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“Church History,” 1 March 1842

CHURCH HISTORY.
 
At the request of Mr. John Wentworth,  Editor, and Proprietor of the “Chicago  Democrat,” I have written the following  sketch of the rise, progress, persecution,  and faith of the Latter-Day Saints, of  which I have the honor, under God, of be ing the founder. Mr. Wentworth says,  that he wishes to furnish Mr. Bastow [George Barstow], a  friend of his, who is writing the history  of New Hampshire, with this document.  As Mr. Bastow has taken the proper  steps to obtain correct information all  that I shall ask at his hands, is, that he  publish the account entire, ungarnished,  and without misrepresentation.
I was born in the town of Sharon  Windsor co., Vermont, on the 23d of De cember, A. D. 1805. When ten years  old my parents removed to Palmyra  New York,1

Joseph Smith Sr. left Vermont in late summer or early fall 1816, when JS was ten years old. The rest of the Smith family joined him in Palmyra in early 1817, shortly after JS turned eleven. (Palmyra, NY, Record of Highway Taxes, 1817, Copies of Old Village Records, 1793–1867, microfilm 812,869, U.S. and Canada Record Collection, FHL; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 3, [3]–[6]; JS History, vol. A-1, 131nA.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

U.S. and Canada Record Collection. FHL.

Smith, Lucy Mack. History, 1844–1845. 18 books. CHL. Also available in Lavina Fielding Anderson, ed., Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001).

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.

where we resided about four  years, and from thence we removed to  the town of Manchester.
My father was a farmer and taught  me the art of husbandry.2

Some of the following language used to describe JS’s early visions quotes Orson Pratt’s Interesting Account.  

 
When about  fourteen years of age I began to reflect  upon the importance of being prepared  for a future state, and upon enquiring  the plan of salvation I found that there  was a great clash in religious sentiment;  if I went to one society they referred me  to one plan, and another to another; each  one pointing to his own particular creed  as the summum bonum of perfection:  considering that all could not be right,  and that God could not be the author of  so much confusion I determined to inves tigate the subject more fully, believing  that if God had a church it would not be  split up into factions, and that if he  taught one society to worship one way,  and administer in one set of ordinances,  he would not teach another principles  which were diametrically opposed. Be lieving the word of God I had confidence  in the declaration of James; “If any man  lack wisdom let him ask of God who giv eth to all men liberally and upbraideth  not and it shall be given him,”3

James 1:5.  

 
I retired  to a secret place in a grove and began to  call upon the Lord, while fervently en gaged in supplication my mind was taken  away from the objects with which I was  surrounded, and I was enwrapped in a [p. 706]
Next
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