31772

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 power of laying on of hands, for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be  conferred on <us> hereafter and he commanded us to go and be baptized, and gave us direct ions that I should baptize Oliver Cowdery, and afterward that he should baptize me.  and that I should be called the first elder of the Church and he the second.
Accordingly we went and were baptized, I baptized him first, and afterwards he  baptized me, after which I laid my hands upon his head and ordained him to the  Aaronick priesthood, and afterward he laid his hands on me and ordained me to the  same priesthood, for so we were commanded.
The messenger who visited us on this occasion and conferred this priesthood upon us  said that his name was John, the same that is called John the Baptist in the new  Testament, and that he acted under the direction <of> Peter, James, and John, who held the  keys of the priesthood of Melchisedeck, whi[c]h priesthood he said should in due time  be conferred on us. <And that I should be called the first Elder of the Church and  he the second.>
It was on the fifteenth day of May, Eighteen hundred and  twenty nine that we were baptized; under and ordained under the hand of that <the>  Messenger.
Immediately upon our coming up out of the water after we had been  baptized we experienced great and glorious blessings from our Heavenly Father.
No sooner had I baptized Oliver Cowdery than the Holy Ghost fell upon him  and he stood up and prophecied many things which should shortly come to  pass: And again so soon as I had been baptized by him, I also had the  Spirit of Prophecy, when standing up I prophecied concerning the rise of  this church, and many other things connected with the Church and this  generation of the children of men. We were filled with the Holy Ghost, and  rejoiced in the God of our Salvation.
Our minds being now enlightened, we began to have the Scriptures laid  open to our understandings, and the true meaning and intention of their more mys terious passages revealed unto us, in a manner which we never could attain  to previously, nor ever before <had> thought of. In the meantime we were forced  to keep secret the circumstances of our having been baptized, and having received  this priesthood; owing to a spirit of persecution which had already manifested  itself in the neighborhood. We had been threatened with being mobbed, from  time to time, and this too by professors of religion, and their intentions of mobbing  us, were only counteracted by the influence of my wife’s father’s family (under  Divine Providence) who had became very friendly to me and were opposed to  mobs; and were willing that I should be allowed to continue the work of  translation without interruption: And therefore offered and promised us protection  from all unlawful proceedings as far as in them lay.
After a few days however, feeling it to be our duty, we commenced to reason out  of the scriptures, with our acquaintances and friends, as we happened to meet  with them. About this time my brother, Samuel, H. Smith came [p. 18]
PreviousNext
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.

Facts