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.
was sent forth to teach the truth, and then received ye spirits which ye could not understand, and received them to be of God; and in this are ye justified? Behold ye shall answer this question yourselves; nevertheless I will be merciful unto you: he that is weak among you hereafter shall be made strong.
5. Verily I say unto you, he that is of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the spirit of truth, or some other way? and if <it be> by some other way, it be not of God. And again, he that recieveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth, or some other way? if it be some other way it be not of God: Therefore, why is it that ye can not understand and know that he that receiveth the word, by the spirit of truth, receiveth it as it is preached by the spirit of truth?
6. Wherefore, he that preacheth and he that receiveth, understandeth one another, and both are edified and rejoice together; and that which doth not edify, is not of God, and is darkness: that which is of God is light, and he that receiveth light and continueth in god, receiveth more light, and that light groweth brighter and brighter, until the perfect day. And again verily I say unto you, and I say it that you may know the truth, that you may chase darkness from among you, for he that is ordained of God and sent forth, the same is appointed to be greatest, notwithstanding he is least, and the servant of all: wherefore he is possessor of all things, for all things are subject unto him, both in heaven, and on the earth, the life, and the light, [HC 1:171] the spirit, and the power, sent forth by the will of the Father, through Jesus Christ, his Son; but no man is possessor of all things, e[x]cept he be purified and cleansed from all sin; and if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in of the name of Jesus, and it shall be done; but know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask, and as ye are appointed to the head, the spirits shall be subjects unto you:
7. Wherefore it shall come to pass, that if you behold a spirit manifested that you cannot understand, and you receive not that Spirit, ye shall ask of the Father in the name of Jesus, and if he give not unto you that Spirit, that you may know that it is not of God: and it shall be given unto you power over that spirit, and you shall proclaim against that Spirit [p. 115]