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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Fabulous Content in the New Church History Book, Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days

One of the most important works of scholarship related to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been the Joseph Smith Papers project, where an extensive collection of papers are being made available for the world to examine and search. The rise of this vast project has been instrumental in enabling one of the most remarkable resources the Church has made available, the multivolume history of the Church, Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days. This is a careful work of scholarship that makes details of Church history readily available to members of the Church and anyone else, with a readable text rich in links to original sources allowing readers to dig deeper and evaluate the materials on their own. The close relationship between the Joseph Smith Papers and this work of history adds much to its depth and usefulness.

The Joseph Smith Papers website has this to say about Saints:
For the first time in nearly one hundred years, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is releasing a new multivolume work about its history. The first volume of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, which covers key events in the early history of the church, is now available in print, online, and in the Gospel Library app. Subtitled “The Standard of Truth,” the first volume tells the story of the church beginning in 1815 with Joseph Smith’s childhood and concludes with Latter-day Saints worshipping in the Nauvoo temple in 1846 before their exodus west.

When the Joseph Smith Papers Project was launched more than fifteen years ago, its founders envisioned that the project’s publications would be cited and relied upon by scholars and other writers of both academic and popular works. The first volume of Saints is one example of how the project’s publications are finding widespread acceptance and influencing how history is understood and told. Some project scholars assisted with reviewing Saints materials for historical accuracy.

Reid L. Neilson, managing director of the Church History Department, stated, “Saints relies heavily on the groundbreaking research of the Joseph Smith Papers. The reliance can be seen in almost chapter as evidenced by the hundreds of endnotes that cite to the Joseph Smith Papers and that link directly to the Joseph Smith Papers website in electronic versions of Saints. The new narrative history is one more evidence of the growing influence of the Joseph Smith Papers.”

Saints features the true stories of the women and men who established the church around the globe. Church historians researched and wrote the volume using the records left behind by early church members, and creative writers and editors helped make the history engaging and accessible.
Written in a narrative style, Saints is designed to appeal to readers of various ages and backgrounds. While the English print book is already available in retail outlets, the printed publication will be available in thirteen other languages by the end of the year. Readers can also find the content in fourteen languages on the Church History website and in the Church History section of the Gospel Library app. The audiobook is currently available in English, Portuguese, and Spanish.
I've been greatly impressed with the style, the content, and the depth of additional resources provided in volume 1 of Saints that is easily accessible in my LDS Library App, online, and elsewhere. This work lets the Church tell its story, warts and all, without running away from complex issues but while also clearing explaining our views and faith. It's a resource that all of us should explore and appreciate.  It's written in language that will be accessible to many readers, with added depth available in its many footnotes.

As one example, volume 1 provides some interesting details about Joseph's receipt of the gold plates. He was told to bring someone trustworthy with him. Alvin originally was intended, but after Alvin passed away, Joseph was confused when told again to bring someone with him to the hill to receive the plates. As we read in Chapter 4 of Vol. 1, by consulting his seer stone, Joseph learned that this trustworthy person should be Emma. This was before they were married. An intriguing detail that many of us didn't know about before.


7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow, so intriguing. I guess I can ignore his lies and obfuscations!

Jeff DW said...

"Obfuscations", says "Anonymous"

Phil said...

Thanks for sharing this, Jeff. Here is my review of the new Saints history which I posted on quora a couple of weeks ago:

I just finished reading it a couple of days ago, and I give it a big “thumbs up”. It was a very interesting read, and I couldn’t wait to resume reading it each day over the several days I read it. I loved the narrative style, and how they were able to weave together material from many different sources, and also how they tackled the controversial events with the proper context. I also appreciated how they endeavored to be as accurate as possible, even down to details such as the weather on a particular day at a particular location, using original first hand source material from personal journals. It strengthened my belief in the truth of the Latter Day Saint faith, and made me appreciate more fully how strong the testimonies were of all of the people mentioned in the history who followed through on that faith, as well as those not mentioned, who went through so much hardship and so many trials to maintain their religious beliefs and goals. The other thing I appreciated is how they presented the antagonists in the story, from their point of view, though not justifying what they did, but at least giving a feel for why they did what they did, with the background of their motivations, both those who later returned to the faith and those who didn’t, as well as those who were not Latter Day Saints. One can also see the effects of the decisions that each player in the history made, with the ensuing ripple effect for either good or bad, affecting large numbers of people in either a positive or a negative way. I’m pretty excited about this new history volume and look very much forward to the ensuing volumes which will round out the church’s history up to the present. It’s long overdue, but perhaps it couldn’t have been done quite as well as it is being done now, if it had been done a number of years ago. So its availability now is very timely.

One last thing I thought I’d mention is how, by seeing the human mistakes that Joseph Smith and some of the other early church members made, and how they repented and carried on in spite of those mistakes and shortcomings, helped me realize more fully that there’s yet hope for someone like me, with my mistakes and shortcomings, if I carry on with faith and determination in the future. It also helped me appreciate them more fully, knowing that they, like all of us, are far from perfect, and yet God still sees fit to work great things through them, often starting with little decisions and actions that can have a large ripple effect in the future, for good.

Anonymous said...

Kiss my ass, Jeff DW.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jeff it's time to change the name of your blog. It's disrespectful and goes contrary to current revelation. Change it as soon as possible.
– your bishop

HO IV and crew said...

Thanks, Jeff! This inspired me to start reading Saints. I think I may read this out loud with my kids because it is so engaging. Might make it on my Christmas list to get the printed version.

Anonymous said...

Get used to your kids rolling their eyes and growing up to loathe you, HIV and crew.