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

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

pointed by the voice of the church, and ordained a bishop,  unto the church, to leave <[illegible]> his merchandize and to spend all his  time in the labors of the church; to see to all things as it shall be  appointed unto him, in my laws, in the day that I shall give  them. And this because his heart is pure before me, for he is like  unto Nathianiel of old, in whom there is no guile. These words are  given unto you, and they are pure before me; wherefore beware  how you hold them, for they are to be answered upon your  souls in the day of Judgment; even so: Amen.

Biography of Edward Partridge

As Edward Partridge now appears by revelation as one of  the heads of the church, I will give a sketch of his history. He  was born in Pittsfield, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, on the 27th  of August, 1793, of William and Jemima Partridge. His fathers  ancestors emigrated from Berwick, in Scotland during the  seventeenth century, and settled at Hadley Mass., on Connec ticut river. Nothing worthy of note transpired in his youth, with  this excepting, <one>, that he remembers (though the precise time he  cannot recollect,) that the Spirit of the Lord strove with him  a number of times, insomuch that his heart was made tender,  and he went and wept; and that sometimes he went silently  and poured the effusions of his soul to God, in prayer.
At the age of sixteen he went to learn the hatting trade,  and continued as an apprentice for about four years. At the  age of twenty he had become disgusted with the religious  world. He saw no beauty, comeliness, or loveliness in the charac ter of the god that was preached up by the sects. He, however,  heard a universal Restorationer preach upon the love of God;  this sermon gave him exalted opinions of God, and he concluded,  that Universal Restorations was right according to the bible.  He continued in this belief till 1828, when he and his wife  were baptised into the Campbellite church by elder Sidney  Rigdon, in Mentor, though they resided in Painesvill, (Ohio,)  He continued a member of this church, though doubting at times  its being the <true> one, till <Elder> P[arley] P. Pratt, O[liver] Cowdery, P. Whitmer [Peter Whitmer Jr.] and Z[iba] Peterson  came along with the book of Mormon, when he began to in vestigate the subject of religion anew; went with Sidney  Rigdon to Fayette, N.Y. where on the 11th of December I  baptised him in the Seneca river. Other incidents of his  life will be noticed in their time and place. [p. 94]
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.