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The Standard of Truth: 1815–1846

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In 1820, a young farm boy in search of truth has a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Three years later, an angel guides him to an ancient record buried in a hill near his home. With God’s help, he translates the record and organizes the Savior’s church in the latter days. Soon others join him, accepting the invitation to become Saints through the Atonement of Jesu In 1820, a young farm boy in search of truth has a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Three years later, an angel guides him to an ancient record buried in a hill near his home. With God’s help, he translates the record and organizes the Savior’s church in the latter days. Soon others join him, accepting the invitation to become Saints through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But opposition and violence follow those who defy old traditions to embrace restored truths. The women and men who join the church must choose whether or not they will stay true to their covenants, establish Zion, and proclaim the gospel to a troubled world. The Standard of Truth is the first book in Saints, a new, four-volume narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fast-paced, meticulously researched, Saints recounts true stories of Latter-day Saints across the globe and answers the Lord’s call to write history “for the good of the church, and for the rising generations” (Doctrine and Covenants 69:8).


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In 1820, a young farm boy in search of truth has a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Three years later, an angel guides him to an ancient record buried in a hill near his home. With God’s help, he translates the record and organizes the Savior’s church in the latter days. Soon others join him, accepting the invitation to become Saints through the Atonement of Jesu In 1820, a young farm boy in search of truth has a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ. Three years later, an angel guides him to an ancient record buried in a hill near his home. With God’s help, he translates the record and organizes the Savior’s church in the latter days. Soon others join him, accepting the invitation to become Saints through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But opposition and violence follow those who defy old traditions to embrace restored truths. The women and men who join the church must choose whether or not they will stay true to their covenants, establish Zion, and proclaim the gospel to a troubled world. The Standard of Truth is the first book in Saints, a new, four-volume narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fast-paced, meticulously researched, Saints recounts true stories of Latter-day Saints across the globe and answers the Lord’s call to write history “for the good of the church, and for the rising generations” (Doctrine and Covenants 69:8).

30 review for The Standard of Truth: 1815–1846

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I have several friends who have left the Church after learning about aspects of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith, or the history of the Church that disturbed them. This book feels like an attempt to address those issues, and to be up front about them so that people aren’t blindsided by them later, or given the impression that the Church is trying to hide something. Being a narrative history it was a quick and easy read, and I can see why it was done this way to make the information more avail I have several friends who have left the Church after learning about aspects of the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith, or the history of the Church that disturbed them. This book feels like an attempt to address those issues, and to be up front about them so that people aren’t blindsided by them later, or given the impression that the Church is trying to hide something. Being a narrative history it was a quick and easy read, and I can see why it was done this way to make the information more available to the widest possible audience. My preference for history that is important to me though is a more documentary style that dives in to the facts and details, and allows me to construct my own narrative. If you have a good understanding of Church history this probably adds little (there were one or two stories of lesser known figures from Church history that I hadn’t previously heard that I did enjoy). If you don’t know much about Church history, I would say this is an excellent starting point. If there are aspects of the Prophet Joseph Smith’s life that disturb you because of his being subject to the frailties of human nature, this book will likely acknowledge those aspects and touch on them, but will do little to assuage those concerns. If you really want to know if Joseph Smith was a Prophet I would recommend that you follow the Savior’s council as found in Matthew chapter 7: 16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. You cannot know the fruits of Joseph’s works without reading the Book of Mormon, and deciding whether or not it is what he claims it was through study and prayer. My conclusion is that in answer to young Joseph’s prayer, that God the Father and Jesus Christ did in reality appear to him in that grove of trees. And that through the gift and power of God, Joseph was able to translate the Book of Mormon, and restore the Lord’s church to the earth.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cory Howell

    Reading as someone who is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I found this book to be a very detailed account of the early years of the Latter-day Saints movement. As an official Church publication, I suppose one could make the argument that the book is biased in favor of the traditional narrative, but I don't think that really impacts negatively on the book's value as a historical work. There's a lot of fascinating history here, and it's told well, and extensively f Reading as someone who is not a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I found this book to be a very detailed account of the early years of the Latter-day Saints movement. As an official Church publication, I suppose one could make the argument that the book is biased in favor of the traditional narrative, but I don't think that really impacts negatively on the book's value as a historical work. There's a lot of fascinating history here, and it's told well, and extensively footnoted. Well worth reading...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    I am shamelessly proud of my Church and the great strides they have made in the publishing of Saints: The Standard of Truth. This is fantastic history and beautiful prose. I have always been an avid reader, my early encounters with Church history weren't positive: I remember reading excerpts from Our Heritage in Sunday School and finding it absolutely dry. Perhaps I have matured since then, and I do feel more invested in my Church and its history now. But I think part of that is finding Church h I am shamelessly proud of my Church and the great strides they have made in the publishing of Saints: The Standard of Truth. This is fantastic history and beautiful prose. I have always been an avid reader, my early encounters with Church history weren't positive: I remember reading excerpts from Our Heritage in Sunday School and finding it absolutely dry. Perhaps I have matured since then, and I do feel more invested in my Church and its history now. But I think part of that is finding Church history books not published by Deseret Book. My first Church history book that became a favorite was Greg Prince's David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism. I also enjoyed finding alternate interpretations of Church history, such as Denver Snuffer's Preserving the Restoration, and recent publications like Joseph Smith's Polygamy and Seer Stones This book is a fantastic addition to the genre of Latter-Day Saint history, and bravely confronts difficult topics while maintaining a narrative structure in which belief in the divinity of Joseph's calling as prophet. Church leaders are using the word "immunize" to describe their hopes of this book: that it will immunize them from doubts and anything "anti-Mormon" in nature. I think the wording is appropriate; but I think any scenario where a form of censorship is present will harbor ill feelings. Leftists on campus are finding this out now: when you make no room for conservative viewpoints on campus, and students encounter facts from alt-right sources, they can start to embrace extremist viewpoints, because they feel that the liberal elites have lied to them. We need to have open discussion about these topics. We shouldn't be ashamed to discuss them, and we shouldn't have to feel we are being untrue to our faith if we bring them up. Let's talk about Joseph Smith's polygamy. Let's talk about seer stones. I'm very excited in this new era where members and youth will be much more familiar with Church history, and hopefully have a complete mental structure of Church history rather than a string of "faith-strengthening" stories cherry-picked from the past. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kTiRn... Here are a few things that I learned, or at least became much more clear as I read "Saints": Joseph Smith wasn't perfect You hear this all the time. We acknowledge it, but when we are confronted with his humanity upfront, sometimes it can be a bit hard to take. Joseph was rough around the edges. He didn't "look" or act like a prophet at times. I didn't know that he got into a fist-fight with his brother and fellow apostle in a quorum meeting. He held grudges, and often alienated people both in and outside the Church. Thomas Marsh found out that he was a bit authoritarian at times, often acting without consulting other. Marsh felt hurt that Joseph would take unilateral action in organizing missionary work with England, when he had clearly delegated that to himself. And heck-- Joseph went and instituted polygamy without telling his two counselors in the First Presidency! That doesn't sound like a good way of building trust. Critics of the Church have always been around We often characterize these doubters and takers of offense as traitors, enemies, and antagonists. But I think these characters had legitimate concerns about Joseph's leadership. I sympathized with all of them, and we need to see how real their concerns are, because we are likely to encounter similar concerns with present-day leaders as well. I think there are plenty of examples of those who struggled and remained faithful: Parley P. Pratt for example. He got absolutely screwed over by Joseph and Sidney when the Kirtland Safety Society went under. He even voiced some criticisms. But, with some help from fellow saints, he was humble enough to accept a prophet with flaws. Other critics I had less sympathy for. John Bennett told women that Joseph gave him permission to sleep with them outside of the marriage covenant. He tricked many. When he was excommunicated, he was the one who really sparked off the rumors and sharp criticisms around polygamy. William Law too was an adulterer who couldn't take the consequences of his actions and turned on the prophet. Emma is back again In most Church literature, you hear about Emma briefly in the happy early days of the Restoration, but she fades out in the Nauvoo years when polygamy was introduced, because she doesn't always play the role of demure, supportive wife. She REALLY struggled with Joseph's polygamy, and they show it really well here. You feel for her. I am so glad to see her character, and her centrality in the restoration, portrayed so well. We were kind of jerks in Missouri The only two things a lot of Mormons know about Missouri is that we're supposed to build a temple there some day, and Governor Boggs is a horrible bigot who issued the extermination order. This is true. But you find out that there was bad blood on both sides. Mormons often didn't play good neighbors. Remember when the saints got kicked out of Jackson County? That really got rolling right after William Phelps published an inflammatory speech by Sidney Rigdon saying, "If you fight with us, we'll fight back. We're willing to shed blood to protect our rights." Perhaps that's an OK sentiment. But it isn't going to calm things. When some neighboring Missourians burned down the house of a saint, the Mormons retaliated by burning down an entire village. The Saints had a secret group called the Danites who swore to fight off the enemies of the Church with violence. Perhaps we often didn't take the first punch. But we certainly were willing to play 19th century identity politics, take things personally, and get our hands dirty. While a lot of it isn't new persay, this is the first time I feel like I have a complete picture of the Restoration complete in my head. I've read specialty books on Mormon history, like Joseph Smith's use of seer stones, or the revelations surrounding polygamy, but this is the first time I feel comfortable with the overarching narrative of not only the life of Joseph Smith, but the lives of everyday saints as well. And it feels so good-- to not feel like I have to be ashamed of inconvenient truths surrounding Joseph Smith. You don't have to feel like some hater out there is going to spring a truth on you that could potentially crash your testimony. I hope this builds self- confidence in Mormons (my bad, members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints), and I hope it starts of spark to help us re-appreciate the Restoration.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Brad Hart

    I just finished reading volume 1 of the church's new book "Saints." I know Mormon history has been a hot topic for many Latter-day Saints, so naturally this book has appeal. Let me first start off with... THE GOOD: -This book is, in my opinion, the very best general audience history that the church has ever published. It is far better than earlier works like "Our Heritage," "Marvelous Work and a Wonder," etc. -The book is incredibly reader friendly and flows beautifully. I give high marks to whome I just finished reading volume 1 of the church's new book "Saints." I know Mormon history has been a hot topic for many Latter-day Saints, so naturally this book has appeal. Let me first start off with... THE GOOD: -This book is, in my opinion, the very best general audience history that the church has ever published. It is far better than earlier works like "Our Heritage," "Marvelous Work and a Wonder," etc. -The book is incredibly reader friendly and flows beautifully. I give high marks to whomever is responsible for the prose of this book. Very easy, very enjoyable. I can easily foresee the day this book becomes the new manual for Priesthood and Relief Society. -There is an effort to include more of the blemishes and warts from our past in this book. Joseph Smith is portrayed as a good man but not elevated to Herculean status. The church is portrayed as a living, evolving entity as opposed to absolute perfection right out of the gate. Having said all that, there still is some... NOT SO GOOD: -The book, thought a big upgrade, still omits a tremendous amount of problematic history. Only a few of Joseph's polygamous wives are mentioned and the controversial ones (with the exception of Fanny Alger, who is only glossed over) are completely absent from the story. The Three Witnesses narrative is the same as it has always been (which is a huge problem) there is little to no mention of the role Freemasonry in early Mormonism, and the historicity of the Book of Abraham/Mormon are not mentioned at all. They do mention Joseph Smith using seer stones in his hat and other similar little tidbits of troubling history, but if anyone was hoping this book would be the new narrative that historians like Richard Bushman have been asking for you will be disappointed. -The book feels like watered down Truman Madsen, meets the LDS Church essays, meets "The Work and the Glory." You can see the internal struggle of the authors to be honest while still creating a narrative in which Mormonism emerges victorious and virtuous at every turn. -This book is NOT a critical or comprehensive history! I cannot emphasize this enough. If you were looking for that you will be disappointed. The book is a very general, very generic INTRODUCTORY history. This isn't necessarily a bad thing but if you were wanting more you will not find it here. Overall I think the book is a plus. It will add to, not subtract from, the ongoing communal conversation that is Mormon history. I salute the church for trying to be a little more open and honest. Though the book does fall short in many respects, I see more good than bad. Just remember one thing if you choose to read it: the book is NOT a comprehensive work. Don't look to this source to answer some of the major doubts so many struggle with today. It won't have many of those answers. Having said that, the book is still, in my opinion, of value.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Magila

    4.5 I will admit to being very excited about this book when I first heard about it from an editor around a year ago. The editor is a very well-known and respected Latter-day Saint fiction author. When she described the scope and effort going into this book (series), I thought, awesome. Saints should be read by every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like Jesus the Christ. Given the dense previous records of church history and how it stops before the global expansion, this 4.5 I will admit to being very excited about this book when I first heard about it from an editor around a year ago. The editor is a very well-known and respected Latter-day Saint fiction author. When she described the scope and effort going into this book (series), I thought, awesome. Saints should be read by every member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like Jesus the Christ. Given the dense previous records of church history and how it stops before the global expansion, this is a book that fits on any shelf. For a more complete biography of Joseph Smith, of course Joseph Smith: Rough Stone RollingJoseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling would be preferable. For a more academic, but equally enjoyable, historical account leading through Mitt Romney's presidential run, I'd recommend The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith. This all said, as a work unto itself, and considering the effort the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints put into this book, everyone involved deserves a round of applause. Ten, fifteen years ago, I remember sitting in a friend's home and discussing how essential it was for more people to become acquainted with the history of the church, including the more discomforting elements, that have driven some to lose faith or trust in it as an institution. This book is that and more. Undoubtedly there will be complaints about the relatively short treatment that the Book of Abraham and other aspects of church history receive, but it couldn't be 10,000 pages after all. Book of Mormon translation, Plural Marriage (including the earliest aspects of it), The Kirtland Safety Society, early Apostleship in the latter-days, Joseph's martyrdom, Black Saints, it all did more than just dot the book, there were fair treatments. I feel the matters were addressed with respect to the time, for example, the Kirtland Safety Society and Polygamy were major issues that caused schisms in the early church and the writers/editors tackled these issues. It was very well done. My favorite part of the book is coming to a better understanding of the individuals, the names and the backgrounds behind some of the stories people frequently hear. Through the meticulous research that has gone into it, this book becomes something that puts to bed and offers clarity regarding many Mormon myths and historic folklore. As a book published by the church, of course it will take on a "faith promoting" angle, but the reality is that the history is being drawn from countless journals and available historic materials and it is a history. I'm not sure how other religious institutions would handle themselves if they derived from the modern era and were so heavily scrutinized. This book contains a bit of self-reflection, but mostly history and what truth is available. Some questions simply cannot be answered, but the thoughtful narrative, focus on storytelling, and precision in recounting the foundation of the church is sure to inform and edify. I look forward to future volumes as they are made available. Disclaimer: I listened to the book. The reader was not distracting, but neither were they engaging. Listening is a viable way of tackling the book.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matthew

    The most refreshing thing about the book "Saints" is that it does not hide the fact that the men and women of the early church were flawed individuals. Even though they had been called to some of the Lord's most important work, their human frailties and weaknesses came out over and over again. But this didn't stop them or the work. The repentant and humble were still allowed to be instruments in the hands of the Lord. And their struggle, is OUR struggle. Each of us is called to move the Lord's k The most refreshing thing about the book "Saints" is that it does not hide the fact that the men and women of the early church were flawed individuals. Even though they had been called to some of the Lord's most important work, their human frailties and weaknesses came out over and over again. But this didn't stop them or the work. The repentant and humble were still allowed to be instruments in the hands of the Lord. And their struggle, is OUR struggle. Each of us is called to move the Lord's kingdom forward notwithstanding our limitations. To me, it is a testimony of the divinity of this Church. Even with all of our human frailties, the work rolls on. Seeing the weaknesses of these saints did not damage my faith, in fact, it strengthened it. The Prophet Joseph in particular was not immune to mistakes. He was chastised multiple times by Moroni in his attempts to obtain the plates. He lost the 116 pages of translated manuscript that he had been entrusted with. He argued with many saints, even mocked some of them openly. He got into a fistfight with his brother, one of the Twelve Apostles. He quarreled repeatedly with Emma over the issue of plural marriage. Yet, in spite of all of his errors, Joseph had a repentant heart, and the Lord was able to trust in him to restore His kingdom on earth. It speaks wonders to me about the mercy of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and should bring peace to the hearts of all of us who feel like we too are constantly coming up short. This message is a theme that has been repeated often in recent General Conferences. Maybe it's just my heart softening, but I feel that the leaders of the Church have put a renewed emphasis on the idea that, while we strive for perfection, we don't have to be perfect yet. It's not that they have become more tolerant of sin, because they haven't, but I believe they have encouraged us to be more understanding of man's weakness and to not judge too harshly. They acknowledge that each of us will stumble along the road to perfection, and that the Lord blesses us for every effort to correct our mistakes and continue along His path. This was the message I took away from "Saints"... that the Lord want's all men and women to come unto Him, and that through Him, we can do a great work.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Devan Jensen

    Review of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1: The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2018. 699 pp., $5.75 print, $1.99 digital. Short version: The book is very readable, with stories and accurate dialogue to share deep emotions felt during intense times of crisis. The book includes valuable female perspectives (both old and young). It is intimate, referring to Joseph and Emma Smith by first name. Review of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1: The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846. Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2018. 699 pp., $5.75 print, $1.99 digital. Short version: The book is very readable, with stories and accurate dialogue to share deep emotions felt during intense times of crisis. The book includes valuable female perspectives (both old and young). It is intimate, referring to Joseph and Emma Smith by first name. The writers weave together moving individual stories supported by solid historical sources. It relies on excellent source material from The Joseph Smith Papers, the Religious Studies Center, and many others. Readers can enhance their experience with new Church History Topics essays: https://www.lds.org/languages/eng/con.... Long version: As the first book in the Saints series, The Standard of Truth, 1815–1846 starts with a bang! A volcano in far-off Indonesia spews tons of ash into the air, causing dry weather patterns in Vermont and leading the Smith family to try farming in upstate New York. Joseph joins the local treasure hunters seeking for Spanish gold, a search he soon abandons. The book then races through uplifting and discouraging scenes of church history. Scott Hales, the book’s literary editor, described the book’s goals: “It’s designed to be a history for people who don’t like history. It’s meant to be very inviting, very engaging, very approachable. Some people hear the word ‘history’ and clam up or tune out. They think about boring high school history classes or history lectures. That’s not the reaction we want from our readers. We want people to read this book! We have written it in a way that will appeal to people from ages 12 to 112. We have been very deliberate in how we present the material so that it is accessible to a wide variety of people from all ages, all educational backgrounds, and all reading levels” (as quoted in “Getting to Know Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days,” Religious Educator 19, no. 2 [2018]: 175). Steven C. Harper, the book’s historical editor, tells how the project started: “[It] began as an investigation into the feasibility of updating the Comprehensive History. In 2008 the Church Historian, who was then Elder Marlin K. Jensen of the Seventy, made a proposal to the First Presidency to update it. The First Presidency authorized the Church History Department to come up with a plan to do it. A committee was called together and proposed the four-volume plan. . . . Elder Steven E. Snow of the Seventy has served as the Church Historian since 2012. He made Saints a high priority” (as quoted in “Getting to Know Saints,” 174). Volume 1 deals transparently with complex issues such as the following: • Joseph’s multiple accounts of the First Vision • Nineteenth-century folk religion and seer stones • Joseph’s 1826 arrest and trial for being a “disorderly person” • Translation of the Book of Mormon and testimonies of many witnesses, including Mary Whitmer • Restoration of priesthood authority and sealing keys • Dedication of the Kirtland Temple • The Book of Abraham • Complex feelings after the Kirtland Safety Society failed • Persecution of members in Missouri and vigilante actions by Danites • Plural marriage, including Joseph’s marriage to Fanny Alger and sealings to other women • Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor • The Council of Fifty and its plans to move church members to the West A few minor things to quibble about: Because it is written straightforwardly to a believing audience, it might be viewed as nonrigorous history. For example, the term "Urim and Thummim" appears instead of "Nephite interpreters," which might confuse some folks. Revelations are recorded very tidily as the Lord dictated them rather than through a complex process of revision and adjustment as Joseph tried to capture the essence of revelatory thought, as described in The Joseph Smith Papers. I look forward to future volumes, as Scott Hales described below: “The second volume depicts the challenges of gathering the Saints to the Salt Lake Valley and the Intermountain West. It ends in 1893 with the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple. Volume 3 shows the Church entering the twentieth century and branching out beyond the Mormon corridor. It concludes in 1955 with the dedication of the Swiss Temple, the first temple dedicated in Europe. Finally, volume 4 is about the global Church. By the end of that volume, temples dot the earth and sacred ordinances are available to all worthy Saints” (as quoted in “Getting to Know Saints,” 173).

  8. 4 out of 5

    Derek Pando

    Most engaging LDS church history book I've read, does not skirt the more controversial parts of the history, while being still faith building.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Heath Workman

    As a former member of the LDS church who lost his faith largely over issues in LDS history, I find it interesting to put my finger on the pulse of how they are telling their story. So, I decided to read this book. First off, the narrative style of this history book is engaging and very readable. The personal stories are inspiring and it was nice to see that the church is becoming more comfortable talking about things that have been, well, glossed over in the past. Some might say that they were hi As a former member of the LDS church who lost his faith largely over issues in LDS history, I find it interesting to put my finger on the pulse of how they are telling their story. So, I decided to read this book. First off, the narrative style of this history book is engaging and very readable. The personal stories are inspiring and it was nice to see that the church is becoming more comfortable talking about things that have been, well, glossed over in the past. Some might say that they were hidden. For example, we see straightforward acknowledgments that Joseph Smith smoked and drank throughout his life, or that he was aware of and approved of the actions of the Danites in Missouri. The book also contextualizes a lot of the history, albeit in a still slanted way. When I was reading LDS history books I was once told, "You wouldn't go to a Ford dealership to get good information on a Chevrolet, would you?" Well, I had to admit that I wouldn't but I also had to point out that Chevrolet dealerships aren't the best place for unbiased information on Chevrolets either. This book is a Chevrolet dealership's attempt at more candor about their own cars after having been rocked with several large and public recalls. I don't know, that's the best metaphor I can come up with. A good example of this is the treatment of the Missouri Mormon War. We get a very detailed and moving account of the Haun's Mill Massacre. And don't get me wrong, that was a truly horrifying event; true evil in action by the men who committed those actions. But when we get to the Battle of Crooked River, we don't get an account of the capture and vicious mutilation of Samuel Tarwater by the Mormon combatants. That part gets skipped. And that's a real shame because this one-sided storytelling a really big part of what led me out of this church. This book (like the church history stories I listened to as a small child) portrays the history as a cosmic battle between God and Satan. It is a childish, black-and-white way of looking at the world. Everything is couched in that context and the real people on both sides of the conflict (with their own real hopes, fears, and dreams) get lost. Their real stories are so much more interesting and understandable when you look at them from their real points of view in a more balanced way. This history book is more balanced than any the church has ever produced, but it is not at the point where it could be considered balanced. This is the Chevrolet salesman who is trying to acknowledge some of what everyone knows about his cars because he knows it will be insulting not to. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit for the first 2/3 of the book. I did get frustrated toward the end when the book started to hit some of my least favorite apologetics for Joseph Smith. It is clear that the church is still very uncomfortable facing some aspects of Joseph Smith's life. For example, you won't find any accounts of when Joseph became physically violent with people, when he asked for people's wives to test their loyalty, his high-pressure marriage proposals to foster daughters, when he ruined the reputations of women who refused polygamous proposals, how Joseph made his money, etc. "Some things that are true are not very useful," I guess. According to the book, Joseph's denials of "polygamy" and "spiritual wifery" are okay because of his careful wording. Apparently, lying is acceptable as long as you carefully word your lies. I almost want to go to a temple recommend interview so I can say, "What a thing it is to be accused of drinking coffee when I can't find a mug in my hand! I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers!" Apparently, that is totally honest. Oh brother. Continuing on with the bizarre Joseph Smith apologetics, at one point the book asserts that Joseph didn't have many rules governing the practice of polygamy. However, if I am not mistaken, D&C 132 has a whole bunch of really specific rules about polygamy, and this is the revelation he supposedly received in the 1830s that he referred to but only produced much later. The revelation starts out with God himself stating, "My house is a house of order" followed by all of the super-specific rules about polygamy. No, the issue isn't that Joseph lacked rules, it is that Joseph had a whole bunch of uber-specific rules and then he went out and did a whole bunch of other, different weird stuff. And you won't find out about any of that weirdness from this book. You'll get just enough from this book so that you can think you know what's really going on, but you don't. At another point, the book recounts a time where Joseph, Emma, and Emily Partridge are present in a situation where Emma finally decides to go along with polygamy and chooses Emily to marry Joseph. Then the book states that *Emily* decides not to tell Emma that she already married Joseph to spare Emma's feelings. I almost screamed at the book, "Emily decided?!?! We're going to blame this lie on Emily now? What about Emma's lying gutless wonder of a husband?" Yeah, sorry. That part really pissed me off. Poor passive victim Joseph. He'd do the right thing if only someone would just let him. If only teenage Emily would have just set things right with all of the (much more powerful) adults in the room. Barf. But I can see why the church is so reluctant to really go into depth on the life of Joseph Smith. In the end, I left the church because I felt compelled to choose between a Monster Mormon God that orchestrated Joseph's actions and a Monster Joseph Smith. The facts on the ground indicate that at least one of them is a monster. Dealing with a Monster Joseph Smith was more comfortable and made more sense to me in the end. It hurt when I finally realized that if I had lived near Joseph Smith in his time, I would never want my wife or daughters anywhere near him. God, he was such a hero to me when I was young. Contrasting the whitewashing of Joseph is the treatment of William Law. I guess I get it, the church needs to see him as a top-ranking agent of Satan, otherwise the story reflects badly on Joseph. But the fact is, if you read Willam Law's story from his point of view, his actions don't seem all that unreasonable. Law spends years defending Joseph from "vicious lies" about polygamy only to find out that they are true. I can empathize with the feeling of that betrayal and can totally see how that would lead to anger and a falling out and an attempt to set the record straight in print (complete with angry name-calling). When reading this book, I read about all sorts of terrible things that Law did that I had never heard about in all of my LDS history reading. So I followed the footnotes and read the accounts by some guy in the late 1800s in Utah who said he went on all of these secret missions as directed by Joseph Smith and gathered all this dirt on William Law and witnessed him doing all sorts of terrible things. I'm pretty sure I know why no other historian had brought up these "facts." It's because all of it reads like some old guy making up stories to get attention. Some old guy that nobody has ever heard of just happens to have been Joseph's best friend and went on secret missions 40 years ago and didn't tell anybody until now... My grandfather used to tell those kinds of stories and they were all made up. Hey, but I guess it could have happened, right? I don't know for sure this old guy is lying. It sure reads like it, but I don't know for sure 100%. One thing I do know for sure is that this book would have never taken a disparaging comment about Joseph Smith as fact with flimsy evidence like this. There are two standards of evidence. If someone says something good about Joseph Smith or bad about William Law, the bar is low. The evidence is probably true. If someone says something bad about Joseph or good about William Law, the bar is high and the evidence is probably false. This is a good method to use to reinforce a childish, black-and-white view of the world, but not a good way to figure out the interesting story of what really probably happened, and certainly not a good way to figure out if you are wrong. Overall, I'd much rather read this than "Our Heritage." It's way more interesting and balanced than that, but it still isn't anywhere near as balanced as something from a top-notch historian who is trying their best to apply consistent standards of evidence to figure out what most probably happened. If you really want to understand what went on, you need to find someone like that to read.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Many stories in this book of church history were familiar to me, and I give credit for that to Gerald Lund’s The Work and the Glory series (which is a favorite series of mine and which I’ve been rereading again this year). There were many other stories I hadn’t heard before, though, so this first volume was an interesting look into church history. The first Saints experienced innumerable trials and hardships. I wonder if I would’ve been as faithful as they were had I experienced what they did. S Many stories in this book of church history were familiar to me, and I give credit for that to Gerald Lund’s The Work and the Glory series (which is a favorite series of mine and which I’ve been rereading again this year). There were many other stories I hadn’t heard before, though, so this first volume was an interesting look into church history. The first Saints experienced innumerable trials and hardships. I wonder if I would’ve been as faithful as they were had I experienced what they did. Sadly, I don’t think I would have been. I appreciate that controversial topics were addressed and that the early Saints were shown to be human - they made mistakes, just as we all do. Saints was very easy to read. I found it inspiring and faith-affirming. Yet again, I marveled at the unfailing love Hyrum Smith had for his brother, the prophet. Reading about Joseph Smith being killed at the age of 38 really hit me and brought me to tears. I remember being younger and thinking that 38 sounded SO OLD. I’m currently 38 years old and can now say that Joseph was much too young when he died. I look forward to reading the remaining volumes in this series of church history.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Samcwright

    Over the last decade, hundreds of new books have been written that shed new light on polygamy, the priesthood ban, the nature of translation and revelation, the participation of women, the development of the priesthood, and many other topics in the development of The Church of Jesus Christ. While not an in-depth analysis on any one of those topics (since that’s not the intent of the book), Saints does an incredible job of honestly presenting and summarizing information on the entire restoration Over the last decade, hundreds of new books have been written that shed new light on polygamy, the priesthood ban, the nature of translation and revelation, the participation of women, the development of the priesthood, and many other topics in the development of The Church of Jesus Christ. While not an in-depth analysis on any one of those topics (since that’s not the intent of the book), Saints does an incredible job of honestly presenting and summarizing information on the entire restoration (including controversial topics) so that readers who study further on individual topics should not feel that the Church withheld something. Readers can disagree on the interpretation of the facts presented in the book (and there is less interpretation going on than critics may suggest), but all the facts are there.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Cary

    I usually give books with a cliffhanger one less star... so there you have it! Ha ha ... I understand there are to be 4 volumes. I happened to get an advanced copy of volume 1 in pdf form. I really enjoyed this narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There was lots of material that I had never heard before and I hadn’t considered myself completely ignorant of Church history. The narrative was well done and had me feeling the poignant emotional road of the founder, p I usually give books with a cliffhanger one less star... so there you have it! Ha ha ... I understand there are to be 4 volumes. I happened to get an advanced copy of volume 1 in pdf form. I really enjoyed this narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. There was lots of material that I had never heard before and I hadn’t considered myself completely ignorant of Church history. The narrative was well done and had me feeling the poignant emotional road of the founder, prophet and leader of the church, Joseph Smith and others involved in the restoration. It was not a quick read for me as I had to stop sometimes to withdraw from the immersive setting I was drawn into. On another note, this was well edited and the history moved along at a good pace.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Erik

    I found this to be a very interesting and informative read. I listened to the audio of the book available for free through the Gospel Library app. I am a lifelong active member of the church who has studied church history, so I was familiar with the overall history, and very familiar with many of the incidents covered. However, there was still information that was new to me, and added details to familiar stories. I enjoy reading history that is written in a narrative style like this book, and I l I found this to be a very interesting and informative read. I listened to the audio of the book available for free through the Gospel Library app. I am a lifelong active member of the church who has studied church history, so I was familiar with the overall history, and very familiar with many of the incidents covered. However, there was still information that was new to me, and added details to familiar stories. I enjoy reading history that is written in a narrative style like this book, and I look forward to the future volumes in the series. An added bonus for me is that it was neat for me to hear about my 3x great grandparents Jonathan and Caroline Crosby, parts of whose story is covered around the middle of this book.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Deb

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I'm not going to click the rating stars on this book. I'm only reviewing it to help me remember my reactions. I read it because my husband and I read books together, we'd just finished one of our novels, and we thought this might give us a nice break. Plus, our church published it, so of course we were interested. My husband rates it higher than me, but he didn't give it five stars. He's read a lot of church history and he said that some of this feels uninspired and more interpretative. At the e I'm not going to click the rating stars on this book. I'm only reviewing it to help me remember my reactions. I read it because my husband and I read books together, we'd just finished one of our novels, and we thought this might give us a nice break. Plus, our church published it, so of course we were interested. My husband rates it higher than me, but he didn't give it five stars. He's read a lot of church history and he said that some of this feels uninspired and more interpretative. At the end of the book, it acknowledges that the book is a compilation of interpretations based on multiple sources both primary and secondary. It doesn't claim to be perfect or complete. I like the stories about the women of the time and of their families. I hadn't heard about some of them or I'd read other versions. The narrative style is certainly easy to read and to follow. It seems like a pretty good basic history of the church. I just didn't particularly enjoy it. Maybe part of the reason is because we listened to a lot of it and I didn't prefer the intensity of the male reader's voice. Reading it was easier. I'd probably give the book 2.5 stars. I liked it okay. Some say this book doesn't go far enough to portray the controversial aspects of church history. For me, it goes further than I care to dwell on. So much of the history is sad and disturbing. Some of it is unsavory and not particularly faith promoting. I know the church and its leaders weren't perfect. That doesn't bother me because very little (and none of the people) is perfect on this earth. I can still believe the priesthood is real and was restored through Joseph Smith, that the Book of Mormon is the word of God, and that temple ordinances are powerful, true blessings. I just prefer not to focus on the imperfections of people and the process of implementation. I feel that all of that should absolutely be acknowledged and accessible, I just don't want to see it anymore than I'd want to give people a tour of my house by taking them to my dirtiest room first. I don't think the door should be locked, but that room by itself is not completely reflective of me and my whole house. It might be shallow of me to want to focus on the happy, faithful aspects of the church's history. That is just how I feel. I write these reviews for myself to help me remember my reactions. I have no intention to influence other people's points of view through this review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Katie Robinson

    "Saints" was a great foundational history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I love how it was written in an easy to read/listen to narrative form. My favorite aspect was learning more about everyone involved, the "regular" individuals included. They weren't perfect, but they went about their daily lives trying to do right. They overcame significant challenges and accomplished many great things along the way.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Graham Bradley

    At times thorough and detailed, and other times an exercise in skimming, I found this to be an enlightening and informative volume that works well as a primer for more exhaustive works on early Church history (e.g. Bushman, which is on my shelf.) Contrary to many of the negative reviews I saw heading into it, it touches on the practice of plural marriage much more than I expected, while still keeping a broad focus on the challenges and achievements of the early-1800s Saints.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    This is the first of four books written to discuss the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This first book was so very well done. My husband and I both are reading and/or listening to it and we are enjoying it so very much, and are having really good discussions with this first book. In 1820, a young Farm Boy in search of truth had a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ . Three years later, an angel guides him to an ancient record buried in a hill near his home. With This is the first of four books written to discuss the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. This first book was so very well done. My husband and I both are reading and/or listening to it and we are enjoying it so very much, and are having really good discussions with this first book. In 1820, a young Farm Boy in search of truth had a vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ . Three years later, an angel guides him to an ancient record buried in a hill near his home. With God's help, he translates the record and organizes the Saviors church in the latter days. Soon others join him, accepting the invitation to become Saints through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But opposition and violence follow those who defy old traditions to embrace restored truths. The women and men who join the church must choose whether or not they will stay true to their covenants, establish Zion, and proclaim the gospel to a troubled world. The Standard of Truth is the first book in Saints, a new, four-volume narrative history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Fast-paced, meticulously research, Saints recounts true stories of Latter-Day Saints across the globe and answers the Lord's call to write history for the good of the church, and for the rising generations (Doctrine and Covenants 69:8). This new history is a narrative history,” said Elder Steven E. Snow, General Authority Seventy and Church historian and recorder. “It covers from before the First Vision until the present day, and it’s written in a literary form so that most members of the Church will find it very engaging, very easy to read.” The first three chapters of volume one have already been published in the Church’s “Ensign” and “Liahona” magazines and on the Church History website. The first eight chapters will be serialized in this way and will be available in 47 languages. The entire book will be available in 14 languages later this year. Readers will also find the content in the Church History section of the Gospel Library app. The books feature the true stories of the women and men who dedicated their lives to establishing the Church around the globe. Church historians researched and wrote each volume, and senior Church leaders reviewed the manuscripts. “Church history helps us understand the lives of those who went before, the challenges and difficulties they faced and how they overcame them,” explained Elder Snow. “Their stories are full of faith and devotion, courage, sorrow and joy, and again a lot of challenges, particularly in the early days of the Church, but even today as the Church is introduced in many parts of the world.” Church leaders say “Saints” was written in response to the Lord’s commandment to “keep the church record and history continually” (D&C 47:3). The project will represent the third time that the Church has published a multivolume history of its past. Joseph Smith began the first such history of the Church in the 1830s, which was published starting in 1842. Church historian B. H. Roberts published the second multivolume history in 1930. The first volume of “Saints,” with the subtitle of “The Standard of Truth,” tells the story of the Restoration, beginning with Joseph Smith’s childhood, and concludes with members receiving ordinances in the Nauvoo Temple in 1846. Volume two, “No Unhallowed Hand,” covers the Saints’ challenges in gathering to the western United States, ending with the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893. Volume three, “Boldly, Nobly, and Independent,” focuses on the global growth of the Church and concludes with the dedication of the temple in Bern, Switzerland, in 1955. The fourth volume, “Sounded in Every Ear,” brings readers to the recent past as temples are located all over the world. “People sacrifice to join the Church and to change their lives and become active members,” added Elder Snow. “And so these stories are important to help remind us today that we too can overcome difficult things. It gives me hope that the Lord can work through imperfect people, even me.” Church leaders believe the new volumes will appeal to youth and adults. Details and dialogue contained in the books are supported by historical sources. Readers will find notes at the end of each chapter to refer to the Church records and additional resources, including supplementary essays and videos, at saints.lds.org.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Cathy

    For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in history. I love reading books that are about real people. What they think, what they do, why they do what they do. It’s all interesting. I haven’t made it a big secret that I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And the history of that has always interested me as well. But…I love reading fiction. Non-fiction books can be really hard for me to read. I don’t feel like I read them quickly and sometimes I get bored with For as long as I can remember, I’ve been interested in history. I love reading books that are about real people. What they think, what they do, why they do what they do. It’s all interesting. I haven’t made it a big secret that I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. And the history of that has always interested me as well. But…I love reading fiction. Non-fiction books can be really hard for me to read. I don’t feel like I read them quickly and sometimes I get bored with them. Enter Saints. This is a brand new series written by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints about the beginnings of The Church. I loved the focus on the people involved. This is not a boring history book! This is a well-written, interesting account of how things happened. Through the eyes of those involved, the reader sees what happened and why. My husband and I were lucky enough to have gone to the book launch of this book. I loved listening to the people who put this book together about how it came to be. The first thing I noticed about the book is just how thick it is. It’s 700 pages long, with about 585 being the book itself! The rest of the book is the index and notes. It’s hard to imagine how many sources the people putting this one together would have had to have gone through to put this book together. Wow! And this is just the first of four volumes! I loved this book! It came out September 4th. I finished it for the first time on October 21st. That’s the longest it’s taken me to read a book in a while. I was using this one for my Sunday reading. And we’re also currently reading it as a family. As a family, we’re reading and talking about one chapter a week. That’s been really fun. I will admit that I wasn’t really surprised by any of the things that happened in The Church’s history. As a girl, I read The Work and the Glory series by Gerald Lund (links below). He did a really good job of making sure there was nothing overly surprising in Church history for me. If you’re as curious about history as I am, you’ll love this book!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    It is an easy read. I love this book because I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I love reading about our history and the testimonies of those who gave so much more than I ever had to keep their testimonies. I felt that it touched on some of the issues many people condemn the church for or Joseph Smith. I think they did a great job of discussing and pointing out the truths without being disrespectful or causing pain and hurt. I did have points that I wanted It is an easy read. I love this book because I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I love reading about our history and the testimonies of those who gave so much more than I ever had to keep their testimonies. I felt that it touched on some of the issues many people condemn the church for or Joseph Smith. I think they did a great job of discussing and pointing out the truths without being disrespectful or causing pain and hurt. I did have points that I wanted to skip over and not read but if you take the good you have to take the bad. Our history just like any history has black marks that we all wish we could erase. We are not perfect people nor was Joseph Smith. I love him dearly and am so grateful for all he did to restore the Gospel back on the earth. I feel I owe so much to him and those early pioneers and to many since then that have done so much in the Church's behalf. I felt like I learned a different perspective on why some of the early leaders struggled and left the church. It gave me greater understanding and for that I am grateful. I am not proud of some of the things members did but that will forever be the fault of anyone who comes to this earth. We all make mistakes and being human is a hard job. I will continue to be thankful for all those who came before me. I hope I never have to be judged by man like the early brethren and sisters of the church. I want each one of my kids/family/friends to read this and know our history. I know they will face these issues and questions and I want them to know and gain their own testimony of our history and how that plays a part of who they are and how they are going to work through those things that may be hard to read about.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Really well done, engaging and readable history. I'm an LDS history buff, and there were still things I didn't know! It's long, but it doesn't seem long because of the short chapters and engaging, interesting style (they end chapters on "cliffhangers").

  21. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    I listened to this and it did not disappoint. It was fascinating, intriguing, and brutally honest. I'm not going to lie. Some of it was uncomfortable, but I'm so glad that the church is making the effort to be more transparent. And I'm so grateful to imperfect men and women who had such great faith in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Talmage

    A must read for all members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I understand that it's not a comprehensive or unbiased history (but seriously what book on this subject is?), but it was so good to read a church history book that was both easy to read and informative about the good, the bad and the misunderstood. This book deserves a longer review that's all.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael Davenport

    An easy enjoyable read, that makes me feel hopeful.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I love history. I love being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I loved reading about the history of my church. I knew a lot of these stories, but only snippets. There was much that I learned about several key, initial members of my church and what spurred so many to anger. This is worth the time to read. While the book is long, it’s an easy and fast read. Eagerly anticipating the next volume.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Douglas

    First, I began reading this with a testimony that Joseph Smith was called by God to be a prophet in these Latter-days and to restore the Lord's church to the earth again for the last time. That witness and knowledge was made more firm and deeply rooted after reading and pondering this. Second, seeing anew the Saints struggles with religious persecution (often state-sponsored), being driven as refugees, being victims of state sponsored murder, sexual assault, and family separation (with those stat First, I began reading this with a testimony that Joseph Smith was called by God to be a prophet in these Latter-days and to restore the Lord's church to the earth again for the last time. That witness and knowledge was made more firm and deeply rooted after reading and pondering this. Second, seeing anew the Saints struggles with religious persecution (often state-sponsored), being driven as refugees, being victims of state sponsored murder, sexual assault, and family separation (with those state officials usually being exonerated), incarceration based on trumped (that feels appropriate) up or false charges, Mormon #metoo and choosing to institutionally #believewomen and speak truth to power when it came to dangerous men in high authority, struggling with women's roles in the church, seeking to establish communities where the poor and needy were not left behind #becausecapitalism, and being immigrants in a new land and looking for a better life. These same events and experiences that the Saints went through seem to have been wiped from the memory of Mormons today (maybe just conservative, racist, and toxically masculine Mormons - the kind that decry allegations of sexual assault #becauseKavanaugh *ugh*, burn Nikes *really people?*, chant #lockherup, cowardly attack #BLM online, support walls, and the separation of immigrant families. Why? The early Saints went through the same things, except on the other ends. O, maybe because today we're talking about black and brown lives - to say nothing of women's lives - not the preciously white skinned male Europeans.) Do I believe "Saints" is inspired of God? Yes! I believe it is what the Church (read: the body of the church the world over, some for censure some for celebration of documented histories previously unknown to the rest of us) needs right now. If I have offended you (I doubt anyone will read this far), think to yourself, what offended me? Why am I offended by this?

  26. 5 out of 5

    Trevor

    One of the tactics that critics have used recently to try to destroy faith is to describe a lesser known event in church history in a way that is intended to shock the reader. By sensationalizing and removing it from its context, and often even misrepresenting what actually happened, the victim is left feeling betrayed by the Church, thinking they have been lied to or that the Church has been hiding or whitewashing its history. Sadly, much of this history has been available (though perhaps not r One of the tactics that critics have used recently to try to destroy faith is to describe a lesser known event in church history in a way that is intended to shock the reader. By sensationalizing and removing it from its context, and often even misrepresenting what actually happened, the victim is left feeling betrayed by the Church, thinking they have been lied to or that the Church has been hiding or whitewashing its history. Sadly, much of this history has been available (though perhaps not readily accessible), but not emphasized in the curriculum that is taught, requiring independent study, which has not been happening as much in recent generations. The Church has recognized this problem and is producing a solution. The first volume of a projected four-volume series has now been published in 14 languages and is available in paperback and e-book, as well as online text and audiobook formats. It is written in an easy to understand style, which although entirely factual, draws you in like a novel. This was done intentionally by having literary writers on the project, not just historians. For those who want more information, there are extensive footnotes that point you to online resources, including both in-depth essays and videos, as well as original documents from the Joseph Smith Papers. The book begins with a message from the First Presidency and a preface explaining the purpose of the series. The body of the book continues, contained in four parts, which are broken up by historic periods. There are also maps, but no other illustrations beyond the small ornaments at the head of each chapter. The back of the book has Notes, a Note on Sources, Sources Cited, Acknowledgements, and a fairly good 15-page Index. The first volume covers the period preceding the First Vision up to two years after the death of Joseph Smith, when the Saints were able to receive the endowment in the Nauvoo Temple. It covers nearly every criticism and puts them in their proper context, where they can be more easily understood. It concentrates on telling stories of the actual men and women involved, rather than just the institutional church, as previous official histories produced by the Church have done. The result is a detailed history of the Church that includes the sensitive issues while building faith, which already has some critics worried that their work will become irrelevant. An example is the story of how the Word of Wisdom was received: While the School of the Prophets was in session, Emma watched the students arrive and make their way up the stairs to the small, tightly packed room where they met. Some men came to the school freshly washed and neatly dressed out of respect for the sacred nature of the school. Some also skipped breakfast so they could come to the meeting fasting. After class got out and the men left for the day, Emma and some young women hired to help would clean the schoolroom. Since the men smoked pipes and chewed tobacco during the lessons, the room was hazy and the floorboards were covered in tobacco spit when they left. Emma would scrub with all her might, but tobacco stains remained on the floor. She complained to Joseph about the mess. Joseph did not normally use tobacco, but he did not mind if the other men did. Emma’s complaints, however, caused him to question if tobacco use was right in God’s eyes. Emma was not alone in her concerns. Reformers in the United States and other countries throughout the world thought smoking and chewing tobacco, as well as drinking alcohol, were filthy habits. But some doctors believed tobacco could cure a host of ailments. Similar claims were made about drinking alcohol and hot drinks like coffee and tea, which people drank liberally. When Joseph took the matter to the Lord, he received a revelation—a “word of wisdom for the benefit of the Saints in these last days.” In it, the Lord cautioned His people against consuming alcohol, declaring that ​distilled liquor was for washing their bodies while wine was for occasions like the sacrament. He also warned them against tobacco and hot drinks. The Lord emphasized a healthy diet, encouraging the Saints to eat grains, herbs, and fruits and to consume meat sparingly. He promised blessings of health, knowledge, and strength to those who chose to obey. The revelation had been declared not as a commandment but as a caution. Many people would find it hard to give up using these powerful substances, and Joseph did not insist on strict conformity. He continued to drink alcohol occasionally, and he and Emma sometimes drank coffee and tea. Still, after Joseph read the words to the School of the Prophets, the men in the room tossed their pipes and plugs of chewing tobacco into the fire to show their willingness to obey the Lord’s counsel. (Pages 167-168.) Some of the other topics addressed include the multiple accounts of the First Vision, the use of seer stones for finding buried treasure as well as translating the Book of Mormon, tensions in Missouri, the Kirtland Safety Society, plural marriage (beginning with Fanny Alger and including polyandry), Freemasonry, the Nauvoo Expositor, and Joseph’s possession and use of a gun in Carthage Jail. I only have a couple minor criticisms of the book. The style is actually a little too simple for my tastes (it reminds me of a bit of the “For Beginning Readers” graphic novel-style books that the Church came out with when I was a kid). But this is unavoidable because they want these books to be read and understood by every member of the Church, no matter their education level, including Primary kids. And I did eventually get used to it. The associated essays that are linked to in the footnotes are more academic. And the placement of the footnotes is my other criticism—I really prefer them to be at the bottom of the page, rather than all together as a set of notes at the back of the book (of course, the online version has very nice clickable links all over). I really like what has been done with this book. The Church has really done about all they can to make its history accessible for anyone that will put in the effort to read it, or even just to listen to it. They have made it affordable for every LDS home to have a copy. They are also making a great effort to ensure that everyone is aware of it, such as publishing it serially in the Ensign, creating a podcast discussing it, and even holding a “Face to Face” event for Young Adults. And they have truly accomplished their goal of making it an informative, captivating, and faith-building read.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Meleece

    I’ve read other church history books and taken church history classes but I learned so many intriguing details of how Mormonism began. And it was a captivating read, which is really incredible considering all the primary sources they had to slog through, but it was a page turner. I’ll admit some information was cringe-worthy, but I’m left in greater awe for what these people went through and for their faith. They really were SAINTS.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Danielle

    What a wonderful complete history of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in narrative form. I couldn't put it down. It put so many church history events into perspective for me. My heart was touched and my faith strengthened as I felt the spirit of this book. I am so grateful for the early saints who sacrificed so much. I would highly recommend this book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Julia

    I enjoyed volume one of the church's new history narrative, Saints, that came out this week. I had already read the first 7 chapters in beta and was excited to read the rest. It was very readable and I think it will help inform members about church history. This book really puts things in a easy-to-read format. Since it's written in chronological order it really helps give perspective to the people and events of the restoration. While it does attempt to tackle some of the more troublesome parts I enjoyed volume one of the church's new history narrative, Saints, that came out this week. I had already read the first 7 chapters in beta and was excited to read the rest. It was very readable and I think it will help inform members about church history. This book really puts things in a easy-to-read format. Since it's written in chronological order it really helps give perspective to the people and events of the restoration. While it does attempt to tackle some of the more troublesome parts of church history it still wasn't quite as comprehensive as I thought it was going to be. However, I do think Saints is a good beginning resource and is free on the gospel library app under church history. You can also use the church history tab to access articles about people, places and events that are mentioned in the book. I really hope people will use these well researched and insightful writings to enrich their understanding, sacrament meeting talks and lessons. I also hope it will be a good jumping off point for people to expand into other more detailed books on a variety of subjects that this history addresses. First some things I liked: I love how the authors took people's journals, letters and remembrances and used them to create a really novel-like retelling of church history. I'm happy that this account included a lot more detail about women, people of color, and other minorities who helped build the kingdom. I loved reading quotes from these groups and hearing their perspective about what was happening at the time. It also included the perspectives of many people who opposed the church and showed that they weren't just one-dimensional villains. Many times the greatest antagonists of the church were actually disaffected members. This narrative does a better job of showing how complex and multi-sided this history really is. I was so relieved to see a much fairer version of Emma portrayed in this book than has been communicated in past histories (due in large part to Brigham Young's dislike of Emma). I liked that the writing was less formal, using just her first name when referring to her. This history helps put us in her shoes and head and see what a hard, and at times impossible, road she endured. I loved that they included so much from Phebe Woodruff too. She is one of my favorite founding saints and thanks to her and her husband's journal keeping we get such a clear picture of who they were. Another recent book I read that drew from her story was "A House Full of Females" by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich. Also a great read! We got to know all of the members of the Smith family better and got a few new insights into Joseph Smith's upbringing and the timeline of his revelations. I think this helps us understand Joseph's ideas about heaven and family a little better also. The book also included some intro discussion about the many different first vision accounts and also his teachings on Heavenly Mother. In regard to Joseph, I think this book did a good job of using some of the stories everyone knows and mixing in some less talked about facts like that Joseph drank throughout his lifetime, he used seer stones, that the endowment borrows heavily from masonic rituals, that he and many of the saints believed the end of the world was imminent, and that he practiced secret polygamy. While it was great to see these each mentioned and discussed it still didn't really get too deep into any of them. For a more in depth look at the life of Joseph Smith I really loved Rough Stone Rolling by Richard Bushman. Now for some things I was a little disappointed with: I was sad to see that while they did discuss polygamy a little more in-depth than usual, they still didn't show the whole picture. In fact there were several parts that really confused the issue if you weren't already familiar with the history. While I know it isn't feasible to include every one of Joseph Smith's plural marriages in this type of book I do think they could have at least shown a better variety of who he married. While it mentioned that some of his marriages were problematic (such as marrying wives of other members in good standing) they don't elaborate on any of these. Instead they focus in on some of the more palatable relationships. I would have really liked them to tackle some of the more problematic stories like Marinda Hyde (Orson Hyde's wife) and Zina Huntington Jacobs (whose husband was on a mission) at the time. Or Helen Mar Kimball who was only 14. I would also have appreciated some discussion about some of the wording used in Joseph's proposals to some of the women including promises of exaltation if they married him and threats of damnation for their whole family if they didn't go through with it. I was glad to see they discussed Fanny Alger partially. The book also discusses Emma's dislike of the principle and the relief society's efforts to stop plural marriage. The book seemed to imply that it was John Bennett's infidelities that made Emma hyper vigilant about stopping rumors and making sure women weren't being taken advantage of. While that was certainly a factor, the rumors she was primarily concerned with stopping were those claiming Joseph was practicing plural marriage. "Rumors" which coincidentally were true. It also never mentioned that her presidency and much of the relief society at the time were plural wives of Joseph Smith. Emma sends Sarah Cleveland, Eliza Snow, Elizabeth Durfee and others to stop the rumors but since they are all married to Joseph behind Emma's back the issue is that much stickier. However, I do believe the book did do a good job depicting Hyrum Smith's response to plural marriage, as well as Oliver Cowdery and Emma's dissapproval. For a more in-depth look at Joseph Smith and plural marriage I would suggest "In Sacred Loneliness" by Todd Compton. It's a fantastic look at each of the women who married Joseph Smith. I was also hoping for a little clearer picture of the first Relief Society Meetings beyond just the plural marriage scandals. Although it does mention that Joseph organized the relief society to be patterned after priesthood and that he turned the key to the women it didn't talk at all about female blessing meetings. Women gave and were encourage to give healing blessings to one another and did so regularly during the first meetings of their organization. The history did talk about how women administered ordinances in the temple but not about the washing and anointing ordinance that was done outside of the temple before child birth. Of course that might still get a mention in volume 2 as they cross the plains and make it to Utah. Overall, it was a very good picture of the first era of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints. I hope that people will read it and research each part further as well. Like I said before, this is really just an introduction. I am very grateful to the large number of historians, writers and editors who worked on this history. I am so excited that the church is putting a spotlight on church history and helping us to begin our journeys to being more well informed saints. I'm excited to see what happens in volume 2!

  30. 4 out of 5

    Natasha

    I am very grateful for the people who kept journals and letters from saints. The history here is amazing! The whole time I was reading I would often think to myself, “Could I have survived this? Would I have stayed?” I felt the spirit strongly and an overwhelming love for the people accounted for in this book. Give it up for Joseph Smith! He seriously had trails that would of broke a feeble man. Also, Emma Smith...dang girl! That’s a strong woman!

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