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 word with loud voices without wrath or doubting, lifting  up holy hands upon them: for I am able to make you holy, and  your sins are forgiven you.
3 And let the residue take their journey from St. Louis, two by  two, and preach the word, not in hasste, among the congregations  of the wicked, until they return to the churches from whence came.  And all this for the good of the churches, for this intent have I  sent them. And let my servant Edward Partridge impart  of the money which I have given him, a portion unto mine  elders, who are commanded to return; and he that is able  let him return it by <the> way of the agent, and he that is not, of him  it is not required. And now I speak of the residue who are  to come to this land. Behold they have been sent to preach my gospel  among the congregations of the wicked: wherefore I give unto them  a commandment thus: Thou shalt not idle away thy time:—  neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known.
4 And after thou hast come up unto the land of Zion, and  hast proclaimed my word, thou shalt speedily return pro claiming my word among the congregations of the wicked. Not  in haste, neither in wrath, nor with strife; and shake off the  the dust of thy feet against those who receive thee not, not in  their presence, lest thou provoke them, them but in secret, and wash  thy feet as a testimony against them in the day of judgment.—  Behold this is sufficient for you, and the will of him who hath  sent you. And by the mouth of my servant Joseph Smith, Jr.  it shall be made known concerning Sidney Rigdon and Oliver  Cowdery; the residue hereafter; even so: Amen.

9–12 August 1831 • Tuesday–Friday

On the 9th, in company with ten elders, I left Independence  Landing for Kirtland, we started down the river in canoes,  and went the first day as far as Fort Osage where we had  an excellent wild turky for supper. Nothing very important  occurred till the third day, when many of the dangers, so com mon upon the western waters, manifested themselves; and after  we had encamped upon the bank of the river, at McIlwaine’s  bend, brother [William W.] Phelps, in an open vision, by daylight, saw  the Destroyer, in his most horrible power, ride upon the  face of the waters. Others heard the noise, but saw not  the vision. The next morning, after prayer, I received the  following [p. 142]
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.