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 Charles Wandell 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.
expressed great dissatisfaction because we were short of bread, altho’ we had used all diligence to procure a supply, and Captain had previously sent two men ahead to provide supplies for his Company—
<Thursday> 15th.. We forded Mad River and passing thro’ a beautiful country encamped a little West of — This night fell asleep on sentry, and some of the brethren <I> went and took his sword, and left him asleep—
<Friday> 16th.. about nine o’clock while I was riding in a waggon with brother , , and , we came into a piece of thick woods <of recent growth,> where I told them I felt much depressed in Spirit, and lonesome, and that there has had been a great deal of blood shed in that place, and whenever a man of God is in a place, where many have been killed; he will feel lonesome and unpleasant, and his spirits will sink; in about forty rods from where I made this observation, we came through the woods, we saw a large farm, and there was near the road on our left, a mound sixty feet high, occupying about half an acre of ground, covered with apple Trees, and surrounded with oats, containing human bones, the ground being level for a great <some> distance around— At dinner time some of the brethren expressed— considerable fear on account of milk Sickness, with which the people were troubled along our route, many were afraid to use milk or butter, and appealed to me to know if it was not dangerous— I told them to use all they could get, unless they were told it was sick, some expressed fears that it might be sold to us by our enemies for the purpose of doing us injury— I told them not to fear, that if they would follow my counsel, and use all that they could get from friend or enemy, that it should do them good, and none be sick in consequence of it, and altho’ we passed thro’ Neighborhoods where many of the people and cattle were infected with the sickness, yet my words were fulfilled. We passed into <while passing thro’> , Ohio, where great curiosity was manifested, various reports of our numbers and designs having gone before us, while we were passing thro’ some of the Inhabitants enquired of the , where they were from, when Brother Brigham replied “from every place but this, and they would <we will> soon be from this”— “Where are you going?” “To the West.” see page 479.
<No. 2> when some ten or a dozen gentlement came over from to count us, and ascertain our numbers, which they reported at least 600— These Gentlemen enquired of almost every man in the Camp where he was from and where he was going, and what was his business, and returned to , and reported that every man in the company was a gentleman, and gave a respectful answer to every question asked, but they could not ascertain where they were going, or what their business. This evening a Court Martial was instituted <held> in Camp for the trial of for falling asleep on watch. the night previous— pled his own case, that he was overcome with fatigue, and so overpowered that he could not keep awake &c I decided that he should be acquitted and never go to sleep again on watch, which was sanctioned by the Court, and I took occasion from this circumstnace to give the Brethren much useful instruction— (pa: 480)
<No 3> Evening while we were eating dinner three gentlemen came riding up on very fine looking horses and commenced their inquiries of various ones concerning our travelling in so large a body, asking where we were from, and where we were going. The reply was as usual some from the State of , another would say, I am from State, some from , some from , and some replied we are from the east, and as soon as we have done eating dinner, we shall be going to the west again. They then addressed themselves to [p. 7 [addenda]]