JS, History, 1838–1856, vol. A-1, created 11 June 1839–24 Aug. 1843; handwriting of , , , and ; 553 pages, plus 16 pages of addenda; CHL. This is the first volume of a six-volume manuscript history of the church. This first volume covers the period from 23 December 1805 to 30 August 1834; the remaining five volumes, labeled B-1 through F-1, continue through 8 August 1844.
This document, “History, 1838–1856, volume A-1, [23 December 1805–30 August 1834],” is the first of the six volumes of the “Manuscript History of the Church” (in The Joseph Smith Papers it bears the editorial title “History, 1838-1856”). The completed six-volume collection covers the period from 23 December 1805–8 August 1844. 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 to , Ohio. For a fuller discussion of the entire six-volume work, see the general introduction to the history.
In April 1838, with the aid of his counselor , JS renewed his efforts to draft a “history”. 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 the 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 , Illinois, JS once again began dictating his “history.” 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 ’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, recorded the first fifty-nine pages in the volume. Subsequently, his successor, , contributed about sixteen more pages before his death in August 1841. then added a little over seventy-five pages. However, substantial progress on the history was not made until December 1842 when assumed responsibility for the compilation and was appointed JS’s “private secretary and historian.” 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. 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 were directly relating the account. After JS’s death, , , , 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 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 death, 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 , , , and . 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.
army so that their skins will not hold shucks before two days are passed.”
They went to the Ferry and undertook to cross the , [HC 2:99] after dusk, and the angel of God saw fit to sink the boat, about the middle of the river, and seven out of twelve that attempted to cross, were drowned. Thus suddenly, and justly went they to their own place by water. Campbell was among the missng. He floated down the river some four or five miles, and lodged upon a pile of drift wood, where the Eagles and Buzzards, ravens, crows and wild animals eat his flesh from his bones, to fulfil his own words, and left him a horrible looking skeleton of God’s vengeance; which was discovered about three weeks after by one Mr Purtle.
Owens saved his life only, after floating four<teen> miles down stream, where he lodged upon an island, “swam off naked about day light, borrowed a mantle to hide his shame, and slipped home rather shy of the vengeance of God.”
We were threatened that we should not pass through , and It was reported that an army lay in wait there to intercept us. Thursday 19th. we passed through the town as soon as it was light and before the inhabitants were up arisen from slumbers, meeting with no opposition, but we had not proceeded many miles before one waggon broke down, and by the time that was repaired wheels run off from others and such like incidents continued through the day to impede our progress; When we started in the morning we intended to arrive in that day, but in vain; At a seasonable hour we encamped on an elevated piece of ground between the two branches of , having travel[ed] only about 15 miles. , at this point, was composed of seven small streams, and those betwixt which we encamped were two of them. <(Note 15 page 14)> [HC 2:100] [HC 2:101] [HC 2:102]
* As we halted and were making preparations for the night, five men <armed with guns,> rode into our and told us we should “see hell before morning;” and their accompanying oaths partook of all the malice of demons. They told us that sixty men were coming from , Ray county; and seventy more from , <to join the mob who had> sworn to our utter destruction. The weather was pleasant. at this time. <as was taking his bedding out of the waggon he discovered a large Rattle Snake, which he had carried with him all day.> [p. 495]