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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]

death, that I may live and bring souls unto thee. And the Lord said unto me, Verily, verily  I say unto thee, because thou desiredst this, thou shalt tarry untill I come in my glory, and  shall prophesy before nations, kindreds, tongues and people.
And for this cause the Lord said unto Peter, If I will that he tarry till  I come, what is that to thee? For he desiredst of me that he might bring souls unto me; but  thou desiredst that thou might speedily come into my kingdom unto me in my kingdom.  I say unto thee, Peter, this was a good desire, but my beloved has desired, that he might  do more, or a greater work, yet among men than what he has before done; yea he  has undertaken a greater work; therefore, I will make him as flaming fire and a  ministring angel: he shall minister for those who shall be heirs of salvation who dwell  on the earth; and I will make thee a <to> minister for him and for thy brother James: and  unto you three I will give this power and the keys of this ministry untill I come.
Verily I say unto you, ye shall both have according to your desires, for ye both  joy in that which you have desired.
Whilst continuing the work of translation during this <the> month of April; Oliver  Cowdery became exceedingly anxious to have the power to translate bestowed upon him  and in relation to this desire the folowing revelations were obtained.
Revelation given April 1829.
Oliver Cowdery, verily, verily I say unto you that assuredly as the Lord liveth  who is your God and your Redeemer, even so sure shall you receive a knowledge of  whatsoever things you shall ask in faith, with an honest heart, believing that you  shall recieve a knowledge concerning the engravings of old records, which were ancient  which contain those parts of my scripture of which have been spoken, by the manifes tation of my spirit; yea, behold I will tell you in your mind and in in your heart by  the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you, and which shall dwell in your heart.
Now behold this is the Spirit of Revelation: behold this is the Spirit by which  Moses brought the children of Israel through the red sea on dry ground: therefore  this is thy gift; apply unto it and blessed art thou, for it shall deliver you out of the  hands of your enemies, when, if it were not so, they would slay you and bring your  soul to destruction. O remember these words, and keep my command ments.— Remember this is your gift. Now this is not all your <thy> gift: for you have another  gift, which is the gift of Aaron: behold it has told you many things: behold there  is no other power save the power of God, that can cause this gift of Aaron to be  with you; therefore, doubt not, for it is the gift of God, and you shall hold it in your  hands, and do marvelous works; and no power shall be able to take it away from  out of your hands: for it is the work of God. And therefore whatsoever you shall  ask me to tell you by that means, that will I grant unto you, and you shall  have knowledge concerning it: remember, that without faith you can do nothing.  Therefore ask in faith. Trifle not in <with> these things: do not ask for that which you ought not  ask that you may know the mysteries of God, and that you may translate and [p. 16]
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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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