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

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

are organized according to my laws, if otherwise they will  be cut off: wherefore let my servant Edward Partridge, and those  whom he has chosen, in whom I am well pleased, appoint unto this  people their portion, every man equal according to their families,  according to their circumstances, and their wants and needs;  and let my Servant Edward Partridge, when he shall ap point a man his portion, give unto him a writing that shall  secure to him his portion, that he shall hold it, even this right  and this inheritance in the church, until he transgresses and is  not accounted worthy by the voice of the church, to belong to acording  to the laws and covenants of the church, to belong to the  church; and if he transgress and is not accounted worthy to  belong to the church: he shall not have power to claim that portion  which he has consecrated unto the bishop for the poor and  the needy of my church: therefore he shall not retain the gift,  but shall only have claim on that portion that is deeded unto  him. And thus, all things shall be made sure according to the  laws of the lands.
2. And let that which belongs to this people, be appointed unto this peo ple; and the money which is left unto this people, let there be  an agent appointed unto this people; to take the money to pro[v]ide  food and raiment, according to the wants of this people. And  let every man deal honestly, and be alike among this people,  and receive alike, that ye may be one, even as I have com manded you.
3. And let that which belongeth to this people, not be taken and  given unto that of another church; wherefore, if another church  would receive money of this church, let them pay unto this church  again according as they shall agree; and this shall be done  through the bishop or his agent, which shall be appointed by  the voice of the church.
4. And again, let the bishop apoint a store-house unto this  church, and let all things both in money and in meat, which  is more than <is> needful for the want of this people, be kept in the  hands of the bishop. And let him also reserve unto himself,  for his own wants, and for the wants of his family, as he shall  be employed in doing this business. I thus I grant unto this  people a privelege of organizing themselves according to my  laws; and I consecrate unto them this land for a little sea [p. 117]
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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.

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