History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834]

History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834]

selves according to the laws of man; that your enemies may not have  power over you, that you may be preserved in all things; that you  may be enabled to keep my laws, that every band may be broken  wherewith the enemy seeketh to destroy my people.
3. Behold I say unto you, that ye must visit the poor and the  needy and administer to their relief, that they may be kept un til all things may be done according to my law, which ye have  received. Amen.

7 March 1831 • Monday

At this age of the church many false reports, lies, and fo[o]lish stories  were published in the newspapers, and circulated in every direction,  to prevent people from investigating the work, or embracing the  faith. A great earth-quake in China, which destroyed from one  to two hundred thousand inhabitants, was burlesqued in some  papers, as “Mormonism in China.” But to the joy of the saints  who had to struggle against every thing that prejudice and  wickedness could invent, I received the following.
Revelation  at Kirtland, March 7. 1831. <Given to Joseph Smith, Jn—>
1. Hearken, O ye people of my church to the whom the kingdom has  been given: hearken ye and give ear to him who laid the foundation  of the earth; who made the heavens and all the hosts thereof, and  by whom all things were made which live and move and have  a being. And again I say, hearken unto my voice, lest death  shall overtake you; in an hour when ye think not the sum mer shall be past, and the harvest ended, and your souls not  saved. Listen to him who is the Advocate with Father: who is  pleading your cause before him; saying, Father behold the sufferings  and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleas ed: behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him  whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified: wherefore Fath er, spare these my brethren, that believe on my name, that  they may come to me and have everlasting life.
2. Hearken, O ye people of my church, and ye elders listen  together, and hear my voice while it is called to day and har den not your hearts: for verily I say unto you, that I am Alpha  and Omega, the beginning and the end, the light and the life of  the world; a light that shineth in darkness and the darkness  comprehendeth it not. I came to mine own and my own receive ed me not; but unto as many as received me, gave I power to  do many miracles; and to become the sons of God, and even [p. 104]
This document, volume A-1, is the first of the six volumes of the “Manuscript History of the Church.” The collection was compiled over the span of seventeen years, 1838 to 1856. Volume A-1 encompasses the period from JS’s birth in 1805 to 30 August 1834, just after the return of the Camp of Israel (later known as Zion’s Camp) from Missouri to Kirtland, Ohio. For a fuller discussion of the entire six-volume work, see the general introduction to the history.
In April 1838 JS renewed his effort to draft a “history” with the aid of his counselor Sidney Rigdon. George W. Robinson served as scribe. JS’s journal for late April and early May 1838 notes six days on which JS, Rigdon, and Robinson were engaged in “writing history.” Though not completed and no longer extant, that draft laid the foundation for what became a six-volume manuscript eventually published as the “History of Joseph Smith,” and at least a portion of its contents are assumed to have been included in the manuscript presented here.
On 11 June 1839 in Commerce, Illinois, JS once again began dictating his “history.” James Mulholland now served as scribe. Apparently the narrative commenced where the earlier 1838 draft left off. When work was interrupted in July 1839, Mulholland inscribed the draft material, including at least some of Robinson’s earlier material, into a large record book already containing the text of an incomplete history previously produced over a span of two years, 1834–1836. For the new history, Mulholland simply turned the ledger over and began at the back of the book. The volume was later labeled A-1 on its spine, identifying it as the first of multiple volumes of the manuscript history.
Prior to his untimely death on 3 November 1839, Mulholland recorded the first fifty-nine pages in the volume. Subsequently, his successor, Robert B. Thompson, contributed about sixteen more pages before his death in August 1841. William W. Phelps then added a little over seventy-five pages. However, it was not until Willard Richards was appointed JS’s “private secretary and historian” that substantial progress was made on the compilation of the history. Richards would contribute the remainder of the text inscribed in the 553-page first volume. The narrative recorded in A-1 was completed in August 1843. Thomas Bullock and Charles Wandell subsequently added sixteen pages of “Addenda” material, which provided notes, extensive revisions, or additional text to be inserted in the original manuscript where indicated. For instance, several of the addenda expanded on the account of the Camp of Israel as initially recorded.
JS dictated or supplied information for much of A-1, and he personally corrected the first forty-two pages before his death. As planned, his historian-scribes maintained the first-person, chronological narrative format initially established in the volume. When various third-person accounts were drawn upon, they were generally converted to the first person, as if JS was directly relating the account. After JS’s death, Brigham Young, Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, and others modified and corrected the manuscript as they reviewed material before its eventual publication.
Beginning in March 1842 the church’s Nauvoo periodical, the Times and Seasons, began publishing the narrative as the “History of Joseph Smith.” At the time of JS’s death only the history through December 1831 had been published. When the final issue of the Times and Seasons, dated 15 February 1846 appeared, the account had been carried forward through August 1834—the end of the material recorded in A-1. The “History of Joseph Smith” was also published in England in the church periodical the Millennial Star beginning in June 1842. Once a press was established in Utah and the Deseret News began publication, the “History of Joseph Smith” once more appeared in print in serialized form. Beginning with the November 1851 issue, the narrative picked up where the Times and Seasons had left off over five years earlier.
Aside from the material dictated or supplied by JS prior to his murder, the texts for A-1 and for the history’s subsequent volumes were drawn from a variety of primary and secondary sources including JS’s diaries and letters, minutes of meetings, the first edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, church and other periodicals, reports of JS’s discourses, and the reminiscences and recollections of church members. The narrative in A-1 provides JS’s personal account of the foundational events of his life as a prophet and the early progress of the church. It also encompasses contentions and disputations that erupted between the Latter-day Saints and their neighbors in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri. While it remains difficult to distinguish JS’s own contributions from composition of his historian-scribes, the narrative trenchantly captures the poignancy and intensity of his life while offering an enlightening account of the birth of the church he labored to establish.