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

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

to us from Jefferson City— <and reported that Govr. Duncan [Daniel Dunklin] refused to fulfil his promise to reinstate the brethren on their land in Jackson  County on the ground of impracticability. We> crossed the Chariton River at its mouth, and encamped on the west  bank— Bishop [Edward] Partridge came into the Camp from Clay County— we received much information  from him concerning the hostile feelings and prejudices that existed against us in Missouri  in all quarters <but it gave us great satisfaction to receive intelligence from him of the union and good feeling that prevailed among the brethren> as we were in perils, and threatened all the while— we were much troubled  to get provisions and had to live principally on corn meal and was glad to get that— Here  Dean Gould was baptized by Lyman Wight
Monday 16 Travelled to, ferried over, and encamped on the bank of Grand River, the Ferryman intended  charging seventeen dollars, the brethren said they would not pay it, but would sooner make a  raft and ferry themselves over, he then agreed to take them over for twelve dollars which we  accepted— this morning was excessively hot, no air stirring, and travelling in the thick woods, a thunder  shower coming on, the brethren caught all the water they could on the brims of their hats, and not catching  enough to satisfy their thirst they drank out of the horse tracks— Martin Harris having  boasted to the brethren that he could handle snakes with perfect safety, while fooling with a black snake  with his bare feet, he received a bite on his left foot, it was communicated to me, and I took occasion  to reprove him, and exhort the brethren never to trifle with the promses of God— I told them it was  presumption for any one to provoke a serpent to bite him, but if a man of God was accidentally  bitten by a poisonous serpent, he might have faith, or his brethren might have faith for him, so that  the Lord would hear his prayer and he might be healed— but when a man designedly provokes  a serpent to bite him, the principle is the same, as when a man drinks deadly poison knowing  it to be such— in that case no man has any claim on the promises of God to be healed— (Page 491#)

Addenda, Note 15 • 17–19 June 1834

<Note 15.> Tuesday 17. about <At> noon we crossed the Wacondah, it being high, we had to be ferried over, we were—  informed here, that a party of men were gathered together on the Missouri River, with the intention  of attacking us that night. The prairie ahead of us was twenty three miles long without any timber  or <palatable, healthy,> water, some of the brethren wished to stop near the timber and were about making arrangments  to pitch their tents, we had but little provisions— I proposed to get some wood and water <to> carry with  us, and go on the Prairie 8 or 10 miles— my brother Hyrum [Smith] said he knew in the name of the  Lord, that it was best to go on to the Prairie, and as he was my Elder Brother I thought best to  heed his counsel, though some were murmuring in the Camp— we accordingly started. When  Lyman Wight crossed the River, he disapproved of our moving on to the Prairie, upon which Sylvester  Smith who had been appointed Adjutant of the Camp, placed himself in the road, turned back all  that he could by saying “are you following your General or some other man,” and some twenty staid  behind with Lyman Wight— we drove about 8 miles on the Prairie and encamped out of sight  of Timber, the sun apparently went down, and rose again in the Grass— our company had filled  a couple of empty Powder Kegs with Water, it tasted so bad we could not drink it, and all that the water  that we had was out of a Slough filled with red living animals, and was putrid— about Eleven o clock  Lyman Wight arrived with the company that had remained with him— I called them together and  reproved them for tarrying behind, and not obeying my council, and told Lyman Wight never to do so  again, he promised that he would stand by me for ever, and never forsake me again let the—  consequence be what it would— but Sylvester Smith manifested very refractory feelings.
Wednesday 18. as Hyrum [Hiram] Stratton and his companion were taking up their blankets this morning they [p. 14 [addenda]]
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.