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

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

Page had got in his possession, a certain stone, by which he had obtained to certain <two>  revelations, concerning the upbuilding of Zion, the order of the Church &c &c, all  of which were entirely at variance with the order of Gods house, as laid down  in the new Testament, as well as in our late revelations.

September 1830

As a conference meeting had been appointed for the first day of September, I  thought it wisdom not to do much more than to converse with the brethren on the  subject, untill the conference should meet. Finding however that many  (especially the Whitmer family and Oliver Cowdery) were believing much in the  things set forth by this stone, we thought best to enquire of the Lord concerning so im portant a matter, and before conference convened, we received the following,
Revelation to Oliver Cowdery, Given at Fayette, N,Y, September 1830.
1 Behold I say unto thee, Oliver, that it shall be given unto thee, that thou shalt  be heard by the church, in all things whatsoever thou shalt teach them by the comforter,  concerning the revelations and commandments which I have given.
2 But behold, verily, verily I say unto thee, no one shall be appointed to receive com mandments and revelations in this church, excepting my servant Joseph Smith Jr,  for he receiveth them even as Moses; and thou shalt be obedient unto the things which  I shall give unto him, even as Aaron, to declare faithfully the commandments and  the revelations, with power and authority unto the church. And if thou art led at  any time by the comforter to speak or teach, or at all times by the way of command ment unto the church, thou mayest do it. But thou shalt not write by way of com mandment, but by wisdom: And thou shalt not command him who is at thy head,  and at the head of the Church; for I have given him the keys of the mysteries and the  revelations which are sealed, untill I shall appoint unto them another in his stead.
3 And now, behold I say unto you, that you shall go unto the Lamanites, and  preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive their <thy> teachings, thou  shalt cause my church to be established among them, and thou shalt have revelations  but write them not by way of commandment. And now behold I say unto  you, that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city shall be built, but  it shall be given hereafter. Behold I say unto you, that it shall be on the borders  by the Lamanites.
4 Thou shalt not leave this place until after conference, and my servant Joseph  shall be appointed to preside over the conference by the voice of it, and what he  saith to thee, thou shalt tell. And again, thou shalt take thy brother Hiram  Page between him and thee alone, and tell him that those things which he hath  written from that stone are not of me, and that Satan deceiveth him: for behold  these things have not been appointed unto him: neither shall any thing be appoin ted unto any of this church, contrary to the church covenants, for all things must [p. 54]
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.