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

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

with full purpose of heart, they are called to go into all the world, to preach  my gospel unto every creature: and they are they who are ordained of me to  baptize in my name, according to that which is written; and you have  that which is written before you: wherefore you must perform it according  to the words which are written. And now I speak unto the twelve: Behold  my grace is sufficient for you: you must walk uprigh[t]ly before me, and  sin not. And behold you are they who are ordained of me, to ordain priests  and teachers to declare my gospel, according to the power of the Holy Ghost  which is in you, and according to the callings, and gifts of God unto men:  and I Jesus Christ, your Lord, and your God have spoken it. These  words are not of men, nor of man, but of me: wherefore, you shall testify they  are of me, and not of man: for it is my voice which speaketh them unto you:  for they are given by my spirit unto you: and by my power you can read  them one to another: and save it were by my power, you could not have  them: wherefore you can testify that you have heard my voice, and know  my words. 6 And now behold I give unto you, Oliver Cowdery, and  also unto you David Whitmer, that you shall search out the twelve who  shall have the desires of which I have spoken; and by their desires and their  works you shall know them: and when you have found them you shall shew  these things unto them. And you shall fall down and worship the Father in  my name: and you must preach unto all the world saying you must repent  and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ: for all men must repent, and  be baptized; and not only men, but women, and children who have  arriven to the years of accountability.
7 And now, after that you have received this, you must keep my com mandments in all things: and by your hands I will work a marvelous  work among the children of men, unto the convincing of many of their sins,  that they may come unto repentance: and that they may come unto the  kingdom of my Father: wherefore the blessings which I give unto you,  are above all things. And after <that> you have received this, if you keep not  my commandments, you cannot be saved in the kingdom of my Father.
Behold I Jesus Christ, your Lord and your God, and your Redeemer  by the power of my spirit have spoken it. Amen.

June–August 1829

In this manner did the Lord continue to give us instructions from time to time,  concerning our <the> duties which now devolved upon us, and among many other things of  the kind, we obtained of him the folowing, by the Spirit of Prophecy and revelation;  which not only gave us much information, but also pointed out to us the precise  day upon which, according to his will and commandment, we should proceed  to organize to organize his Church once again, here upon the earth. [p. 29]
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.