the west.

So, who is "ED"?

This is a first stab at answering this question; this is hardly a definitive, exhaustive analysis.  But, what I've seen so far lets us draw some preliminary conclusions:

1) Obviously, this is the editor.  And, for a period of time, the only person listed as Editor was Joseph Smith.  He was so announced at the end of every edition of the T&S.  Many of the topics treated by "ED" are religious and doctrinal--"ED" has no hesitation about establishing doctrine for the Saints.  I can detect no sign of "ED" deferring to anyone, including Joseph himself.

2) Other writers and leaders have certainly understood Joseph to be "ED."  Many of "ED"'s editorials appear in the History of the Church (though without the "ED" designation reproduced), and some of the doctrinal sermons have been included in such books as Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

3) With Joseph's retirement, "ED" is absent for a few issues, and then appears intermittently.  The new "ED" usage tends more to short asides, and it is relatively rare for ED to sign an "editorial" or discourse post-Joseph Smith than during Joseph's tenure as editor.  The only post-Joseph example that I've found so far is 1 Feb 1843 and XXX.

4) As a subjective thing, "ED's" voice sounds different to me from unsigned articles, and once Joseph leaves.  Your mileage may vary.  :-)

In short, I can find no evidence that anyone has considered "ED" to be someone other than Joseph Smith during this period, or anything which allows us to conclude that "ED" was some kind of "composite" authorial voice during Joseph's tenure as editor of the T&S.

From what I can see, while editor, Joseph rarely if ever signs his as "Joseph Smith" unless he is reproducing a letter or document written for a venue besides his newspaper.  I would welcome counter-examples or other data from interested readers.

In sum, any theory which requires us to presume that "ED" is not Joseph Smith is on shaky ground.


[1] Andrew Jenson, "Times and Seasons," in Encyclopedic History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City, Utah, Printed by Deseret News Publishing Company, 1941), 875-876.

[2] History of the Church 4:542.

[3] Times and Seasons 3/9 (15 March 1842): 710.

[4] Times and Seasons 3/9 (15 March 1842): 718.

[5] "Valedictory," Times and Seasons 4/1 (15 November 1842): 8.

[6] "Valedictory," Times and Seasons 4/1 (15 November 1842): 8.

[7] Times and Seasons 3/6 (15 January 1842): 663.

[8] History of the Church 4:454.

[9] History of the Church 4:490.

[10] Michael Hicks, Mormonism and Music: A History, p.41

[11] Michael Hicks, Mormonism and Music: A History, p.42n34

[12] History of the Church 4:494-495.

[13] History of the Church 4:513-514.

[14] Flanders, Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi, 250; citing Millennial Star (13 February 1864) 26:119.

[15] History of the Church 4:503.

[16] History of the Church 4:513

[17] History of the Church 4:548.

[18] History of the Church 4:571.

[19] Times and Seasons 3/11 (1 April 1842): 748.

[20] Times and Seasons 3/12 (15 April 1842): 761.

[21] Times and Seasons 3/13 (2 May 1842): 775.

[22] "Traits of the Mosaic History, Found Among the Azteca Nations," Times and Seasons 3/16 (15 June 1842): 818-820.

[23] "Gift of the Holy Ghost," TImes and Seasons 3/16 (15 June 1842): 818-820.

[24] TImes and Seasons 3/16 (15 June 1842): 822.

[25] Times and Seasons 3/17 (1 July 1842): 832.

[26] Times and Seasons 3/17 (1 July 1842): 839-842.

[27] "The Government of God," Times and Seasons 3/18 (15 July 1842): 855-858; then "American Antiquities," 858-860.

[28] "Dr. West and the Mormons," Times and Seasons 3/18 (15 July 1842): 862.

[29] "John C. Bennett," Times and Seasons 3/19 (1 August 1842): 868-869.

[30] "Persecution," Times and Seasons 3/20 (15 August 1842): 886-890.

[31] "Opinion," and "Persecution of the Prophets," Times and Seasons 3/21 (1 September 1842): 901-903.

[32] "Baptism," Times and Seasons 3/21 (1 September 1842): 903-905.

[33] Times and Seasons 3/22 (15 September 1842): 911-915, 921-923.

[34] Times and Seasons 3/22 (15 September 1842): 919-920. Reproduced as D&C 127, letter dated 1 September 1842.

[35] Times and Seasons 3/23 (1 October 1842): 927-928.

[36] Times and Seasons 3/23 (1 October 1842): 934-936. Reproduced as D&C 128, letter dated 6 September 1842.

[37] Times and Seasons 3/24 (15 October 1842): 951-

[38] TImes and Seasons 4/1 (15 November 1842): 15-16.

[39] Times and Seasons 4/1 (15 November 1842): 16.

[40] Times and Seasons 4/6 (1 February 1843): 81.

[41] Times and Seasons 4/8 (1 March 1843): 116, 117.

[42] Times and Seasons 4/12 (1 May 1843): 188.

[43] Times and Seasons 4/4 (2 January 1843): 59.

[44] Times and Seasons 4/9 (15 March 1843): 142-143.

[45] Times and Seasons 4/14 (1 June 1843): 220-221.

[46] Times and Seasons 5/1 (1 January 1844): 390.

[47] Times and Seasons 5/21 (15 November 1844):


Smith, Gregory