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 welcomed into the house of brother N[ewel] K. Whitney. I and my  wife lived in the family of Brother Whitney several weeks, and  received every kindness and attention, which could be expected,  and especially from Sister [Elizabeth Smith] Whitney. The branch of the church of  church in this part of the Lord’s vineyard, which had increased  to nearly one hundred members, were striving to do the will  of God, so far as they knew it; though some strange notions  and false spirits had crept in among them. With a little  caution, and some wisdom, I soon assisted the brethren and  sisters to overcome them. The plan of “common stock”, which  had existed in what was called “the family,” whose members  generally had embraced embraced the ever lasting gospel,  was readily abandoned for the more perfect law of the Lord:  and the false spirits were easily discerned and rejected by  the light of revelation.

4 February 1831 • Friday

The Lord gave unto the church the following revelation  at Kirtland, Ohio, February 4, 1831.
1 Hearken and hear, O ye my people, saith the Lord and your God;  ye whom I delight to bless with the greatest of all blessings; ye that  hear me: and ye that hear not will I curse, that have profess my  name, with the heaviest of all cursings. Hearken, O ye elders of my  church whom I have called; behold I give unto you a command ment, that ye shall assemble yourselves together to agree upon  my word, and by the prayer of your faith ye shall receive my  law, that ye may know how to govern my church, and have  all things right before me.
2. And I will be your Ruler when I come; and behold, I come quick ly: and ye shall see that my law is keep. He that receiveth my  law and doeth it, the same is my disciple; and he that saith he recei veth it and doeth it not, the same is not my disciple, and shall  be cast out from among you; for it is not meet that the things which  belong to the children of the kingdom, should be given to them that are  not worthy, or to dogs, or the pearls to be cast before swine.
3. And again, it is meet that my servant Joseph Smith Junr.  should have a house built, in which to live and translate.  And again, it is meet that my servant Sidney Rigdon should  live as seemeth him good, inasmuch as he keepeth my com mandments. And again, I have called my servant Edward Part ridge, and I give a commandment, that he should be ap [p. 93]
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.