What I call my "raw notes" is in a pidgin shorthand that I understand. At least it's searchable (yes, honorary Boomer that I am, I was Johnny-come-lately to the fact that Word docs are searchable. That was an amazing discovery! ).
I sold out at a FAIR conference of my self-published batch of what was going to be volume 1 of a series of books on JoD topics (that one dealt with fallibility, blood atonement, debt, preparedness, and affliction). Volume 2 was going to have the First Vision, Adam-God, Zion society, and missionary work; but, there is really no market for it. People don't really read any more, and if/when they do, it's not old Church "history of thought" pieces. It was well worth it to me for the experience and for me and my posterity, anyway.
Here's the introduction to volume 1:
Getting our Bearings on Journal of Discourses
Journal of Discourses is a 26 volume work of nearly 10,000 pages that contains material from Mormon Church leaders from 1851 to 1886 (with some earlier material from Joseph Smith). Although it has a certain mystique among interested Mormons and non-Mormons (those who refer to or quote from it), almost nobody has ever read any significant portions of it. Almost all knowledge or use of it is derivative; people quote from it based on others’ quotations from it, not from their own firsthand reading or experience with it. People’s perceptions about Journal of Discourses are accurately parodied (many a true word is spoken in jest) by some of Orson Scott Card’s entries in his Saintspeak: The Mormon Dictionary:
Journal of Discourses --- A mammoth collection of speeches by General Authorities in the nineteenth century, containing many doctrines that were never taught in the Church . . . Today, however, there is no fear of ill effects from publishing the Journal of Discourses, for only Fundamentalists, anti-Mormons, and historians ever read it.
Blood atonement --- A doctrine that was never taught in the Church, especially by Brigham Young, Jedediah Grant, and Heber C. Kimball.
The overriding impression is that there are a lot of strange and contradictory things in Journal of Discourses that are a boon to critics of the Church and hard or impossible to explain (or explain away) by Church members.
The purpose of this series of books is much larger than simply dispelling these impressions, although that is one of the inevitable effects of looking at the total picture of the content of Journal of Discourses. A detailed look at the total contents in context uncovers an immense and untapped treasure trove of insightful observations, humor, useful explanations, original parables and allegories, and other material that is invaluable for preparing talks, serving in the Church, defending the Church, and simply widening one’s background knowledge of the Brethren during the first decades in Utah Territory. Despite the high quality of the material, most of it is almost completely unknown, even to people who are reasonably well-read in Church history. Much of the material is superior to the shop-worn and recycled quotes and anecdotes that have become mainstays in Church manuals and materials.
My grandfather gave me his mother’s well-marked set of Journal of Discourses in 2000 to look things up as I corresponded for about six months with an anti-Mormon in Webster, New York (John Farkas). When I discovered how effective using the full text and context with cherry-picked anti-Mormon proof-texts was, I decided to carefully read all 26 volumes and take detailed notes on anything of significance. My increasingly expansive involvement in LDS apologetics gave me a good perspective on things that are useful or important, but my service in the Church and what I was dealing with in Church callings during that time also made me aware of other important applications. During the time I read, compiled and organized my notes, I served as a ward mission leader (twice), elders quorum president (twice), and bishopric member (three times; currently serving as bishop). Once I had what I call my “raw notes” (a large three-ring binder with page numbers and pidgin shorthand notes by volume), I grouped the references into around 100 separate topical categories (e.g., missionary work, Adam-God statements, preparedness, polygamy, priesthood, blood atonement, marriage and parenting, etc.).
Other topics, while interesting, are too small to build major book sections around. For example, I noticed a recurring thread that convinces me that Sandra and Gerald Tanner got the idea for their book title Mormonism: Shadow or Reality? directly from Journal of Discourses. It’s simply too unique of a phrase, in my view, for them to have independently come up with it without being influenced by it.
Have they knowledge? Go after it, and you will find an aching void, a shadow instead of substance, words which are wind, instead of realities.
No doubt many of you have had your portraits penciled upon the canvas by the artist, and after he had drawn the outlines, without filling up or embellishing at all, you looked at it and said, "That is not myself, it does not look like me, it belongs to someone else." But when it came to be filled up and embellished, perhaps you were ready to own it. We have the shadows of things that are, and not the real things themselves, in many respects.
What do men and women who turn away from the faith, as they occasionally do, turn to? To an empty sound, from a reality to a shadow.
The religions of the day, independent of their moral worth, are nothing but a myth, a shadow; there is no reality in them . . . Take the other road, and you get a shadow for the time being, and you may think you have the substance, but sooner or later you are left as a feather floating in the air, or worse than a ship upon the ocean, without compass or rudder.
We have got this kingdom to build up; and it is not a phantom, but a reality.
In a similar vein, President Hinckley’s oft-repeated statement that the gospel makes bad men good and good men better seems to have been influenced by Journal of Discourses. There are other indications that President Hinckley was well-read in Church history, including some of the more arcane items, like Journal of Discourses, but note how closely this expression parallels items like these:
What are the fruits of this Gospel when it is received into the heart of an individual? It will make a bad man good, and a good man better.
There is not a word or doctrine, of admonition, of instruction within its lids, but what agrees in sentiment and veracity with those of Christ and His Apostles, as contained in the Bible. Neither is there a word of counsel, of admonition or reproof within its lids, but what is calculated to make a bad man a good man, and a good man a better man, if he will hearken to it.
Most topics are more “major” than such “smaller” ones. After identifying major topics, I then determined subtopics within each topic in order to organize the topic for commentary. I then drew upon my notes, files, and research to provide commentary and correlation for the subtopics and quotes.
While the apologetic applications are obvious, I find the Church leadership and devotional material to be much more important, applicable, and useful. I hope that this book series will make these obscure and unknown insights, explanations, and observations accessible and usable to interested people.
Journal of Discourses statistics
Journal of Discourses contains 1417 items, covering 9,776 pages. This total includes seven dedicatory prayers (Salt Lake Temple cornerstones, the Tabernacle, and the St. George and Logan temples), two court transcripts, nine 4th of July orations, eight 24th of July orations, two school opening orations, and a Christmas address to public works employees. 38 of the talks are funeral addresses, and 356 of the talks (25%) are General Conference addresses (including General Conference held in May for a few years and in venues other than Salt Lake City, such as Coalville, Logan, and Provo). 
There are 53 individuals who appear in Journal of Discourses, including 22 who appear only once, and another 16 who gave less than 15 talks. This makes roughly 90% of the material in Journal of Discourses the work of the “Big 15.” Among the “Big 15,” it’s interesting to compare the number of talks with the number of pages each covered:
Number of talks Number of pages
1. Brigham Young 387 (27%) 2285 (23%)
2. John Taylor 166 (12%) 1325 (14%)
3. Orson Pratt 124 (9%) 1298 (13%)
4. George Q. Cannon 111 (8%) 924 (9%)
5. Heber C. Kimball 110 (8%) 517 (5%)
6. George A. Smith 78 (6%) 422 (4%)
7. Wilford Woodruff 67 (5%) 422 (4%)
8. Orson Hyde 49 (3%) 272 (3%)
9. Erastus Snow 47 (3%) 264 (3%)
10. Daniel H. Wells 38 (3%) 243 (2%)
11. Charles Penrose 29 (2%) 222 (2%)
12. Joseph F. Smith 24 (2%) 188 (2%)
13. Lorenzo Snow 21 (2%) 152 (1%)
14. Franklin D. Richards 20 (1%) 130 (1%)
15. Parley P. Pratt 15 (1%) 125 (1%)
The talks were recorded, with few exceptions, by trained stenographers who accurately reported what was said. Sometimes people are tempted, when dealing with criticisms using Journal of Discourses proof-texts, to explain away statements as possibly being recorded or published incorrectly. This is not only not the case, in my view, it is completely unnecessary to ever explain away anything in Journal of Discourses on the grounds that it was inaccurately recorded or reported.
George D. Watt, a British convert (and the first person baptized in the British mission) was the primary stenographer, and he began the project of publishing collected sermons in volumes in the Church’s publishing center in Liverpool, England. Here is a breakdown of the stenographers and how many talks they were responsible for:
1. George D. Watt 544
2. David Evans 264
3. George F. Gibbs 177
4. John Irvine 135
5. J. V. Long 108
6. E. L. Sloan 18
7. John Grimshaw 8
8. James Taylor 7
9. John Q. Cannon 4
10. Rudger Clawson 4
11. James Hart 3
12. Julia Young 2
13. Leo Hawkins 2
14. William Thurbood 1
15. J.B. Milner 1
16. James D. Stirling 1
17. Masters Feramorz 1
18. C. G. Ferguson 1
19. Josiah Rogerson 1
20. John C. Graham 1
133 talks cannot be linked to a specific stenographer, and Joseph Smith’s King Follett Discourse was listed as reported by Willard Richards, Thomas Bullock, William Clayton, and Wilford Woodruff.
Talk venues ranged across the spectrum. While most occurred in various locations in Salt Lake City (various ward meetinghouses, the Bowery, the Old Tablernacle [adobe], the New Tabernacle, the Assembly Hall, Big Cottonwood Canyon, temple cornerstones, Heber C. Kimball’s home, Church historian’s office, the public square, the new theater, the council house, the social hall, Utah Territory District Court, and the Young Men’s Literary Association hall), locations in Illinois (Commerce and Nauvoo for Joseph Smith talks), Idaho (Cache Valley, Paris, and Rexburg), and even England (Sheffield; a church conference) are included. Within Utah, locations outside of Salt Lake City appear as venues for talks in Journal of Discourses: American Fork, Bear Lake, Beaver, Bountiful, Box Elder, Brigham City, Coalville, Ephraim, Farmington, Franklin, Grantsville, Hooperville, Hyde Park, Hyrum, Kaysville, Lehi, Logan, Manti, Mill Creek, Mount Pleasant, Nephi, Ogden, Paradise, Parowan, Payson, Provo, Richfield, Richmond, Springville, St. George, Tooele, Wellsville, and Willow Creek.
Make-up of the volumes in this series
Because I want this work to be as accessible and usable as possible, I chose to divide the commentaries into multiple, smaller volumes. This reduces the printing cost and sales price for each volume, which hopefully will encourage people to decide to buy ones that capture their interest. I also chose to combine two or three major apologetic topics with several doctrinal, historical, devotional, and Church-related topics to give each volume variety in scope and range. This volume includes the topics of blood atonement, affliction, infallibility and blind obedience, temporal preparedness, and debt and credit. Other volumes will include such topics as (but not limited to):
---Adam-God statements ---humor ---eternal progression
---marriage and parenting ---nature of God ---First Vision
---testimony and revelation ---ministering of angels ---seeing God
---prayer ---Civil War ---Stephen Douglas prophecies
---returning to Jackson County ---Constitution hanging by a thread ---politics
---missionary work ---blood of Israel ---remnant of Lehi
---state of people without ---Zion ---priesthood
the gospel ---blacks and the priesthood ---polygamy
---doctrine ---background ---countercharges
---prophecies ---Joseph Smith, occult, moneydigging
Getting to know the Brethren
I look back on the years I spent reading, taking notes, organizing material, and sharing good insights or humorous comments with my wife with great fondness. If you read enough of a person’s written or spoken words, you get a good feel for their personality, temperament, and essence, and I feel that I have certain insights into the spirit and manner of both these men and their times and circumstances. I have come away from this project with a greater sense of appreciation for these men, the keys they held, and their unique and personal contributions to guiding the work of the Church in the decades between settling the Salt Lake Valley and the end of plural marriage. When I have shared quotes, stories, and insights from them with others in talks, trainings, counseling, and in personal conversation, people have expressed a desire for “more where those came from.” I think that people and the Church have much to gain by adding the largely untapped and unknown wisdom and insight of Journal of Discourses to their storehouse of reference material.
I hope you enjoy this book series as much I do, and I hope you find it as useful as I continue to find it.
 Joseph Smith famously noted in the King Follett Discourse: “If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong we may go wrong, and it will be a hard matter to get it right” (History of the Church 6:303). Having a proper grasp of the background and what Journal of Discourses is and isn’t is crucial in fully appreciating it and properly applying it.
 Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1981.
 While I have communicated with and received answers in the past from Sandra Tanner, I never received any response to the question of whether they had these quotes in mind when they chose the title.
 Brigham Young, May 26, 1872. Journal of Discourses 15:42
 Orson Hyde, January 19, 1873. Journal of Discourses 15:304
 Brigham Young, September 17, 1876. Journal of Discourses 18:232
 Brigham Young, June 17, 1877. Journal of Discourses 19:40
 John Taylor, August, 31, 1879. Journal of Discourses 21:8
 Brigham Young, July 11, 1869. Journal of Discourses 13:144
 Joseph F. Smith, April 6th, 1884. Journal of Discourses 25:100
 This was due to raids by federal marshals and many of the Brethren being in hiding.
 Page numbers were determined on a “winner-take-all” basis, with only one person being given credit for each page. This resulted in judgment calls in some instances when two people shared a page.
 The three talks by Joseph Smith are a notable exception. They were compiled using longhand notes by people present: Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, Thomas Bullock, and William Clayton.
 B.H. Roberts made use of the fact that almost all Church materials were published outside of Utah Territory when an association of ministers published a written attack against a General Conference talk by President Joseph F. Smith in 1907. Among other things, the ministers claimed that “the Church deceitfully teaches one thing at home, and another abroad.” Roberts pointed out that all of the references in their review were published and disseminated outside of Utah: “Now where is the Millennial Star published? In Liverpool, England. Where were the Journal of Discourses published? In Liverpool, England. Where was The Seer published? In Washington, D.C. . . . So that your practical charge that we preach one set of doctrines and principles in Utah, and quite another in the world, and that we’re trying to play the double game of having one doctrine for home consumption and another for proclamation abroad, is as shallow as it is untrue” (B.H. Roberts, Defense of the Faith and the Saints [Maasai: Provo, 2002], 553-554).