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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]

them that die shall rest from all their labors, and their  works follow follow them, and they shall receive a crown  in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for  them: yea, blessed are they whose feet stand upon the land of  Zion, who have obeyed my gospel, for they shall receive for their  reward the good things of the earth; and it shall bring forth in its  strength: and they shall be crowned with blessings from above; yea and  with commandments not a few; and with revelations in their time;  they that are diligent and faithful before me.
2. Wherefore I give unto them a commandment, saying thus; Thou  shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy might,  mind, and strength: and in the name of Jesus Christ thou  serve him. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Thou  shalt not steal. Neither commit adultery, nor kill, nor do any  thing like unto it. Thou shalt thank they [the] Lord thy God in all  things. Thou shalt offer a sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in  righteousness: even that of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And  that thou mayest more fully keep thy self unspotted from the  world thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy  sacriments upon my holy day; for verily this is a day ap pointed unto you to rest from your labors, and to pay thy  devotions unto the most hight; nevertheless thy vows shall be  offered up in righteousness on all days, and at all times; but re member that on this, the Lord’s day thou shalt offer thine obla tions, and thy sacraments, unto the Most High, confessing thy sins  unto thy brethren, and before the Lord.
3. And on this day thou shalt do none other thing, only let thy  food be prepared with singleness of heart, that thy fasting may  be perfect, or in other words, that thy joy may be full. Verily this  is fasting and prayer: or, in other words, rejoicing and  prayer.
4 And inasmuch as ye do these things with thanksgiving,  with cheerful hearts, and countenances; not with much laughter,  for this [is] sin, but with a glad heart and cheerful countenance  verily I I sa say, that inasmuch as ye do this the fulness of  the earth [is] yours; the beasts of the fields, and the fowls of the  air, and that which climbeth upon the trees, and walketh  upon the earth; yea, and the herb, and the good things  which cometh of the earth, whether for food or for raiment, or [p. 140]
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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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