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

5 January 1831 • Wednesday

Not long after the conference

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

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closed, there was a man came to me, by the name of James Covill

Ca. 1770–Feb. 1850. Preacher, doctor. Likely born in Massachusetts. From 1791–ca. 1797, served as Methodist itinerant preacher, first in Litchfield, Litchfield Co., Connecticut, circuit; then in Otsego, Otsego Co., New York, circuit; Pittsfield, Berkshire...

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, who had been a baptist minister for about forty years, and covenated with the Lord that he would obey any command

Generally, a divine mandate that church members were expected to obey; more specifically, a text dictated by JS in the first-person voice of deity that served to communicate knowledge and instruction to JS and his followers. Occasionally, other inspired texts...

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that the Lord would give through me as his servant, and I received the following Revelation, to James Covill

Ca. 1770–Feb. 1850. Preacher, doctor. Likely born in Massachusetts. From 1791–ca. 1797, served as Methodist itinerant preacher, first in Litchfield, Litchfield Co., Connecticut, circuit; then in Otsego, Otsego Co., New York, circuit; Pittsfield, Berkshire...

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, given at Fayette

Located in northern part of county between Seneca and Cayuga lakes. Area settled, by 1790. Officially organized as Washington Township, 14 Mar. 1800. Name changed to Fayette, 6 Apr. 1808. Population in 1830 about 3,200. Population in 1840 about 3,700. Significant...

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N.Y. January 5, 1831.
1. Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity to all eternity, the Great I Am, even Jesus Christ, the light and the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness comprehendeth it not; the same which came in the meridian of time unto my own, and my own received me not; but to as many as received me, gave I power to be come my sons, and even so will I give unto as many as will receive me, power to become my sons—
2. And verily, verily I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel receiveth me; and he that receiveth not my gospel, receiveth not me. And this is my gospel: repentance and baptism

An ordinance in which an individual is immersed in water for the remission of sins. The Book of Mormon explained that those with necessary authority were to baptize individuals who had repented of their sins. Baptized individuals also received the gift of...

View Glossary
by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.
3 And now behold I say unto you, my servant James

Ca. 1770–Feb. 1850. Preacher, doctor. Likely born in Massachusetts. From 1791–ca. 1797, served as Methodist itinerant preacher, first in Litchfield, Litchfield Co., Connecticut, circuit; then in Otsego, Otsego Co., New York, circuit; Pittsfield, Berkshire...

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, I have looked upon thy works and I know thee; and verily I say unto thee, thine heart is now right before me, at this time, and behold I have bestowed great blessings upon thy head:— nevertheless, thou hast seen great sorrow, for thou hast rejected me many times because of pride, and the cares of the world.— but behold the days of thy deliverance are come, if thou wilt hearken to my voice, which saith unto thee: Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on my name and you shall receive my Spirit, and a blessing so great as you never have known. And if thou doest this, I have prepared thee for a greater work. Thou shalt preach the fulness of my gospel which I have sent forth in these last days: the covenant I have sent forth to recover my people, which are of the house of Israel.
4. And it shall come to pass that power shall rest upon thee; thou shalt have great faith and I will be with thee and go before thy face. Thou art called to labor in my vineyard, and to build up my church

The Book of Mormon related that when Christ set up his church in the Americas, “they which were baptized in the name of Jesus, were called the church of Christ.” The first name used to denote the church JS organized on 6 April 1830 was “the Church of Christ...

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, and to bring forth Zion

A specific location in Missouri; also a literal or figurative gathering of believers in Christ, characterized by adherence to ideals of harmony, equality, and purity. In JS’s earliest revelations “the cause of Zion” was used to broadly describe the focus ...

View Glossary
, that it may rejoice upon the hills and flourish. Behold, verily, verily I say unto [p. 91]

5 January 1831 • Wednesday

Not long after the conference

A meeting where ecclesiastical officers and other church members could conduct church business. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church directed the elders to hold conferences to perform “Church business.” The first of these conferences was held on 9 June...

View Glossary
closed, there was a man came  to me, by the name of James Covill

Ca. 1770–Feb. 1850. Preacher, doctor. Likely born in Massachusetts. From 1791–ca. 1797, served as Methodist itinerant preacher, first in Litchfield, Litchfield Co., Connecticut, circuit; then in Otsego, Otsego Co., New York, circuit; Pittsfield, Berkshire...

View Full Bio
, who had been a baptist  minister for about forty years, and covenated with the Lord  that he would obey any command

Generally, a divine mandate that church members were expected to obey; more specifically, a text dictated by JS in the first-person voice of deity that served to communicate knowledge and instruction to JS and his followers. Occasionally, other inspired texts...

View Glossary
that the Lord would give  through me as his servant, and I received the following  Revelation, <to James Covill

Ca. 1770–Feb. 1850. Preacher, doctor. Likely born in Massachusetts. From 1791–ca. 1797, served as Methodist itinerant preacher, first in Litchfield, Litchfield Co., Connecticut, circuit; then in Otsego, Otsego Co., New York, circuit; Pittsfield, Berkshire...

View Full Bio
,> given at Fayette

Located in northern part of county between Seneca and Cayuga lakes. Area settled, by 1790. Officially organized as Washington Township, 14 Mar. 1800. Name changed to Fayette, 6 Apr. 1808. Population in 1830 about 3,200. Population in 1840 about 3,700. Significant...

More Info
N.Y. January 5, 1831.
1. Hearken and listen to the voice of him who is from all eternity  to all eternity, the Great I Am, even Jesus Christ, the light and  the life of the world; a light which shineth in darkness com prehendeth it not; the same which came in the meridian of time  unto my own, and my own received me not; but to as many as  received me, gave I power to be come my sons, and even so will I  give unto as many as will receive me, power to become my sons—
2. And verily, verily I say unto you, he that receiveth my gospel  receiveth me; and <he> that receiveth not my gospel, receiveth not  me. And this is my gospel: repentance and baptism

An ordinance in which an individual is immersed in water for the remission of sins. The Book of Mormon explained that those with necessary authority were to baptize individuals who had repented of their sins. Baptized individuals also received the gift of...

View Glossary
by water,  and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost,  even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth  the peaceable things of the kingdom.
3 And now behold I say unto you, my servant James

Ca. 1770–Feb. 1850. Preacher, doctor. Likely born in Massachusetts. From 1791–ca. 1797, served as Methodist itinerant preacher, first in Litchfield, Litchfield Co., Connecticut, circuit; then in Otsego, Otsego Co., New York, circuit; Pittsfield, Berkshire...

View Full Bio
, I have  looked upon thy works and I know thee; and verily I say  unto thee, thine heart is now right before me, at this time,  and behold I have bestowed great blessings upon thy head:—  nevertheless, thou hast seen great sorrow, for thou hast rejected  me many times because of pride, and the cares of the world.—  but behold the days of thy deliverance are come, if thou wilt  hearken to my voice, which saith unto thee: Arise, and be  baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on my name and you  shall receive my Spirit, and a blessing so great as you never  have known. And if thou doest this, I have prepared  thee for a greater work. Thou shalt preach the fulness of my  gospel which I have sent forth in these last days: the covenant  I have sent forth to recover my people, which are of the house of  Israel.
4. And it shall come to pass that <power> shall rest upon thee; thou shalt  have great faith and I will be with thee and go before thy  face. Thou art called to labor in my vineyard, and to build  up my church

The Book of Mormon related that when Christ set up his church in the Americas, “they which were baptized in the name of Jesus, were called the church of Christ.” The first name used to denote the church JS organized on 6 April 1830 was “the Church of Christ...

View Glossary
, and to bring forth Zion

A specific location in Missouri; also a literal or figurative gathering of believers in Christ, characterized by adherence to ideals of harmony, equality, and purity. In JS’s earliest revelations “the cause of Zion” was used to broadly describe the focus ...

View Glossary
, that it may rejoice  upon the hills and flourish. Behold, verily, verily I say unto [p. 91]
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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

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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to Kirtland

Located in Newel K. Whitney store in northwest Kirtland on northeast corner of Chardon and Chillicothe roads. Whitney appointed postmaster, 29 Dec. 1826. JS and others listed “Kirtland Mills, Geauga County, Ohio” as return address for letters mailed, 1833...

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, 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

19 Feb. 1793–14 July 1876. Tanner, farmer, minister. Born at St. Clair, Allegheny Co., Pennsylvania. Son of William Rigdon and Nancy Gallaher. Joined United Baptists, ca. 1818. Preached at Warren, Trumbull Co., Ohio, and vicinity, 1819–1821. Married Phebe...

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. George W. Robinson

14 May 1814–10 Feb. 1878. Clerk, postmaster, merchant, clothier, banker. Born at Pawlet, Rutland Co., Vermont. Baptized into LDS church and moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, by 1836. Clerk and recorder for Kirtland high council, beginning Jan. 1836. Married...

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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

Located near middle of western boundary of state, bordering Mississippi River. European Americans settled area, 1820s. From bank of river, several feet above high-water mark, ground described as nearly level for six or seven blocks before gradually sloping...

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, Illinois, JS once again began dictating his “history.” James Mulholland

1804–3 Nov. 1839. Born in Ireland. Baptized into LDS church. Married Sarah Scott, 8 Feb. 1838, at Far West, Caldwell Co., Missouri. Engaged in clerical work for JS, 1838, at Far West. Ordained a seventy, 28 Dec. 1838. After expulsion from Missouri, lived ...

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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

14 May 1814–10 Feb. 1878. Clerk, postmaster, merchant, clothier, banker. Born at Pawlet, Rutland Co., Vermont. Baptized into LDS church and moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, by 1836. Clerk and recorder for Kirtland high council, beginning Jan. 1836. Married...

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’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

1804–3 Nov. 1839. Born in Ireland. Baptized into LDS church. Married Sarah Scott, 8 Feb. 1838, at Far West, Caldwell Co., Missouri. Engaged in clerical work for JS, 1838, at Far West. Ordained a seventy, 28 Dec. 1838. After expulsion from Missouri, lived ...

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recorded the first fifty-nine pages in the volume. Subsequently, his successor, Robert B. Thompson

1 Oct. 1811–27 Aug. 1841. Clerk, editor. Born in Great Driffield, Yorkshire, England. Member of Methodist church. Immigrated to Upper Canada, 1834. Baptized into LDS church by Parley P. Pratt, May 1836, in Upper Canada. Ordained an elder by John Taylor, 22...

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, contributed about sixteen more pages before his death in August 1841. William W. Phelps

17 Feb. 1792–7 Mar. 1872. Writer, teacher, printer, newspaper editor, publisher, postmaster, lawyer. Born at Hanover, Morris Co., New Jersey. Son of Enon Phelps and Mehitabel Goldsmith. Moved to Homer, Cortland Co., New York, 1800. Married Sally Waterman,...

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then added a little over seventy-five pages. However, it was not until Willard Richards

24 June 1804–11 Mar. 1854. Teacher, lecturer, doctor, clerk, printer, editor, postmaster. Born at Hopkinton, Middlesex Co., Massachusetts. Son of Joseph Richards and Rhoda Howe. Moved to Richmond, Berkshire Co., Massachusetts, 1813. Moved to Chatham, Columbia...

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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

1 June 1801–29 Aug. 1877. Carpenter, painter, glazier, colonizer. Born at Whitingham, Windham Co., Vermont. Son of John Young and Abigail (Nabby) Howe. Brought up in Methodist household; later joined Methodist church. Moved to Sherburne, Chenango Co., New...

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, Heber C. Kimball

14 June 1801–22 June 1868. Blacksmith, potter. Born at Sheldon, Franklin Co., Vermont. Son of Solomon Farnham Kimball and Anna Spaulding. Married Vilate Murray, 22 Nov. 1822, at Mendon, Monroe Co., New York. Member of Baptist church at Mendon, 1831. Baptized...

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, George A. Smith

26 June 1817–1 Sept. 1875. Born at Potsdam, St. Lawrence Co., New York. Son of John Smith and Clarissa Lyman. Baptized into LDS church by Joseph H. Wakefield, 10 Sept. 1832, at Potsdam. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, 1833. Labored on Kirtland temple...

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, 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

Located in northeast region of U.S. Area settled by Dutch traders, 1620s; later governed by Britain, 1664–1776. Admitted to U.S. as state, 1788. Population in 1810 about 1,000,000; in 1820 about 1,400,000; in 1830 about 1,900,000; and in 1840 about 2,400,...

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, Pennsylvania

Area first settled by Swedish immigrants, 1628. William Penn received grant for territory from King Charles II, 1681, and established British settlement, 1682. Philadelphia was center of government for original thirteen U.S. colonies from time of Revolutionary...

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, Ohio

French explored area, 1669. British took possession following French and Indian War, 1763. Ceded to U.S., 1783. First permanent white settlement established, 1788. Northeastern portion maintained as part of Connecticut, 1786, and called Connecticut Western...

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, and Missouri

Area acquired by U.S. in Louisiana Purchase, 1803, and established as territory, 1812. Missouri Compromise, 1820, admitted Missouri as slave state, 1821. Population in 1830 about 140,000; in 1836 about 240,000; and in 1840 about 380,000. Mormon missionaries...

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. 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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