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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]

of “Doctrine and Covenants” Sect, 2nd Par. 7th “and truly manifest by their works  that they have received of the Spirit of Christ unto the remission of their sins”
The above quotation he said was erroneous, and added; “I command you  in the name of God to erase those words, that no priestcraft be amongst us.”
I immediately wrote to him in reply, in which I asked him, by what  authority he took upon him to command me to alter, or erase, to add or diminish  to or from a revelation or commandment from Almighty God. In a few days  afterwards I visited him and Mr Whitmer’s family, when I found the family in  general of his opinion concerning the words above quoted; and it was not without  both labor and perseverance that I could prevail with any of them to reason calm ly on the subject; however Christian Whitmer, at length got convinced that it  was reasonable and according to scripture, and finally, with his assistance I  succeeded of <in> bringing not only the Whitmer family, but also Oliver Cowdery  also to acknowledge that they had been in error, and that the sentence in dispute  was in accordance of <with> the rest of the commandment. And thus was this error  rooted out, which having its rise in presumption and rash judgement, was the  more particularly calculated (when one once fairly understood) to teach each and all  of the us the necessity of humility, and meekness before the Lord, that he might teach  us of his ways; that we might walk in his paths, and live by every word which pro ceedeth forth from his mouth.

August 1830

Early in the month of August, Newel Knight  and his wife paid us a visit, at my place at Harmony, Penn; and as neither his  wife nor mine had been as yet confirmed, and it was proposed that we should  confirm them, and partake together of the sacrament, before he and his wife should  leave us.— In order to prepare for this; I set out to go to procure some  wine for the occasion, but had gone but <only> a short distance when I was met by  a heavenly messenger, and received the following revelation; the first paragraph  of which was written at this time, and the remainder in the September following.
Revelation given at Harmony Penn, August 1830.
1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Lord, your God and your redeemer,  whose word is quick and powerful. For behold I say unto you, that it mattereth  not what ye shall eat, or what you shall drink, when ye partake of the sacrament  if it so be that ye do it with an eye single to my glory; remembering unto the Father  my body which was laid down for you, and my blood which was shed for the rem ission of your sins: wherefore a commandment I give unto you, that you shall  not purchase wine, neither strong drink of your enemies: wherefore you shall  partake of none, except it is made new among you, yea, in this my Father’s  kingdom which shall be built up on the earth. 2 Behold this is wis [p. 51]
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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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