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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]

account of our belief in the Book of Mormon, at many places,  and among various persons, yet the Lord continued his watch ful care and loving-kindness to us day by day: and we made  it a rule, wherever there was an opportunity, to read a chap ter in the bible, and pray, and these seasons of worship gave  us great consolation.
The meeting of our brethren, who had long waited our ar rival, was a glorious <one> and moistened with many tears.  It seemed good and pleasant for brethren to meet to  gether in unity. But our reflections were great: coming  as we had from a highly cultivated state of society in the  east, and standing now upon the confines, or western limits  of the united States, and looking into the vast wilderness of  those that sat in darkness, how natural it was to observe  the degredation, leanness of intellect, ferocity and jealousy  of a people that were nearly a century behind the times; and  to feel for those who roamed about with out the benefit of  civilization, refinement or religion!— yea, and exclaim  in the language of the prophets:— when will the wilderness blossom  as the rose; when will Zion be built up in her glory, and  where will thy Temple stand unto which all nations  shall come in the last days? Our anxiety was soon  relieved by receiving the following
Revelation given in Zion, July 1831.
1 Hearken, O ye elders of my church, saith the Lord your  God, who have assembled yourselves to gether, according to my  commandments, in this land which is the land of Missouri, which  is the land which I have appointed and consecrated for the gather ing of the saints: wherefore this is the land of promise, and the  place for the city of Zion. And thus saith the Lord your  God, if you will receive wisdom, here is wisdom.— Behold  the place which is now called Independence, is the centre place;  and the spot for the Temple is lying westward upon a lot which  is not far from the Courthouse: wherefore it is wisdom that  the land should be purchased by the saints; and also every  tract lying westward, even to the line running directly be tween Jew and Gentile. And every tract bo[r]dering by the  prairies, inasmuch as my disciples are enabled to buy lands—  Behold this wisdom, that they may obtain it for an [p. 127]
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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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