The first of seven posts, following an introduction posted last week.
Effectively, Mormonism begins with the publication of a book.
The publication of the Book of Mormon in 1830 gave the nascent Church content and direction–content in the form of a tangible object that could be delivered to investigators, and direction in the form of a stated goal to preach the gospel to all the world. Since religious and political tracts were already in widespread use in the U.S. (Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, for example), early members and missionaries knew the power of the written word.
However, the publication of other LDS works was anything but certain. The Church membership was initially drawn from the so-called primitive gospel movement, a diverse group of independent efforts to return to the original, primitive, Christian faith. Like these efforts, early Church members were anticreedal: reacting to the conflicts among established churches by rejecting anything but the most fundamental principles gleaned from the scriptures. As a result, anything that might be seen as a statement of doctrine outside of the scriptures, including books and tracts, was viewed with suspicion.
The Latter-day Saints, unlike these other “primitive gospel” groups, did accept other scripture, so publishing during the first four years of Mormonism was limited to new scripture (the Book of Mormon and Book of Commandments) and newspapers (The Evening and Morning Star, Upper Missouri Advertiser and Messenger and Advocate). The following year brought a hymnal, a volume of poetry (Pratt’s The Millennium) and the first tract–an account of how Parley P. Pratt was mistreated while trying to preach the gospel. But no doctrinal works or missionary tracts.
It wasn’t until after 1835 that Mormonism started to produce tracts for missionary work, along with administrative and creative works. The publication of Parley P. Pratt’s highly successful A Voice of Warning in 1837 clearly demonstrated the value of these other works and opened a floodgate of pamphlets and books. Where Mormonism produced just a handful of works each year prior to 1840, starting that year output tripled.
Once this barrier to doctrinal works had fallen, members and missionaries felt free to publish almost anything they wished. Many missionaries and enthusiastic converts wrote and published their own books and tracts and sometimes even their own periodicals, printing and selling them or soliciting donations to cover their expenses. This freedom led to the chaotic situation that Pratt described in his regulations (see last week’s Introduction for this description).While Pratt’s regulations didn’t specify it, the Church had experienced difficulties with some of those publishing in its name: Benjamin Winchester in Philadelphia, publisher of the Gospel Reflector newspaper, had proved hard to control and Pratt published his regulations after coming to New York to oust William Smith, the prophet’s younger brother, from running The Prophet. Even official actions were sometimes hard to coordinate, as when Brigham Young based the 1841 European edition of the Book of Mormon on the 2nd American edition (1837) instead of the 3rd edition (1840), about which he apparently was ignorant.
Pratt’s regulations specified for the first time that official Mormon publications would come from three places: Nauvoo (where John Taylor edited the Times and Seasons), New York (where Pratt operated the New York Prophet) and England (where Wilford Woodruff edited the Millennial Star). However, this arrangement was short lived. In just a year both the Times and Seasons and The Prophet were shuttered as part of the migration to Utah. This left the Millennial Star as the principle LDS publication, and England as the official publishing center for the LDS Church.
Despite the regulations, publishing of Mormon materials still continued, at least among members who followed splinter groups or who chose to ignore Pratt’s regulation. Officially, outside of England, Mormon publishing was very quiet.
 Whittaker, David J., “Early Mormon Pamphleteering.” Journal of Mormon History 1977.
 Crawley, Peter, “Parley P. Pratt: Father of Mormon Pamphleteering.” Dialogue, 1982.
 Whittaker, David J., “The Web of Print: Toward a History of the Book in Early Mormon Culture.” Journal of Mormon History, 1997. The first known pamphlet, written by a Mr. Hyde, is only known through a reference in the first anti-Mormon book, Eber D. Howe’s Mormonism Unveiled (Painesville, Ohio, 1834). The earliest extant tract is Orson Hyde’s A Prophetic Warning to All the Churches of Every Sect and Denomination (1836).
 Outside of scriptures and periodicals (and materials reprinted from them) Mormonism produced 4 works in 1835, 3 in 1836, 2 in 1837, 9 in 1838, 6 in 1839, 22 in 1840, 24 in 1841 and 20 in 1842 (My analysis from Flake’s Mormon Bibliography online (http://lib.byu.edu/dlib/mormon_bib/).
 “Regulations for the Publishing Department of the Latter-day Saints in the East,” New York Prophet 1 (4 January 1845), as reprinted in Times and Seasons 6 (15 January 1845).