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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]

1 The rise of the Church of Christ in these last days, being One thousand eight  hundred and thirty years since the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in the  flesh, it being regularly organized and established, agreeably to the laws of our country,  by the will and commandments of God in the fourth month, and on the sixth day of the  month which is called April: which commandments were given to Joseph Smith Jr  who was called of God, and ordained an apostle of Jesus Christ, to be the first Elder  of this Church: and to Oliver Cowdery, who was also called of God, an apostle of  Jesus Christ; to be the second elder of this Church, and ordained under his hand:  and this according to the grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, to whom  be all glory both now and forever. Amen.
2 After it was truly manifested unto this first elder that he had received a remission  of his sins, he was entangled again [in] the vanities of the world; but after repenting,  and humbling himself, sincerely, through faith God ministered unto him by  an holy angel, whose countenance was as lightning, and whose garments were pure  and white above all other whiteness; and gave unto him commandments, which  inspired him, and gave him power from on high, by the means which were before  prepared, to translate the Book of Mormon, which contains a record of a fallen  people, and the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, and to the Jews  also, which was given by inspiration, and is confirmed to others by the ministering  of angels, and is declared <un>to the world by them, proving to the world that the holy  Scriptures are true, and that God does inspire men, and call them to his holy work  in this age and generation, as well as in generations of old, thereby showing that  he is the same God, yesterday, today, and for ever.— Amen.
3 Therefore having so great witnesses, by them shall the world be judged, even as many  as shall here hereafter come to a knowledge of this work; and those who receive it in  faith, and work righteousness, shall receive a crown of eternal life; but those who  harden their hearts in unbelief, and reject it, it shall turn to their condemnation,  for the Lord God has spoken it; and we the elders of the Church, have read <heard> and  bear witness to the words of the glorious Majesty on high, to whom be glory forever  and ever. Amen.
4 By these things we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and  eternal, from everlasting to everlasting, the same unchangeable God, the framer  of heaven and earth and all things which are in them, and that he created man  male and female: after his own image, and in his own likeness created he them,  and gave unto them commandments, that they should love and serve him the only  true and living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom they should  worship: but by the transgression of these holy laws, man became sensual and  devilish, and became fallen man.
5 Wherefore the Almighty God gave his only begotten Son, as it is written in those  scriptures which have been given of him; he suffered temptations but gave no [p. 30]
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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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