26015

History, circa Summer 1832

marvilous even in the likeness of him who created them and when I considered upon these things my heart exclaimed well hath the wise man said it is a fool that saith in his heart there is no God my heart exclaimed all all these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds who filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all Eternity to Eternity and when I considered all these things and that that being seeketh such to worshep him as worship him in spirit and in truth therefore I cried unto the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderness and while in the attitude of calling upon the Lord in the 16th year of my age a piller of light above the brightness of the sun at noon day come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled with the spirit of god and the Lord opened the heavens upon me and I saw the Lord and he spake unto me saying Joseph my son thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy way walk in my statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those who believe on my name may have Eternal life behold the world lieth in sin at this time and none doeth good no not one they have turned asside from the gospel and keep not my commandments they draw near to me with their lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit them acording to thir ungodliness and to bring to pass that which hath been spoken by the mouth of the prophets and Apostles

A title indicating one sent forth to preach; later designated as a specific ecclesiastical and priesthood office. By 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery were designated as apostles. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church explained that an “apostle is an elder...

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behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] written of me in the cloud clothed in the glory of my Father and my soul was filled with love and for many days I could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me but could find none that would believe the hevnly vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart but after many days [p. 3]
marvilous even in the likeness of him who created him <them>  and when I considered upon these things my heart exclai med well hath the wise man said the <it is a> fool <that> saith in  his heart there is no God13

See Psalms 14:1; 53:1.  


my heart exclaimed all all  these bear testimony and bespeak an omnipotant  and omnipreasant power a being who makith Laws and  decreeeth and bindeth all things in their bounds14

The teleological argument for the existence of God, the “argument from design,” was standard in the Christian tradition of the philosophy of religion. (“Design Argument,” in Dictionary of the History of Ideas, 1:670–677; Cosslett, Science and Religion in the Nineteenth Century, 25; see also Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 308 [Alma 30:44]; and Revelation, 27 and 28 Dec. 1832, in Doctrine and Covenants 7:9–12, 1835 ed. [D&C 88:36–47].)  


who  filleth Eternity who was and is and will be from all  Eternity to Eternity and when <I> considered all these things  and that <that> being seeketh such to worshep him as wors hip him in spirit and in truth15

See John 4:24; and Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 321 [Alma 34:38].  


therefore I cried unto  the Lord for mercy for there was none else to whom I could go and  to obtain mercy and the Lord heard my cry in the wilderne ss and while in <the> attitude of calling upon the Lord <in the 16th year of my age>

Insertion in the handwriting of Frederick G. Williams. JS later recounted that this vision occurred in early spring 1820, when he was fourteen years old. (JS History, vol. A-1, 3; compare JS, Journal, 9–11 Nov. 1835; JS, “Church History”; and JS, “Latter Day Saints”.)  


a piller of  fire light above the brightness of the sun at noon day  come down from above and rested upon me and I was filled  with the spirit of god and the <Lord> opened the heavens upon  me and I saw the Lord16

JS later recounted that he saw two “personages,” that one appeared after the other, and that “they did in reality speak unto me, or one of them did.” Other accounts identify the two personages as God the Father and Jesus Christ. (JS History, vol. A-1, 3; JS, Journal, 9–11 Nov. 1835.)  


and he spake unto me saying  Joseph <my son> thy sins are forgiven thee. go thy <way> walk in my  statutes and keep my commandments behold I am the  Lord of glory I was crucifyed for the world that all those  who believe on my name may have Eternal life <behold> the world  lieth in sin and at this time and none doeth good no  not one they have turned asside from the gospel and  keep not <my> commandments they draw near to me with their  lips while their hearts are far from me and mine anger  is kindling against the inhabitants of the earth to visit  them acording to thir ungodliness and to bring to pass  that which <hath> been spoken by the mouth of the prophe ts and Ap[o]stles

A title indicating one sent forth to preach; later designated as a specific ecclesiastical and priesthood office. By 1830, JS and Oliver Cowdery were designated as apostles. The “Articles and Covenants” of the church explained that an “apostle is an elder...

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17

The importance of the biblical prophecies appears as a persistent theme in JS’s religious thought. Pomeroy Tucker, who was acquainted with JS during their adolescence, affirmed JS’s claim to have studied the Bible and reminisced that the “Prophecies and Revelations were his special forte.” Whereas the prophets of the Old Testament promised the restoration of Israel and a Messianic reign, Jesus and John proclaimed a future apocalypse and a millennium of peace. JS’s earliest revelations conveyed the message of both an end-time restoration and an imminent apocalypse. (Tucker, Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism, 17.)  


behold and lo I come quickly as it [is] wr itten of me in the cloud <clothed> in the glory of my Father18

Christ’s declaration is saturated with scriptural allusions and phraseology from both the Bible and JS’s revelatory texts. See, for example, Leviticus 26:3; Vision, 16 Feb. 1832, in Doctrine and Covenants 91:4, 1835 ed. [D&C 76:41]; Revelation, ca. 7 Mar. 1831, in Book of Commandments 48:9–10 [D&C 45:8]; Revelation, 22 and 23 Sept. 1832, in Doctrine and Covenants 4:7, 1835 ed. [D&C 84:49]; Psalm 14:3; Isaiah 29:13; Deuteronomy 29:27; and Matthew 24:30.  


 and my soul was filled with love and for many days I  could rejoice with great Joy and the Lord was with me  but could find none that would believe the hevnly  vision nevertheless I pondered these things in my heart19

Compare Luke 2:19.  


 about that time my mother

8 July 1775–14 May 1856. Oilcloth painter, nurse, fund-raiser, author. Born at Gilsum, Cheshire Co., New Hampshire. Daughter of Solomon Mack Sr. and Lydia Gates. Moved to Montague, Franklin Co., Massachusetts, 1779; to Tunbridge, Orange Co., Vermont, 1788...

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and20

This canceled fragment may refer to the Presbyterian affiliation of JS’s mother and three of his siblings. In 1838, JS recounted that they “were proselyted to the Presbyterian faith” in connection with the revivalism preceding his vision. (“Records of the Session of the Presbyterian Church in Palmyra,” 10, 24, and 29 Mar. 1830; JS History, vol. A-1, 2.)  


but after many days [p. 3]
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JS, “A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr. an account of his marvilous experience and of all the mighty acts which he doeth in the name of Jesus Ch[r]ist the son of the living God of whom he beareth record and also an account of the rise of the church of Christ in the eve of time according as the Lord brought forth and established by his hand firstly he receiving the testamony from on high seccondly the ministering of Angels thirdly the reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministring of—Aangels to adminster the letter of the Gospel—the Law and commandments as they were given unto him—and the ordinencs, forthly a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood after the holy order of the son of the living God power and ordinence from on high to preach the Gospel in the administration and demonstration of the spirit the Kees of the Kingdom of God confered upon him and the continuation of the blessings of God to him &c—,” History, [ca. summer 1832]; handwriting of Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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and JS; six pages; in JS Letterbook 1, JS Collection, CHL.
JS’s circa summer 1832 history was inscribed in the front of a medium-size, commercially produced blank book. The book’s ledger paper is horizontally ruled with thirty-six (now faint) blue lines and vertically ruled with four red lines. The original book apparently contained nine gatherings of twelve leaves each, but eight leaves have been cut from the final gathering. The text block was sewn all along over recessed cords. The leaves measure 12⅝ x 7¾ inches (32 x 20 cm). The pastedowns and flyleaves were blank white paper. The volume was constructed with front and back covers of pasteboard and a tight-back case binding with a brown calfskin quarter-leather binding. The bound book measures 12⅞ x 8 x ⅞ inches (33 x 20 x 2 cm). The outside covers are adorned in shell marbled paper, with brown body and veins of blue and red. The front pastedown bears the inscriptions “c=c/i” and “/i=”, possibly original merchandising notes. The original front flyleaf, and any inscriptions it may have borne, is no longer extant.
The history was inscribed by Frederick G. Williams

28 Oct. 1787–10 Oct. 1842. Ship’s pilot, teacher, physician, justice of the peace. Born at Suffield, Hartford Co., Connecticut. Son of William Wheeler Williams and Ruth Granger. Moved to Newburg, Cuyahoga Co., Ohio, 1799. Practiced Thomsonian botanical system...

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and JS with quill pen in black ink (now oxidized to brown) on the first three leaves of ledger paper. The first five pages of the history were numbered by Williams. Later, the book was turned over so the back cover became the front and the last page became the first. One or more texts were inscribed in this side (the back) of the book, as is evident from inscriptions visible on the remaining stubs of the eight now-excised leaves. The volume was also repurposed as a letterbook. Beginning on the recto of the fourth leaf in the front of the book (immediately following the history) are ninety-three pages of copied outgoing letters, dated 14 June 1829 through 4 August 1835, in the handwriting of Williams, JS, Orson Hyde

8 Jan. 1805–28 Nov. 1878. Laborer, clerk, storekeeper, teacher, editor, businessman, lawyer, judge. Born at Oxford, New Haven Co., Connecticut. Son of Nathan Hyde and Sally Thorpe. Moved to Derby, New Haven Co., 1812. Moved to Kirtland, Geauga Co., Ohio, ...

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, and Oliver Cowdery

3 Oct. 1806–3 Mar. 1850. Clerk, teacher, justice of the peace, lawyer, newspaper editor. Born at Wells, Rutland Co., Vermont. Son of William Cowdery and Rebecca Fuller. Raised Congregationalist. Moved to western New York and clerked at a store, ca. 1825–1828...

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. The book’s pagination also began anew with the copied letters. The first page of letters bore the inscription “1a”, which is only partially legible on the now-trimmed page but is complete in photocopy and microfilm copies at the Church History Library.1

The photocopy may have been made from the microfilm. The letterbook was filmed on 12 November 1968. (Microfilming report, entry no. JP 1068, Historical Department, Microfilm Reports, 1949–1975, CHL.)  


The front flyleaf is missing; perhaps it bore a title related to the history and was removed when the volume was converted to a letterbook. The back flyleaf is also missing. At some point, Williams began an index for the letters. This incomplete index is inscribed on paper that does not match the original ledger paper. It was apparently a loose leaf inserted in the volume—as is Williams’s index to the contents of Revelation Book 22

At some point, Williams’s index for Revelation Book 2 was attached with adhesive wafers to the inside front cover of the book.  


—although it is currently bound in the front of the volume as a result of late twentieth-century conservation. This index does not list the history.
A reconstruction of the physical history of the artifact helps explain the current material context of the document. Photocopy and microfilm images of the book, as well as an inspection of the conservation work now present in the volume, indicate that the text block separated from the binding at some point. Also, the initial three leaves containing the history were excised from the volume. The eight inscribed leaves in the back of the volume may have been cut out at the same time.3

These eight leaves have not been located.  


Manuscript evidence suggests that these excisions took place in the mid-twentieth century. A tear on the third leaf, which evidently occurred during its excision, was probably mended at the time. This tear was mended with clear cellophane tape, which was invented in 1930.4

Cole et al., Encyclopedia of Modern Everyday Inventions, 22; Edelman, “Brief History of Tape,” 45–46.  


The three leaves of the history certainly had been removed by 1965, when they were described as “cut out,” although they were archived together with the letterbook. The size and paper stock of the three excised leaves match those of the other leaves in the book. Also, the cut and tear marks, as well as the inscriptions in the gutters of the three excised leaves, match those of the remaining leaf stubs, confirming their original location in the book.5

Cheesman, “Analysis of the Accounts Relating Joseph Smith’s Early Visions,” 126; Jessee, “The Early Accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision,” 277–278.  


The three leaves were later restored to the volume, apparently in the 1990s.6

The leaves were still detached when they were photographed for a 1984 publication.a They were reattached by 2000, when scanned images that show them as such were made by the Church Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.b The leaves are also reported as being reattached in a 25 February 2001 register of the JS Collection, which states that they were “reattached in the 1990s.”c  


aJessee, Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, 15–20.

bTurley, Selected Collections, vol. 1, disc 20.

cFaulring, “Annotated Catalog of the Joseph Smith Collection.”

This restoration was probably part of a larger conservation effort that took place, in which the entire volume was rebound, including binding the formerly loose index of letters. The first gathering, which contains the history, was slightly trimmed in connection with this conservation work. The volume shows marked browning, brittleness, and wear. It is listed in Nauvoo

Principal gathering place for Saints following expulsion from Missouri. Beginning in 1839, LDS church purchased lands in earlier settlement of Commerce and planned settlement of Commerce City, as well as surrounding areas. Served as church headquarters, 1839...

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, Illinois, and early Salt Lake City, Utah, inventories made by the Church Historian’s Office, as well as in the 1973 register of the JS Collection, indicating continuous institutional custody.7

“Schedule of Church Records. Nauvoo 1846,” [1]; “Inventory. Historian’s Office. 4th April 1855,” [1], Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL; Johnson, Register of the Joseph Smith Collection, 7.  


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