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History, circa Summer 1832

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].)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Dictionary of the History of Ideas: Studies of Selected Pivotal Ideas. Edited by Philip Paul Weiner.

Cosslett, Tess, ed. Science and Religion in the Nineteenth Century. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984.

The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. Palmyra, NY: E. B. Grandin, 1830.

Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

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].
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. Palmyra, NY: E. B. Grandin, 1830.

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”.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). CHL. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

Times and Seasons. Commerce/Nauvoo, IL. Nov. 1839–Feb. 1846.

Rupp, Israel Daniel, ed. He Pasa Ekklesia [The Whole Church]: An Original History of the Religious Denominations at Present Existing in the United States, Contains Authentic Accounts of Their Rise, Progress, Statistics and Doctrines. Written Expressly for the Work by Eminent Theological Professors, Ministers, and Lay-Members, of the Respective Denominations. Projected, Compiled and Arranged by I. Daniel Rupp, of Lancaster, Pa. Philadelphia: J. Y. Humphreys; Harrisburg: Clyde and Williams, 1844.

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.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). CHL. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

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]stles17

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.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Tucker, Pomeroy. Origin, Rise, and Progress of Mormonism: Biography of Its Founders and History of Its Church. New York: D. Appleton, 1867.

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.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830. Zion [Independence], MO: W. W. Phelps, 1833. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

 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 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.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

“Records of the Session of the Presbyterian Church in Palmyra, New York.” 1830. CHL.

JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). CHL. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.

but after many days [p. 3]
PreviousNext
JS’s circa summer 1832 history is the only narrative of the foundational spiritual events of JS’s early life that includes his own handwriting. It begins in an imposing manner, announcing “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 . . . and also an account of the rise of the church of Christ in the eve of time.” Following this introduction, JS started with his own birth and then quickly moved to the events that marked the beginning of his career as a prophet: his study of the Bible, his early visions, the reception of the gold plates, the financial and scribal assistance of Martin Harris at the beginning of JS’s translation of the plates, and Harris’s loss of the early translation manuscript. Then, following a brief mention of Oliver Cowdery, who in the account had not yet met JS but would soon provide him desperately needed scribal and financial assistance, the document ends abruptly after only six pages. The introductory prospectus to the history refers to four foundational events in JS’s life: “the testamony from on high,” later explained as his first vision of Deity; “the ministering of Angels,” or the angel Moroni’s revelation of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon; the “reception of the holy Priesthood”; and “a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood.” JS related the first two events in some detail, providing a firsthand account of his childhood and early religious experiences, but this history includes nothing further about the reception of priesthood authority.
It is not clear why JS ended his earliest history before completing his stated intentions. Some of his other documentary endeavors, including the journal he began the same year, are similarly incomplete, perhaps indicating that other activities simply took precedence.1

Although JS began his first journal with the explicit intention “to keep a minute acount of all things that come under my obsevation,” there were substantial gaps in his journal keeping. (JS, Journal, 27 Nov. 1832.)  

 
It is possible, however, that JS deliberately ended the history where he did, viewing it as part of a larger historical record that would include the work of others assigned as record keepers. Even though JS wrote his own history in about summer 1832, he continued to affirm John Whitmer’s role as church historian, demonstrating that JS’s historical venture did not relieve Whitmer of the responsibility to continue the church history.2

See JS, Hiram, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 31 July 1832, JS Collection, CHL; JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4; Revelation, 11 Nov. 1831–A, in Doctrine and Covenants 28:1, 1835 ed. [D&C 69:3]; and JS and Sidney Rigdon, Far West, MO, to John Whitmer, Far West, MO, 9 Apr. 1838.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL.

JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL.

Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

For his part, Whitmer viewed his history as continuing work begun by Oliver Cowdery, whom he replaced as church record keeper.3

Minute Book 2, 9 June 1830; Revelation, ca. 8 Mar. 1831–B, in Book of Commandments 50 [D&C 47]; Whitmer, History, 25; see also the Historical Introduction to Whitmer, History.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Minute Book 2 / “The Conference Minutes and Record Book of Christ’s Church of Latter Day Saints,” 1838, 1842, 1844. CHL. Also available at josephsmithpapers.org.

A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830. Zion [Independence], MO: W. W. Phelps, 1833. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

Whitmer, History / Whitmer, John. “The Book of John Whitmer Kept by Commandment,” ca. 1838–1847. CCLA.

The question of whether JS expected Cowdery’s or Whitmer’s work to fit together with the account begun in his own history cannot be settled for certain; JS’s narrative does, however, cover only earlier history for which JS alone could provide a firsthand account, and it concludes just before Cowdery enters the scene.4

Although no narrative history by Oliver Cowdery predating JS’s first history is known, Cowdery wrote a series of historical letters in 1834–1835 that were published in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate and later copied into JS’s 1834–1836 history. Cowdery may have taken JS’s history into account when he began the first letter, as he picked up the story just where JS had left off—when the two first met in Harmony, Pennsylvania, on 5 April 1829. Cowdery went on to describe the receipt of the lower (Aaronic) priesthood. Thus, whether by design or coincidence, Cowdery detailed the third event outlined in the prospectus to JS’s history (“the reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministring of—Aangels”). In chapter 7 of his history, Whitmer covered the fourth event (the “confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood”). (Oliver Cowdery, Norton, OH, to William W. Phelps, 7 Sept. 1834, LDS Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 1:13–16 [also in JS History, 1834–1836]; JS History, ca. summer 1832; Whitmer, History, 27.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.

JS History, 1834–1836 / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1834–1836. In Joseph Smith et al., History, 1838–1856, vol. A-1, back of book (earliest numbering), 9–20, 46–187. CHL.

JS History, ca. Summer 1832 / Smith, Joseph. “A History of the Life of Joseph Smith Jr,” ca. Summer 1832. In Joseph Smith, “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835, 1–[6] (earliest numbering). Joseph Smith Collection. CHL.

Whitmer, History / Whitmer, John. “The Book of John Whitmer Kept by Commandment,” ca. 1838–1847. CCLA.

The circa summer 1832 history came about as part of a new phase in JS’s record-keeping practices. During the first four years of Mormon record keeping (1828–1831), JS focused primarily on preserving his revelatory texts. The records surviving from the early period of his prophetic career are almost exclusively sacred texts, including the Book of Mormon manuscripts, JS’s revision of the Bible, and his own contemporary revelations. Scriptural record keeping overshadowed personal and institutional record keeping. This focus changed in 1832, when JS began documenting his personal life in detail for the first time, both in his history and in the journal he began on 27 November 1832. He and his scribes also began compiling a minute book and a letterbook, providing material recording day-to-day events. With this broader record-keeping focus, JS began to document his role as revelator and church leader in addition to preserving the texts of revelations and visions.
In the early 1830s, when this history was written, it appears that JS had not broadcast the details of his first vision of Deity. The history of the church, as it was then generally understood, began with the gold plates. John Whitmer mentioned in his history “the commencement of the church history commencing at the time of the finding of the plates,” suggesting that Whitmer was either unaware of JS’s earlier vision or did not conceive of it as foundational.5

Whitmer, History, 25.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Whitmer, History / Whitmer, John. “The Book of John Whitmer Kept by Commandment,” ca. 1838–1847. CCLA.

Records predating 1832 only hint at JS’s earliest manifestation. The historical preamble to the 1830 “articles and covenants,” for example, appears to reference JS’s vision in speaking of a moment when “it truly was manifested unto this first elder, that he had received a remission of his sins.”6

Articles and Covenants, ca. Apr. 1830, in Book of Commandments 24:6–7 [D&C 20:5–8]. In the circa summer 1832 history, Christ’s first message to JS is “thy sins are forgiven thee.”
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

A Book of Commandments, for the Government of the Church of Christ, Organized according to Law, on the 6th of April, 1830. Zion [Independence], MO: W. W. Phelps, 1833. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

Initially, JS may have considered this vision to be a personal experience tied to his own religious explorations. He was not accustomed to recording personal events, and he did not initially record the vision as he later did the sacred texts at the center of his attention. Only when JS expanded his focus to include historical records did he write down a detailed account of the theophany he experienced as a youth. The result was a simple, unpolished account of his first “marvilous experience,” written largely in his own hand. The account was not published or widely circulated at the time, though in later years he told the story more frequently.
Understanding the production of the circa summer 1832 history is complicated by the possibility that it was copied from an earlier manuscript, a possibility suggested by the known record-keeping practices of JS and Frederick G. Williams, in whose alternating handwriting the history is inscribed. In the same time period, they jointly copied six revelations from 1831 and 1832, some of which JS originally dictated to Williams, into the beginning of a compilation of revelations.7

See Revelation Book 2, 1–10, 12–15, 18–31.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Revelation Book 2 / “Book of Revelations,” 1832–1834. Revelations Collection, 1831–ca. 1844, 1847, 1861, ca. 1876. CHL.

They also divided inscription work when they copied JS’s 27 November 1832 letter to William W. Phelps, which JS originally dictated, into JS’s first letterbook (begun in the same volume that contains the circa summer 1832 history). Thus, the other extant 1832 documents inscribed in both JS’s and Williams’s handwriting are all copies.8

See Vision, 16 Feb. 1832, in Revelation Book 2, pp. 1–10 [D&C 76]; Revelation, 4 Dec. 1831, in Revelation Book 2, pp. 12–15 [D&C 72]; Revelation, 7 Mar. 1832, in Revelation Book 2, pp. 18–19 [D&C 80]; Revelation, 22 and 23 Sept. 1832, in Revelation Book 2, pp. 20–31 [D&C 84]; and JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, pp. 1–4. A small section of JS inscription among his Bible revisions may be an exception; it was made in either 1832 or 1833. (Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 72.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Revelation Book 2 / “Book of Revelations,” 1832–1834. Revelations Collection, 1831–ca. 1844, 1847, 1861, ca. 1876. CHL.

JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL.

Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.

In their early record-keeping efforts, JS and his scribes established the practice of copying loose minutes, letters, and revelations into more permanent blank books. In fact, the large blank books used in church record-keeping through 1832 were filled entirely or almost entirely with material copied from loose leaves.9

Later JS documents, however, such as his journals for 1835–1836, March–September 1838, and 1841–1842, provide examples of original material inscribed directly into large blank books. Frederick G. Williams evidently also began inscribing topical indexes of scriptural references directly into several blank books beginning 17 July 1833. (See Jensen, “Ignored and Unknown Clues of Early Mormon Record Keeping,” 136–139.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Jensen, Robin Scott. “Ignored and Unknown Clues of Early Mormon Record Keeping.” In Preserving the History of the Latter-day Saints, edited by Richard E. Turley and Steven C. Harper, 135–164. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2010.

Thus, the fact that the extant history exists in a record book and not as loose leaves suggests it is a copy.
Textual clues also indicate that the extant 1832 history may not be an original composition. The handwriting of Williams and JS passes back and forth with little or no correspondence to the narrative progress of the history; the two sometimes alternate inscription mid-sentence. In JS’s writing, moreover, the disruptions to inscription caused by changing or sharpening a quill and dipping it in ink occur in the middle of a thought and even in the middle of a word, suggesting he was copying rather than composing.10

On the second page of the manuscript, for example, the quill sharpness changes between the u and the r of “courses” in the phrase “the stars shining in their courses.”  

 
Other textual evidence, however, indicates that the circa summer 1832 history may be the original inscription. In their work on the history, neither JS nor Williams made inscription errors that one might expect to find if it were a copy, errors that both men made in contemporary copying work. For example, when copying a 27 November 1832 letter into his first letterbook, JS inadvertently repeated a phrase from a line above and then struck the phrase after realizing his error.11

JS, Kirtland, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 27 Nov. 1832, in JS Letterbook 1, p. 4.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL.

Similarly, in copying a December 1833 letter into the same volume, Williams apparently skipped a line of the original before catching himself and fixing the mistake.12

JS, Kirtland Mills, OH, to Edward Partridge et al., Liberty, MO, 10 Dec. 1833, in JS Letterbook 1, p. 71.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL.

Errors like these do not appear in the 1832 history.
The history also contains several significant contemporaneous revisions in JS’s handwriting, which may indicate that JS was composing original narrative. For instance, at the bottom of page 3 he wrote, “about that time my mother and,” but then apparently decided he did not want to include this detail and canceled the passage. Such revisions, however, could have been made during copying, not during composition. JS and his scribes made similar revisions as they copied drafts and other antecedent documents into the 1834–1836 history and the multivolume manuscript history initiated in 1838. Likewise, JS and Williams may have been modifying the circa summer 1832 history as they copied it from an earlier text.
Although JS’s earliest history bears no date, its approximate creation date can be determined by considering the language of the text, the volume in which it is found, and the larger historical context. Frederick G. Williams first met JS in summer 1831, but there is no evidence that he began work as a scribe before 16 February 1832, the date of the first item he copied into JS’s second revelation book.13

Williams, “Frederick Granger Williams,” 245–247; see also Revelation Book 2, pp. 1–10.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Williams, Frederick G. “Frederick Granger Williams of the First Presidency of the Church.” BYU Studies 12 (Spring 1972): 243–261.

Although none of the revelations he transcribed into the book bears a transcription date, the inconsistent copying styles of the various transcripts and the interspersed transcripts of older revelations that appear among the March 1832 revelations suggest that the book had become the active record-keeping repository for the revelations by March 1832.14

See Revelation Book 2, pp. 1–20. John Whitmer had earlier inscribed revelations into a blank book, Revelation Book 1, but because Whitmer took this book to Missouri in late November 1831, another book was needed for copying revelations. Revelation Book 2 filled this need, and it was apparently begun in February or March 1832.  

 
If JS and Williams were copying revelations in March 1832, it is not implausible that they created the history around the same time.
The volume containing the history provides clues to determine the latest date by which the history was written. Sometime after the history was inscribed, the volume was repurposed as a letterbook, beginning with a letter dated 27 November 1832. The uneven copying styles of the letters from January to April 1833 indicate that the letterbook was being used as an active copy book during that period, with letters being transcribed into the volume in chronological order as they were written, prior to mailing them.15

See JS Letterbook 1, pp. 14–36.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL.

JS probably followed this same pattern the previous fall, making a contemporaneous copy of the 27 November 1832 letter in the letterbook before sending the original. If indeed the volume that contains the circa summer 1832 history was repurposed as a letterbook at the end of November, the history must have been written before then.
The date range for likely composition of the history can be narrowed even further. Williams took on increasing clerical work in July 1832 during a suspension of Sidney Rigdon’s position as JS’s principal counselor and scribe.16

At the Sunday meeting held in Kirtland on 8 July 1832, JS demanded that Rigdon surrender his priesthood license because Rigdon had declared three days earlier that the “keys of the kingdom” had been taken from the church and that he alone retained them.a Three weeks later JS reinstated Rigdon in the church presidency.b
Comprehensive Works Cited

 


a“History [of] Charles Coulson Rich,” 3–4, Historian’s Office, Histories of the Twelve, ca. 1858–1880, CHL; Cahoon, Diary, 5–17 July 1832; Lucy Mack Smith, History, 1844–1845, bk. 13, [6]; Dibble, “Philo Dibble’s Narrative,” 79–80.

bHyrum Smith, Diary and Account Book, 28 July 1832; JS, Hiram, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 31 July 1832, JS Collection, CHL.

 

Historian’s Office. Histories of the Twelve, ca. 1858–1880. CHL.

Cahoon, Reynolds. Diaries, 1831–1832. CHL.

Smith, Lucy Mack. History, 1844–1845. 18 books. CHL. Also available in Lavina Fielding Anderson, ed., Lucy’s Book: A Critical Edition of Lucy Mack Smith’s Family Memoir (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001).

Dibble, Philo. “Philo Dibble’s Narrative.” In Early Scenes in Church History, Faith-Promoting Series 8, pp. 74–96. Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1882.

Smith, Hyrum. Diary and Account Book, Nov. 1831–Feb. 1835. Hyrum Smith, Papers, ca. 1832–1844. BYU.

Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL.

In a later statement, Williams wrote, “I commencd writing for Joseph Smith Jr July 20th 1832 as may be seen by S Rigdon permission dated as above.”17

Frederick G. Williams, Statement, no date, Frederick G. Williams, Papers, CHL. Although the cited permission is not extant, the language of this undated statement indicates that Williams was basing his information not on memory but on contemporaneous documentation.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Williams, Frederick G. Papers, 1834–1842. CHL.

Following this 20 July appointment, Williams’s clerical duties expanded and he recorded revelations, Bible revisions, and letters as JS dictated.18

See, for example, Revelation Book 2, pp. 19–31; Faulring et al., Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible, 59, 70–72; JS, Hiram, OH, to William W. Phelps, [Independence, MO], 31 July 1832, JS Collection, CHL; and JS, Kirtland OH, to Vienna Jacques, Independence, MO, 4 Sept. 1833, JS Collection, CHL. Williams later wrote that from the time of his employment on 20 July 1832 until January 1836, he “was constantly in said Smiths employ.” (Frederick G. Williams, Statement, no date, Frederick G. Williams, Papers, CHL; compare “Account on Farm,” no date, Frederick G. Williams, Papers, CHL.)
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Faulring, Scott H., Kent P. Jackson, and Robert J. Matthews, eds. Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible: Original Manuscripts. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2004.

Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL.

Williams, Frederick G. Papers, 1834–1842. CHL.

JS’s earliest history was probably inscribed between the 20 July appointment and 22 September 1832, the date of a revelation that changed JS’s lexicon regarding priesthood. The history refers to the first priesthood JS received as the “holy priesthood,” which was then followed by the reception of the “high priesthood,” but the September 1832 revelation reserved the adjective “holy” for the higher priesthood.19

Revelation, 22 and 23 Sept. 1832, in Doctrine and Covenants 4:2–3, 1835 ed. [D&C 84:6, 18–19]. For examples of pre–September 1832 use of “holy” to describe both the higher and lower priesthoods, see Book of Mormon, 1830 ed., 73–74, 258–260 [2 Nephi 5:26, 6:2; Alma 13:1–19]; Elder’s license for John Whitmer, 9 June 1830, JS Collection, CHL; Teacher’s license for Christian Whitmer, 9 June 1830, Western Americana Collection, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT; Priest’s license for Joseph Smith Sr., 9 June 1830, JS Collection, CHL.
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi. Palmyra, NY: E. B. Grandin, 1830.

Smith, Joseph. Collection, 1827–1846. CHL.

Western Americana Collection. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

JS’s subsequent writings and revelations consistently reserved the word “holy” to describe the greater priesthood only.20

See, for example, Plat of City of Zion, 1833, CHL; JS to Oliver Cowdery, Blessing, 18 Dec. 1833, in Patriarchal Blessings, 1:12; Instruction on priesthood, ca. Apr. 1835, in Doctrine and Covenants 3:1, 8, 10, 1835 ed. [D&C 107:3, 14, 20].
Comprehensive Works Cited

 

 

Plat of City of Zion, 1833. CHL.

Patriarchal Blessings, 1833–. CHL.

Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).

The terminology of the existing documentary record, therefore, coupled with the date of Williams’s appointment as scribe, suggests that the history was most likely composed between 20 July and 22 September 1832.
Regardless of when it was created, the circa summer 1832 history provides the most personal, intimate account of JS’s early visions available and preserves details of those visions not recorded elsewhere.

Facts