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

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

in the most solemn manner that he would not do otherwise than had been directed. He did so.  He bound himself as I required of him, took the writings and went his way.
Notwithstanding however the great restrictions which he had been laid under, and the solemn ity of the covenant which he had made with me, he did shew them to others and by strat agem they got them away from him, and they never have been recovered nor obtained back  again untill this day. [blank] In the mean time while Martin  Harris was gone with the writings, I went to visit my father’s family at Manchester.  I continued there for a short season and then returned to my place in Pensylvania.  Immediately after my return home I was walking out a little distance, when Behold  the former heavenly messenger appeared and handed to me the Urim and Thummin  again (for it had been taken from me in consequence of my having wearied the Lord in ask ing for the privilege of letting Martin Harris take the writings which he lost by tran sgression) and I enquired of the Lord through them and obtained the folowing  revelation.

July 1828

Revelation to Joseph Smyth jr, given July 1828 concerning certain  manuscripts on the first part of the book of Mormon which had been taken from the possession of Martin Harris.
The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God, cannot be frustrated  neither can they come to nought, for God doth not walk in crooked: <paths:> neither doth he turn to the  right hand nor to the left; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said: therefore his paths  are strait and his course is one eternal round.
Remember remember that it is not the work of God that is frustrated, but the work of men: for  although a man may have many revelations, and have power to do many mighty works, yet,  if he boasts in his own strength, and sets at nought the counsels of God, and follows after  the dictates of his own will, and carnal desires, he must fall and incur the vengeance of a  just God upon him. Behold, you have been entrusted with these things, but  how strict were your commandments; and remember, also, the promises which were  made to you, if you did not transgress them; and behold how oft you have transgressed the  commandments and <the> laws of God, and have gone on in the persuasions of men: for behold you  should not have feared man more than God, although men set at nought the councils of God,  and despise his words, yet you should have been faithful and he would have extended his  arm, and supported you against all the fiery darts of the adversary; and he would have  been with you in every time of trouble. Behold thou art Joseph, and thou  wast chosen to do the work of the Lord, but because of transgression, if thou art not aware  thou wilt fall, but remember God is merciful: therefore repent of that which thou hast  done, which is contrary to the commandment which I gave you, and thou art still chosen  and art again called to the work: except thou do this, thou shalt be delivered up and become  as other men, and have no more gift. And when thou deliveredst up that which  God <gave> thee sight and power to translate, thou deliveredst up that which was sacred, into the  hands of a wicked man, who has set at nought the counsels of God, and has broken the most  sacred promises, which were made before God, and depended upon his own judgment, [p. 10]
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.