History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834]

History, 1838–1856, volume A-1 [23 December 1805–30 August 1834]

<July 2> We are anxious for a settlement of the difficulties existing between  us, upon honorable and constitutional principles.
We are willing for twelve disinterested men, six to be chosen  by each party, and these men shall say what the possessions  of those men are worth who cannot live with us in the  County; and they shall have their money in one year; and  none of the Mormons shall enter that county to reside  until the money is paid. The damages that we have  sustained in consequence of being driven away, shall  also be left to the above twelve men. Or they may all  live in the county, if they choose, and we will never  molest them if they will let us alone, and permit us to  enjoy our rights. We want to live in peace with all  men, and equal rights is all we ask. We wish to be come permanent citizens of this State, and wish to  bear our proportion in support of the government,  and to be protected by its laws. If the above proposi tions are complied with, we are willing to give security  on our part; and we shall want the same of the  people of Jackson County for the performance of this  agreement. We do not wish to settle down in a body, except  where we can purchase the lands with money; for to take  possession by the Conquest or the shedding of blood, is entirely  foreign to our feelings. The shedding of blood we  shall not be guilty of, until all just and honorable  means among men, prove insufficient to restore peace.”
<June 21st>
“To John Lincoln, Geo. K. Morehead  John Sconce, James H. Long, James Collins

3 July 1834 • Thursday

<High Council  of Zion  Organized.> On the 3d. of July. the High priests of Zion assembled  <in the yard of Colonel Arthur’s where Lyman Wight lived> in Clay county, and I proceeded to organize a High  council, agreeable to the revelation and pattern given at  Kirtland, for the purpose of settling important business  that might come before them, which could not be  settled by the Bishop and his council. David Whitmer  was elected President, and William W. Phelps and John  Whitmer assistant presidents. The following High Priests  namely, Christian Whitmer, Newel Knight, Lyman Wight [p. 511]
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.