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“Church History,” 1 March 1842

heavenly vision and saw two glorious  personages who exactly resembled each  other in features, and likeness, surround ed with a brilliant light which eclipsed the  sun at noon-day.4

JS identified these two personages as God the Father and Jesus Christ. (JS History, vol. A-1, 3; see also JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 3; JS, Journal, 9–11 Nov. 1835; and JS, “Latter Day Saints,” p. 405.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). CHL. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

JS History, ca. Summer 1832 / Smith, Joseph. “A History of the Life of Joseph Smith Jr,” ca. Summer 1832. In Joseph Smith, “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835, 1–[6] (earliest numbering). Joseph Smith Collection. CHL.

Rupp, Israel Daniel, ed. He Pasa Ekklesia [The Whole Church]: An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, Contains Authentic Accounts of Their Rise, Progress, Statistics and Doctrines. Written Expressly for the Work by Eminent Theological Professors, Ministers, and Lay-Members, of the Respective Denominations. Projected, Compiled and Arranged by I. Daniel Rupp, of Lancaster, Pa. Philadelphia: J. Y. Humphreys; Harrisburg: Clyde and Williams, 1844.

They told me that all  religious denominations were believing in  incorrect doctrines, and that none of them  was acknowledged of God as his church  and kingdom. And I was expressly com manded to “go not after them,”5

See Luke 17:23.  

 
at the  same time receiving a promise that the  fulness of the gospel should at some future  time be made known unto me.
On the evening of the 21st of Septem ber, A. D. 1823, while I was praying  unto God, and endeavoring to exercise  faith in the precious promises of scripture  on a sudden a light like that of day, only  of a far purer and more glorious appear ance, and brightness burst into the room,  indeed the first sight was as though the  house was filled with consuming fire; the  appearance produced a shock that affected  the whole body; in a moment a personage  stood before me surrounded with a glory  yet greater than that with which I was  already surrounded.6

JS also recounted this experience in JS History, ca. Summer 1832, 4; JS, Journal, 9–11 Nov. 1835; JS History, vol. A-1, 4–7; and JS, “Latter-day Saints.” He previously identified the messenger as Moroni. ([JS], Editorial, Elders’ Journal, July 1838, 42–44.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS History, ca. Summer 1832 / Smith, Joseph. “A History of the Life of Joseph Smith Jr,” ca. Summer 1832. In Joseph Smith, “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835, 1–[6] (earliest numbering). Joseph Smith Collection. CHL.

JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). CHL. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

Rupp, Israel Daniel, ed. He Pasa Ekklesia [The Whole Church]: An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, Contains Authentic Accounts of Their Rise, Progress, Statistics and Doctrines. Written Expressly for the Work by Eminent Theological Professors, Ministers, and Lay-Members, of the Respective Denominations. Projected, Compiled and Arranged by I. Daniel Rupp, of Lancaster, Pa. Philadelphia: J. Y. Humphreys; Harrisburg: Clyde and Williams, 1844.

Elders’ Journal of the Church of Latter Day Saints. Kirtland, OH, Oct.–Nov. 1837; Far West, MO, July–Aug. 1838.

This messenger  proclaimed himself to be an angel of God  sent to bring the joyful tidings, that the  covenant which God made with ancient  Israel was at hand to be fulfilled, that  the preparatory work for the second com ing of the Messiah was speedily to com mence; that the time was at hand for the  gospel, in all its fulness to be preached in  power, unto all nations that a people  might be prepared for the millennial  reign.
I was informed that I was chosen to be  an instrument in the hands of God to  bring about some of his purposes in this  glorious dispensation.
I was also informed concerning the ab original inhabitants of this country, and  shown who they were, and from whence  they came; a brief sketch of their origin,  progress, civilization, laws, governments,  of their righteousness and iniquity, and  the blessings of God being finally with drawn from them as a people was made  known unto me: I was also told where  there was deposited some plates on  which were engraven an abridgement of  the records of the ancient prophets that  had existed on this continent. The an gel appeared to me three times the same  night and unfolded the same things. Af ter having received many visits from the  angels of God unfolding the majesty, and  glory of the events that should transpire  in the last days, on the morning of the  22d of September A. D. 1827, the an gel of the Lord delivered the records into  my hands.7

Much of the following account of the gold plates quotes Orson Pratt’s Interesting Account.  

 
These records were engraven on plates  which had the appearance of gold, each  plate was six inches wide and eight in ches long and not quite so thick as com mon tin. They were filled with engra vings, in Egyptian characters and bound  together in a volume, as the leaves of a  book with three rings running through  the whole. The volume was something  near six inches in thickness, a part of  which was sealed. The characters on  the unsealed part were small, and beau tifully engraved. The whole book exhib ited many marks of antiquity in its  construction and much skill in the art of  engraving. With the records was found  a curious instrument which the ancients  called “Urim and Thummim,” which  consisted of two transparent stones set in  the rim of a bow fastened to a breast plate.
Through the medium of the Urim and  Thummim I translated the record by the  gift, and power of God.
In this important and interesting book  the history of ancient America is unfold ed, from its first settlement by a colony  that came from the tower of Babel, at  the confusion of languages to the begin ning of the fifth century of the Christian  era. We are informed by these records  that America in ancient times has been  inhabited by two distinct races of people.  The first were called Jaredites and came  directly from the tower of Babel. The  second race came directly from the city  of Jerusalem, about six hundred years  before Christ. They were principally Is raelites, of the descendants of Joseph.  The Jaredites were destroyed about the  time that the Israelites came from Jeru salem, who succeeded them in the inheri tance of the country. The principal  nation of the second race fell in battle to wards the close of the fourth century.  The remnant are the Indians that now  inhabit this country. This book also tells  us that our Saviour made his appearance  upon this continent after his resurrection,  that he planted the gospel here in all its  fulness, and richness, and power, and  blessing; that they had apostles, prophets,  pastors, teachers and evangelists; the  same order, the same priesthood, the [p. 707]
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In 1842, Boston lawyer George Barstow asked his friend John Wentworth, owner and editor of the weekly Chicago Democrat, to write to JS requesting a summary of the doctrines and history of the Latter-day Saints. Barstow was working on a history of New Hampshire, and he sought information about the Mormons for possible inclusion in the book. Barstow ultimately made 1819 the closing date of his study, and because the Mormons did not organize as a church until 1830, they did not have a place in his volume. JS’s essay was published instead as “Church History” in the church’s newspaper Times and Seasons.1

George Barstow, The History of New Hampshire from Its Discovery, in 1614, to the Passage of the Toleration Act, in 1819 (Concord, NH: I. S. Boyd, 1842). Barstow’s initial interest in Mormonism may have been prompted by recent Latter-day Saint missionary activity and church growth in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. (See Eli P. Maginn, Salem, MA, to JS, Nauvoo, IL, 22 Mar. 1842, Times and Seasons, 2 May 1842, 3:778–779; see also Williams, “Missionary Movements of the LDS Church in New England,” 128–133, 147–156.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Barstow, George. The History of New Hampshire: From Its Discovery, in 1614, to the Passage of the Tolerant Act, in 1819. Concord, NH: I. S. Boyd, 1842.

Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

Williams, Richard Shelton. “The Missionary Movements of the LDS Church in New England, 1830–1850.” Master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1969.

Opportunities for favorable treatment of the church in non-Mormon publications were rare, and some previous attempts had not been entirely successful. On 4 January 1833, JS wrote a letter to Noah C. Saxton, editor of the New York newspaper American Revivalist, and Rochester Observer. JS told Saxton that the letter had been written “by the commandment of God” and asked the editor to publish the entire letter, but Saxton published only excerpts. JS wrote again on 12 February 1833 asking that the whole of his previous letter be “laid before the public,” but Saxton did not publish it.2

“Mormonism,” American Revivalist, and Rochester [NY] Observer, 2 Feb. 1833, [2]; JS, Kirtland, OH, to Noah C. Saxton, Rochester, NY, 4 Jan. 1833, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 14–18; JS, Kirtland, OH, to Noah C. Saxton, Rochester, NY, 12 Feb. 1833, in JS Letterbook 1, p. 28.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

American Revivalist and Rochester Observer. Rochester, NY. 1827–1833.

JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL.

In 1836, in a volume titled The Religious Creeds and Statistics of Every Christian Denomination in the United States and British Provinces, editor John Hayward included a summary of the Book of Mormon and short excerpts from the Doctrine and Covenants as well as a statement of beliefs furnished by church member Joseph Young, but these materials were bracketed by negative statements from Isaac Hale (the father of JS’s wife Emma Smith) and from the skeptical Hayward.3

Hayward, Religious Creeds and Statistics, 130–142. In 1842 Hayward published The Book of Religions; Comprising the Views, Creeds, Sentiments, or Opinions, of All the Principal Religious Sects in the World, Particularly of All Christian Denominations in Europe and America; to Which Are Added Church and Missionary Statistics, together with Biographical Sketches (Boston: John Hayward, 1842). After referring to the material on “Mormonites” in his 1836 volume, Hayward excerpted passages from “Church History.” (Hayward, Book of Religions, 260–266.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Hayward, John. The Religious Creeds and Statistics of Every Christian Denomination in the United States and British Provinces. With Some Account of the Religious Sentiments of the Jews, American Indians, Deist, Mahometans, &c. Boston: By the author, 1836.

Hayward, John. Book of Religions; Comprising the Views Creeds, Sentiments, or Opinions, of All the Principal Religious Sects in the World, Particularly of All Christian Denominations in Europe and America; To Which Are Added Church and Missionary Statistics, Together with Biographical Sketches. Boston: John Hayward, 1842.

In 1839, the editor of the St. Louis Gazette asked church apostle John Taylor for an article about the church but then declined to print it; Taylor published the history himself as A Short Account of the Murders, Roberies, Burnings, Thefts, and Other Outrages Committed by the Mob and Militia of the State of Missouri, upon the Latter Day Saints.4

John Taylor, A Short Account of the Murders, Roberies, Burnings, Thefts, and Other Outrages Committed by the Mob and Militia of the State of Missouri, upon the Latter Day Saints. The Persecutions They Have Endured for Their Religion, and Their Banishment from That State by the Authorities Thereof ([Springfield, IL]: [By the author], [1839]).
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Taylor, John. A Short Account of the Murders, Roberies, Burnings, Thefts, and Other Outrages Committed by the Mob and Militia of the State of Missouri, Upon the Latter Day Saints. Springfield, IL: By the author, 1839.

JS responded to Wentworth’s request with a “sketch of the rise, progress, persecution, and faith of the Latter-Day Saints.” In this history, which later came to be known among Latter-day Saints as the “Wentworth letter,” JS recounted his first vision of Deity and the production of the Book of Mormon. He also included a thirteen-point summary of Latter-day Saint beliefs, known today as the Articles of Faith.5

In 1851, Franklin D. Richards published the Articles of Faith as part of a pamphlet titled The Pearl of Great Price: Being a Choice Selection from the Revelations, Translations, and Narrations of Joseph Smith, First Prophet, Seer, and Revelator to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The entire Pearl of Great Price, including the Articles of Faith, was canonized as scripture in 1880. (See Crawley, Descriptive Bibliography, 2:234–238; see also Whittaker, “Articles of Faith,” 63–78.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

The Pearl of Great Price: Being A Choice Selection from the Revelations, Translations, and Narrations of Joseph Smith, First Prophet, Seer, and Revelator to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Liverpool: Published by F. D. Richards, 1851.

Crawley, Peter. A Descriptive Bibliography of the Mormon Church. 2 vols. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997, 2005.

Whittaker, David J. “The ‘Articles of Faith’ in Early Mormon Literature and Thought.” In New Views of Mormon History: A Collection of Essays in Honor of Leonard J. Arrington, edited by Davis Bitton and Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, 63–92. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1987.

As he had done when he wrote Saxton nine years earlier, JS asked that Barstow “publish the account entire, ungarnished, and without misrepresentation.”6

JS, “Church History,” 706.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

The essay appeared under the title “Church History” in the 1 March 1842 issue of the Nauvoo, Illinois, Times and Seasons.7

The issue was published no earlier than 2 March, when JS read the proof sheets. (JS, Journal, 2 Mar. 1842.)  

 
No manuscript copy has been located, and it is not known how much of the history was originally written or dictated by JS. “Church History” echoes some wording from Orson Pratt’s A[n] Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions, and of the Late Discovery of Ancient American Records. Pratt’s summary of church beliefs, upon which JS drew for the list of thirteen church beliefs in “Church History,” was in turn based on a theological summary written by Parley P. Pratt.8

See Pratt and Higbee, An Address . . . to the Citizens of Washington,; compare Pratt, Late Persecution of the Church, iii–xiii.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Pratt, Parley P., and Elias Higbee. An Address by Judge Higbee and Parley P. Pratt, Ministers of the Gospel, of the Church of Jesus Christ of “Latter-day Saints,” to the Citizens of Washington, and to the Public in General. N.p., 1840.

Pratt, Parley P. Late Persecution of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter Day Saints. Ten Thousand American Citizens Robbed, Plundered, and Banished; Others Imprisoned, and Others Martyred for Their Religion. With a Sketch of Their Rise, Progress and Doctrine. By P. P. Pratt, Minister of the Gospel, Written in Prison. New York: J. W. Harrison, 1840.

Other individuals may have been involved in compiling the essay, including Willard Richards, who wrote extensively as JS’s scribe during this period. Because William W. Phelps revised and expanded the text of “Church History” a year later in answer to a request from editor Israel Daniel Rupp, it is possible that Phelps helped compose the original essay. However, Phelps’s active role as scribe and composer for JS apparently did not commence until late 1842.
Whatever his debt to Phelps, Pratt, or others, JS took responsibility for “Church History” when it was published in the Times and Seasons. His name appears as author, and a note below his name further confirms his approval: “This paper commences my editorial career, I alone stand responsible for it, and shall do for all papers having my signature henceforward.”9

“To Subscribers,” Times and Seasons, 1 Mar. 1842, 3:710; see also Woodruff, Journal, 3 Feb. 1842.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. Also available as Wilford Woodruff’s Journals, 1833–1898, edited by Scott G. Kenney, 9 vols. (Midvale, UT: Signature Books, 1983–1985).

When the history was updated and sent to Rupp for publication, JS again accepted responsibility for the text.

Facts