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.
of the had a disposition to scatter thro’ the woods for hunting but I advised them to the contrary— some of the brethren went on to the sand bar, and got a quantity of Turtle’s eggs as they supposed, I told them they were Snake’s eggs and they must not eat them, but some of them thought they knew more than I did about it, and still persisted they were Turtle Eggs— I said they were Snake’s eggs, eat Snake’s Eggs will you? the man that eats them will be sorry for it, you will be sick, notwithstanding all I said— one or two of the <several> brethren eat <ate>of them, and were sick all the day after it
Thursday 5. We crossed the Mississippi, which was a tedious job having but one <small flat> boat <to page 483#>
<Note 9> endeavored <to> procure some milk— a number of men armed with guns met him and said “here’s one damd mormon alone, let’s kill him.” but at the same instant discovered a number of others just coming over the hill, when they immediately rode off in great haste. see page 488+
<Note 10> and were taught the sword exercise by brother <William> Cherry, (who was a native of Ireland) an expert drill master, who had been in the British Dragoon Service for upwards of twenty years and deserves much credit for his unwearied exertions for <in> imparting all he knew to the brethren, this was the <our> first attempt of the brethren at learning the sword exercise— brothers Hiram Stratton and Nelson Tubbs procured a shop of Myers Mobley and repaired every firelock that was out of order, and shod our horses. here brother was taken sick I proposed to him to remain behind, he said “brother Joseph, let me go with you if I die on the Road”. I told him in the name of the Lord that if that was his faith to go on his bed in the waggon, and he should get better every day until he recovered— which was literally fulfilled see page 488*
<Note 11.> and others of the branch, in all about 12, joined our Company— about this time I dispatched Elders and to with a message to to ascertain if he was ready to fulfil the proposition which he had previously made to the brethren to reinstate them on their lands in and leave them there to defend themselves. see page 488#
<Note 12> I instructed the in the morning that if a gun was fired it would be considered an alarm, but in the course of the day, while I was a little ahead, I shot a squirrel for brother Foster when several of the brethren came running up to see what was the matter, I told them brother Foster was sick, I want you should pray for him.
<Note 13> Saturday 14 brother , and another of the brethren were chased a— considerable portion of the day by four suspicious fellows on horseback armed with Guns, whom they eluded by travelling in the brush and thickets where horsemen could not ride— it was late when they returned to the Camp— at night we encamped in an unsafe and unpleasant situation in a small ravine— the only place we could get water for some miles— The Country was a wild, uncultivated region. (see page 490)*