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

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

mention here (as in duty bound) that he several times brought us supplies  (a distance of at least thirty miles) which enabled us to continue the work when  otherwise we must have relinquished it for a season. Being very anxious to know his duty as to this work, I enquired of the Lord  for him, and obtained as follows.
Revelation given to Joseph Knight Senr. at Harmony  Susquehanah County, Pennsylvania. May 1829.
1 A great and marvelous work is about to come forth among the chil dren of men: behold I am God, and give heed to my word, which is quick and  powerful, sharper than a two edged sword, to the dividing asunder of both joints  and marrow: therefore give heed unto my word.
2 Behold the field is white already to harvest, therefore whoso desireth to reap  let him thrust in his sickle with his might, and reap while the day lasts,  that he may treasure up for his soul everlasting salvation in the kingdom  of God: yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called  of God: therefore knock if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you knock it  shall be opened unto you.
3 Now as you have asked, behold I say unto you, keep my commandments  and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion.
4 Behold I speak unto you, and also to all those who have desires to bring  forth and establish this work, and no one can assist in this work, except  he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope and charity, being  temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be intrusted to his care.
5 Behold I am the light and the light <life> of the world, that speaketh  these words: therefore, give heed with your might, and then you are called.

June 1829

Shortly after commencing to translate, I became acquainted with Mr  Peter Whitmer [Sr.] of Fayette, Seneca County New York, and also with some of his  family. In the beginning of the month of June, his son, David Whitmer  came to the place where we were residing, and brought with him a two horse  waggon, for the purpose of having us accompany him to his father’s place  and there remain untill we should finish the work. He proposed that we  should have our board free of charge, and the assistance of one of his brothers to  write for me, as also his own assistance when convenient.
Having much need of such timely aid in an undertaking so arduous, and being  informed that the people of the neighborhood were anxiously the awaiting  the opportunity to enquire into these things; we accepted the invitation  and accompanied Mr Whitmer to his father’s house, and there resided [p. 21]
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.