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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]

my gospel, which have been kept back because of the wickedness of the people; and now I command  you, that if you have good desires, a desire to lay up treasures for yourself in heaven, then shall you  assist in bringing to light, with your gift, those parts of my scriptures which have been hidden  because of iniquity. And now behold I give unto you, and also unto my  servant Joseph the keys of this gift, which shall bring to light this ministry: and in the mouth  of two or three witnesses, shall every word be established.
Verily, verily I say unto you, if they reject my words, and this part of my gospel and  ministry, blessed are ye, for they can do no more unto you than unto me; and if they do unto  you even as they have done unto me, blessed are ye, for you shall dwell with me in glory: but  if they reject not my words, which <shall> be established by the testimony which shall be given, blessed  are they; and then shall ye have joy in the fruit of your labours.
Verily, verily I say unto you, as I said unto my disciples, where two or there  three are gathered together in my name, as touching one thing, behold there will I be in the  midst of them, even so am I in the midst of you. Fear not to do good my sons, for whatsoever  ye sow, that shall ye also reap: therefore if ye sow good, ye shall also reap good for your re ward: Therefore fear not little flock, do good, let earth and hell  combine against, <you> for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. Behold I do  not condemn you, go your ways and sin no more: perform with soberness the work which  I have commanded; <you> look unto me in every thought, doubt not, fear not: behold the wounds which  pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet: be faithful; keep my  commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Amen.
After we had received this revelation he (Oliver Cowdery) stated  to me that after he had gone to my father’s to board, and after the family communicated to  him concerning my having got the plates, that one night after he had retired to bed, he  called upon the Lord to know if these things were so, and that the Lord had manifested  to him that they were true, but that he had kept the circumstance entirely secret, and  had mentioned it to no being, so that after this revelation having been given, he knew  that the work was true, because that no mortal being living knew of the thing alluded <to>  in the revelation but God and himself. During the month of April  I continued to translate, and he to write with little cessation, during which time we  received several revelations. A difference of opinion arising between us about the  account of John the Apostle, mentioned in the new testament, John, twenty first chapter  and twenty second verse, whether he died, or whether he continued; We we mutually  agreed to settle <it> by the Urim and Thummin, and the following is the word which  we received.
A Revelation given to Joseph Smith jr, and Oliver Cowdery in Harmony Pensylvania  April 1829. when they desired to know whether John, the beloved disciple, tarried on earth.—
Translated from parchment, written and hid up by himself.
And the Lord said unto me, John, my beloved, what desirest thou? For if <shall> you ask what  you will, it shall be granted unto you. And I said unto him, Lord, give <unto> me power over [p. 15]
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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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