Smith Family Recollections

© 1994 by H. Michael Marquardt. All rights reserved.


The Manuscript History of the Church was commenced in 1838 when Joseph Smith dictated the early portion from his birth in December 1805 to about September 1827. A rough draft was evidently made before the final copy. This 1838 draft was copied in 1839 into a bound book and is known as the 1838-39 manuscript history. The volume is labeled Book A-1 and is located in LDS archives. The history is a first person narrative of events. How much of the history was actually dictated by Smith is not known. Smith had dictated and written a short history in 1832 which covered events to April 1829.

For December 1805 to January 1831 the pages are in the following handwritings: pages 1-59 (Dec. 1805-Sept. 1830), James Mulholland; pages 60-75 (Sept.-Nov. 1830), Robert B. Thompson; and pages 75-92 (Nov. 1830-Jan. 1831), William W. Phelps. The text on pages 131-33 was written by Willard Richards after publication in the Times and Seasons.

There is a note in the front of the manuscript about Smith's oldest brother Alvin. The year of his death has been corrected to 1823. The note reads:

In Memory of Alvin Smith
Died the 19th Day of November
In the 25 year of his age year 1823
Joseph Smith Joseph
In Memory of Alvin S

The history covering December 1805 through January 1831 appeared in the following publications: Times and Seasons 3 (15 Mar. 1842):726 through 4 (15 Oct. 1843):354, Nauvoo, Illinois; The Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star 3 (June 1842):21 through 5 (Aug. 1844):35, Liverpool, England. It also appeared in the Millennial Star 14 (Supplement, 1852):1-56. Extracts covering December 1805 through May 1829 were published in the Pearl of Great Price in 1851. The Pearl of Great Price was revised and then canonized on 10 October 1880 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and is known as Joseph Smith-History (JS-H). In 1902 the "History of Joseph Smith" up to January 1831 was published by the LDS church as The History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1:1-145. This publication contains editing by B. H. Roberts. It first appeared in a paperback edition in 1978. For a convenient publication of the Manuscript History, see Dean C. Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith: Autobiographical and Historical Writings (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1989), 1:267-346. An early 1839 draft covering May 1829 through September 1830 can be found on pages 231-64.

The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, headquartered in Independence, Missouri, published The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, written and compiled by Joseph Smith III and Heman C. Smith in 1897; republished in Independence, Missouri, by Herald House in 1967, 1:6-168.

Joseph Smith only "corrected 42 pages" (p. 42 covers part of June 1830) after its publication in the Times and Seasons. See Heber C. Kimball's diary in On the Potter's Wheel: The Diaries of Heber C. Kimball, edited by Stanley B. Kimball (Salt Lake City: Signature Books in association with Smith Research Associates, 1987), 100; also History of the Church 7:389.


The Preliminary Manuscript to the "History of Lucy Smith" was dictated by her to Martha Jane Coray. Martha's husband, Howard, in his autobiography written in 1883, recalled that it was in the winter of 1844-45 that his wife was asked to serve as amanuensis for Lucy Smith (see Howard C. Searle, "Early Mormon Historiography: Writing the History of the Mormons, 1830-1858," Ph.D. diss., University of California, Los Angeles, 1979, 362). Lucy wrote to her son William: "I have by the council of the 12 undertaken a history of the family that is my father's family and my own" (ibid., 369, letter dated 23 Jan. 1845). The original of the Preliminary Manuscript is in LDS archives. There is also a small notebook housed in Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah.

Orson Pratt used another manuscript that had been complied and revised by Martha and Howard Coray from the earlier Preliminary Manuscript and other papers. Extracts from the "History of Joseph Smith" in the Times and Seasons were used in this revision. The title page of the revised manuscript is as follows: "The History of Lucy Smith Mother of the Prophet." The copyright of 18 July 1845 has: "The History of Lucy Smith . . . an account of the many persecutions, trials and afflictions which I and my family have endured in bringing forth the Book of Mormon, and establishing the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints" (Copyright Records, Illinois, Vol. 18 [1821-48], 18 July 1845, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.).

The first publication of Lucy's history was Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations in Liverpool, England, for Orson Pratt by Samuel W. Richards in 1853. This work is as much an autobiography of Lucy as it is a biography of Joseph Smith.

Five years later, in 1859, Brigham Young remarked that he wanted the book revised and corrected (Wilford Woodruff journal, 13 Feb. 1859, LDS archives). Later in 1865 Young had Biographical Sketches recalled because of assumed inaccuracies. The 1853 publication was revised by George A. Smith and Elias Smith. This revision was published in 1902 with an introduction by Joseph F. Smith. It did not indicate where the text had been altered nor the reason. The 1902 edition was further edited with notes and comments by Preston Nibley in 1945 and published by Bookcraft of Salt Lake City under the title History of Joseph Smith By His Mother, Lucy Mack Smith.

An edition was published by the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints in 1880 and 1908 as Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations. It was republished in 1912 with notes by Heman C. Smith, and a paperback edition was printed by Herald Publishing House, Independence, Missouri, in 1969. A reproduction of the 1853 first edition was issued by Modern Microfilm Co., Salt Lake City, in 1965 with an introduction by Jerald and Sandra Tanner, and a printing by Arno Press and the New York Times was published in 1969.

For additional information, see Jan Shipps, Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1985), 87-107.


On 18 April 1841 William Smith was interviewed by Reverend James Murdock, who included excerpts from the interview in a letter dated 19 June 1841 written to The Congregational Observer, Hartford and New-Haven, Connecticut, 2 (3 July 1841):1. About 1875 William wrote about his early life in New York. This is known as "Notes Written on `Chamber's Life of Joseph Smith.' by William Smith," and was sent to the LDS church in 1925 by Charles Knecht of Yakima, Washington.

William Smith's published narrative was printed in 1883 when he was seventy-two years old as William Smith on Mormonism (Lamoni, IA: Printed at Herald Steam Book and Job Office). On 8 June 1884 he preached a sermon at Deloit, Iowa, that was published in Saints' Herald 31 (4 Oct. 1884): 643-44. In October 1893, a month before William died, he was interviewed by E. C. Briggs and J. W. Peterson. This interview was printed in the following publications: Zion's Ensign 5 (13 Jan. 1894):6; Deseret Evening News 27 (20 Jan. 1894):11; Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star 61 (26 Feb. 1894):132-34; and excerpted in Church News, 16 Mar. 1968, 11, 13.

For a one volume book that contains various accounts by members of the Smith Family, see Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996).

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