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Editing

My book-length historical editing projects thoroughly introduced me to questions of textual provenance, transmission, and historical technique. My primary job as editor was to select documentary material to publish that accurately represented the documents, to edit the texts for readability, and to contextualize in a way that would make the text valuable to interested lay readers. I found that my work as editor entailed both precision and imagination, devotion to editing standards, and an eye for historical meaning and ambiguity.

Below is a more detailed description of my work.

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The Council of Fifty: A Documentary History, editor. Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with the Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2014.

Mormon church founder Joseph Smith had both millennial and temporal aspirations for the organization he called the Council of Fifty so-named after the number of men meant to compose it. A secret political body organized a few months before Smith’s death in June 1844, the Council of Fifty continued after the emergence of Brigham Young as Church president to become a shadow government in territorial Utah. The minutes from Nauvoo are closed to researchers, but contemporary accounts speak of the Council as a deliberative body to enact political and other preparations for Christ’s imminent millennial reign. The Council helped to sponsor Smith’s U.S. presidential bid and oversaw the exodus to present-day Utah. Although the Council of Fifty helped to govern political affairs until 1851, they seem to have operated primarily as a secret study group and political think tank. Brigham Young’s counselor, George A. Smith, characterized the Council in 1849 as “nothing but a debating School.” The Council faded from existence in the late nineteenth century as the Mormon Church gradually abandoned polygamy and became more fully integrated into the American body politic. It survives today as a historical artifact available in fragmented documentary pieces which are presented here for the first time.

My work involved organizing and editing these historical pieces and in the volume’s introduction assessing the significance of the Council of Fifty and its place in Mormon history. A challenge of this project has been collecting documents and imposing a standard editing apparatus on records that are diverse in type and in location.

http://signaturebooks.com/2012/09/the-council-of-fifty-a-documentary-history/

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In the President’s Office: The Diaries of L. John Nuttall, 1879–1892, editor. Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with the Smith-Pettit Foundation, 2007.

L. John Nuttall was a prodigious nineteenth-century diarist who occupied a central seat within the halls of Mormon power. Personal secretary to several Mormon church presidents, Nuttall observed and recorded during a tumultuous period in Mormon history when the federal government put tremendous pressure on them to abandon polygamy and incorporate into the political mainstream. His diaries–the originals are housed in the L. Tom Perry Special Collections at Brigham Young University in twenty-eight bound notebooks–are among the most significant and revealing of late-nineteenth-century Mormon history.

I transcribed, compiled, and edited for publication this nineteenth-century record. With so much to choose from, and space limitations inherent in a one-volume distillation, my volume is restricted to a single period in Nuttall’s life when he was serving as secretary to the presidents of the LDS Church.

The volume was well received and garnered two book awards:

  • Evans Handcart Award, Mountain West Center for Regional Studies, Utah State University
  • Steven F. Christensen Best Documentary History Award, Mormon History Association

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