Since the first recordings of the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commissioned by the Prophet Joseph Smith in 1842, and the second history published by B.H. Roberts in 1930, much has changed in the church.
When the 1930 history was published, the church still had less than one million members. It now has over 16 million members worldwide.
“In 1930, 90% of the church was in the U.S. and Canada,” said Jed Woodworth, managing historian of “Saints,” the church’s latest published historical account. “In 2010 when the (“Saints”) project was approved, there were more Spanish speakers than English. We needed to account for that change.”
On Wednesday, the church released the second volume of the four-volume history of the church, “Saints: No Unhallowed Hand.”
The second volume of “Saints” is now available for purchase from the church’s online store and at retail outlets. A digital version is available for free in the Church History section of the Gospel Library app.
With more than 500,000 print copies sold and more than one million digital views of Volume 1 of “Saints: The Restoration,” the series is considered a big success by church leaders and historians. Volume 1 takes the church from the time Joseph Smith was 10 years-old to his martyrdom and the members preparing to leave for the West. Volume 2, “No Unhallowed Hand,” picks up where Volume 1 left off and is set from 1846 to 1893. The second volume begins with thousands of Latter-day Saints fleeing mobs in Nauvoo, their gathering place for the previous seven years, according to the church.
“We wanted to write it in a way that is accessible to a variety of people,” said Scott Hales, general editor, lead writer and literary editor. “People from 10 to 110 can read it; that is what sets it apart from earlier histories.”
Hales added that one had to read almost on a scholarly level to understand it earlier published histories of the church.
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, who chairs the Church History Department, said he had an emotional experience while reading Volume 2 during a long airline flight.
“I was in tears four different times reading a hundred pages,” Cook said in a prepared statement. “I don’t (usually) read and get in tears, but I was in tears because I just feel so deeply about our faith and our church history. And what the members ... (and) leaders of the church have done is just incredible.”
Volume 2 follows Brigham Young and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as they journeyed west across the plains, trusting that God had prepared a home for them beyond the peaks of the Rocky Mountains.
Volume 2 explores other facts and events from the mid- to late-1800s time period, including pioneers’ accounts of trials and miracles, and the settling of Salt Lake City and the surrounding communities. It also gives insight into the first Latter-day Saints in the Pacific, complicated relationships with Native American tribes and the U.S. government, the practice of plural marriage, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
The work also discusses the founding of the Young Women and Primary organizations, white women in Utah Territory winning the right to vote, the completion of the St. George Utah Temple, Church President Wilford Woodruff’s revelation in 1890 to initiate the end of plural marriage and much more.
“People connect with stories,” Hales said at the release of the book. “Stories have a way of teaching people but also entertaining them at the same time. One of the purposes of ‘Saints’ is to teach the saints their history. If you want to engage a reader, especially someone who doesn’t necessarily like history or is put off by academic writing, then narrative is the way to go — because everybody loves a good story.”
Angela Hallstrom, one of the Volume 2 writers, said it was important to stay true to the source materials. A great amount of time and research was spent going through historical records, which made it important to create a strong and compelling narrative.
“I had been used to writing in such a way that I could create all the details that I wanted in order to be able to draw the reader in,” Hallstrom said. “But as a writer for Saints, it’s extremely important that you stay very, very close to the source material. We can’t use any details that are not in the historical record and well-sourced.”
The final volumes of Saints will be published in the next few years. Volume 3 will focus on the church’s global growth and conclude with the dedication of the temple in Bern, Switzerland, in 1955. Volume 4 will bring readers to the recent past, relaying the ongoing challenges of membership growth and having temples located all over the world, according to the LDS Church History Department.
Volumes 1 and 2 are available digitally in 14 languages: Cebuano, Chinese, English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Samoan, Spanish, Tagalog and Tongan. Print editions for the second volume of “Saints “ in languages other than English will be available within a few months.