History, circa 1841, fair copy

of the sects were right, (for I supposed that one of them  were so,) and which I should Join. I was answered,  “join none of them,— they are all wrong, their creeds  are an abomination in my sight,— those professors  are all corrupt,— they <come> near to me with their lips  but their hearts are far from me,— they teach  for doctrines the commandments of men,— “having  a form of Godliness, but they deny the power  thereof,” He again forbad me to join any of  them, and many other things did he say unto me,  which I cannot write at this time.
When I came to myself, I was lyin laying on  my back, looking up into heaven.
A few days after this, I happened to be in company,  with one of the Methodist preachers, who had been  very active in the before mentioned excitement and  whilst conversing with him on the subject of religion,  I gave him an account of the vision, which I had  seen. I was greatly surprised at the manner  he treated my communication, avowing it to be  of the Devil— that there could be no visions or  revelations from God in these days— that they  had ceased with the Apostles, and never would  be restored again. I soon found that a relation  of this fact, excited the prejudice of the professors  of religion, and caused them to persecute me.  Although an obscure boy about fifteen years old, my  circumstances being such as to make me of but  little consequence in the world; Yet men of  high Standing endeavored to excite the  public mind against me, and cause the Sects  to unite in persecuting me. My mind was now  satisfied, that it was my duty to Join none of the  Sects, but to continue as I was; untill further  directed. I had found the testimony of James to be  true, that a man lacking wisdom, might ask  of God [p. 4]
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.