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New four-volume history of the Church will be 'transparent, honest and faithful'

Lucy and Joseph Sr. both came fromChristianfamilies and believed in the Bible and Jesus Christ. Lucy attended church meetings and often brought her children with her. She had been seeking the true church of Jesus Christ since the death of her sister many years earlier.Once, after falling gravely ill sometime before Joseph’s birth, she had feared that she would die before finding the truth. She sensed a dark and lonely chasm between her and the Savior, and she knew she was unprepared for the next life.Lying awake all night, she prayed to God, promising Him that if He let her live, she would find the Church of Jesus Christ. As she prayed, the voice of the Lord spoke to her, assuring her that if she would seek, she would find. (“Saints,” Volume 1, Chapter 1.)

Readers are now getting their first look at a new four-volume history of the Church announced last year. Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days debuted in the February editions of the Ensign and Liahona magazines. The first chapter of volume one was printed in the edition, preceded by an introductory article by Elder Steven E. Snow, General Authority Seventy and Church historian and recorder. Subsequent chapters were published in the magazines over the next several months.

The magazine issues can be accessed online now at lds.org/magazine.

Elder Snow begins his article with an 1861 quotation from President Brigham Young “who urged Church historians to change their approach. ‘Write in a narrative style,’ he advised, and ‘write only about one tenth part as much.’ ”

Elder Snow continued, “The story on the next pages follow that counsel.”

He wrote that the first volume of the work will be available later this year and that other volumes will follow.

Noting that Saints was prepared in response to the Lord’s commandment in Doctrine and Covenants 47:3 to “keep the church record and history continually,” Elder Snow explained that it is unlike past histories of the Church.

“It is a narrative history written in an engaging style that will be accessible to both youth and adults,” he remarked.

“_Saint_s, however, is not historical fiction. It is a true story based on the records of people from the past. Every detail and every line of dialogue is supported by historical sources.”

Endnotes included with each chapter refer to additional sources, thus inviting readers to explore actual records, related topics and even more stories. Hypertext links in the online versions can take the reader directly to the source with a single mouse click.

The books include both divine truth and stories of imperfect people trying to become saints through the Atonement of Christ, he pointed out. “Taken together, the four volumes tell the story of the Lord’s Church striving to fulfill its mandate to perfect the Saints.”

In the past, Church members have been acquainted with two multi-volume histories of the Church. The first, titled History of the Church, was begun by Joseph Smith in the 1830s and published beginning in 1842. The second, written by Elder B. H. Roberts, assistant Church historian, was published in 1930 and was titled A Comprehensive History of the Church.

“The global reach of the restored gospel since then and the Lord’s command to keep the history continually ‘for the good of the church, and for the rising generations’ (Doctrine and Covenants 69:8) signal that it is time to include more Latter-day Saints in the story,” Elder Snow wrote in his article.

While it tells the story of ordinary men and women from the earliest days of the Church, the new work “provides new detail and insight into better-known people and events from Church history,” he explained.

“Each story will help you understand and appreciate the Saints who came before you to make the Church what it is today. Like you, they sacrificed to establish Zion, and they had challenges and successes as they sought to understand and implement divine direction.”

The Church historian wrote that the four volumes will be published in 14 langauges in book form (available at store.lds.org), online at saints.lds.org, and in the Gospel Library app for mobile devices. He noted that they will also be available in e-book and audiobook formats in selected languages.

Elder Snow noted that additional in-depth material on selected topics will be published online to support each volume. This is indicated in the endnotes, where the word Topic is printed in boldface to indicate additional information online at saints.lds.org.

Elder Snow spoke of the new history in an address on June 3 of last year at the 52nd annual Mormon History Association Conference in St. Louis, Missouri (see June 4, 2017 Church News). On that occasion, he said the volumes will be “transparent, honest and faithful,” with controversial aspects of Church history covered in the context of the entire story.

He also said the books will be published in an inexpensive, paperback form and for free online, and are being written at a 9th- or 10th-grade reading level, so as to make them widely accessible.