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

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

and the manifestations of my blessings upon his works.
3 For behold I will bless all those that <who> labour in my vineyard, with a mighty  blessing, and they shall believe on his words, which are given through me, by the  Comforter, which manifesteth that Jesus was crucified by sinful men for the sins  of the world; yea, for the remission of sins unto the contrite heart. Wherefore, it be hooveth me, that he should be ordained by you, Oliver Cowdery, mine apostle;  this being an ordinance unto you, that you are an elder under his hand, he being  the first unto you, that you might be an elder unto this Church of Christ, bearing  my name; and the first preacher of this Church, unto the Church, and before the  world; yea, before the Gentiles: yea, and thus saith the Lord God, lo, lo, to the Jews  also. Amen.
We now proceeded to call out and ordain some others of the  brethren to different offices of the Priesthood, according as the Spirit manifested unto us;  and after a happy time spent in witnessing and feeling for ourselves the mercies <powers  &> the blessings of the Holy Ghost, through the grace of God bestowed upon us, we  dismissed with the pleasing knowledge that we were now individually, members  of, and acknowledged of God, “The Church of Jesus Christ,” organized in accord ance with commandments and revelations, given by him to ourselves, in these last days,  as well as according to the order of the Church as recorded of in the New Testament.

April 1830

Several persons who had attended the above meeting, and  got convinced of the truth, came forward shortly after, and were received into the  church, among the rest My own Father and Mother were baptized to my  great joy and consolation, and about the same time Martin Harris and a  [blank] <Orrin Porter> Rockwell.
Revelation to the Church of Christ, which was established  in these last days, in the year of our Lord One thousand eight hundred and thirty: Given  <at> Manchester New York, April 1830, in consequence of some desiring to unite with the Church  without re-baptism, who had previously been baptized.
1 Behold I say unto you, that all old covenants have I caused to be done away in this  thing, and this is a new and an everlasting covenant; even that which was from the  beginning.— Wherefore, although a man should be baptized an hundred times,  it availeth not him nothing; for you cannot enter in at the strait gate by the law of  Moses, neither by your dead works; for it is because of your dead works, that I have  caused this last covenant, and this church to be built up unto me; even as in days  of old. Wherefore enter ye in at the gate, as I have commanded, and seek not to  counsel your God. Amen.
The following persons being anxious to know  of the Lord what might be their respective duties, in relation to this work, I enquired  of the Lord and received for them the following——
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.