, “Brief History,” Manuscript, ca. 6 April 1838– ca. 26 January 1839; handwriting of and an unidentified scribe; seventy pages numbered 20–90, plus three unnumbered pages; John Fletcher Darby Papers, Missouri History Museum Archives, St. Louis.
, a careful observer, had enjoyed a close association with Mormon leaders, and consequently his account provides valuable insights into the development and structure of the early church. He summarized many of the doctrines taught by JS and provided a detailed description of the conflict between the Latter-day Saints and other settlers. But his chronicle also related the story of a personal spiritual journey into and then out of the church as came to disapprove of the church’s course in 1838 in Missouri. Yet despite his estrangement from the church and his excommunication in 1839, he retained a degree of sympathy for the Saints and maintained some contact.
apparently began compiling portions of his account while serving as an officially appointed church historian in . He probably completed his narrative by 11 February 1839, when he secured a copyright with the district federal copyright office. He arranged for Thomas Watson & Son of to print A Brief History. The entire print run may have included up to twelve hundred copies.
The document presented here, ’s circa 1838–1839 rough draft of his history, is incomplete. It includes the title page, copyright notice, and preface but is missing twenty-one pages, including the nineteen pages that constitute chapters 1 through 6. The manuscript is almost entirely in Corrill’s handwriting, though some of the chapter summaries (added after he drafted the narrative) were written in a different hand, possibly that of the printer.
’s published version of A Brief History receives comprehensive treatment in volume 2 of the Histories series of The Joseph Smith Papers and is available on this website as part of the history series.
laying of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost they think will be attended with Signs following just in proportion to the faith and righteousness of the believer.
Join the church— goes to the West— Singular behavior of some of the younger members— Ordained an elder— Smith’s arrival at — Appointment of a bishop— The new revelation called the [3 words illegible] Law— An outline of its contents— Start for the West— Return to .
I have thus given a brief account of the investigation I went through in relations <to> these different subjects. Although I was not fully satisfied, yet viewing this religion to be much nearer the religion of the Bible then any other I could find, I concluded to join the church, with this the determination that if ever I found it to be a deception, I would leave it. There are other doctrines and discipline of the church which I shall mention in their proper place, but will now resume my history. During the fall and winter of AD 1830 & 31, was continually crowded. Persons came from all qua[r]ters enquiring after the new religion. and his company left in the fall for the west, to find the spot, as some said for the Temple and place of gathering. Many improprieties and visionary notions crept into the church, which tried the feelings of the more sound minded. Many young persons became very visionary, and had divers operations of the Spirit, [p. 22]