excerpt – History of Joseph Smith
On 27 April 1838, shortly after his arrival at Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri, Joseph Smith, with counselor Sidney Rigdon and clerk George W. Robinson, began dictating what would become the official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.1 By the end of 1840, Smith’s involvement with the project was more as an overseer and reviewer than an author. Howard Coray, whom Smith had hired as a scribe about April 1840, described his employer’s expectations regarding the History:
The Prophet was to furnish all the materials; and our business, was not only to combine, and arrange in c[h]ronological order, but to spread out or amplify not a little, in as good historical style as may be.2
Of course, what was written was subject to Smith’s review and approval, and the compilers consulted him when information was needed. For example, prior to his death in 1839, James Mulholland attached the following note to page 7 of Book A-1: “I mentioned to President Smith that I considered it necessary that an explanation of the location of the place where the box was deposited would be required in order that the history be satisfactory. J.M.” On the back of this note, Mulholland wrote a paragraph that described the manner in which the gold plates were deposited in the Manchester, New York, hill, evidently provided by Smith. Later, on 1 December 1842, Smith “commenced reading and revising history.”3 On this and the following day, Smith dictated three addenda to scribe Willard Richards, which were recorded on pages 131-33 of Book A-1.4 Such instances indicate that despite the latitude he gave his scribes, Smith nevertheless remained closely involved in the project.
At Smith’s death in June 1844, the History had been written up to the events of August 1838, or page 812 of Book B-1.5 Since Smith had given church historian Willard Richards permission to write in his voice, he felt authorized to continue this practice after Smith’s death. However, the bulk of the History would be written without Smith’s input and review. According to Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, Smith had reviewed and corrected forty-two pages prior to his death.6 Beginning in April 1845, this role was assumed by president Young, assisted by apostles Kimball and Jedediah M. Grant, and occasionally other members of the Quorum of the Twelve.
While, for the most part, these men worked in good faith, historians and researchers today want to know what is genuine autobiography, contemporary observation, reminiscence, or what might be interpolation and invention. Despite its flaws, Joseph Smith’s History remains a valuable source when used with proper attention to sources, authorship, and date. This work is an attempt to trace the efforts of Joseph Smith and his successors during this twenty-year project of writing the church’s official history.
Joseph Smith’s motivation for writing his history is stated in the first line: “Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil designing persons … I have been induced to write this history, so as to disabuse the public mind, and put all enquirers after truth into possession of the facts as they have transpired in relation both to myself and the church, so far as I have such facts in possession.”7
Specifically, Smith’s History was intended to counteract Painesville, Ohio, publisher E. D. Howe’s 1834 exposé Mormonism Unvailed, which contained the affidavits of Smith’s former neighbors in New York and Pennsylvania that tended to malign his character. He also wished to present his version of the ongoing conflict between the Mormons and the state of Missouri, which was then about to explode into armed conflict. Autobiographies, especially those produced institutionally, are, in the words of British historiographer John Tosh, “often inaccurate and selective to the point of distortion. … [and] notorious for their errors of recall and their special pleading.”8 Louis Gottschalk warns that official histories tend “to suppress embarrassing, incriminating, and confidential information, and to present apologia.”9 This work will not attempt to make this kind of assessment, but rather the purpose here is to provide students of early Mormon history with a tool that will enable them to take steps in that direction.
The aim of the present edition of Joseph Smith’s History is two-fold. The first is to identify the sources upon which the History is based. While the opening portion is an original composition, the History quickly becomes a chronological compilation of documents connected by minimal narrative and commentary; hence, it is has most accurately been called a “Documentary History of the Church” (DHC).10 These sources are multifarious, and not always introduced into the text with quotation marks. Some sources have been silently edited, while others are summarized or paraphrased without alerting readers about sources and editorial procedure. One purpose of this work is to provide readers with this crucial information.
Another purpose is to provide researchers with information about textual development. Footnotes will alert readers to variant readings between the two manuscript versions, as well as between the first published text in the Times and Seasons and Deseret News and the current published edition edited by B. H. Roberts. Significant differences between the History and sources will also be noted. This textual apparatus will include identification of handwriting and date of composition.
Before Joseph Smith’s Death
The draft that Smith dictated to Robinson in Missouri is evidently no longer extant, but we know by 2 May they had finished about eight pages of text and had reached the account of Smith’s obtaining the gold plates in September 1827. On this day, Smith dictated a passage that James Mulholland carried over unchanged to the final draft in 1839: “I delivered them [plates] up to him [the angel] and he has them in his charge un=till this day, being the Second day of May, One thousand Eight hundred and thirty eight.”11 Smith’s History did not progress much further than this, for there is no record of his working on his History in Missouri after 4 May. Any hope of returning to the project while in Missouri was permanently dashed when Governor Lilburn W. Boggs issued his infamous extermination order and imprisoned Joseph Smith and other church leaders in December 1838.
After Smith’s escape, the project was resumed in Commerce (later Nauvoo), Illinois, on 11 June 1839, with James Mulholland as scribe.12 Between this date and Mulholland’s death on 3 November 1839, a draft of twenty-five pages was produced. This draft begins abruptly with the baptisms of Smith and Cowdery in May 1829 and ends with events of September 1830.13 By 4-5 July 1839, they had reached pages 13-14 of this draft, which deal with Newel Knight’s exorcism in April 1830 and subsequent vision the following June, for at this time Mulholland recorded in Smith’s journal that Smith was “(assisted by Br Newel Knight) dictating History.”14
About July or August 1839, Mulholland began copying this draft with some editing into Book A-1 of the Manuscript History (MSHiJS),15 and managed to record fifty-nine pages prior to his death. To record his finished version, Mulholland “took the large volume containing the aborted 1834-36 History material [from Cowdery’s letters originally published in the Messenger and Advocate], turned the book over so the back became the front cover of the new history, and began writing.”16 Subsequently labeled “A-1”, this book became the first of six: B-1, C-1, D-1, E-1, and F-1.
It was probably not until about October or November 1840 that Smith gave instructions to clerk Howard Coray to resume compiling and drafting the History, with the assistance of Edwin D. Wooley, and a Dr. Miller. That none of these men’s handwriting appear in Book A-1 indicates that they had worked only on a rough draft, which is now either misplaced or not extant. This draft probably corresponded to what clerk Robert B. Thompson, with whom Coray was then boarding, later copied on pages 60-75 of Book A-1, sometime prior to his death on 27 August 1841.
After becoming editor-in-chief of the Times and Seasons, Smith published the first installment of his History in the 15 March 1842 issue. About this time, he also assigned long-time scribe and editor William W. Phelps to continue work on the History. On 16 June 1842, Phelps wrote to Parley P. Pratt that he was in the midst of “the largest amount of business that I have ever undertaken, since I have been in the church,” which was “to write and compile the History of br. Joseph, embracing the entire history of the church. It will occupy my time and talents for a long time, should nothing intervene.”17 By 1 December 1842, when Phelps left Nauvoo for St. Louis to get paper and other materials, Phelps had reached page 130 of Book A-1.18 Prior to his departure, Smith “Called on W. W. Phelps to get the historical documents &c. After which he commenced reading and revising history.”19 On 1 and 2 December, Smith dictated Notes A, B, and C, which appear on pages 131-33 of Book A-1, to scribe Willard Richards, who had just returned from a five-month tour through New England.20
After returning to Nauvoo, Phelps continued recording history. On 19 January 1843, he recorded that he “recommenced writing on the history of the Church for B[r]. Joseph.”21 On the following day, Richards recorded in Smith’s journal that he “gave some instructions about Phelps and Richards uniting in writing the history of the church.”22 This evidently did not happen immediately, since most entries in Richards’s journal for the remainder of January 1843 simply record he was “sick”.23
The twenty-two pages (135-57) Phelps wrote during this time probably took no more than a week or two, thereafter Richards acted as scribe for the remainder of Book A-1 (158-553), with Phelps probably acting as compiler and adviser, especially for his firsthand knowledge of events in Missouri. The two were still working together on 22 March 1843, when Richards wrote his brother Levi: “I am writing the History of the Church in Joseph’s office, in connection with W. W. Phelps.”24 By this time, they had written more than two hundred pages, and the first fifty-eight pages had been published. An opportunity to split the two men came on the 19th of the following month, when Smith assigned the apostles to their various missions. However, when he came to Richards, Smith said: “I want Elder Richards to continue in the history at present. … The History is going out by little and little in the papers and cutting its way. So that when it is completed it will not raise a persecution against us.”25
Beginning on 8 May 1843, Richards began keeping a precise record of his progress, so we know he wrote the last page of Book A-1, page 553, on 24 August of that year.26 On the same day, he began Book B-1, continuing the pagination of the previous volume. Richards progressed steadily until he reached page 807 on 2 March 1844, and then page 812, probably later that same month.27 About this time, Richards and Phelps were drawn away to support Smith’s candidacy for the U.S. presidency—Richards as Smith’s secretary, and Phelps as his political ghost writer—and did not return to Smith’s History during his lifetime.
After Joseph Smith’s Death
Willard Richards’s Rough Draft
The earliest entry following Smith’s death to mention work on the History is in Smith’s journal kept by Richards under 11 December 1844: “[Thomas] Bullock … re-commenced to gather materials for History.”28 Several entries in Bullock’s journal record his efforts to collect, copy, and organize church records.29 On 15 January 1845, Richards joined Bullock in gathering and organizing papers, which continued through January and early February.30
About this time, Richards began making a Rough Draft (RDft), which begins with the events of 6 August 1838. This is where Richards had stopped recording in Book B-1 the previous March (cf. DHC 3:56; chap. 6). Since the first three pages of this Rough Draft were informed by the statement of John D. Lee and Levi Stewart (JDL-LS), which was taken by Bullock on 10 February 1845, Richards began writing after that date. Bullock’s entry for 13 February, reporting that Richards “was writing history,” may well document the beginning of Richards’s 71-page draft for the years 1838-39.31
Four days later, on 17 February, Bullock not only recorded that Dr. Richards was “writing History all day,” but that he was “Writing in Church History Book.”32 Bullock’s handwriting appears on the final thirty-nine pages of Book B-1, which were written over the course of the following week and probably finished on 24 February 1845.33
On 25 February, Bullock recorded that he “Commenced new Book on Church History.”34 Book C-1 would become the largest, eventually containing 511 pages, and later, in Utah, the most heavily supplemented of the MS History volumes. The need for expansion is perhaps explained by the haste in which it was composed. Written almost entirely by Bullock, Book C-1 was finished on 3 May, a little more than two months after starting, although long excerpts from document sources were left blank to be filled in later.35
Additional Scribes and Duplicate Copies
Meanwhile, Richards and Bullock gained the assistance of Charles W. Wandell, who began working in the Church Historian’s Office on 12 March 1845.36 In addition to filing papers and filling some of Bullock’s blanks, Wandell wrote about 316 pages of MS History, primarily in Book A-2, between 4 April and 29 July 1845, when he resigned.37
Another scribe, Wilmer Benson, a recent convert from England, also joined the historian’s office on 7 May 1845.38 He began immediately working on addenda for Book B-1, and on 16 May began making a copy in Book B-2, which he finished on 22 August 1845. Benson remained with the office until the books were packed for the trip to Utah, and did not rejoin them after the exodus.
Later, on 1 August 1845, Willard Richards’s twenty-four-year-old nephew, Franklin D. Richards, began working in the office. On the following day, he “commenced the copying of the largest Book that has yet been written by the church which contains Church History and is the third vol. or Book C.”39 Between this date and 7 January 1846, Franklin spent most of his time copying Book C-1 into Book C-2.
As previously discussed, Joseph Smith was able to review and revise at least the first forty-two pages of Book A-1, probably more, prior to his death. Nevertheless, when this role was assumed by Brigham Young and members of the Twelve, they commenced on 1 April 1845 at page 42,40 although at this time the Times and Seasons was about to publish up to page 356. This means that any revisions made in this part of Book A-1 were intended for a future publication of the History, which was being contemplated at this time as well.41
Revision began on the morning of 1 April 1845 with Book A-1 being read to President Brigham Young, Apostles Heber C. Kimball, George A. Smith, and John Taylor, and Richards keeping notes. The pace must have been grueling, because by the end of the second day they had managed to reach page 303.42 Richards spent the next day “revising & adding to history, which had been read before the presidents.”
For some reason, the revisers skipped to Book B-1 before finishing A-1, reviewing pages 553-619 between 10 and 14 May.45 They then returned to A-1, reviewed pages 304-510 on 16-17 May, and probably finished the last forty-three pages around this time, although there is no record of it. They finished B-1 on 14 July 1845.46
About this time, it was decided that Willard Richards and George A. Smith should revise the account of the May-June 1834 travels of Zion’s Camp in Book A-1, 477-505 (cf. DHC 2:63-114; chap. 5-8). On 22 August 1845, Brigham Young recorded: “Elders W. Richards and Geo. A. Smith commenced writing the history of Zion’s camp. Bro. Geo. A. Smith supplying many of the items from memory.”47 The rewrite of Zion’s camp was extensive and many addenda were added at the back of Book A-1, but the process was finished on 2 September.48
Final Days in Nauvoo
Apostolic review and revision continued in Nauvoo until 28 November, when preparations for removal to Winter Quarters and other matters prevented further work. Prior to this, they had finished Book C-1, sometime between 11 and 24 November,49 and had reached at least page 1433 of D-1.50
On 5 May 1845, two days after completing Book C-1, Bullock began recording in Book D-1, which begins with page 1362.51 On 15 January 1846, he reached page 1485 and completed the entry for 28 February 1843 (cf. DHC 5:291; chap. 15), which he had also written at Richards’s dictation in the Rough Draft earlier the same day.52 This is as far as the Rough Draft and MS History got in Nauvoo, for on 20 January Richards and Bullock began packing the papers and books in the Historian’s Office preparatory for the trek west.53 Before tightening the lid on the box that contained Book D-1, Bullock recorded:
end of W. Richards compiling[.] the books packed Feby. 4, 1846 in Nauvoo. Miles Romney, present.
T Bullock, clerk.
The last issue of the Times and Seasons, dated 15 February 1846, brought the publication of Joseph Smith’s History to page 531 of Book A-1. Another installment of the History would not appear for more than five years.
Work Continues in Utah
The publication of Joseph Smith’s History continued in the 15 November 1851 issue of the Deseret News, which was edited by Willard Richards. This issue covered events of 11-27 Aug. 1834 (cf. DHC 2:142-53; chap. 10), and was taken from Book A-1, 531-45. Publication continued uninterrupted for a year and a half despite no new material was being written. Apparently, the books and papers of the Historian’s Office remained boxed up until 7 June 1853. On this day, Bullock recorded in the Church Historian’s Office journal (CHOj):
about 9 am TB commenced removing [the] heavy boxes of records down [to] WRs office & unpacked 2 of them[.] they not having been seen since TB assisted [to] fasten them down on [the] 4 Feb 46.54
Bullock was aided by Miles Romney and new clerk Jonathan Grimshaw. On this day, Bullock also opened Book D-1 to the first blank page, 1486, and recorded in the top margin:
the books were unpacked in G. S. L. City by Willard Richards and Thomas Bullock. June 7, 1853. J. Grimshaw & Miles Romney present.
For the next six months, the historians occupied their time filing and organizing their papers. On 20 September, they were joined by clerk Leo Hawkins.55 Apparently, there was no attempt to write new material until 1 December 1853, when Bullock recorded in the left margin of page 1486 in Book D-1:
Dr. Willard Richards wrote one line of History, being sick at the time, and was never able to do any more.
This evidently refers to the first line at the top of the same page, which is a fragment of a sentence in Bullock’s hand dealing with 1 March 1843. Richards would never complete this sentence, for his health worsened and he died on 11 March 1854.
George A. Smith
When George A. Smith was appointed to replace Richards as Church Historian at general conference in April 1854, it was an assignment he pursued with great energy, but also with a good measure of insecurity. “You will no doubt be surprised that a man of my mountain habits should be appointed historian,” he wrote his nephew Franklin D. Richards later that month, “and I desire the saints will give me their faith and I will try and do my best.”56 In a letter to John M. Bernhisel the following month, he similarly stated: “You are no doubt surprised to learn that a man of my limited attainments and deficient sight should be appointed Historian to the church.”57
Shortly after his appointment, Smith set up the Historian’s Office in a large upper room of the two-storied red sandstone Council House, which had been built in 1850 on the southwest corner of Main and South Temple in downtown Salt Lake City.58 On 13 April, he began laboring on the MS History by compiling sources in preparation for dictation. Once again, Bullock opened Book D-1 to page 1486 and wrote:
commencement of George A. Smith’s compiling as Historian. April 13, 1854.
Although the History had been written and entered into Book D-1 up to 28 February 1843, Smith “commenced compiling the history of Joseph Smith from April 1st 1840.”59 This was in preparation for the many addenda that would be added to Books C-1 (19-24), C-2 (600-2, 613-16), D-1 (1-6), D-2 (1-6), and especially the 75-page Addenda Book for the years 1840-42, which was begun on 18 October 1854. “I had to revise and compare two years of back history which he [Willard Richards] had compiled, filling up numerous spaces which had been marked as omissions <on memoranda> by Dr. Richards,” Smith recalled.60
Reconstructing Joseph Smith’s Sermons
Under George A. Smith’s direction, the copying, compiling, and editing of Joseph Smith’s sermons was also begun. An entry for 17 April 1854 reads: “Leo Hawkins copies sermons of Jos Smith of Jany 22[,] April 16 & commences sermon of May 14 43.”61 It was probably at this time that Hawkins began the “Sermon Book” (NSB), which eventually comprised seventy pages of Nauvoo sermons, mostly delivered by Joseph Smith. These sermons were copied primarily from the reports of Wilford Woodruff and Willard Richards, which sometimes were creatively amalgamated. Other sermons were worked up on separate sheets from nothing more than a few scattered notes, written in “open lines” and later fleshed out by George A. Smith. Reflecting on this work in 1856, Smith said:
I have filled up all the reports of sermons by President Joseph Smith and others from minutes or sketches taken at the time in long hand by Dr. Willard Richards, Wilford Woodruff, Thomas Bullock, William Clayton, Miss Eliza R. Snow &c. which was an im=mense labor, requiring the deepest thought and the closest application, as there were mostly only two or three words (about half written) to a sentence. The greatest care has been taken to convey the ideas in the prophet’s style as near as possible; and in no case has the sentiment been varied that I know of; as I heard the most of his discourses myself, was on the most intimate terms with him, have retained a most vivid recollection of his teachings, and was well acquainted with his principles and motives. … The severe application of thought to the principles of the History, the exercise of memory &c., have caused me to suffer much from a nervous headache or inflamation of the brain; and my application of mind being in exercise both day and night, deprived me of a great portion of necessary sleep.62
Compiling continued until 5 June 1854, when “GAS directed TB to place the Historical papers for 1843 in the new Secretary preparatory to active operations[,] which he did.”63 On 7 June, “GAS commenced the dictation & TB the writing of the History of Joseph Smith commencing March 1[,] 1843.”64 This was at the beginning of Rough Draft MS #7, primarily in Bullock’s hand, with supplemental material by others. “Thomas Bullock acted with me as chief clerk,” Smith recalled. “His pen wrote the principal part of the rough manuscript from my dictation, and his acquaintance with all the papers was of great assistance to me.”65
By July, Smith had produced enough material to begin copying in Book D-1. On 1 July, more than a year after Richards had dictated his incomplete sentence, Leo Hawkins finished it. At the top of page 1486 in Book D-1, Bullock wrote: “commenced copying July 1, 1854.” The Church Historian’s Office journal for this date reads: “Leo Hawkins commenced copying in book D history commencing on March 1[,] 1843.”66
Joseph Smith’s Martyrdom
George A. Smith realized early that there was a scarcity of source material for Joseph Smith’s murder, and for that reason especially lamented the passing of Willard Richards. “I most deeply regret his [Willard Richards] not having been able to continue the History[,] especially to the murder of Prest Joseph and Hyrum Smith,” he wrote on 19 April 1854, “as no person living can be as well qualified to do justice to the subject as himself.”67 On 29 June 1854, Smith explained:
[Richards] kept journals of his daily proceedings, by writing a line or two, naming the principle events, and leaving his memory to fill the particulars, and a part of this in a Stenographic style of his own, which no memory but his can supply. It is therefore apparent that many very important events of Joseph Smiths history are lost by Prest Richards’ untimely death.68
To remedy the situation, Smith solicited information from various witnesses. Accordingly, he sent letters to Dan Jones, Cyrus Wheelock, and J. M. Bernhisel on 28 August 1854, and John S. Fullmer on 29 August 1854.69 Later, in 1856, he requested and received a 69-page detailed account from John Taylor, who was with Joseph Smith in Carthage jail.70 Additionally, statements were taken from many persons that were either inserted complete in the Rough Draft itself or incorporated in the text.
At this time, Bullock began working on what became Rough Draft MS #9, covering the events of 22-27 June 1844. Composed between 28 August and 4 September 1854,71 this preliminary draft incorporated the statements of Joseph Smith’s attorneys J. W. Wood and H. T. Reid from the Times and Seasons,72 and an interview with John Taylor.73 Later, Bullock added at least twenty-six addenda based on Cyrus Wheelock’s 20-page letter to George A. Smith, dated 29 December 1854.74 The most heavily edited and revised of the Rough Draft Manuscripts, Bullock’s early draft was subsequently copied by Leo Hawkins and Jonathan Grimshaw (MS #9b), portions of which were in turn copied and replaced by Grimshaw (MS #9).75
Appointment of Wilford Woodruff
On 27 March 1856, George A. Smith and John Taylor were elected delegates to the U.S. Congress to present the constitution and memorial for Utah statehood. During his absence, the project would be completed under the direction of Wilford Woodruff, who was appointed assistant church historian at conference the following month.
Prior to his departure on 22 April 1856,76 Smith had completed Rough Draft MS #7 about July 1855,77 MS #8 about November,78 and apparently a second draft of MS #9 in early April 1856.79 On 16 April, Woodruff recorded:
I met again to day with President Young & G. A. Smith & T. Bullock. Read <manuscript of the> Church History to him up to Joseph & Hirams Death in Jail. It brought fresh to mind the scenes of those sorrowful days.80
In addition to completing the Rough Draft, Smith’s staff of scribes finished Book D-1 in May 185581 and E-1 about 9 April 1856.82 When Smith left the Valley, the Deseret News was preparing to print Book D-1, 1458-63 (cf. DHC 5:260-63; chap. 13-14), which brought the publication of Joseph Smith’s History up to the events of 29-31 January 1843.
Under Woodruff’s direction, scribes continued copying in Book F-1 and D-2, and adding addenda to various books. Book D-2 was completed in July 1856,83 but Book E-2 was discontinued at page 83 on 6 August at Brigham Young’s direction.84 By 18 August, Hawkins had copied to page 189 in Book F-1, which concludes with Joseph Smith’s death.85
Woodruff continued the process of compiling sources, taking statements from William Clayton on 15 June 1856,86 Abraham C. Hodge and Hosea Stout on 23 June,87 and on 30 June wrote a long letter of inquiry to John Taylor in Washington, DC. Prefacing specific questions and requests for information, Woodruff wrote:
We are very busy writing the history of the latter days of Joseph, and we have a great many conflicting statements on the subject, which renders it necessary for me to call in the aid of an eye and ear witness to enable me to do justice to it. You are the only person on earth who can render me this assistance; I shall therefore feel obliged if you will take the earliest opportunity to sit down with your Hon colleague the Chief Historian [i.e., George A. Smith], and write out an account of all the circumstances relating to the subject which came under your immediate observation or experiences from the 20th June 1844 to the date of your return from Carthage to Nauvoo. Also please to give me the requisite information you are able on the following points … You will no doubt be able to tax your memory sufficiently to fill up these blanks. … As we are now right upon this part of the History, and find that it must remain open during your pleasure, I believe you will lose no time in attending to the matter.88
On the same day, Woodruff also wrote George A. Smith, asking him to get statements from John Taylor and John M. Bernhisel:
I hope Bro. Smith you will lose no time in attending to this matter, as the History must in a manner remain open until we can get your answer; we wish you to question brothers Taylor and Bernhisel upon every point that you deem necessary for the history, and forward to us immediately.89
On 23 August 1856, Smith recorded in his journal: “E[l]der Taylor writing A commencement on th[e] History of Joseph Smiths murder.”90 However, not until Taylor and Smith had returned to Utah would the manuscript be turned over to the historians for review, revision, and incorporation in the MS History.91
The work of revision continued under Woodruff, with Book E-1 being completed in August 1856.92 On 13 August, they reached the martyrdom. Woodruff recorded in his journal:
Presidents B Young H C Kimball J. M. Grant & D H Wells spent the day in the office reading History. We finished up to the death of Joseph in Carthage Jail. The brethren felt full & felt that they had heard enough for one day.93
Five days later, they again met to finish what had been written up to that time in Book F-1. Woodruff recorded:
I Called upon President Young in the morning. … Presidents Young & Kimball Called upon us in the office in the Afternoon & we finished up the History of Joseph Smith.94
From about 18 August 1856 to 14 February 1857, Leo Hawkins copied a second compilation of History, covering 22 June-8 August 1844, in F-1, 228-304 (cf. DHC 7:129-242).95 Thereafter, Woodruff turned his efforts towards the History of Brigham Young and the other apostles.
George A. Smith Returns
When George A. Smith returned to Salt Lake City on 29 May 1857,96 the Deseret News had just published Joseph Smith’s History up to Book E-1, 1880-92 (cf. DHC 6:201-18; chap. 8), covering 7-16 February 1844. The final installment dealing with Joseph Smith’s death and burial appeared on 25 November.
Meanwhile, Smith added a lengthy excerpt from Illinois governor Thomas Ford’s 1854 History of Illinois to F-1, 190-204 (cf. DHC 7:1-31), probably in July and August.97 Fourteen addenda were also added to Book F-1 in October, three of which were excerpts from John Taylor’s statement. Taylor had brought his manuscript to the Historian’s Office on 26 September, and Robert L. Campbell revised it on 29 September.98 On 20 October, Woodruff, Hawkins, and Campbell were “Revising Histy of Assassination & comparing with J.Ts M.S.”99
By October Smith’s attentions were already turning to the history of the apostles, which were eventually copied into Book G. He began dictating his own 472-page history to Thomas C. Armstrong on 3 September 1857.100
On 20 January 1858, George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff published the following statement in the Deseret News:
The History of Joseph Smith is now before the world, and we are satisfied that a history more correct in its details than this was never published. To have it strictly correct, the greatest possible pains have been taken by the historians and clerks engaged in the work. They were eye and ear witnesses of nearly all the transactions recorded in this history, most of which were reported as they transpired, and, where they were not personally present, they have had access to those who were.
Moreover, since the death of the Prophet Joseph, the history has been carefully revised under the strict inspection of President Brigham Young, and approved by him.
We, therefore, hereby bear our testimony to all the world, unto whom these words shall come, that the History of Joseph Smith is true, and it is one of the most authentic histories ever written.101
Brigham Young’s plan to publish the History of Joseph Smith in book form never materialized. On 7 December 1859, Woodruff recorded:
President Young Called into the office and spent about an hour with us. I spoke to President Young about our getting out the History of Joseph striped of all of its appendages and to be published as the plain History of Joseph Smith. He said let it rest at present. We shall not do any thing about it now.102
The opportunity to make Joseph Smith’s History more accessible would not come for another forty years.
Brigham H. Roberts
Brigham H. Roberts (1857-1933) was barely born when the last installment of Joseph Smith’s History was published in the Deseret News. While serving as editor of the Millennial Star in Liverpool, England, from 1887-88, Roberts gathered and bound in three volumes the entire “History of Joseph,” which had been reprinted in the Star in volumes 14-25 (1852-63). At the instigation of Apostle Francis M. Lyman, Roberts’s collection was in the midst of publication at George Q. Cannon and Sons, when Cannon died on 12 April 1901. Roberts then proposed that a more carefully prepared and edited edition be produced, which was accepted by President Lorenzo Snow.
On 6 April 1902, Andrew Jenson, Orson F. Whitney, Amos Milton Musser, and Roberts were sustained as Assistant Church Historians. These men, under the direction of Church Historian Anthon H. Lund, began work on the six volumes of the Documentary History of the Church. Beginning on 15 April 1902, mornings at the Church Historian’s Office were spent with Lund, Roberts, and Joseph Fielding Smith reading through the History. It was probably on these occasions that extensive annotations were added to Roberts’s three volumes of Millennial Star.103 Additionally, the printed text was compared with the MS History and sometimes corrected and supplemented, although not systematically or consistently.104 The first volume of the History appeared later that same year, and subsequent volumes in 1904, 1905, 1908, 1909, and 1912.
Need for a Critical Text
While Roberts did much to improve the text, researchers have long recognized the need for a more scholarly and historically reliable edition of Joseph Smith’s History of the Church, or at least one that is more sensitive to original texts and sources.105 In his 1976 essay, “The Reliability of Joseph Smith’s History,” Dean C. Jessee wrote:
Because of its effect on the documentary foundation upon which history builds its case, textual analysis is as important to an understanding of the past as the gathering and selection of source material. … Since critical tests for reliability ultimately rests upon a consideration of textual origins, an important prerequisite to the study of Joseph Smith and Mormon beginnings is an understanding of the nature of the sources and the setting in which they were written.106
In this work, the methodology of previous generations of compilers, writers, and editors will come to the fore. One should be cautious not to view their efforts through the lens of current standards, or to assign malicious intent where none was intended. If not entirely acceptable, ghost writing, changing third person to first, and incorporating source material without quotation marks were nevertheless typical practices in the nineteenth century.107 While some of the changes and deletions to source material were no doubt intended to put Joseph Smith and the church in the best possible light, and the process of apostolic review was not only to insure accuracy, but orthodoxy, the vast majority of alterations were for readability. Yet their main error was in trying too hard to fill gaps, especially in reconstructing Joseph Smith’s sermons.
Unfortunately, B. H. Roberts complicated the situation by adding, deleting, changing, and rearranging the text, generally without editorial comment. When he did notify readers of his editorial work, he did so in an inconsistent and confusing manner. The following passage from the History is an example of Roberts’s inconsistency:
Colonel Wight, who held a commission in the fifty-ninth regiment under his [Parks] command, asked him what steps should be taken. General Parks told him that he must immediately call out his men, and go and put them down. (DHC 3:370; chap. 24)
Roberts’s use of brackets might lead one to assume that he made only one editorial clarification. However, comparison with the MS History, Deseret News, and Millennial Star reveals that there are actually two. Roberts has silently changed “He” at the beginning of the second sentence to “General Parks”. Another example is found in DHC 4:426 (chap. 25):
He then referred to the [lack of] charity of the sects, in denouncing all who disagree with them in opinion, and in joining in persecuting the Saints …
Again, Roberts’s use of brackets might lead one to assume that he only added “lack of” for clarity, whereas the words “referred to” have also been silently introduced in place of “contrasted”. This work remedies this problem by reverting to the first published version in the Times and Seasons and Deseret News and documenting changes Roberts’s made in footnotes.
While Roberts had access to the MS History and made appropriate corrections or added previously unpublished addenda, his methodology was not consistent. Sometimes he notified readers that addenda were being added, but most often they were silently introduced into the text. At other times, he inserted them in footnotes, or ignored them altogether.108 To DHC 1:353 (chap. 25), for instance, Roberts silently added the following paragraph.
June 5.—George A. Smith hauled the first load of stone for the Temple, and Hyrum Smith and Reynolds Cahoon commenced digging the trench for the walls of the Lord’s house, and finished the same with their own hands.
This paragraph did not appear in the Times and Seasons, but was subsequently inserted interlinearly in Book A-1, 302, probably under the direction of George A. Smith, and incorporated in the text when copied into Book A-2, 201. Roberts also silently changed “drawed” to “hauled,” added “for the temple,” and changed “trenches” to singular. Another instance where Roberts silently added material is the following paragraph from DHC 2:24 (chap. 1):
January 31.—It is my prayer to the Lord that three thousand subscribers may be added to the STAR in the time of three years.
This paragraph did not appear in the Times and Seasons, nor was it ever added to Book A-1, 421, or Book A-2, 270. Roberts apparently took it directly from Joseph Smith’s journal for 31 January 1834 and silently inserted it.109
When Roberts gathered all the 1834 correspondence between church leaders and state officials in Missouri into the final chapter of volume 1 (chap. 35), he decided to fill a blank left by the relocation of one letter with another of his own choosing. While Roberts notified readers in a footnote that the letter “does not appear in the History of the Prophet” but appeared in the Evening and Morning Star (DHC 2:4n; chap. 1), he retained the introduction to the first letter, erroneously making it appear that the second letter was written on 22 January 1834 by the “Presidency of the High Priesthood” to the “scattered” saints. Nor did Roberts inform readers that a substitution had taken place.110
The following paragraph did not appear in the Deseret News or Book E-1, 2000, but was added in DHC 6:326 (chap. 15):
The Mayor and Marshal received a notification to produce docket and other papers in case of O. F. Bostwick, before the circuit court at Carthage; also a similar notification to produce papers in case of Amos Davis, appealed before Circuit Court.
Presumably this paragraph was composed by Roberts based on a document in the Joseph Smith Collection,111 or possibly a now lost or misplaced note.
Examples could be multiplied, but even this sampling should make clear the need for a text and source critical edition of the History of Joseph Smith and the Church. Speaking of Roberts’s editorial style, Dean C. Jessee commented:
But although he recognized and corrected many problems that stemmed from the editorial procedure that had governed the earlier writing of the history, a procedure that attributed words and actions to Joseph Smith that were technically not his, Roberts failed to come to grips with the whole problem of methodology. In so failing, he not only transmitted the archaic editorial style of his nineteenth century predecessors to the next generation, but guaranteed that any future assessment of the history would be even more harsh than his own.112
Rather than a harsh assessment, what is needed is an edition that can inform readers and researchers about textual development and sources. While the History will no doubt remain a valuable resource, serious students must vigilantly consult original sources for accuracy and continually test and assess the reliability of the various sources upon which the History rests. We must distinguish what originated with Joseph Smith from what was ghost written—with or without his authorization, review, and approval—or lifted from the writings of others and put into his mouth, or imaginatively reconstructed from fragmentary sources. Toward that endeavor this work is dedicated.
5. On 2 Mar. 1844, Willard Richards recorded in his journal that he had reached Book B-1, 807 (WRj 10:6). The next definite date is 17-21 Feb. 1845, when on the last day Richards recorded: “[Thomas] Bullock quit writing. (812 to 838½ pages or 5 pages per day.)” (WRj 11:69). In other words, Bullock began recording on p. 812, with the entry dated 6 Aug. 1838, on 17 Feb. 1845. This is where Richards’s RDft begins. It is likely that B-1, 808-12, were also written in Mar. 1844, although Richards failed to record it in his journal.
18. Wilford Woodruff recorded: “Dec 1st I met at J. Taylors in company with Wm. W Phelps & Br Taylor & myself put into Phelps hand $2.53 dollars to go to St Louis for paper & other materials. He started with a waggon in the snow” (WWj 2:193).
20. On this date, Richards wrote: “began to Record history” (WRj 9:25). This was Note A, since on the following day he recorded: “wrote B & C Notes in history” (WRj 9:25). Also on 1 Dec., Phelps started for St. Louis for paper and other materials (WWj 2:193).
27. WRj 10:6. Since page 812 is where Richards’s handwriting ends and that of Thomas Bullock begins, which dates to 17 Feb. 1845 (WRj 11:69), I assume Richards finished the last five pages shortly after 2 Mar. 1844.
33. On 21 Feb. 1845, Richards recorded: “Bullock quit writing. (812 to 838½ pages or 5 pages per day.)” (WRj 11:69). On 22 Feb. 1845, Bullock recorded: “Office all day writing Church history” (CHOj 1:28). Since, according to Richards, Bullock was averaging five pages per day during this time, and Bullock was sick on 23 Feb., he probably finished Book B-1, 849, on 24 Feb. 1845.
35. On 3 May 1845, Bullock wrote that he had “finished July 1842 being the end of vol 3” (CHOj 1:38; see also 3:8), which corresponds to Book C-1, 1361 (cf. DHC 5:84; chap. 4). Several entries mention leaving blanks. On 15 Mar., for instance, Richards recorded that Bullock had reached page 1004 of Book C-1 and that he had left “blank all Large documents to be copied afterwards” (WRj 11:91). On 5 Apr. 1845, Richards recorded: “Bullock has written to Feb 1842.—leaving blanks for three pieces in the times & seasons” (WRj 11:112). This coincides with Book C-1, 1273 (cf. DHC 4:510; chap. 30).
37. CHOj 3:3; 4:1; 5:6. On 29 July 1845, “Brother C W Wandell resigned his situation in the office” (CHOj 5:6). Wandell also kept an office journal, with entries from 9 Apr. 1845 to 26 July 1845 (see CHOj, vol. 4).
41. On 10 June 1845, George A. Smith recorded: “Met at Dr. Willard Richard’s office and held a longe council as to the title of the Church history” (GASHi, 79). On 15 Aug., Brigham Young recorded that he “prepared the map of Nauvoo and title page to the History of the Church for Col. J. B. Backenstos to take to Springfield to obtain a copy right for me” (BYj [1844-46], vol. 4). The title page, which was carefully prepared by Thomas Bullock, reads: “History | of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. | — also — | The Law of the Lord. | — and — | Biography of Joseph Smith, | The Founder, First Apostle, and President of the Church. | By | Brigham Young | President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints” (JSHD). On 30 Aug., Young recorded that “Sherif Backenstos came directly from Springfield, brought my copy rights which he had got enterd in Clerks office” (BYj [1844-46], vol. 4).
42. On 2 Apr. 1845, Richards recorded: “revising history with B. Young & Geo. A. Smith read from 180 to 303 page” (WRj 11:109). Bullock also wrote: “Writing the history all day. B. Young, H. C. Kimball and G. A. Smith with Dr. revising history for the press, G. A. Smith staid till ep [evening prayer] 10” (CHOj 2:12a). For Richards’s notes for 1-2 Apr. 1845, see vol. 7, IV.3, Revisers’ Notes for Book A-1.
44. On 10 May 1845, George A. Smith wrote: “Went to Prest. Brigham Young’s: then with him to Dr. Willard Richards and commenced to revise the Church history, Book B. Read five pages” (GASHi, 67-69). The revisers continued on 12-14 May, but no page numbers given. However, the next entry for 20 May records: “at Bro Pierces. Young. Kimball. Taylor. Geo. A.—& Willard read 57 pages History Book B. closed with 1835” (WRj 11:157). The year 1835 ends on page 676, so that day’s reading began with page 619, which is where the revisers ended on the 14th.
45. On 16 May 1845, Heber C. Kimball recorded: “Thomas Bulluck [Bullock] and G. A. Smith come in. Bullock red histry for us. Commenced with the first Book A, Page 304, 16 line. … We red till sunset. Page 378” (HCKj [1844-45], vol. 3). On 17 May 1845, Richards wrote: “At Hunters … Revising History from page 378 to 510—132 pages” (WRj 11:154).
46. On 14 July 1845, Willmer Benson recorded: “reading book No 2 to B Young[,] G A Smith & W Richards till 1 PM … finished reading vol 2nd” (CHOj 5:5). Bullock wrote: “reading to B. Young, G. A. Smith, & W Richards finished examining book 2” (CHOj 3:19).
49. The revisers’ notes for 11 Nov. 1845 indicate that they had reached page 1186 (see vol. 7, IV.6, Apostolic Review of Book C-1). No record exists for pages 1187-1361, but Book D-1 was begun on 24 Nov. (WRj 13:104; CHOj 3:32).
50. On 28 Nov. 1845, Richards wrote: “G. A. Smith called and read history to the end of 1842” (WRj 13:108). TB wrote: “reading history to G. A. Smith & W. Richards. finished with the year 1842 about noon” (CHOj 3:33). Benson wrote: “G A Smith … revised with TB 15 pages of history in Book D” (CHOj 7:15). The year 1842 concludes with Book D-1, 1433 (cf. DHC 5:215; chap. 12).
53. Richards recorded that he was “at home attending to assorting books and papers preparatory to journey to the West” (WRj 13:161), and Bullock wrote that he was at the “Office all day compiling papers and packing same and books away in boxes” (TBj, 12).
71. CHOj 17:144-46. The entry for 28 Aug. 1854 reads: “TB writing History of 26 June 44” (CHOj 17:144); and on the following day: “TB writing history of Carthage jail[.] GAS hearing it & reading” (CHOj 17:145).
72. The entry for 31 Aug. 1854 reads: “TB writing history of June 44 from Wood & Reid’s statements & incorporating them in red ink” (CHOj 17:147). J. W. Wood’s and H. T. Reid’s statements are found in T&S 5 (1 July 1844): 560-64.
77. The last pages of RDft MS #7, covering 29-31 Dec. 1843, were composed shortly before they were copied by Robert L. Campbell in Book E-1, 1836-37, sometime between 13 June-20 Aug. 1855 (CHOj 18:109). The last three pages written on a folded sheet of four pages, containing a “Catalogue of Books, Pamphlets, Letters &c, Published for, and against, the Latter-day Saints in 1843,” were compiled by James Ure beginning on 9 July 1855 (CHOj 18:63).
79. CHOj for 12 Apr. 1856 records that George A. Smith and Thomas Bullock were working “on History all day,” and Hawkins was “[copying] M.S. History [all day]” (18:352). The same record for 14 Apr. lists Smith, Bullock, and Woodruff “on History,” and Grimshaw and Hawkins “copying M.S. [History]” (18:354). Smith, Woodruff, and Bullock spent the following two days reading the History to “the Presidency” (CHOj 18:355-56).
84. Book E-2, 83, has following note: “This, the second Copy, discontinued, Aug 6, 1856, by the advise of President Brigham Young.” The entry for this date reads: “Prest. B. Y. In office from 3 P.M to. 6¼ P.M Hearing history read &c. Advised that in future one copy only of the history be kept” (CHOj 19:70).
85. On 18 Aug. 1856, the reviewers reached Book F-1, 189, as Woodruff recorded: “I Called upon President Young in the morning. … Presidents Young & Kimball Called upon us in the office in the Afternoon & we finished up the History of Joseph Smith” (WWj 4:437).
91. The entry for 26 Sept. 1857 reads: “In Evening Elder John Taylor brought to the office 88 scrap pages of MS. of the Martyrdom of Joseph & Hyrum that he had written while in the East” (CHOj 20:52). Another entry for 29 Sept. 1857 reads: “RL.C. Revising J. Taylor’s MS.S.” (CHOj 20:57).
101. DN, 20 Jan. 1858, 363 (cf. DHC 7:242-43). Under 15 Jan. 1858, Woodruff recorded: “wrote a peace on the Closeing up of the History of Joseph Smith Signed by G. A. Smith & W. Woodruff as Historians” (WWj 5:157).
105. In his 1971 groundbreaking essay, Dean C. Jessee noted: “A comparison of the manuscript of the History with the printed versions in the Times and Seasons, Deseret News, Millennial Star, and the DHC as edited by B. H. Roberts, is the subject of another study” (Jessee 1971, 472n106).
108. Roberts, for instance, noted in a footnote in volume one: “That it is an error is evident, and it is so noted in the manuscripts to which access has been had in the preparation of this work” (DHC 1:11n; chap. 2).
110. Roberts moved the original letter, which had been copied from JSLB 1:79-81, to vol. 1, chap. 35 (cf. DHC 1:474-76; chap. 35), and replaced it with a letter that appeared in E&MS 2 (Feb. 1834): 135-36; 2 (Mar. 1834): 142-44; 2 (Apr. 1834): 152 (cf. DHC 2:4-24; chap. 1).