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 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.
nant with me that you should not shew them except to those persons to whom I you; and you have no power over them except I grant it unto you. And you have a gift to the plates; and this is the first gift that I bestowed upon you, and I have commanded you that you pretend to no other gift untill my purposes is fulfilled in you this; for I will grant unto you no other gift untill it is finished.
Verily I say unto you, that wo shall come unto the inhabitants of the earth if they will not hearken unto my words: for hereafter you shall be and go forth and deliver my words unto the children of men, Behold if they will not believe my words, they would not believe you, my servant Joseph, if it were possible that you could show them all these things which I have committed unto you. O this unbelieving and stiffnecked generation mine anger is kindled against iskindleda them.
Behold, verily I say unto you I have reserved those things which I have entrusted unto you, my servant Joseph, for a wise purpose in me, and it shall be made known unto future generations; but this generation shall have my word through you; and in addition to your testimony, the testimony of three of my servants whom I shall call and ordain, unto whom I shall show these things: and they shall go forth with my words that are given through you, yea, they shall know of a surety that these things are true: for from heaven will I declare it unto them: I will give them power that they may behold and view these things as they are; and to none else will I grant this power, to receive this same testimony, among this generation, in this, the beginning of the rising up, and the coming forth of my out of the wilderness—clear as the moon, and fair as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners. And the testimony of three witnesses will I send forth of my word; and behold whosoever believeth on my words them will I visit with the manifestation of my spirit, and they shall be born of me, even of water and of the spirit. [HC 1:29]
And you must wait yet a little while; for ye are not yet ordained—and their testimony shall also go forth unto the condemnation of this generation if they harden their hearts against them: for a desolating scourge shall go forth among the inhabitants of the earth, and shall continue to <be> poured out, from time to time, if they repent not, untill the earth is empty, and the inhabitants thereof are consumed away, and utterly consumed <destroyed> by the brightness of my coming. Behold, I tell you these things even as I also told the people of the destruction of Jerusalem, and my word shall be verified at this time as it hath hitherto been verified.
And now I command you, my servant Joseph, to repent and walk more uprightly before me, and yield to the persuasions of men no more; and that you be firm in keeping the commandments wherewith I have commanded you, and if you do this, behold I grant unto you eternal life, even if you should be slain.
And now again I speak unto you my servant Joseph, concerning the man that desires the witness: Behold I say unto him he exalts himself and does not humble himself sufficiently before me: but if he will bow down before me, and humble himself in mighty prayer and faith, in the sincerity of his heart, then will I grant unto him a view of the things which he desires to see. And then he shall say unto the people of this generation, behold I have seen the things which the Lord has shewn to Joseph Smith jr. and I [p. 12]