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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]

discovered two Prairie Rattle Snakes quietly sleeping under them, which they carefully carried  out of the Camp— this day my health was so poor, I left the affairs of the Camp to the management  of General [Lyman] Wight— having no provisions we travelled seventeen miles before breakfast,  and I rode in Elder [Heber C.] Kimball’s Waggon, we crossed a slough half a mile wide, thro’ which  most of the brethren were obliged to wade waist deep in mud and water— General Lyman  Wight who had travelled from Kirtland without a stocking on his foot, carried brother Joseph  Young thro’ on his back— our breakfast consisted entirely of Corn Meal Mush, or hasty pudding,  we had not meal enough in our Company to make the mush of the consistence of good  starch, after our ten o clock breakfast we passed on to within one mile of Richmond— we  encamped in a very small prairie surrounded by a thicket of hazel brush— when I  arrived where the Camp had pitched their tents and viewed our unsafe location,—  considering the danger of an attack from our enemies, I almost forgot my sickness,  went some distance in the brush, bowed down and prayed my heavenly Father to suffer  no evil to come upon us, but keep us safely thro’ the night— I obtained an assurance  that we should be safe until morning, notwithstanding about 50 of the Jackson County Mob  crossed the Lexington Ferry that evening for the purpose of joining the Ray County mob, and  of making an attack upon us— all was quiet in the Camp thro’ the night— while the  brethren were making their bed in Captain Brigham Young’s tent, one of them discovered a  very musical Rattle Snake which they were about to kill, Captain Young told them not to  hurt him but carry him out of the tent, when brother Carpenter took him in his hands  carried him beyond all danger and left him to enjoy his liberty— telling him not to return—
Thursday 19 at day break, feeling that we were in a very unsafe situation I counselled the  camp to move forward without delay, and continued a lively march for about nine miles  where we stopt for breakfast, while passing thro’ Richmond brother Luke Johnson observed  a black woman in a gentleman’s garden near the road. She beckoned to him and said  “come here massa.” She was evidently much agitated in her feelings. He went up to the fence  and she said to him, there is a company of men laying in wait here, who are calculating  to kill you this morning as you pass through”, we halted for breakfast on an eminence near  a Farm House, the owner furnished us with a large quantity of milk, which gave a great  relish to our Bacon and Corn Dodger, which our commissary had procured that morning, when  we asked the price of his milk he repled “he is a mean man that will sell milk, I could  have let you had more, if I had known you had been coming”, he further said “you have many  enemies about here, and you may meet with some trouble, and it is a damd shame that  every man cant come up and enjoy his religion, and every thing else without being molested.”  it was near noon when we finished our breakfast, and we passed on in fine Spirits,—  determined to go thro’ and meet the brethren in Clay County, we travelled but a short  distance when one waggon broke down; and the wheels ran off from others, and there seemed  to be many things to hinder our progress, altho’ we strove with all diligence to speed our way  forward,— This night we camped on an elevated piece of land, between Little Fishing  and Big fishing Rivers which was formed by seven small streams or branches. <Page 495*> [p. 15 [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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