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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]

for houses, or for barns, or for orchards, or for gardens.  or for vineyards; yea, all things which cometh of the earth, in  the season thereof, is made for the benefit and the use of  man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for  food and for raiment, for tas[t]e, and for smell, to strengthen the body,  and to enliven the soul.
5 And it pleaseth God that he hath given all these things unto man;  for unto this end were they made, to be used with judgment,  not to excess, neither by extortion: and in nothing doth man  offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those  who confess not his hand in all things; and obey not his  commandments. Behold this is according to the law and the  prophets: wherefore trouble me no more concerning this matter,  but learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness, shall  receive his reward; even peace in this world, and eternal  life in the world to come. I the Lord have spoken it, and the  spirit beareth record. Amen.

8 August 1831 • Monday

On the 8th, as <there> had been some inquiry among the elders, what  they were to do, I received the following
Revelation given August 1831.
1 Behold, thus saith the Lord unto the elders of his church who  are to return speedily to the land from whence they came.  Behold it pleaseth me, that you have come up history hither, but with  some I am not well pleased, for they will not open their  mouths, but they hide the talent which I have given unto them,  because of the fear of man. Wo unto them such for mine an ger is kindled against them.
2 And it shall to pass, if they are not more faithful unto  me, it shall be taken away, even that which they have, for  I the Lord ruleth in the heavens above, and among the armies  of the earth; and in the day when I shall make up my jewels,  all men shall know what it is that bespeaketh the power of God.  But verily I will speak unto you concerning your journey  unto the land from whence you came. Let there be a craft  made, or bought, as seemeth you good, it mattereth not unto  me, and take your journey speedily for the place which is called  St. Louis. And from thence let my servant Sidney Rigdon and  Joseph Smith, Jr. and Oliver Cowdery, take their journey for Cincin nati: and in this place let them lift up their voice, and declare [p. 141]
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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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