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.
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.”
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
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.