53992719

History, circa 1841, fair copy

Accordingly I retired into the woods to make  the attempt. It was on the morning of a clear  and beutiful day, early in the spring of Eigh teen hundred and Twenty, and it was the first time  that I ever made such an effort; for amidst all  my anxieties I had as yet, never made the  attempt to pray vocally After  arriving at the place where I had previously  designed to go, I looked around me and finding  myself alone, kneeled down and began to offer up to  God the desires of my heart. I had scarcely done so,  when I was immediately seized upon by some power,  which entirely overcame me, and had such astonishing  influence over me, as to bind my tounge so as to deprive  me of speech. Thick darkness darkness gathered  around me, and for a time it seemed that I were  doomed to destruction. But exerting every power  energy to call upon God, to deliver me out of the  power of this enemy; at the very moment when  I was sinking in despair and abandoning myself  to destruction; not imaginary, but to the influence  of some being from the unseen world, who had such  marvellous power as this; just at this moment of  alarm, I saw a pillar of light over my head,  the brightness of which, exceeded that  of the sun; which <and> gradually decended untill  it fell upon me, and I found myself  delivered from the enemy, which held me  bound. When the light rested upon me I saw  two personages, (whose brightness and glory dify all  description,) standing above in the air. One of  them called me by name, said (pointing to the other,)  this is my beloved son, hear him. My object was  to ascertain which of the sects were right; that  I might Join it. Consequently as soon as possible,  I asked the personages who stood in the light, Which [p. 3]
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Howard Coray was a recent convert to Mormonism when he visited Nauvoo in 1840. There he was immediately engaged by JS as a clerk at his office. Coray later reminisced in his autobiography that after he completed his initial assignment, JS requested that he “undertake, in connection with E[dwin] D. Woolley, the compilation of the Church History.”
At the time Coray received his charge, JS’s and the church’s “history” had been an ongoing project for a decade. Several early attempts had apparently fallen short and been abandoned. However, JS and Sidney Rigdon’s 1838 effort initiated with George W. Robinson, and JS’s ensuing collaboration with James Mulholland, had begun to bear fruit. Unfortunately, Mulholland had died 3 November 1839 after inscribing fifty-nine pages of text in a large record book subsequently designated as volume “A-1” of the manuscript history of the church. Robert B. Thompson was appointed “general church clerk” in October 1840 and succeeded Mulholland as scribe for A-1.
Meanwhile, JS assigned Woolley and Coray to draft additional historical material, using sources JS provided. Woolley eventually withdrew from the project and was replaced by a “Dr. Miller,” who remains unidentified. Their work evidently resulted in two different kinds of drafts. According to Coray’s later reminiscences, the first grew out of instructions “not only to combine, and arrange in cronological order, but to spread out or amplify not a little, in as good historical style as may be.” No manuscript matching this description has survived, but their work may have provided the basis for material subsequently copied into the history by other scribes.
Coray did, however, produce an edited version of the narrative inscribed in the large history volume (A-1). According to Coray’s later account, JS was directly involved in this reworking of the history, reading aloud and dictating revisions from the large volume. Two drafts of this work have survived. However, the main history endeavor continued in the large history volume, and there is no indication that either draft was used in subsequent compiling or in publication of the history. Though a short-lived effort, Coray’s manuscript represents the intention to revise the history, suggesting that JS had not yet settled on a final historical product even after he had directed scribes to begin inscribing the history in the large, more permanent volume in 1839.
Coray’s history draft includes departures from the material recorded in A-1 which, though minor, show an intention to refine the story. Coray deleted passages that seemed to be defensive, to plead the cause of the Saints, or to play on the reader’s sympathies—a list of grievances, for example, or complaints against individuals. The draft often softened wording about the persecution of JS and employed more moderate language in describing opposition, avoiding the word “mob” and glossing over accounts of violence.
Coray’s work on JS’s history was not located until 2005, when two manuscripts in Coray’s hand were identified among documents in the possession of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These two manuscripts consisted of a lightly edited draft of the material Mulholland and Thompson had written in the large history volume, and a fair or clean copy of that material that incorporated the revisions Coray made in his earlier draft. The first draft was published in volume 1 of the Histories series of the The Joseph Smith Papers. (See History Drafts, 1838—ca. 1841.) The second or “fair copy” of the two drafts is the document herein featured. An inscription in Coray’s handwriting at the bottom of the first page of this document identifies it as the second copy. In 1869 Coray signed a statement that was later attached to the paper wrapper that enclosed the two drafts: “These hundred pages of History were written by me, under Joseph the Prophet’s dictation. Dr Miller helped me a little in writing the same.”
For more information about the relationship between the history drafts, see Introduction to Early Drafts of History, 1838–1856.

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