, “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.
topic of conversation all last summer untill many of the church became inspired with the belief that God would enable them to stand against any thing even the state of or the if they should come in a mob. Many of the church however became disgusted with these things, and looked upon them as great inconsistences and calculated to bring swift destruction upon the church. But such was the influence of the presidency over the church that it was of no use to say any thing, for the Lord they supposed was going to do great things which would require great faith and they must prepare for it. For this <end> end much was to be done and the scripture says, “if ye are agreed as touching any one thing it shall be done” consequently to become one was very essential and they must be well united in all things, and this though a great work must and should be done performed at all hazards. But there were many obstacles in the way. The dissenters kept up a kind of secret opposition to the presidency and church. They would occasionly speak against them, influence the minds of the members against them and occasionally correspond with their enemies abroad; and the church it was said would never become pure unless these dissenters were routed from among them. Moreover if they were suffered to remain they would destroy the church. Secret meetings were held and plans contrived how to get rid of them. Some had [p. 53]