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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]

of meekness. And thou shalt go with him at the time of his going, and be unto him  for a scribe, while there is no one to be a scribe for him, that I may send my  servant Oliver Cowdery, whithersoever I will. And thou shalt be ordained  under his hand to expound scriptures, and to exhort the Church, according as it  shall be given thee by my Spirit: for he shall lay his hands upon thee, and thou  shalt receive the Holy Ghost, and thy time shall be given to writing, and to  learning much. And thou needst not fear, for thy husband shall support  thee in the Church: for unto them is his calling, that all things might be revealed  unto them, whatsoever I will, according to their faith.
3 And verily I say unto thee, that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world,  and seek for the things of a better. And it shall be given thee, also, to make a  selection of sacred Hymns, as it shall be given thee, which is pleasing unto me,  to be had in my Church: for my soul delighteth in the song of the heart: yea, the  song of the righteous is a prayer unto me. And it shall be answered with a bless ing upon their heads.— Wherefore lift up thy heart and rejoice, and cleave unto  the covenants which thou hast made.
4 Continue in the spirit of meekness, and beware of pride. Let thy soul  delight in thy husband, and the glory which shall come upon him. Keep my  commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive.  And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come. And verily, verily  I say unto you, that this is my voice unto all. Amen.
Revelation to Joseph Smith Jr. Oliver Cowdery and John Whitmer,  given at Harmony, Penn, July 1830.
1 Behold, I say unto you, that you shall let your time be devoted to the studying of  the scriptures, and to preaching, and to confirming the Church at Colesville; and to  performing your labors on the land, such as is required, untill after you shall go to  the west, to hold the next conference, and then it shall be made known what you  shall do. And all things shall be done by common consent in the church, by  much prayer and faith; for all things you shall receive by faith. Amen.
Shortly after we had received the above revelations, Oliver Cowdery returned  to Mr Whitmers, and I began to arrange and copy the revelations which we had received  from time to time; in which I was assisted by John Whitmer, who now resided with  me. Whilst thus (and otherwise at intervals) employed in the work appointed  me, by my Heavenly Father; I received a letter from Oliver Cowdery— the contents  of which, gave me both sorrow and uneasiness. Not having that letter <now> in my poss ession, I cannot, of course give it here in full, but merely an extract of the most pro minent parts, which I can yet, and expect long to remember. He wrote to  inform me, that he had discovered an error in one of the commandments, Book [p. 50]
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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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