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

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

I did and received the following
Revelation to Newel Knight, given June, 1831.
1 Behold, thus saith the Lord, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning  and the end, even he who was crucified for the sins of the world  Behold, verily, verily I say unto you, my servant Newel Knight,  you shall stand fast in the office wherewith I have appointed  you: and if your brethren desire to escape their enemies let them  repent of all their sins; and become truly humble before me, and  contrite: and as the covenant which they made unto me, has been  broken, even so it has become void and of none effect; and  wo to him by whom this offence cometh, for it had better for  him that he had been drowned in the depth of the sea; but bles sed are they who have kept the covenant, and observed the com mandment, for they shall obtain mercy.
2. Wherefore, go to now, and flee the land, lest your enemies  come upon you; And take your journey, and appoint whom  you will to be your leader, and to pay moneys for you. And  thus you shall take your journey into the regions westward,  unto the land of Missouri, unto the borders of the Lamanites and after you have done journeying, behold I say unto you,  seek ye a living like unto men, until I prepare a place  for you.
3. And again, be patient, in tribulation until I come; and  behold I came quickly, and my reward is with me, and they  who have sought me early, shall find rest to their souls:  even so: Amen.

June 1831

The elders now began to go to the western Country two and  two, according to the previous word of the Lord. From <about this time> P[arley] P.  Pratt, who had returned from this expedition <mission> of last fall. during  the Spring, we had verbal information; and from letters from  the still remaining elders we had written intelligence; and as  this was the most important subject which then engrossed  the attention of the saints, I will here insert the copy of  a letter received about this from that Section, <time we received the following Letter> dated at
Kaw township. (Mo.) May 7. 1831.
Our dearly beloved Brethren, I have nothing particular  to write as concerning the Lamanites; and because of a short  journey which I have just returned from; in consequence of  which I have not written to you, since the 16th of last [p. 122]
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.