, “Brief History,” Manuscript, ca. 6 April 1838– ca. 26 January 1839; handwriting of and an unidentified scribe; seventy pages numbered 20–90, plus three unnumbered pages; John Fletcher Darby Papers, Missouri History Museum Archives, St. Louis.
, a careful observer, had enjoyed a close association with Mormon leaders, and consequently his account provides valuable insights into the development and structure of the early church. He summarized many of the doctrines taught by JS and provided a detailed description of the conflict between the Latter-day Saints and other settlers. But his chronicle also related the story of a personal spiritual journey into and then out of the church as came to disapprove of the church’s course in 1838 in Missouri. Yet despite his estrangement from the church and his excommunication in 1839, he retained a degree of sympathy for the Saints and maintained some contact.
apparently began compiling portions of his account while serving as an officially appointed church historian in . He probably completed his narrative by 11 February 1839, when he secured a copyright with the district federal copyright office. He arranged for Thomas Watson & Son of to print A Brief History. The entire print run may have included up to twelve hundred copies.
The document presented here, ’s circa 1838–1839 rough draft of his history, is incomplete. It includes the title page, copyright notice, and preface but is missing twenty-one pages, including the nineteen pages that constitute chapters 1 through 6. The manuscript is almost entirely in Corrill’s handwriting, though some of the chapter summaries (added after he drafted the narrative) were written in a different hand, possibly that of the printer.
’s published version of A Brief History receives comprehensive treatment in volume 2 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers and is available on this website as part of the history series.
<Increase of the church— Further account of the visionaries— Revelation concerning them— Appointed a counsellor to the bishop— Duties— The Endowment Meeting of fifty elders— The Endowment— Do Doubting— Commandment to go to — Arrival in — Smith returns to —>
<Other elders proceeded to erect churches in various places, and the work increased very fast. Smith remained in . Those visionary spirits spoken of before> continued in the church, and rose to such a height and <that> the elders became so dissatisfied with them that <they> became determined to have something done about it. Accordingly, they called upon the prophet and united in prayer, and asked God to give them light upon the subject. They received a revelation through the prophet, which was very gratifying, for it condemned these visionary spirits, and gave rules for Judging of spirits in general. After a while these spirits were rooted out of the church. Some time in May following, a church was organized in , a township a few miles from , at which time and were chosen counsellors to the to assist him in his business, which was to receive consecrations of property and attend to the temporal concerns of the church. Previous to this there was a revelation received requiring the prophet to call the elders together that they might receive and endowment. This was done, and the meeting took place sometime in June. About fifty elders met, which was about all the elders that then belonged to the church [p. 25]