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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]

rock, the gates of hell shall not prevail against you.
2 Behold the world is ripening in iniquity, and it must needs be, that the children  of men are stirred up unto repentance, both the Gentiles, and also the house of Israel:  wherefore, as thou hast been baptized by the hand of my servant Joseph Smith Jr—  according to that which I have commanded him, he hath fulfilled the thing which I  commanded him. And now marvel not that I have called him to my mine own  purpose; which purpose is known in me: wherefore if he shall be diligent in  keeping my commandments, he shall be blessed unto eternal life, and his name  is Joseph. 3 And now Oliver Cowdery, I speak unto you, and also unto  David Whitmer by the way of commandment: for behold I command all men every  where to repent, and I speak unto you, even as unto Paul mine apostle, for you are  called even with that same calling with which he was called. Remember the  worth of souls is great in the sight of God: for behold the Lord your Redeemer suffered  death in the flesh: wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent  and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead that he might  bring all men unto him on conditions of repentance. And how great is his joy in  his soul that repenteth.— Wherefore you are called to cry repentance unto this  people. And if it <so> be that you should labour all your days, in crying repen tance to this people, and bring save it be one soul unto me, how great shall  be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father.
4 And now if your joy will be great with one soul, that you have brought unto me  into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy, if you should bring  many souls unto me? Behold you have my gospel before you, and my rock  and my salvation: ask the Father in my name in faith believing that you  shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost which manifesteth all things  which is expedient unto the Children of men. And if you have not faith, hope  and charity, you can do nothing. Contend against no church, save it be the  Church of the devil. Take upon you the name of Christ, and speak the truth  in soberness, and as many as repent, and are baptized in my name, which is  Jesus Christ, and endure to the end, the same shall be saved. Behold, Jesus  Christ is the name <which is> given of the Father, and there is none other name given where by man can be saved: wherefore all men must take upon them the name  which is given of the Father, for in that name shall they be called at the last  day: wherefore if they know not the name by which they are called, they can  not have place in the kingdom of my Father.
5 And now behold there are others who are called to declare my gospel  both unto Gentile, and unto Jew: yea, even twelve: and the twelve shall be  my disciples, and they shall take upon them my name, with full purpose of  heart: and the twelve are they, who shall desire to take upon them my name  with full purpose of heart: and if they desire to take upon them my name [p. 28]
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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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