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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]

and Mr Reid followed on my behalf. They held forth in true colours, the nature  of the prosecution; the malignancy of intention, and the apparent disposition to  persecute their client, rather than to afford him justice. They took up the dif ferent arguments which had been brought by the lawyers for the prosecution  and having shewed their utter futility and misapplication; then proceeded to  scrutinise the evidence which had been adduced, and each in his turn, thanked  God that He had been engaged in so good a cause, as that of defending a man  whose character stood so well the test of such a strict investigation. In  fact, these men, (although not regular lawyers) were upon this occasion able  to put to silence their opponents, and convince the court that I was innocent.
They spoke like men inspired of God, whilst those who were arrayed against  me, trembled under the sound of their voices, and quailed before them like crim inals before a bar of justice.
The majority of the assembled multitude had now began to find that  nothing could be sustained against me: even the Constable who arrested <me,> and  treated me so badly— now came and apologized to me, and asked my forgiveness  <for> of <for> his behaviour towards me; and so far was he changed that he informed me  that the mob were determined, that if the Court acquitted me; that they would  have me, and rail ride me, and tar and feather me; and further, that he was  willing to favour me, and lead me out in safety by another <a private> way.
The Court finding the charges against me, not sustained, I  was accordingly acquitted, to the great satisfaction of my friends, and vexation  of my enemies, who were still determined upon molesting me, but through  the instrumentality of my new friend, the Constable; I was enabled to escape  them, and make my way in safety to my wifes sister’s house, where I found  my wife awaiting with much anxiety the issue of these <those> ungodly proceedings: and  with her in company next day arrived in safety at my own house.
After a few days however, I again returned to Colesville, in  company with Oliver Cowdery, for the purpose of confirming those whom we had  thus been forced to abandon <leave> for a time. We had scarcely arrived at Mr [Joseph] Knight’s  when the mob was seen collecting together to oppose us, and we considered it  wisdom to leave for home, which we did, without even waiting for any refresh ment. Our enemies pursued us, and it was oftentimes as much as we could do  to elude them; however we managed to get home, after having travelled all  night, except a short time, during which we were forced to rest ourselve[s] under  a large tree by the way side, sleeping and watching alternately. And thus  were we persecuted on account of our religious faith— in a country, the consti tution of which, guarantees to every man the indefeasible right, to worship God  according to the dictates of his own conscience; and by men too, who were professors [p. 47]
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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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