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Project Progress June 1, 2023

In this last quarter, from March 1 to May 31, the Editorial Team continued to make incredible progress. Although Wilford Woodruff wrote and received almost 40,000 documents during his lifetime, we estimate that perhaps only 7,000 survived, totalling about 30,000 pages. However, our Research Team continues to find previously unpublished letters and discourses, and our catalog now contains over 32,000 pages. This quarter 3,426 new pages were added, including 172 discourses. With the accelerated pace of the Project, our goals for transcribing and verifying the documents this year needed to be lofty. But our transcription and verification teams are still ahead of schedule, completing over 2,000 pages a month for publication on our website. In addition, our Biographies Team has identified 913 more individuals within the documents and written biographical sketches for 405 of them. The Wilford Woodruff Papers are a remarkable historical resource and we are grateful to be able to share the stories and insights they contain with the world.


by Christian Decker, Archivist

As we transition into the summer, we continue to discover new documents and stories from the life of Wilford Woodruff. This past quarter we added 3,426 pages to our growing catalog. Of particular note are materials relating to Wilford’s own family history and documents covering his lifelong pursuit of education.

As of May 31, we have found 172 discourses and prepared them for transcription. In order to find these documents, we went through over 50 digital collections from the Church History Library. We have also updated our records to reflect the efforts of past research teams to ensure that we do not duplicate their work. These efforts have enabled us to begin searching for records in new collections. Now we are combing through over 700 collections, including ward meeting minutes, Young Women General Board records, and Salt Lake City Council meeting notes, to name a few. All these new avenues promise exciting discoveries for the future. In this we follow Wilford Woodruff’s counsel from a recently published discourse: As researchers, we can only “go on and progress. We have not got through revelation. We have not got through the work of God.”


by Jason Godfrey, General Editor

During the past quarter, 3,652 pages of documents have been transcribed between Wilford Woodruff and his correspondents. Thanks to the dedicated efforts of volunteers, interns, and Editorial Assistants, we are excited to publish the first of nine 50-page sections from Wilford’s 450 pages of notes for his Autobiography published in Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine Notes. Section 1, which highlights many significant moments in Wilford’s life, reflects his genealogy, his miraculous preservation through a host of injuries, his religious inquiry, his baptism and confirmation into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his experience as a member of the Camp of Israel, and his first mission to the southern states. From reading this section, one gains an intimate picture of the character of Wilford Woodruff and a close-up view of what was important to him.

Because a key component of our mission is to inspire the rising generation, we feel impressed to share the thoughts of Wilford Woodruff upon his venturing into the world on his own at the age of twenty. He wrote: “I am now twenty years of age and leaving my father’s house. This is an important period and step in my life and in the life of every man, for at this age, generally speaking, every man forms a character both for time and Eternity. The character, principles and sentiments which are formed from the age of eighteen to twenty five are generally so deeply planted in the heart that they control their future lives and remain with them through life whether they be good or evil.” We hope that through the example of Wilford Woodruff and the accessibility to his writings, those who read his words may be able to find peace and direction—one page at a time. 


by Ellie Hancock, Historian

Thanks to the hard work of Editorial Assistants and trained volunteers, second-level verification has continued to excel at an incredible pace. This past quarter, 6,715 pages of documents were verified. Verification is a critical step in the editorial process because we publish documents after they are verified, and then stylize after it is on our website. In a parting farewell as president of the British mission, President Woodruff implored the Saints of the British Isles to use their influence to circulate publications of the Church, “for they contain truth and truth is mighty and will prevail. Let not the Saints be discouraged because of the Tributations and Sacrifices they are called to pass through, for though the tongue of slander, the press and wicked men send forth as upon the wings of the wind, a flood of fallows and Bitterness against the Saints, yet they will triumph at last.” We are grateful to everyone that makes this great work possible and for the individual contributions of each team member to bring forward more of Wilford Woodruff’s writings.


by Ashlyn Pells, Associate Editor

During this quarter, the stylization team completed third-level verification of 2,430 pages from Wilford Woodruff’s journals, autobiographies, and letters, which is 1,366 more pages than we stylized last quarter. The monumental milestone we reached this quarter was the completion of stylization for all of Wilford’s journals. As we have moved on to stylizing the autobiographies, we have been reminded of some of Wilford’s most important life experiences that he recorded in his journal over the decades. In a draft for his autobiography that was published in Tullidge’s Quarterly Magazine, Wilford went into particular detail about his sincere search for truth. Even before he found the restored gospel, he recorded, “I felt to resolve more and more that I would spend my whole life in the service of the Lord.” He spent much of his free time seeking God in prayer, meditating, and studying the Bible. He knew that eventually the truth would be revealed to him, and he declared, “I should know [the people of God] when I saw them.” 

When Wilford was on his way to meet missionaries of the Church for the first time, he noted, “I prayed all the way in my heart that the Lord would open my understanding & give me his spirit and if they were men of God & had the truth I prayed that I might receive it.” And receive it he did. As soon as the opening prayer for the meeting began, he knew he had found the truth, and he was baptized only two days later. He never strayed from the testimony he gained in December of 1833. He truly did “spend [his] whole life in the service of the Lord,” always dedicated to living what he believed.


by Hannah Taylor, Research Coordinator

We now have a total of 2,573 biographies published on our website. Completed biographies include nearly 400 Woodruff family members, 100 of the 1835 Southern Converts, over 300 of the 1840 British Converts, and 182 of the 1877 Eminent Men and Women. In the coming years, we anticipate completing biographies for over 14,000 individuals who were a part of the history of the Restoration as recorded by Wilford Woodruff. 

Insight into Biographical Research

by Erin Hills, Research Specialist

The Research Team is constantly working to identify the many individuals who hosted Wilford Woodruff throughout his life. Sometimes this task is very difficult as Wilford often referred to his hosts by their surnames only. Even with a first name, it can be nearly impossible to correctly identify the individual who offered Wilford food and shelter. But all these hosts are important because of the impact they may have had on Wilford’s life, or sometimes more importantly, the impact Wilford had on theirs.

Thomas Tapley of Belfast, Maine, was researched this month. His story is best told in Wilford’s own words from an account of February 22, 1838:

We walked fifteen miles through deep snow to Belfast, and, after being refused lodging for the night by eight families, we were kindly entertained by a Mr. Thomas Teppley. There was an interesting incident connected with our stay at his house. After eating our supper, it being late in the evening, Mr. Teppley placed a stand before me with a Bible upon it, asking me to read a chapter and have prayers with them, he being a religious man.

I opened the Bible mechanically, when, the 25th chapter of Matthew being the first to catch my eye, I read it, and as I closed the book Mr. Teppley turned to his wife and said, “Is not this a strange thing?” Then he explained to us that he had just read that chapter and closed the book when we rapped at the door, and he felt impressed to say, “Walk in, gentlemen.”

There is probably no other chapter in the whole book that would have the same influence in causing any one to feed a person who professed to be a servant of God, and asked for bread.

After becoming acquainted with his circumstances I thought it providential that we were led to his house, for although he was a professor of religion and a Methodist, he was in a state of despair, believing that he had committed the unpardonable sin.

However, I told him what the unpardonable sin was, and that he had not committed it; but that it was a trick of the devil to make him think so, in order to torment him. He then acknowledged that he went down to the wharf a few evenings before, with the intention of drowning himself, but when he looked into the cold, dark water he desisted and returned home, and had said nothing previous to anyone about it.

I taught him the principles of the gospel, which proved a comfort to him. 

God was keenly aware of Thomas Tapley, and in His mercy and love, He sent a humble servant to rescue him. Thomas, and many others just like him, are the reason why Wilford was willing to sacrifice and endure the trials of a missionary of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

After leaving Belfast, Wilford Woodruff never met with Thomas Tapley again. But, Thomas, enlightened with the basic principles of the gospel, lived a full life. And at the age of 95 years and 9 months, he was the oldest man in Belfast when he died in 1889 (The Portland Daily Press, “Obituary” [Portland, Maine], 28 Dec. 1889, vol. 28, p. 1).


by Shauna Horne, Content Team Lead

Much of this quarter, the content team has been tagging letters, many of which are mission calls and the corresponding acceptance or rejection of these calls. It is inspiring to see the faith many of the early Saints had as they accepted calls to serve missions, leaving their families, farms, and careers behind to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. We also started working in the discourses, which are filled with good doctrine and advice from Wilford Woodruff. We are finding and tagging so many faith-promoting quotes. We also are removing the QZ codes that had been used previously for tagging “outside the website” now that we have moved tagging into the website database. This quarter we have tagged 1,061 quotes and reviewed 6,535 pages.

One of the quotes we found this quarter really resonated with me: “All the happiness, all the joy and all the consolation I have ever had has been since I embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ.” This is exactly how I feel. Every good thing in my life has come from the gospel of Jesus Christ.  It is a joy to read the words and wisdom of Wilford Woodruff.