As the online essay of the week, I offer Church History, 1820-1831, by Richard L. Bushman and Larry C. Porter. This is a good refresher for the material covered in the first few Sunday School lessons of this year. This essay is actually an Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry, available online (as are many EOM entries) at All About Mormons. This is one of the few Bushman essays available online that I am aware of. However, a collection of Bushman essays on LDS historical themes was recently published, Believing History (Columbia Univ. Press, 2004). The first essay in that collection, entitled Faithful History, is also found as the first essay in an earlier collection by various authors, Faithful History (Signature Books, 1992).
One interesting item to note from the essay is the pace at which transcription took place when Martin Harris served as Joseph's scribe in the initial translation project. "Between April 12 and June 14, 1828, the two of them completed 116 pages of manuscript." That's about a two pages per day, roughly one-fifth the pace generally attributed to Oliver and Joseph working together a year later, when Oliver transcribed most of the entire Book of Mormon text as we have it between April and June, 1829. I've never seen any comment on the slower pace of earlier translation. Was this Joseph learning how to use the interpreters (later referred to as the Urim and Thummim)? Was this Joseph struggling to get the narrative started or, from a different perspective, struggling to get himself situated in the historical context of the translation? Was Oliver simply a more fruitful scribal collaborator? Or did Martin perhaps just write more slowly? Was the two-month period with Martin Harris intermittent, whereas with Oliver it was sustained, without breaks?