From the prayerful utterances of Joseph Smith in 1820 to the international church of today with a membership of over 12 million members, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) has embraced many peoples and cultures. The LDS Church was formally organized on April 6, 1830. From that time to the present, the church has encouraged its members to keep a record of their daily activities and accomplishments. Many of these records have been preserved and are now being collected by the L. Tom Perry Special Collections.
The 19th Century Western and Mormon Manuscripts Collection seeks to document the experiences and accomplishments of latter-day saints from all walks of life by collecting as many of their written records as possible. As a result, the collection of 19th-century manuscripts is composed of virtually every kind of written record, including journals, diaries, letters, minute books, speeches, photographs, drawings, and scrapbooks. One treasure trove is the collection of missionary diaries that document the rise of the early church. Also included in the manuscripts are the papers of community and academic leaders, artists and writers, social activists, and environmentalists.
In addition to collecting the records of individuals and families, the Lee Library strives to ensure that the collection is a valuable asset to scholars as they enhance their understanding of the beginnings and early development of the LDS Church and its interactions in the world. The collections supporting research on the 19th-century church and the history of the West range from single documents to collections comprising hundreds of boxes. With the rise of the church internationally, the proliferation of its membership, and its acceptance into the American mainstream, historians will continue to research and write for new generations. In addition, there are significant areas of church history that still await serious treatment.
The collection also seeks to document the church's role in the settlement of the American West. These materials provide an important context for the Mormon experiences in the world of 19th-century America, with a specific focus on the history of the American West. The collections cover such diverse topics as westward migration, Native American history, mining and related activities, the environment, religion, literature, and other topics that help establish the Mormons in the larger history of the region and nation.
Collection Profile and Overview: David J. Whittaker, John M. Murphy, and P. Bradford Westwood
Illustrations: Lee Library Conservation Lab