Two issues of the Elders’ Journal were published in Kirtland, Ohio in 1837. The newspaper was then relocated to Far West, Missouri where two more issues were printed. The first two issues were published on the press that had previously been used to publish the Messenger and Advocate — but this press fell into the hands of Warren Parrish’s schismatic “Church of Christ” and a new press had to be obtained before printing could continue. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon relocated to a new headquarters in Far West and continued to publish the Elders’ Journal until the events of the 1838 Mormon War in Missouri prevented further operations in the state. The press of the Elders’ Journal in Far West, was used by the Church to publish Rigdon’s July 4th oration, which was one of the factors that increased tensions between Latter Day Saints and non-Mormons in northwestern Missouri.
The Elders’ Journal contains a number of letters from church leaders, minutes from church conferences as well as notices of marriages and obituaries. The July 1838 issue published a “Q & A” style interview with the editorial board (led by Joseph Smith Jr.) about Smith’s personal history and Mormon beliefs.
While not included here, in 1903, under the direction of Ben E. Rich, the Church’s Southern States Mission began publishing a monthly periodical called Elders’ Journal, which was named after the 1837–38 periodical of the same name.
By September 1, 1904, the publication had moved from Atlanta, Georgia, to a newly purchased Southern States Mission office in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and, with a price increase from $0.25 to $0.50 annually, became a semi-monthly publication.
In June 1907, the Elders’ Journal was merged with The Liahona, a weekly publication created in April 1907 for use in all missions of the Church in the United States. The combined publication was named Liahona: The Elders’ Journal and printed in Independence, Missouri. The new publication retained the format of the Elders’ Journal rather than The Liahona and remained semi-monthly. Subscription lists from both publication were combined, roughly 20,000 copies of the first edition were printed, and the consolidated publication continued for the next 37 years.
In the final issue of Liahona: The Elders’ Journal, published February 27, 1945, the editors recommended readers subscribe to one of two Church periodicals; the weekly Church News, or the monthly magazine The Improvement Era. Wrapped with the final issue was a sample copy of the Church News as it was presumably less well known to subscribers than The Improvement Era. The Church News, a weekly insert in the Deseret News, had been available in limited circulation outside of Utah since 1943. The Improvement Era had been available since 1897.
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In November 1837, the second issue of the church’s new periodical, Elders’ Journal of the Church of Latter Day Saints, was published in Kirtland, Ohio. The paper was first published in October 1837 as an instrument for the elders of the church to “communicate to others, all things pertaining to their mission, and calling as servants of the living God, and messengers of righteousness to the nations among whom they are sent.” As editor of the Elders’ Journal, JS was ultimately responsible for its content, including editorial selections in the November issue that introduced conference minutes, prefaced a letter from Orson Hyde in England, articulated an editorial philosophy, and implored subscribers to remit payment for their subscriptions. Though JS authored an account of his trip to Missouri and an attending list of questions, the extent of his involvement in writing the other editorial pieces is unclear.2 Given that he did not return to Kirtland from Far West, Missouri, until 10 December 1837, the November issue was likely not published until after that date.
The Elders’ Journal, which published two issues in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1837 before the church’s printing office was destroyed, was reestablished in Far West, Missouri, in 1838, after JS and most other church leaders migrated from Kirtland to Far West. Thomas B. Marsh was the proprietor of the newspaper, and JS was the editor, though the amount and nature of JS’s involvement and editorial oversight is unclear.1 By May 1838, JS and Sidney Rigdon began working on material for the first Far West issue, dated July 1838.2 Ultimately, two issues were published in Missouri, dated July 1838 and August 1838. The July issue included letters to and from church elders serving proselytizing missions, as well as articles, minutes of meetings, and other items.3 The August issue contained similar material, including an editorial by JS and a letter that the First Presidency commissioned George W. Robinson to write to Latter-day Saints who had not yet gathered to Missouri. The August issue also included an obituary for Ethan Barrows Jr., who died in mid-August 1838,4 indicating that the issue was published sometime in the second half of the month or later.