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

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

the Ohio, against the time that my servant Oliver Cowdery shall  return unto them. Behold here is wisdom; and let every man  choose for himself until I come; even so: Amen.

2 January 1831 • Saturday

The year opened with a prospect, great and glorious, for  the welfare of the kingdom; for, on the 2d of January, 1831, a  conference was held in the town of Fayette, N.Y., at which  was received, besides the ordinary business transacted for the  church, the following revelation; given at
1. Thus saith the Lord your God, even Jesus Christ, the Great  I AM, Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the same  which looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the  seraphic hosts of heaven, before the world was made; the  same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before my mine  eyes; I am the same which spake and the world was made, and  all things came by me: I am the same which have taken the  Zion of Enoch into mine own bosom: and verily I say, even  as many as have believed on my name, for I am Christ, and in  mine own name, by the virtue of the blood which I have spilt,  have I plead before the Father for them: Behold But behold the residue  of the wicked have I kept in chains of darkness until the Judg ment of the great day, which shall come at the end of the world earth;  and even so will I cause the wicked to be kept, that not hear my  voice but harden their hearts, and wo, wo, wo is their doom.
2. But behold, verily, verily I say unto you, that mine eyes are  upon you; I am in your midst and ye can not see me, but the day  soon cometh that ye shall see me and know that I am: for the veil  of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified, shall  not abide the day: wherefore gird up your loins and be prepared.  Behold the kingdom is yours, and the enemy shall not overcome.
3. Verily I say unto you, ye are clean but not all; and there  is none else with whom I am well pleased, for all flesh is  corruptible before me, and the powers of darkness prevail  upon the earth, among the children of men, in the pres ence of all the hosts of heaven, which causes silence to reign,  and all eternity is pained, and the angels are waiting the  great command to reap down the earth, to gather the tares  that they may be burned: and behold the enemy is combined.
4. And now I show unto you a mystery, a thing which is had  in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction, in [p. 88]
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.