By Cecily Markland
It may well be one of the most intensely researched works about the Prophet Joseph Smith ever to be produced, providing such details as “how many divine beings the Prophet saw in his lifetime,” “what Joseph wrote as the last entry in his diary,” as well as information about places he lived and descriptions of the prophet’s physical appearance and personality traits.
500 Little-Known Facts about Joseph Smith, by authors Wayne J Lewis, Jana Cox and Lee Nelson (Cedar Fort, $17.99) is a result of years of research and combing through more than 500 books about the Prophet Joseph Smith, followed by many hours of editing, organizing and fact checking.
While many of the facts and quotes are, indeed, “little-known,” Wayne says his intent was not to merely share trivia.
“I have wanted to increase understanding and testimony of Joseph Smith … and of Emma,” he adds. “She was amazing. They both were amazing.”
The book actually began in 1975, when Wayne, a native of Mesa, was pursuing a master’s degree in Church history from Brigham Young University.
“I started researching names of people who lived during the early history of the Church,” he says. His master’s thesis identifies 6,700 names of Latter-day Saints who lived in Missouri during the 1830s.
His work toward a doctorate was temporarily shelved when Wayne suffered a heart attack, but he says, “I started working on the book again in earnest in 1980.”
Over the years, Wayne taught seminary in Mesa and Snowflake and classes in BYU’s college of Religion Education. Working in the Church’s Presiding Bishopric Office for 20 years, he was assigned to LDS Philanthropies and assisted in funding various projects for the Church and BYU. He and his wife, Maren, have 12 children and he served as a bishop and in various other callings, including as a patriarch.
Always, “I kept working on collecting statements and compiling what was said about Joseph in the 520 books I have collected about him over about 45 years,” Wayne says.
In 2009, he published a complete bibliography of the Prophet Joseph Smith. In 2010, he printed a second edition, titled Joseph Smith Bibliography, Joseph Smith A-Z Volume 1, Reference Encyclopedia.
Jana, also from Mesa, has worked for more than 30 years in the printing industry and, with her husband, Max, runs Legend eXpress Publishing. Although she has worked on the production and editing of more than 100 books, she was particularly captivated by Wayne’s collection.
“Jana caught the spirit of what I was trying to do,” Wayne says.
“I felt it was so important,” Jana says. “It provided really valuable answers and I felt it had to be out there.”
“This project has given me such a love for the prophet Joseph Smith,” she adds.
They worked with Lee Nelson, from Cedar Fort, to complete 500 Little-Known Facts, ultimately producing a well-organized book with a wealth of factual details, but also rich in the Prophet’s teachings, in the prophecies he received and miracles he performed.
Wayne has dedicated the book to his wife, who died in 2012, and to “the wives of all the Prophets, ancient and modern.” He shares more from his lifetime of research at www.JosephSmithAZ.com. 500 Little-Known Facts about Joseph Smith is available at Costco, Deseret Book, Barnes and Noble and on Amazon.com.