, “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.
who was called President, and whose duty it was to call together those over whom he presided, at stated times, to edify one another and receive instruction from him. The first, or High Presthood, was to stand at the head of and regulate the spiritual concerns of the church. The second, or lesser priesthood, was to administer in the ordinances and attend to <the> temporal concerns of the church. Three of the High preests were chosen and set apart by the church to preside over all the churches of that order in all the world, and were called presidents, and constituted what is called the first presidency. Joseph Smith, Junr, , and , are the persons at present. The church that was to be established in was called Zion the centre of gathering, and those established by revelation in other places are called stakes of Zion, or Stakes; hence the stake at , the stake at , the Stake at , &c. Each stake was to have a presidency consisting of three high priests, chosen and set apart for that purpose, where jurisdiction was confined to the limits of the of the stake over which they took the watch care. There was also to be a high council, consisting of twelve High Priests, established at each stake, also a bishop who stood at the head of the Lesser pristhood, and administered in temporal things. He [p. 40]