31772

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

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

many minutes engaged in prayer when presently we beheld a light above us  in the air of exceeding brightness, and behold, an angel stood before us; in his  hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of:  he turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discern the  engravings thereon distinctly: He addressed himself to David Whitmer, and said,  David, blessed is the Lord, and he that keeps all his commandments:” when  immediately afterwards we heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying  “These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated  by the power of God; the translation of them which you have seen is correct, and  I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear”.— I now left  David and Oliver, and went in pursuit of Martin Harris, who I found at a  considerable distance fervently engaged in prayer; he soon told me however that  he had not yet prevailed with the Lord, and earnestly requested me, to join him  in prayer, that he also might realize the same blessings which we had just  recieved: we accordingly joined in prayer, and ultimately obtained our desires,  for before we had yet finished, the same vision was opened to our view; at least  it was again to me, and I once more beheld, and seen, and heard the same  things; whilst at the same moment, Martin Harris cried out, apparently  in an ecstasy of Joy “’Tis enough, ’tis enough; mine eyes have beheld, mine  eyes have beheld”, and jumping up he shouted, Hosanna, blessing God; and  otherwise rejoiced exceedingly. Having thus through the mercy of God, obtained  these glorious manifestations, it now remained for these three individuals to  fulfil the commandment which they had received, viz: to bear record of these  things; in order to accomplish which, they drew up and subscribed the  following document.
The Testimony of Three Witnesses.
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work  shall come, that we through the grace of God the Father, and our lord Jesus Christ, have  seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and  also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from  the tower of which has hath been spoken; and we also know that they have been translated by the  gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of  a surety, that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings  which are upon the plates; and they have been shewn unto us by the power of God  and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God  came down from Heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and  saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace  of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record  that these things are true; and it is marvelous in our eyes, nevertheless, the voice [p. 25]
PreviousNext
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.

Facts