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Observations from John Hajicek, a librarian, archivist and curator, at the Book of Mormon Symposium in Independence, Missouri, April 20, 2024.[0]=AZXgsNuQtiniEUm-fwGJY1K3r8aflzkV9tMfYUJY78hXspvsdbRw7z_yZ4d-Ep3C9Ni9jyIwyk1P6FKrpMLb2LbrtcSHvFKnclhoAw91jIdHX8rNNc3mxPsbNPETwNbWGPKiCdrSTs5RvSMvbzyU5fh10NIDRDXj_Q_QkQysQrhAeuNaMXNN8iZVfq5iXuf3EkzTD81A7ZVR_8qHfCvQsTsa&__tn__=-UC%2CP-R



Book of Mormon Symposium and Rally, Independence, Missouri, April 20, 2024.

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters in the gospel of Jesus Christ:

My name is John Hajicek (for the record, H-A-J-I-C-E-K, Hajicek).  I am told there is no such thing as bad publicity—as long as they spell your name right.  There is not one, but two typographical errors in the spelling of my name in tonight’s Program.  My beloved James McKay and Patrick McKay have included me in their events since the early 1990s, so they can spell my name—but this is their way of reminding me of Mosiah 4:11: “Your own nothingness ... unworthy creatures ... humble yourselves even in the depths of humility.”  [The congregation laughed.]  And they are right!  I am not qualified to awkwardly speak among the skillful orators [pastors and BYU professors] of these two nights.  I am a mere librarian, archivist, and curator—more comfortable in a quiet vault reading forgotten newspapers.

[Here I showed The Evening & the Morning Star, from Independence in 1832, the first thing the Church printed after it was organized.]

And so then, the Program says I am to speak about “Restoration memorabilia.”  That is where the bad publicity starts!  Memorabilia is like collecting baseballs from Cooperstown, whereas I curate rare books from Cooperstown.  Memorabilia is pretty.  I buy the ugliest books and the ugliest art.

[Here I showed a painting of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, made from life by their neighbor Sutcliffe Maudsley.]

Laban held onto records merely because they were memorabilia, and he never understood their true significance.  Nephi was different.  Remember, in 1 Nephi, chapter 3, Nephi’s brother first argued a legitimate right to the records, but Laban called him a “robber.”  Boy, I know that feeling.  Then Nephi brought Laban their gold, silver, “all manner of riches,” and “precious things,” to purchase the plates—but Laban kept their property and still would not give them the records.  Boy, I know that feeling, too.

My Hajicek family has been in the conservation profession for 105 years.  I work as a historian of Mormon material culture—rare books, important documents, vernacular photographs, early art, legendary artifacts, and historic architecture.

I share my whole story because it is the only way to convey the magnitude and gravity of my project to build a million-item Mormon library, archives, and museum; but I mean the story to be about the Book of Mormon and not about myself.  I am a brief caretaker, steward, or custodian of records that I protect on behalf of the greater Restoration.  Without my experiences, though, I cannot communicate the seriousness of this endeavor, and that the collection is safe.

I flew home to Independence from Salt Lake City for this event, after a 5,000-mile road trip through Mexico, from the Pacific to the Atlantic, as far as Mazatlán, Guadalajara, Mexico City, and Vera Cruz; and then back north through the historic Mormon settlements of Colonia Juárez, Colonia Dublán, and Colonia LeBarón.  Mexico has millenniums of the richest religious traditions.  My girlfriend’s Mexican half descended from Spanish Catholic nobility, Aztec royalty, and the first Hispanic Mormon, Desideria Yáñez.  So we love the Book of Mormon—but I want you to know that getting back here to Independence to you was more important than staying in Mexico.  [Explaining that I am a practical historian not a classroom historian, so I am traveling full time in search of lost history.]

Myself, I was raised Catholic, with Bohemian, Bavarian, and Luxembourgian heritage.  Hence my un-spellable name.  I technically became a Restorationist in 1973, more than a half-century ago, when my father, an agnostic PhD candidate in physics, took his family to 700 different churches and found the Latter Day Saints to be most truthful.

As a child, I read the complete Bible, and I found the Book of Mormon gospel to be undifferentiated from the Bible gospel.  Because my father was a graduate student, I was raised in poverty in the upper story of a brick store owned by my great-grandfather John Hajicek, in the south Minneapolis neighborhood where the world-famous rioting took place recently.  Later, we lived in poverty only because my father used the store space to invent a mainframe personal computer in the 1960s.  For years we had Family Home Evening there on Monday nights with missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—and on Sundays we walked to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  On 7th-day Saturdays, though, my father gave us lessons in Spanish, and in conflicted Mormon history from Nauvoo.  I never learned the Spanish.

Instead, I was driven to discover letters of Joseph Smith and his scribes.

[Here I showed a letter from Joseph Kingsbury, which he penned onto Joseph Smith’s proof sheet of the first Book of Abraham.]

In 1980, our family moved to a ghost town on Mormon Road in Voree, Wisconsin.  There, I was living among the last grandchildren of those who personally knew Joseph and Hyrum Smith.  At age 18, I was brought into an inner circle of these last Mormons, and I was baptized and ordained by the grandson of someone who lived in Palmyra in 1820 when Joseph Smith had his First Vision.  I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  People pejoratively call me a Strangite.  But I am not a member of a church “called in the name of a man.”  Nonetheless, I am one of these “last Mormons.”

Our group of Restorationists has always been midway between the two larger churches—moderate, conciliatory, and peaceful.

[Here I showed the manuscript minutes of the election of Brigham Young in the Kanesville log tabernacle in December 1847.]

The Wisconsinites were the first Restoration group after the 1844 Martyrdom.  That was 3½ years before Brigham Young was elected a prophet, and 16 years before former followers of James Strang formed the Reorganized Church.

When I was a teenager in Wisconsin, we carried stacks of Joseph Smith-period books under our arms walking to church on Mormon Road.

[Here I showed Emma Smith’s volumes of the Times & Seasons printed in Nauvoo. ]

As a teenager, I bought my first Joseph Smith-period Book of Mormon, refuted Mormon-document forgeries in letters to Time and Newsweek, and began traveling to every university library, scholarly library, and research library that had Mormon collections that I could read.

I found that I had a talent or gift to discover, buy, conserve, and share rare Mormon material culture.  By 1990, nearly 35 years ago, I was a full-time Mormon historian living in Independence, and since then, half of all new discoveries in Mormon history have come through my hands.

As important as the Mormon collection is, in recent years I broadened the collection to include the roots of Mormonism—the 25 years the Smiths lived in Vermont and on its borders, and 15 years they lived in Western New York and on its borders—40 years total.  I mean that I purchased every book printed in Western New York and Vermont from 1791 to 1831, and a great many from Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and other places also.  I wanted a context and environment for Mormon history and Mormon theology.  I bought all the books of the Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and Universalists—and other pre-Restoration groups from the Cochranites to the Campbellites.

[Here is showed an example with the binders’s title “Controversial Theology,” which is a thick volume of pamphlets printed from 1819 to 1823, which I pointed out was perfect timing.]

Let me be crystal clear.  The Book of Mormon stands on its own as a unique book, above any class of Christian books in its day, or any time in America.  No 1830 theologian from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Brown, or Dartmouth could write like Nephi or Moroni.

I also bought every anti-Mormon pamphlet and book ever printed, from the first ones printed in 1832 and 1834, to the latest.

[Here I showed the 1834 edition of Mormonism Unvailed, by E.D. Howe, with the frontispiece woodcut is the Devil kicking Joseph Smith through the air.  At that same second the long BOOK OF MORMON RALLY banner fell off the wall behind me and the congregation laughed.]

There is no anti-Mormon argument that holds up the newest, rigorous methods and approaches in historiography and historiology.  Try me.  I have a million items to back up the Book of Mormon.

[Here I showed the first five editions of the Book of Mormon with remarks along the following lines.  I explained why I bought many copies of each edition.]

I bought a stack of the first edition Book of Mormon printed in 1830 in Palmyra.  This one [held up] is the printer’s own copy.

[I explained the variations in the text because proofreading and correcting continued during printing of the 2,500 sheets, and then the sheets were rotated and flipped while proofreading and correcting continued on the other side of the page in reverse order, and  finally the 37 sheets were gathered for each individual book from scrambled stacks].

I preserved the corrected edition from Kirtland in 1837, typeset under Oliver Cowdery, the scribe from the original manuscripts which he and Joseph Smith reconciled with the first edition.  This one [held up] is Joseph Smith’s copy.

[I explained how the 1837 edition is like a manuscript to us because corrections were made with movable lead type pieces by the scribe that are not in his manuscripts].

I bought the apostles’ 1841 British edition of the Kirtland version.  This one [held up] is the artist Sutcliffe Maudsley’s copy, with his drawing of Joseph Smith penned into the front.

[I explained that the 1841 edition was an anglicized Kirtland version and was reprinted through the 1840s, 1850s, and 1860s in Liverpool, and then was the basis for the Utah version from 1871 to 1981.]

I preserved the 1840 revised edition from Nauvoo, typeset by Don Carlos Smith, the younger brother of Joseph [held up].

[I explained the Joseph Smith’s 1840 Nauvoo revisions which were absent from Utah editions from 1871 to 1981.]

I bought the 1842 edition, printed by Joseph Smith in just a handful of copies, the rarest edition of all.  This one [held up] is Joseph Smith’s copy, and he considered it flawless.  The Nauvoo version is my favorite version.

[I explained how the editions became progressively more accurate, not less accurate, and my purposes in preserving all the editions to understand the evolution of the text.]

[Here I quickly showed an 1835 Kirtland Doctrine & Covenants and 1835 Kirtland hymn book.]

The Book of Mormon successfully reconciles and fuses the Old and New Testaments.  One of the most influential books on my thinking on this was a Scottish tract entitled, A Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records.  In 1840, it was the first appearance in print of Joseph Smith’s First Vision.  I discovered and bought the only two known copies of the first edition in its complete original state.  A version of it was the first book I reprinted, in 1982.  I gave the last of those replica copies away at the annual SantaCaliGon Days Festival in the 1980s and 1990s.

That litle tract taught me to recognize in the Book of Mormon what I think is one of its most distinctive solutions, overlooked by both longstanding members and potential converts, which is its capacity to align and harmonize the juxtaposition of Old Testament vs. New Testament, justice vs. mercy, laws vs. the Holy Ghost, ordinances vs. gifts, faith vs. works, prophets vs. apostles, Abraham vs. Peter, Moses vs. Christ, and so forth.  In so doing, it also makes Temples and Tabernacles into Christian, makes Melchizedek Priesthood and Aaron Priesthood into Christian, and even makes the sacred powerful objects of Moses into Christian—and makes Adam, Enoch, and the Patriarchs themselves into Christian.  Thus, the Book of Mormon uniquely defends the concept of one true, unchanging, and eternal god as depicted in both the law and the gospel.  Most importantly, it makes the fullness of the gospel into an eternal, changeless, and true gospel of Jesus Christ that is universal and consistent for all generations.