JS, History, [Dec. 1834–May 1836?]; handwriting of , , , and ; includes genealogical and financial tables; 154 pages; verso of JS History, 1838–1856, vol. A-1, CHL. Includes redactions, use marks, and archival marking.
Large blank book composed of ruled paper printed with forty horizontal lines in (now faint) blue ink. The text block includes thirty gatherings of various sizes, each about a dozen leaves per gathering, and originally had 384 interior leaves cut to measure 13⅝ x 9 inches (35 x 23 cm). The text block, which was conserved in the late twentieth century, was probably originally sewn on recessed cords and was apparently also glued on leather tapes. The binding features false bands. The endpapers were single-sided marbled leaves featuring a traditional Spanish pattern with slate blue body and black and red veins. The block was bound to pasteboard covers, probably with a hollow-back ledger binding, making a book measuring 14¼ x 9½ x 2½ inches (36 x 24 x 6 cm). The boards were bound in brown suede calfskin. At some point, blind-tooled decorations were made around the outside border and along the board edges and the turned-in edges of the inside covers.
began the text of the document on the thirteenth page of the text block, numbering it as page 9. Cowdery set aside pages 9–16 for genealogical tables for the members of the church presidency. He inscribed the page numbers, table headings, and column and row ruling for the tables in red ink with a quill pen. The content of the tables was inscribed in ink that is now brown with a quill pen, as was the rest of the history. Cowdery inscribed journal-like entries for 5 and 6 December 1834 on pages 17–20. Pages 21–45 are blank except for page numbering. and copied Cowdery’s 1834–1835 historical articles, published serially in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate, onto pages 46–103. A passage that Parrish missed while copying the first installment of the Cowdery history is supplied on a slip of paper attached to page 50 with adhesive wafers. On pages 103–104, Parrish copied part of a JS letter, also published in the church newspaper. On pages 105–187, Parrish and wrote historical entries based on the entries in JS’s 1835–1836 journal. The genealogical table headings written by Oliver Cowdery, the letter headings and closings written by Williams and Parrish, and the datelines written by Parrish and Warren Cowdery are slightly larger than the ordinary script of these individuals. Parrish’s datelines also feature a vertical stress that contrasts with the oblique stress of his entry inscriptions. In their copying from the Messenger and Advocate, Frederick G. Williams and Warren Parrish often used a slightly larger script for words that appear in small caps in the printed version. Although pagination for the 1834–1836 history was inscribed up to page 241, the actual chronicle reaches only to page 187. Oliver Cowdery numbered pages 9–21, Frederick G. Williams numbered pages 22–58, Warren Parrish numbered pages 59–111, and Warren Cowdery numbered pages 112–241. Sometime later, inscribed year and month-and-year headings in black ink on pages 17–20, 46–47, 105–173, and 176–187. Various pages also bear redactions in unidentified handwriting in black and blue pencil.
In 1839, the book was repurposed for the inscription of a new history. The book was turned over so that the back cover became the front and the last leaf became the first. From this new front of the book, JS’s scribes began writing what became the first volume of JS’s multivolume manuscript history (the first 61 pages of which are transcribed as “Draft 2”). That later history filled most of the remaining leaves of the book, running well into the blank pages that were numbered for the 1834–1836 history and up to within five pages of the inscribed entries in the earlier history. However, only numbering on pages 235–241 of the 1834–1836 history were erased (by knife eraser). With the later history’s side of the book upward, the spine of the book was labeled as volume “A | 1” of the multivolume history. Archival stickers were also added at some point to the spine and the inside front cover. Two interior leaves are now missing from the initial gathering of the volume and one leaf is missing from the final gathering. The flyleaves and pastedowns were also lost or removed from the book. The volume shows moderate wear, browning, water staining, and brittleness. It has been resewn, rebound, and otherwise conserved.
While the 1834–1836 history was being created, the volume was apparently kept in the homes of JS’s scribes. In 1839, scribe converted the book into the first volume of JS’s multivolume manuscript history. In 1842, the church newspaper in , Illinois, began publishing this later history. JS maintained custody of the volume through his later life, as indicated by a note he inscribed memorializing his deceased brother , which was attached to the verso of the flyleaf preceding the later history. The volume is listed in the first extant Historian’s Office inventory, made in Nauvoo in February 1846 by clerk , and it is listed in inventories of church records made in Salt Lake City in the second half of the nineteenth century. These and later archival records, as well as archival marking on the volume, indicate continuous institutional custody.
See JS History, vol. A-1, microfilm, Dec. 1971, CHL. Only one leaf of the original pastedowns and flyleaves is extant. The pastedowns were replaced with undecorated paper in 1994, according to a conservation note on the verso of the extant marbled leaf archived with the volume.
“Schedule of Church Records. Nauvoo 1846,” ; “Historian’s Office Catalogue 1858,” 2, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
JS’s 1834–1836 history is a composite historical record consisting of genealogical tables, journal-like entries, and transcripts of newspaper articles. It shifts abruptly in format from one unfinished section to the next. The order of handwriting in the history roughly matches that found in the 1835–1836 journal, and like the journal, the history passed from to to to . Finally, it returned to Parrish. The purpose for which the record was created is unclear, as is the rationale for its differing formats. At the beginning, the 1834–1836 history may have had as much to do with Oliver Cowdery, its first scribe, as with JS. Cowdery was serving at the time as scribe for JS’s first journal. He had transformed that journal into a jointly authored document by writing in the first person plural, making both himself and JS the protagonists. Cowdery made his final entry in the first Ohio journal 5 December 1834, the day he was ordained an assistant president to JS in the general church presidency and placed ahead of JS’s other assistants. He may have begun the 1834–1836 history in response to his new appointment.
The new record was begun in a massive blank book. left the first twelve pages blank, possibly for a title page and other introductory material to be written later. He then inscribed columns and headings on the next eight pages to reserve them for the genealogies of the four members of the new church presidency. On the following page, he began an entry dated 5 December 1834, the same date as his last entry in JS’s first journal.
Just as converted JS’s first journal into a JS-Cowdery journal, he may have conceived of the 1834–1836 history as a record for all four members of the church presidency. Cowdery’s entry for 5 December 1834 provided a lengthier and more formal account of his elevation to the church presidency than did JS’s first Ohio journal. Regardless of its purpose, however, the daily log was discontinued after two entries.
The next section of the history, begun months later, is a transcript of ’s series of eight letters on church history published in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate between October 1834 and October 1835. , who began the transcription, may have begun working under Cowdery’s direction, but by 29 October 1835 JS had assumed effective control of the document. JS’s journal entry of that date, which notes his employment of as his scribe, also records that Parrish “commenced writing in my journal a history of my life, concluding President Cowdery 2d letter to , which president Williams had begun.”
The final section of JS’s history, transcribed by and , is a revised version of JS’s daily journal entries from late September 1835 to late January 1836. Warren Cowdery explained that the intention was to provide a “faithful narration of every important item in his every-day-occurrences.” The revised entries continue to 18 January 1836. Warren Parrish, the final scribe to write in JS’s 1834–1836 history, may have ceased his work in order to embark on a proselytizing mission. However, the reasons for JS’s discontinuing the history entirely are not known.
Further information about the different sections of the 1834–1836 history may be found in intratextual notes preceding each section.
As noted above, the first section of the history includes initial work to compile genealogical data for each member of the church presidency. In an 1832 letter to church leaders in , JS outlined the contents of the church history to be kept by . In addition to an account of “all things that transpire in Zion,” JS instructed that the record include the names of those who had formally consecrated their property and received church land. At the second coming of Jesus Christ, he wrote, this record would be used to reward “the Saints whose names are found and the names of their fathers and of their children enroled in the Book of the Law of God.” apparently followed this model when he began this new historical record in early December 1834. He reserved the pages at the beginning of the history to record family information for JS, himself, , and , the four members of the general church presidency as designated on 5 December 1834. Inscribing headings to eight pages, Cowdery intended to prepare two genealogical tables for each of the four presidents, one to identify wife and children and the second to identify parents and siblings. The left column lists births and marriages; the column on the right was reserved for deaths. That Cowdery did not create or even leave room for similar tables for the two assistant presidents appointed on 6 December 1834 suggests that he inscribed both the tables and the entry for 5 December between the 5 and 6 December meetings.
JS History, 1834–1836 / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1834–1836. In Joseph Smith et al., History, 1838–1856, vol. A-1, back of book (earliest numbering), 9–20, 46–187. Historian's Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882. CHL. CR 100 102, box 1, vol. 1.
The following section includes transcripts of eight letters wrote in 1834 and 1835 regarding JS’s visions of an angel and his discovery of the gold plates of the Book of Mormon. Cowdery addressed the letters to and published them as a series in the Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate between October 1834 and October 1835. The titles and formatting employed in this history are similar to those in the published series of articles, indicating that the Cowdery letters were copied into the history from the Messenger and Advocate, not from a manuscript version of the letters. could have begun the transcription in JS’s history as early as 6 December 1834, the date of Cowdery’s last historical entry in the preceding section of the history. However, Cowdery probably gave the history to Williams around 2 October 1835, when he gave Williams JS’s journal. On 29 October 1835, JS retrieved the history from Williams and delivered it to , who continued copying the Cowdery letters. It is likely that Parrish finished copying the letters by early April 1836, when he gave JS’s journal (and presumably the 1834–1836 history along with it) to .
In the first letter, recounted his experiences with JS beginning when the two first met in April 1829. The letter includes an account of the vision he and JS had of John the Baptist, who gave them the authority to baptize. After composing this letter, but before its publication, Cowdery developed a new history-writing plan: he decided that in subsequent letters he would relate the “full history of the rise of the church,” beginning with JS’s early life and visions. As editor of the Messenger and Advocate, Cowdery prefaced the published version of the first letter with an explanation (also transcribed into the history) of the new plan. Although he had no firsthand knowledge of church history prior to April 1829, Cowdery assured his readers that “our brother J. Smith Jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensible.” Some passages in the ensuing narrative seem to have been related to Cowdery by JS, since Cowdery recounts events in which only JS participated.
composed the letters to inform the Latter-day Saints of the history of their church, but he also wrote for the non-Mormon public. Employing florid romantic language, frequent scriptural allusions, and much dramatic detail, he clearly intended to present a rhetorically impressive account of early Mormon history. He placed the rise of the church in a dispensational framework, characterizing the time between the end of the New Testament and JS’s early visions as a period of universal apostasy. He included the revivalism of various denominations during the Second Great Awakening, which JS experienced in his youth, as an example of the doctrinal confusion and social disharmony present in Christendom. Throughout the series of letters, he defended JS’s character and that of the Smith family, and his explicitly apologetic statements include apparent allusions to both ’s Delusions (1832) and ’s Mormonism Unvailed (1834).
Beginning in the third letter, provided the most extensive account of the origins of the Book of Mormon published up to that time. He related JS’s initial visions of the angel Moroni and, using biblical prophecies, elaborated on the angel’s message concerning the gathering of Israel in the last days in preparation for the Millennium. Cowdery continued his narrative up to, but did not include, JS’s receiving the gold plates in September 1827.
The transcription of the letters into JS’s history was evidently conceived in terms of the entire series, not as a piecemeal copying of the individual letters. As noted above, Cowdery probably gave the “large journal” containing the history begun in 1834 to in October 1835, the month of the Messenger and Advocate issue in which his final installment was published. By the time Williams received the history, Cowdery may have already written the final letter; he had at least conceived of it as the final installment in his series. With the serialized Cowdery letters complete or nearing completion, the new history kept in the “large journal” could serve as a repository—more permanent than unbound newspapers—for a copied compilation of the entire series.
The following communication was designed to have been published in the last No. of the star; but owing to a press of other matter it was laid over for this No. of the Messenger and ad[v]ocate. Since it was writen, upon further reflection, we have thought that a full history of the rise of the church of the Latter Day Saints, and the most interesting parts of its progress, to the present time, would be worthy the perusal of the Saints.— If circumstances admit, an article on this subject will appear on in each subsequent No. of the Messenger and advocate, until the time when the church was driven from Mo. by a lawless banditti; & such other remarks as may be thought appropriate and interesting.
That our narrative may be correct, and particularly the introduction, it is proper to inform our patrons, that our brother J. Smith Jr. has offered to assist us. Indeed, there are many items connected with the fore part of this subject that render his labor indispensible. With his labor and with authentic documents now in our possession, we hope to render this a pleasing and agreeable narrative, well worth the examination and perusal of the Saints.—
To do <Justice to> this subject will require time and space: we therefore ask the forbearance of our readears, assuring them that it shall be founded upon facts.
, Medina Co. Ohio, Sabbath evening, September 7, 1834.
Dear ,— Before leaving home, I promised, if I tarried long, to write; and while a few moments are now allowed me for reflection, asside from the cares and common conversation of my friends in this place, I have thought that were I to communicate them to you, might, perhaps, if they should not prove especially beneficial to yourself, by by confirming you in the faith of the gospel, at least be interesting, since it has pleased our heavenly Father to call us both to rejoice in the same hope of eternal life. And by giving them publicity, some thousands who have embraced the same covenant, may learn something more particular upon the rise of the this church, in this last time. And while the gray evening is fast changing into a settled darkness, my heart responds with the happy millions who are in the presence of the Lamb, and are past the power of temptation, in rendering thanks, though feebly, to the same parent.
Another day has passed, into that, to us boundless ocean Eternity! where nearly six thousand years have gone before; and what flits across the mind like an electric shock is, that it will never return! [p. 46]
The October issue, like many issues of the early Mormon newspapers, was published late. It includes a letter dated 7 November, so it could not have been published before then. (Noah Packard, Kirtland, OH, 7 Nov. 1835, Letter to the editor, LDS Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1835, 2:208.)
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.
Frederick G. Williams handwriting begins. This introductory note and the letter that follows were published in LDS Messenger and Advocate, Oct. 1834, 1:13–16.
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.
One of the “authentic documents” Cowdery relied on may have been JS’s circa summer 1832 history. The volume that includes the 1832 history also includes letters copied in by Cowdery—meaning Cowdery had access to JS’s history—and passages of Cowdery’s letters appear to have been informed by the contents and even wording of JS’s earlier work. (See JS Letterbook 1, pp. 62–65, 89; see also Anderson, “Circumstantial Confirmation of the First Vision,” 394–398.)
JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL. MS 155, box 2, fd. 1.