JS, History, [ca. June 1839–ca. 1841]; handwriting of and ; sixty-one pages; in 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 × 9 inches (35 × 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 veins of black and red. The block was bound to pasteboard covers, probably with a hollow-back ledger binding, making a book measuring 14¼ × 9½ × 2½ inches (36 × 24 × 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.
The volume was originally used for JS’s 1834–1836 history, comprising 154 pages. It was subsequently turned upside down so the back cover became the front cover, and on the new first page, began copying the history that had been begun by the church presidency in 1838. He left the first seventeen lines blank, presumably to create a large title when the work was complete, although a title was never added. Because the volume had been turned upside down, the unlined top margin became the bottom margin and there was no longer any top margin. Mulholland inscribed pages 2–19 beginning at the head of the page; then, beginning with page 20, he left the line at the top of the page blank, effectively creating a top margin. He also inscribed one line of text below the lowest printed line at the foot of the page, in the original top margin. Starting on page 13, he penciled in a horizontal line at the bottom of each page to ensure straight text on this last line. Mulholland inscribed 59 pages in all. , who replaced Mulholland as scribe, commenced on page 60 and wrote for sixteen pages, the first two pages of which are included in the transcript herein. Thompson maintained the blank upper margin, but instead of filling in the lower margin as Mulholland had done, he left the space blank. In addition, he created a left margin on each page by penciling in a vertical line. Both Mulholland and Thompson numbered the pages as they inscribed them. At a later time, inserted headings giving the year, or the month and year, narrated on each page. The volume includes 553 pages of the history inscribed beginning in 1839, followed by sixteen pages of addenda that were recorded by Charles Wandell and . Four blank pages separate the addenda from the end of the 1834–1836 history. Multiple layers of emendations and other later marks accumulated as the history was created, revised, and published. The transcript here presents the initial text, along with only those revisions made to it by the first two scribes, Mulholland and Thompson.
With the later history’s side of the book upward, the spine of the book was at some point in time labeled as volume “A | 1” of the multivolume history. Archival stickers were also added at some point to the spine and 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 original flyleaves and pastedowns were also removed. The volume shows moderate wear, browning, water staining, and brittleness. It has been resewn, rebound, and otherwise conserved.
In the first half of the 1840s, the volume was in the possession of church scribes and printers while JS’s history was updated and prepared for publication, which was begun in the church newspaper in , Illinois, in the 15 March 1842 issue. 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 front flyleaf. The volume is listed in the first extant Historian’s Office inventory, made in 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.
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.
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, Historian’s Office, Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904, CHL.
Historian’s Office. Catalogs and Inventories, 1846–1904. CHL. CR 100 130.
In addition to working on an initial draft of JS’s history in summer 1839, devoted some of his time to inscribing the history compiled to that point into a large manuscript book. He began this new draft of the history in the back of the volume in which the 1834–1836 history had been inscribed, turning it over so the back cover became the front cover. Serving as principal sources for this version of the history were the manuscript that JS, , and had created in in 1838, and Draft 1. Textual evidence that the nonextant 1838 material was used when composing Draft 2 is found in the second paragraph of the latter, which situates the composition in “the eighth year since the  organization of said Church,” and a later passage that gives the date of composition as “the Second day of May, One thousand Eight hundred and thirty eight.” Starting at 15 May 1829, the remainder of the text in Mulholland’s handwriting is a copy of Draft 1. Although the first seven pages of Draft 1 match Draft 2 quite closely, the two versions are markedly less similar after that point. This contrast may indicate that an intermediate draft of the history was made beginning at about page 7 of Draft 1 and that Mulholland copied the text from this intermediate draft, not directly from Draft 1.
inscribed pages 1–59 in the large history volume. After his death in November 1839, served as scribe for the history. Little is known about the circumstances surrounding Thompson’s inscription, totaling only sixteen pages, in the large history volume. The transcript of Draft 2 presented herein ends on page 61 of the manuscript volume, after the first two pages of Thompson’s inscription, to correspond with the end of Draft 3; the other fourteen pages in his hand give a biographical sketch of , including a brief narrative of his conversion to Mormonism. Because the majority of the pages in Thompson’s hand deal with Rigdon’s life before joining the church, Rigdon was likely consulted for this portion of the narrative.
The opening statement of the draft in the large manuscript volume refers to defamation and persecution to which the Latter-day Saints and JS in particular had been subjected, and it characterizes such maltreatment as one motivation for telling the story of the church and its founder: “Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil disposed and designing men,” JS proclaimed, the history was designed to “disabuse the publick mind, and put all enquirers after truth into possession of the facts” and set the record straight “in relation both to myself and the Church.” This introduction was written not long after JS had fled , Ohio, for , Missouri, under threat of several lawsuits; thus, when he began the history in summer 1838 he was especially motivated to justify himself and the church in light of what he considered a long history of persecution. Such an introduction may also have been written as a more general response to the accumulated negative reports transmitted orally and in the press beginning in JS’s youth and continuing throughout the 1830s.
After briefly narrating JS’s birth and early years, Draft 2 proceeds immediately to the circumstances that culminated in his first vision of Deity in the spring of 1820, followed closely by the visitations of an angel in 1823 and JS’s commission to retrieve a sacred record buried nearby. JS’s religious mission is the primary focus; his personal affairs, like his marriage to , whom he met while employed in digging for a rumored silver mine, are discussed only briefly and in the context of that mission.
Following JS’s recitation of his retrieval of the ancient record, the beginnings of his translation thereof, and the loss of the translation manuscript, began including the full texts of JS’s revelations, which became a major element of the account. The revelations were integrated into the history starting with July 1828, and they generally appear in chronological order. Mulholland copied the revelations into the history from the 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants, rather than from earlier versions. Many of JS’s early revelations underwent significant updating and expansion in order to suit rapidly changing circumstances after the organization of the Church of Christ in 1830, so the inclusion of the 1835 version of revelations into a narrative covering events before 1835 introduced numerous anachronisms. Significant instances of anachronism are identified in the annotation of the text herein.
Additionally, the narrative itself, composed beginning in 1838, necessarily reflects the perspective of JS and his collaborators at the time of its production, thus inadvertently introducing terminology and concepts that were not operative a decade earlier in the period the narrative describes. Examples include using later priesthood nomenclature such as “Aaronic” and “Melchizedek” and calling the church JS established “the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints,” a name not designated until 1838. Such usage makes it difficult to trace the details of the unfolding of church governance and doctrine in the faith’s dynamic early years. Readers wishing to more fully understand these issues may consult the revelation texts and other documents found in the Documents series of The Joseph Smith Papers.
While much of the narrative is anchored by documents, particularly published revelations, JS and his associates were dependent upon unrecorded memories for the balance of the historical account found in Draft 2. JS used collective memory and oral recollections of fellow participants, such as , to reconstruct the events of early church history. Such reminiscences formed the basis for not only factual details in the history but likely for quotations as well, such as long portions of the report of the 1830 trial proceedings in South Bainbridge and , New York. JS evidently had to rely on his own memory and that of others to provide some extensive quotations, such as the words of the angel Moroni during his first appearance to JS and the remarks scholars in made to when he showed them characters copied from the gold plates. Lists of persons baptized may have come from records no longer extant or possibly from eyewitnesses consulted for the production of the history.
The manuscript itself was a dynamic text, emended at several times by various scribes. Revisions made in the hand of at the time of inscription or shortly after are included in the transcript herein. Later changes in the hand of , made beginning in December 1842, are not incorporated into the transcript, although substantial changes are described in annotation. Thus, the transcript of Draft 2 presents the history in an early stage, before changes were made by Richards and others, and it approximates the state of the history when used it for a new history draft in about 1841.
JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). Historian’s Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882. CHL. CR 100 102, boxes 1–7. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.
Although the history was begun in 1838, it is possible that the preamble in the first paragraph was added in 1839 when James Mulholland wrote Draft 2. If so, the concern with negative publicity may also have been a reaction to the widespread news of the Mormon conflict in Missouri in fall 1838 andJS’s imprisonment, or to the growing number of publications critical of JS and the church since 1838. See, for example, Origen Bacheler, Mormonism Exposed, Internally and Externally (New York, 1838), and La Roy Sunderland’s eight-part series published in the Methodist Zion’s Watchman from 13 January to 3 March 1838 and republished in pamphlet form as Mormonism Exposed and Refuted (New York: Piercy & Reid, 1838).
many minutes engaged in prayer when presently we beheld a light above us in the air of exceeding brightness, and behold, an angel stood before us; in his hands he held the plates which we had been praying for these to have a view of: he turned over the leaves one by one, so that we could see them, and discern the engravings thereon distinctly: He addressed himself to , and said, “, blessed is the Lord, and he that keeps all his commandments:” when immediately afterwards we heard a voice from out of the bright light above us, saying “These plates have been revealed by the power of God, and they have been translated by the power of God; the translation of them which you have seen is correct, and I command you to bear record of what you now see and hear”.—
I now left and , and went in pursuit of , who I found at a considerable distance fervently engaged in prayer; he soon told me however that he had not yet prevailed with the Lord, and earnestly requested me, to join him in prayer, that he also might realize the same blessings which we had just recieved: we accordingly joined in prayer, and ultimately obtained our desires, for before we had yet finished, the same vision was opened to our view; at least it was again to me, and I once more beheld, and seen, and heard the same things; whilst at the same moment, cried out, apparently in an ecstasy of Joy “’Tis enough, ’tis enough; mine eyes have beheld, mine eyes have beheld”, and jumping up he shouted, Hosanna, blessing God; and otherwise rejoiced exceedingly. Having thus through the mercy of God, obtained these glorious manifestations, it now remained for these three individuals to fulfil the commandment which they had received, viz: to bear record of these things; in order to accomplish which, they drew up and subscribed the following document.
The Testimony of Three Witnesses.
Be it known unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come, that we through the grace of God the Father, and our lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which has hath been spoken; and we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety, that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shewn unto us by the power of God and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from Heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true; and it is marvelous in our eyes, nevertheless, the voice [p. 25]
The earliest copy of the testimony that follows is found in the printer’s manuscript of the Book of Mormon, in the handwriting of Oliver Cowdery. Cowdery likely was the author of the statement, given his writing abilities and similarities between the document and Cowdery’s 1829 correspondence to JS and Hyrum Smith. The copies of the “Testimony of Three Witnesses” and the “Testimony of Eight Witnesses” that follow match the versions in the second edition of the Book of Mormon. (Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, 463–464, CCLA; “Testimony of Three Witnesses” and “Testimony of Eight Witnesses,” in Book of Mormon, 1837 ed., –; see also JS Letterbook 1, pp. 4–9.)
Book of Mormon, Printer’s Manuscript, 1829–1830. CHL.
The Book of Mormon: an account written by the hand of Mormon, upon plates taken from the plates of Nephi . . . Translated by Joseph Smith, Jr. Kirtland, OH: Printed by O. Cowdery and Co., for P. P. Pratt and J. Goodson, 1837.
JS Letterbook 1 / Smith, Joseph. “Letter Book A,” 1832–1835. Joseph Smith Collection. CHL. MS 155, box 2, fd. 1.
David Whitmer told several interviewers in the 1870s and 1880s that he saw additional items on this occasion. Most of these later accounts listed the gold plates, the interpreters or Urim and Thummim, the sword of Laban, the “directors,” and additional records; in some Whitmer also mentioned the breastplate. (See, for example, “Interview with David Whitmer,” Deseret News, 21 Aug. 1878, 461; “Mormonism,” Kansas City [MO] Daily Journal, 5 June 1881, ; and “Letter from Elder W. H. Kelley,” Saints’ Herald, 1 Mar. 1882, 66–69; compare Revelation, June 1829–E, in Doctrine and Covenants 42:1, 1835 ed. [D&C 17:1].)
Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.
Kansas City Daily Journal. Kansas City, MO. 1878–1891.
Saints’ Herald. Independence, MO. 1860–.
Doctrine and Covenants of the Church of the Latter Day Saints: Carefully Selected from the Revelations of God. Compiled by Joseph Smith, Oliver Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, and Frederick G. Williams. Kirtland, OH: F. G. Williams, 1835. Also available in Robin Scott Jensen, Richard E. Turley Jr., Riley M. Lorimer, eds., Revelations and Translations, Volume 2: Published Revelations. Vol. 2 of the Revelations and Translations series of The Joseph Smith Papers, edited by Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011).