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

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

according to the [will] of the Lord, is the Lord’s business and he hath set you to  provide for his saints in these last days, that they may obtain an in heritance in the land of Zion; and behold I the Lord declare unto you,  and <my> words are sure and shall not fail, that they shall obtain it;—  but all things must come to pass in their time; wherefore be not weary  in well doing, for ye are laying the foundation great work. And  out of small things proceedeth that which is great.
7 Behold the Lord requireth the heart and a willing mind; and the  willing and obedient shall eat the the good of the land of  Zion, in these last days; and the rebellious shall be cut cut off  out of the land of Zion, and shall be sent away, and shall  not inherit the land: for verily I say that the rebellious are not  of the blood of Ephraim; wherefore they shall be plucked out.  Behold I the Lord have made my church in these last days,  like unto a judge sitting on a hill, or in a high place, to judge  the nations: for it shall come to pass, that the inhabitants of Zion  shall judge all things pertaining to Zion: and liars and hyp ocrites shall be proved by them, and they who are not apostles  and prophets shall be known.
8 And even the bishop, who is a judge, and his counsellors, if they  are not faithful in their stewardships, shall be condemned, and oth ers shall be planted in their stead; for behold I say unto you that  Zion shall flourish, and the glory of the Lord shall be upon her,  and she shall be an ensign unto the people: and there shall come  unto her out of every nation under heaven. And the day  shall come, when the nations of the earth shall tremble because  of her, and shall fear because of her terrible ones; the Lord  hath spoken it: Amen.

12 September–October 1831

On the 12th twelfth of September I removed with my family  to the township of Hiram, and commenced living with  John Johnson. Hiram was in Portage county and about  thirty miles southeasterly from Kirtland. From this time until  the forepart of October I did little more than to prepare to  recommence the translation of the bible. About this time, Ezra  Booth came out as an apostate. He came into the church  upon seeing a person healed of an infirmity of many year’s  standing. He had been a methodist priest for some <time> pre vious to his embracing the fulness of the gospel, as developed in  the book of Mormon, and upon his admission into the church [p. 153]
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.