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.
strangeness of what I had just experienced, when almost immediately after the heavenly messenger had ascended from me the third time, the cock crew, and I found that day was approaching so that our interviews must have occupied the whole of that night. I shortly after arose from my bed, and as usual went to the necessary labors of the day, but in attempting to labor as at other times, I found my strength so exhausted as rendered me entirely unable. who was laboring along <with> me discovered something to be wrong with me and told me to go home. I started with the intention of going to the house, but in attempting to cross [HC 1:14] the fence out of the field where we were, my strength entirely failed me and I fell helpless on the ground and for a time was quite unconscious of any thing. The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me calling me by name. I looked up and beheld the same messenger— standing over my head surrounded by light as before. He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received.
I obeyed. I returned back to in the field and rehearsed the whole matter to him. He replyed to me, that it was of God, and to go and do as commanded by the messenger. I left the field and went to the place where the messenger had told me the plates were deposited, and owing to the distinctness of the vision which I had had concerning it, I knew the place the instant that I arrived there.<*> Under a stound stone of considerable size, lay the plates deposited in a stone box, This stone was thick and rounding in the middle on the upper side, and thinner towards the edges, so that the middle part [HC 1:15] of it was visible above the ground, but the edge all round was covered with earth. Having removed the earth off the edge of the stone, and obtained a lever which I got fixed under the edge of the stone, and with a little exertion raised it up, I looked in and there indeed did I behold the plates, the and the Breastplate as stated by the messenger. The box in which they lay was formed by laying stones together in some kind of cement, in the bottom of the box were laid two stones crossways of the box, and on these stones lay the plates and the other things with them. I made an attempt to take them out but was forbidden by the messenger and was again informed that the time <for> bringing them forth had not yet arrived, neither would untill four years from that time, but he told me that I should come to that place precisely in one year from that time, and that he would there meet with me, and that I should continue to do so untill the time should come for obtaining the plates. Accordingly as I had been commanded I went at the end of each year, and at each time I found the same messenger there and received instruction and intelligence from him at each of our interviews respecting what the Lord was going to do, and how and in what manner his kingdom was to be conducted in the last days. As ’s worldly circumstances were very, <limited> we were under the necessity of laboring with our hands, hiring by days works and otherwise as we could get opportunity sometimes we were at home and some times abroad and by continued labor were enabled to get a comfortable maintenance.
In the year Eighteen hundred and twenty four s family met with a great affliction by the death [HC 1:16] of my eldest brother . In the month of October Eighteen hundred and twenty five I hired with an old Gentleman, by name of [p. 7]