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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]

made me lie next the wall; He then laid himself down by me, and put his arm  around me; and upon my moving in the least, would clench me fast, fearing  that I intended to escape from him: And in this (not very <dis>agreeable) manner did we  pass the night.— Next day I was brought before the Magistrate’s  Court of [blank], Broom Co, and put upon my trial. My former faithful friends  and lawyers were again at my side, my former persecutors were arrayed against  me. Many witnesses were again called forward and examined; some of whom  swore to the most palpable falsehoods, and like to the false witnesses which had ap peared against me the day previous; they contradicted themselves so plainly, that  the Court would not admit their testimony. Others were called who shewed by  their zeal, that they were willing enough to prove something against me; but all they  could do, was to tell somethings which some body else had told them. In this  “frivolous and vexatious” manner did they proceed for a considerable time, when  finally Newel Knight was called up, and examined by Lawyer [William] Seymour, who  had been especially sent for on this occasion. One Lawyer Burch, also was on the  side of the prosecution; but Mr Seymour seemed to <be> a more zealous Presbyterian,  and appeared very anxious and determined that the people should not be deluded by  any one professing the power of Godliness; and not “denying the power thereof.”
So soon as Mr Knight had been <was> sworn, <&> Mr Seymour proceeded to interrogate him  as follows. Q— Did the prisoner, Joseph Smith, Jr cast the devil out of you?  Ansr No sir. Q— Why, have not you had the devil cast out of you? Ansr Yes  Sir. Q And did he not cast Q— And had not Joe Smith some hand in its  being done? Ansr Yes Sir. Q And did not he cast him out of you? Ansr No Sir  it was done by the power of God, and Joseph Smith was the instrument in the hands  of God on the occasion; He commanded him <to come> out of me in the name of Jesus Christ.
Q, And are you sure that it was the devil? Ansr Yes Sir. Q Did you  see him, after he was cast out of you? Ansr Yes Sir I saw him. Q Pray, what  did he look like?— (Here one of my lawyers, informed the witness that he need  not answer the question,) The witness replied, I believe I need not answer your last  question, but I will do it, provided I be allowed to ask you one question first, and you  answer me. Viz: Do you, Mr Seymour, understand the things of the Spirit? No  (answered Mr Seymour) I do not pretend to such big things. Well then (replied  Knight,) it would be of no use to tell you what the devil looked like, for it was a  a spiritual sight, and spiritually discerned; and of course you would not under stand it, were I to tell you of it. The Lawyer dropped his head, whilst the  loud laugh of the audience proclaimed his discomfiture. Mr Seymour now  addressed the court, and in a long and violent harangue endeavored to blacken my charac ter and bring me in guilty of the charges which had been brought against me; among other  things, he brought up the story of my having been a money digger, and in this manner  proceeded, in hopes to influence the court and the people against me. Mr Davidson [p. 46]
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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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