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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]

soever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God, therefore, if you <will> ask  of me you shall receive; if you <will> knock and it shall be opened unto you. Now as you have  asked, behold I say unto you, keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish  the cause of Zion: seek not for riches but for wisdom, and behold the mysteries of God shall be  unfolded unto you, and then shall you be made rich. Behold he that hath eternal life is  rich. Verily, verily I say unto you, even as you desire of me, so shall it be unto you; and if  you desire, you shall be the means of doing much good in this generation. Say nothing but  repentance <un>to this generation, keep my commandments and assist to bring forth my  work according to my commandments, and you shall be blessed.
Behold thou hast a gift, and blessed art thou because of thy gift. Remember it is sac[r]ed and  cometh from above: and if thou wilt inquire, thou shalt know mysteries which are great and  marvelous: therefore thou <shalt> exercise thy gift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou  mayest bring many to the knowledge of the truth; yea, convince them of the error of their  ways. Make not thy gift known unto any save it be those of who are of thy faith. Trifle  not with sacred things. If thou wilt do good, yea and hold out faithful to the end, thou shalt  be saved in the kingdom of God, which is the greatest of all the gifts of God; for there is no  gift greater than the gift of salvation. Verily verily I say unto thee, blessed  art thou for what thou hast done, for thou hast enquired of me, and behold as often as  thou hast enquired, thou hast received instruction of my Spirit. If it had not been  so, thou wouldst not have come to the place where thou art at this time.
Behold thou knowest that thou hast inquired of me and I did enlighten thy mind  and now I tell thee these things, that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the  Spirit of truth; yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God,  that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart: I tell thee these things as a witness  unto thee, that the words or the work which thou hast been writing is true.
Therefore be diligent, stand by my servant Joseph faithfully in whatsoever  difficult circumstances he may be, for the word’s sake. Admonish him in his faults and  also receive admonition of him. Be patient; be sober; be temperate: have patience, faith,  hope and charity. Behold thou art Oliver, and I have spoken unto  thee because of thy desires; therefore, treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful  and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms  of my love. Behold I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I am the same  that came unto my own and my own received me not.— I am the light which shineth  in darkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.
Verily, verily I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the  night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truth of  these things; did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater  witness can you have than from God? And now behold you have received a witness, for  if I have told you things which no man knoweth, have you not received a witness? And  behold I grant unto you a gift, if you desire of me, to translate even as my servant Joseph.
Verily, verily I say unto you, that there are records which contain much of [p. 14]
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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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