The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints released the first of a four-volume comprehensive history of the church Tuesday morning.
“Saints: The Standard of Truth,” is a detailed history of the church’s beginnings from 1815-1846. Elder Steven E. Snow, church historian and recorder and member of the Quorum of the Seventy, explained it has been 90 years since the last multi-volume church history source was released. At that time, church membership had not reached 1 million members and its membership was based primarily in North America.
“We now have 16 million members worldwide, and congregations in 140 nations,” Snow said.
This is the focus of this new series — to share the global history of the church with a global audience. The series will cover church history from the 1800s to present day. This history is shared through the lens of church leaders, but also includes stories of members from various cultures and genders.
“In coming volumes, you’ll really start to understand how global the church has become,” Snow said.
Lisa Olsen Tait, a historian on the project and specialist in women’s history, said this series highlights the stories of people and events many members of the church haven’t known before. Quoting Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, another author and historian specializing in women’s history in the church, Tait explained that the church “could not have survived and thrived without the full commitment of women.”
“‘Saints’ illustrates that commitment and participation along the way,” Tait added. Readers will learn new details about women “they think they already know” like Lucy Mack Smith and Emma Smith, and be introduced to “women’s experiences they’ve never heard of before” — including women in the early church, and also in settings across the globe.
“These real-life experiences are threads in the beautiful tapestry of the restoration,” said Elder Dale G. Renlund, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, during a press conference about the release.
Church leadership, historians and writers worked for about six years on this project, incorporating a narrative, storytelling style to the history. The work is not fiction, Snow explained, but uses storytelling elements whose details and dialogue are supported by research. Primary and secondary sources for the narrative are listed at the end of the book.
Scott A. Hales, a story editor on the project, said this stylistic choice created a unique challenge for the team.
“We had to find a happy medium between the historical record, the literary — or interesting storytelling — and reaching our global audience,” Hales said. “It was very challenging.”
Steven Harper, managing historian for the project, said this narrative style will help the history reach the church’s global audience.
“Every culture tells stories. Writing it in a narrative style, it will reach around the world,” Harper added.
Volumes two through four will follow this first one in the next few years. Church historians and writers are already working on the outlines and drafts for the coming works.
“We hope readers get the sense of the global nature of the history,” said Matthew J. Grow, director of publications for the LDS Church History Department.