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

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

who lived in Chenango County, State of New York. He had heard something of a silver  mine having been opened by the Spaniards in Harmony, Susquahanah County, State of  Pensylvania, and had previous to my hiring with him been digging in order if possible to  discover the mine. After I went to live with <him> he took me among the rest of his hands to dig  for the silver mine, at which I continued to work for nearly a month without success in  our undertaking, and finally I prevailed with the old gentleman to cease digging after  it. Hence arose the very prevalent story of my have <having> been a money digger.

January 1827

During the time that I was thus employed I was put to board with a Mr Isaac Hale of that  place, “Twas there that I first saw my wife, (his daughter) Emma Hale. On the eighteenth of  January Eighteen hundred and twenty seven we were married while yet I was employed in the  service of Mr Stoal. Owing to my still continuing to assert that I had seen a vision, persecu tion still followed me, and so much was my wife’s father excited, that he was greatly <and my wife’s father’s family were very much> opp osed to our being married, in so much that he would not suffer us to be married at his  house, I was therefore under the necessity of taking her elsewhere, so we went and were  married at Mr St the house of Mr Stoal. <Squire Tarbill [Zechariah Tarble]. in South Bainbridge. Chenango County. New York.> Immediately after my marriage I left  Mr Stoals, and went to my father’s and farmed with him that season.

September 1827

At length the time arrived for obtaining the plates, the Urim and Thummin and the  breastplate, In <On> the twenty second day of September, One thousand Eight hundred and  twenty seven, having went as usual at the end of another year to the place where they were  deposited, the same heavenly messenger delivered them up to me with this charge that I  should be responsible for them. That if I should let them go carelessly or <through> any neglect  of mine I should be cut off, but that if I would use all my endeavours to preserve  them untill <he> (the messenger) called should call for them, they should be protected.
I soon found out the reason why I had received such strict charges to keep them safe  and why it was that the messenger had said that when I had done what was required  at my hand, he would call for them, for no sooner was it known that I had them than  the most strenious exertions were used to get them from me. Every stratagem that could  be resorted invented was resorted to for that purpose. The persecution became more  bitter and severe than before, and multitudes were on the alert continualy to get them  from me if possible but by the wisdom of God they remained safe in my hands untill I  had accomplished by them what was required at my hand, when according to arrangement  the messenger called for them, I delivered them up to him and he has them in his charge un till this day, being the Second day of May, One thousand Eight hundred and thirty eight.

September 1827–February 1828

The excitement however still continued, and rumour with her thousand tongues was  all the time employed in circulating tales about my father’s family and about myself.  If I were to relate a thousandth part of them it would fill up volumes. The persecution  however became so intolerable that I was under the necessity of leaving Manchester and  going with my wife <to> Susquahanah County in the State of Pensyllvania. While preparing  to start (being very poor and the persecution so heavy upon us that there was no probability  that we would ever be otherwise) in the midst of our afflictions we found a friend in a  Gentleman by <the> name of Martin Harris, who came to us and gave me fifty dollars [p. 8]
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.