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

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

may return to bear record; yea, even altogether, or two by two as=  seemeth you good; it mattereth not unto me, only be faithful and  declare glad tidings unto the inhabitants of the earth, or—  among the congregations of the wicked. Behold I the Lord have  brought you to gether that the promise might be fulfilled that  the faithful among you, should be preserved, and rejoice  to gether in the land of Missouri. I the Lord promised the  faithful and cannot lie.
3 I the Lord am willing, if any among you desireth to ride  upon horses, or upon mules, or in chariots, he shall receive this  blessing, if he receive it from the hand of the Lord, with a  thankful in all things. These things remain with you to do  according to judgment and the directions of the spirit.— Be hold the kingdom is yours: and behold, and lo I am with  the faithful always; even so: Amen.

August 1831

After this little meeting with the elders, myself and Sidney Rig don, and Oliver Cowdery continued our journey by land to Saint  Louis, where we overtook Brothers [William W.] Phelps and [Sidney] Gilbert. From  this place we took stage, and they went by water, to Kirtland,  where we arrived safe and well on the 27th. Many things  transpired upon this journey to strengthen our faith, and <which> displayed  the goodness of God in such a marvellous manner, that we  could not help beholding the exertions of Satan to blind the  eyes of the people from so the as to hide the true light that lights  every man that comes into the world. In these infant days  of the church, there was a great anxiety to obtain the  the word of the Lord upon every subject that in any way  concerned our salvation; and as “the land of Zion” was  now the most important temporal object in view, I inqui red of the Lord for further information upon the gathering  of the Saints and the purchase of the land and other matters,  and received the following
Revelation given in Kirtland, August, 1831
1 Hearken, O ye people, and open your hearts and give ear from afar;  and listen, you that call yourselves the people of the Lord,  and heard the word of the Lord, and his will concerning you:—  yea; verily I say, hear the word of him whose anger is kin dled against the wicked and rebellious; who willeth to take  even them whom he will take, and preserveth, in life, them [p. 146]
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.