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

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

crown the industry and efforts of those inhabitants, there  would be a measure of the good things of life, for the  benefit of the saints, full, press down and running  over, even an hundred fold.
The disadvantages here, like all new countries,  are self evident: lack of mills and schools, together  with the natural privations and inconveniences, which  the hand of industry, and the refinement of society  with the polish of science, overcome. But all these  impediments, banish when it is recollected what the proph ets have said concerning Zion in the last days: how the  glory of Lebanon is to come upon her, the fir tree, the pine  tree, and the box together, to beautify the place of his sanc tuary, that he may make the place of his feet glorious:  where, for brass he will bring gold, and for iron he will bring  silver, and for wood brass, and for stones iron:— and  where the feast of fat things will be given to the just; yea  when the splendor of the Lord, is brought to our considera tion for the good of his people, the calculations of men and the  vain glory of the world vanishes, and we exclaim; God  will shine the perfection of beauty out of Zion.

3–7 August 1831 • Wednesday–Sunday

On the third day of Agust, <I proceeded to dedicate> the plot spot for the Temple,  a little west of Independence, was dedicated in <and there were> presence <present> of  eight men, among whom were myself, Sidney Rigdon, Edward  Partridge, W[illiam] W. Phelps, Oliver Cowdery, Martin Harris and  Joseph Coe. The 87,th Psalm was read, and the scene was  solemn and impresive. On the 4th I attended the first  conference in the land of Zion. It was held at the house  of brother Joshua Lewis in Kaw Township, in presence  of the Colesville branch of the church. The spirit of the  Lord was there. On the 7th I attended the funeral  of sister Polly [Peck] Knight, the wife of Joseph Knight Sen. This  was the first death in the church in this land, and I can  say a worthy member sleeps in Jesus till the resurrection.  I also received the following
Revelation, given in Zion, August 1831.
1. Behold, blessed, saith the Lord, are they who have come up unto  this land with an eye Single to my glory, according to my  commandments: for them that live shall inherit the earth, and [p. 139]
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.