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

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

of religion, and who were not backward to maintain this privilege for themselves;  though they thus wantonly could deny it to us. For instance Cyrus McMaster  a Presbyterian of high standing in his church was one of the chief instigators of  these persecutions, and he at one time told me personally, that he considered me  guilty without judge or jury. The celebrated Doctr Boyington [Nathan Boynton], also a  presbyterian, was another instigator to those deeds of outrage: Whilst a young  man named [Abram] Benton, of the same religious faith swore out the first warrant  against me. I could mention many others also, but for brevity’s sake, will make  these suffice for the present. <-[Here insert the sheet marked A.1.]->
Mean time, notwithstanding all the rage of  our enemies, still we had much consolation, and many things occurred to strengthen  our faith, and cheer our hearts. After our return from Colesville, the church  there, were <at Colesville>, as might be expected, <were> very anxious concerning our again visiting them,  during which time, Sister [Sally Coburn] Knight, (wife to Newel Knight) had a dream, which  enabled her to say that we would visit them that day, which really came to pass, for  a few hours afterwards we arrived, and thus was our <the> faith much <of the saints> strengthened, concern ing dreams and visions in the last days, foretold by the ancient Prophet Joel: And  although we, this time, were forced to seek safety from our enemies by flight, yet  did we feel confidence that eventualy we should come off victorious, if we only continued  faithful to Him who had called us forth from darkness, into the marvellous light  of the Everlasting Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

July 1830

Shortly after our return home, we received the  following commandments.
Revelation given to Joseph Smith Jr, and Oliver  Cowderry [Cowdery], Given at Harmony, Pennsylvania, July, 1830.
1 Behold thou wast called and chosen to write the  Book of Mormon, and to my ministry; and I have lifted thee up, out of thy afflictions,  and have counselled thee, that thou hast been delivered from all thine enemies, and thou  hast been delivered from the powers of Satan, and from darkness! Nevertheless, thou  art not excusable in thy transgressions; nevertheless, go thy way, and sin no more.
2 Magnify thine office; and after thou hast sowed thy fields, and secured them,  go speedily unto the Church which is in Colesville, Fayette and Manchester, and they  shall support thee; and I will bless them both spiritually and temporally; but if  they receive thee not, I will send upon them a cursing instead of a blessing.
3 And thou shalt continue <in> calling upon God in my name, and writing the things  which shall be given thee by the comforter, and expounding all scriptures unto the church,  and it shall be given thee in the very moment, what thou shalt speak and write; and  they shall hear it, or I will send unto them a cursing instead of a blessing:
4 For thou shalt devote all thy service in Zion. And in this thou shalt have  strength. Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt have many: but endure them, [p. 48]
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.