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

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

Therefore prophesy and it shall be given by the power of the Holy Ghost: and  if you are faithful behold I am with you until I come; and verily  verily, I say unto you, I come quickly. I am your Lord and  your Redeemer: Even so: Amen.

December 1830

It was in December. that Elder Sidney Rigdon, a sketch  of whose history I have before mentioned, came to inquire of the  Lord, and with <him> came that man, (of whom I will hereafter  speak more fully,) named Edward Partridge; he was a pattern  of piety, and one of <the> Lord’s great men, known by his stead fastness and patient endurance to the end. Shortly after the  arrival of these two brethren, thus spake the Lord:—
<A Revela tion to  J Smith &  S Rigdon  Decr  1830>A revelation to Joseph Smith Junr. and Sidney Rigdon given at  Fayette, N.Y. December 1830.
1. Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega,  the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round,  the same to day as yesterday and forever. I am Jesus Christ  the Son of God, who was crucified for the Sins of the world,  even as many as will believe on my name, that they may  become the sons of God, even one in me as I am One in the  Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one.
2. Behold, verily, verily I say unto my servant Sidney, I have looked  upon thee and thy works. I have heard thy prayers, and pre pared the[e] for a greater work. Thou art blessed for thou shalt  do great things. Behold thou wast sent forth even as John and to  prepare the way before me, and before Elijah which should  come, and thou knew it not. Thou didst baptize with wa ter unto repentance, but they received not the Holy Ghost;  but now I give unto you a commandment, that thou shalt  baptize by water, and they shall receive the Holy Ghost, by the  laying on of the hands, even as the apostles of old.
3. And it shall come to pass that there shall be a great  work in the land, even among the Gentiles; for their  folly and their abominations shall be made manifest,  in the eyes of all people: For I am God and mine arm  is not shortened, and I will show miracles, signs & won ders, unto all those who believe on my name. And whoso  shall ask it in my name, in faith, they shall cast out dev ils; they shall heal the sick; they shall cause the blind  to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear, and the dumb [p. 78]
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.