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.
could not tell how many there were— This thing was attempted many times in villages and towns as we passed through, but the people were never able to ascertain our number— travelled 24 miles, crossed the Ferry River at Phillip’s Ferry and encamped on the West Bank— we this morning sent brother to ascertain the feelings of the people and report to us— the country we passed through was one of great beauty, tho’ little settled. (page 482*)
<Note 8.> our commisary also purchased about, <and> a dozen [illegible] <Missouri cured> hams, which proved to have been a little injured on the outside, there not being enough to supply one for every Company, my Company agreed to do without— our supper consisted of mush and honey, as we had been unable to procure flour on account of the scarcity of Mills— After the fatigues of the day it hardly satisfied our hunger, but when we had just finished, some six or eight of the hams were brought to our tent door, and thrown down in anger, saying “we don’t eat stinking meat”, I called on brother our Cook and told him to be quick and fry some ham, as I had not had my hunger fairly allayed for 48 hours, he immediately commenced cooking the ham, and for once all our <my> Company feasted to their full satisfaction. We had just retired to rest when the picket Guard announced , he came into our tent and made his report, he had visited a number of influential men, among the rest a Baptist minister, who expressed great anxiety that our company should be stopped— and went to a magistrate to enquire if there was not some law or pretext for stopping us— he the Priest said to the magistrate “that company march and have guns like an army— they pitch their tents by the side of the Road— they set out guards and let nobody pass into their Camp in the night— and they are Mormons— and I believe they are going to kill the people up in Missouri, and retake their lands.” the Magistrate replied “if you was traveling and did not wish to put up at public houses, or there was none in the Country, would you not camp by the road side in a tent? and if you was afraid that your horses, or property, would be stolen in a strange Country would you not watch and keep guards?” “Why yes” said the Priest “but they are Mormons”! “Well, I can’t hear but they mind their own business, and if you, and this Stranger -[meaning ]- will mind your own business, every thing will be right.” this Baptist Priest treated brother with great politeness, gave him his dinner, his wife washed his stockings, gave him letters of introduction to men in delivered to his charge some letters which he had received from which brother brought into the — <He> also stated that he had seen a man that morning, who informed him that 400 men were in readiness on the side, with ten hours notice, to use up all the camp, and he was on the <his> way to give them the notice— a little before midnight we heard several guns fired in the west of us, which appeared to be answered by one directly East— there was no settlement west of us nearer than the State of — this appearing so much like a signal, in addition to the many threats of our being attacked on crossing the Mississippi, I considered sufficient cause of alarm to put out a double picket guard and place the Camp in a state of defence, so that every man might be ready at a moment’s notice— it however proved to be a false alarm.
Wednesday 4. we crossed the Snye Island which was about five miles wide, and encamped on the bank of the Mississippi, we were short of provisions, having little else but Indian Meal, and no water except the river, only what we boated across the Mississippi, many [p. 12 [addenda]]