Official

I hesite to use the category “official.” Just because something was produced within a department of the LDS Church does not make it “official.” Perhaps a better categorization is “authorized.” Below are works related to the history of the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that have been created within the Church by its employees and authorized by Church leadership. This is a great place to begin, as it is vital to know what the Church has said about its own history.

Of course the work produced by the Church will be devotional in nature. One can hardly expext otherwise from an institution that has a vested interest in defending its core message of the reality of the Restoration, divinity of the Book of Mormon, and prophetic calling of Joseph Smith. Bias is inherent in all writing. The question is more of responsibility with the historical records. Beginning with the Joseph Smith Papers Project in 2000 and the re-opening of the LDS Church History Library in 2009, the Church has taken a dramatic leap in the quality of its historical publications. The LDS Church History Department located in the LDS Church History Library can boast one of the largest staffs of Ph.D. historians on one campus, and much of what is being produced has had a tremendous impact on how members of the Church, including its top leadership, understand the Church’s sacred story.

Saints_Front-CoverOutside of the massive Joseph Smith Papers Project, the next-largest project currently being produced within the LDS Church History Department is an updated history of the Church titled Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days. This four-volume history is an update to the Church’s previous publications, The Story of the Latter-Day Saints by James B. Allen and Glenn M. Leonard (1976), A Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by B. H. Roberts (1930) and Joseph Smith’s History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, edited by B. H. Roberts (beginning 1902). Outside of this, a single-volume history of the Church intended for a non-Mormon audience was also authorized titled The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints by Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton (1979).¬† To say that Saints is significant is an understatement. Written for a broad audience at all reading levels (and taking into account language translation), Saints does a remarkable job of telling the history of the Church in a captivating and easy-to-read manner that, while clearly written from the standpoint of devotion, does not hide from the more sensitive topics of Church history. Saints is available in paperback or free at Saints.lds.org or through the Church’s Gospel Library App (under the History section). A podcast is also currently underway that invites scholars and writers from the LDS Church History Department to discuss the topics covered in each chapter.

 

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