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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]

Addenda, Note D • 24 February 1834

<Note D.> Minutes of Council. Kirtland Feb’y 24, 1834.
The high council of the Church, met this day at the house of  Joseph Smith Junr, for the purpose of giving an audiance or  hearing to Lyman Wight and Parley [P.] Pratt representatives <Delegates> from  Zion <the Church in Missourie>, to represent to us the state of the Church in that place.
Joseph, the president, opened the council by prayer. Two  of the standing counsellors were absent, namely. Joseph Coe,  and John Smith. Hyrum Smith was chosen to act in  the place of John Smith, and John P Green[e] to act in the place  of Joseph Coe. Thus the high council was organized, and  six of the counsellors were appointed to speak. Brothers P. P.  Pratt and L. Wight, messengers from Zion, arose, and laid  their business before the council, and delivered their message  the substance of which, was; when, how, and by what means  Zion was to be redeemed from her enemies. They said  that our brethren who had been driven away from their lands  and scattered abroad, had found so much favor in the eyes of  the people, that they could obtain food and raiment of them for  their labor, insomuch, that they were comfortable.
But the idea of being driven away from the land of Zion,  pained their very souls, and they desired of God, by earnest prayer  to return with songs of everlasting joy, as said Isaiah, <the Prophet>
They also said, that none of their lands were sold into the  hands of our enemies, except a piece owned by brother Wm.  E. Mc. Lellin of thirty Acres, which he sold into the hands  of the enemy, and seven acres more which he would  have sold to the enemy, if a brother had not come forward  and purchased it and paid him his money.
Brother Joseph then arose, and said that he was going to Zion  to assist in redeeming it. We then called for the voice of the  council to sanction his going, which was given without a  dissenting voice. He then called for volunteers to go with him,  when some thirty or forty volunteered to go, who were then present  at the council. It was a question, whether we should go by  water or by land; and after a short investigation it was decided  unanimously that we go by land. Joseph Smith Junr  was nominated and seconded to be the commander-in-Chief  of the Armies of Israel, and the leader of those who  volunteered to go and assist in the redemtion of Zion, [p. 3 [addenda]]
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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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