Saints

An accessible history, written for a general audience yet informed by the best critical scholarship. Stories of the Saints simultaneously translated into dozens of languages, and incorporating the voices of women and men. Not shying away from difficult issues, “root beer” notwithstanding, Saints will be published serially in the Ensign/Liahona and in four contiguous volumes.

The Church [n1] published the first chapter, “Ask in Faith,” last Friday. And we have gripping adjectives, and a volcanic opening. The chapter follows The Smith family through failed farms and heroic moves and ends with JS reading the Bible exhortation to ask God in faith to find answers.

The Chapter’s authors relied heavily on Lucy M. Smith’s history and the late history of JS. Both of these works, as the topic essay on Lucy Smith states “present narratives from memory,” and have “flaws, exaggerations, and biases.” I probably take a more conservative or parsimonious view of what that means than ultimately what project staff decided. But let’s be honest, we don’t have much else to go with, and it is certainly compelling stuff.

While reading this first chapter, I was most interested in the “topics” linked in the footnotes. Reading a few paragraphs on JS’s religious context won’t give you all the necessary tools to correctly differentiate Arminianism from Calvinism. I believe that it is nevertheless a tremendous service to the church to start building this context into our narratives (despite a few, perhaps misleading, oversimplifications). I don’t know how many folks will look at the bibliographies, but this one from “Christian Churches in Joseph Smith’s Day” is great. I have recommended all three of these to interested readers in the past.

Let us also celebrate the simultaneous launch of Saints in multiple languages. For example, the Spanish speaking church gained access to this resource at the same time the English speaking church. I look forward to reading the treatments of more richly documented periods and more complicated narratives in real time with saints from around the world.

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1. Saints has been in production for a very long time. I think that the History Department tried to keep a lid on the project for a while, but observers and friends have been aware of the various shifts in project dynamics, emphases, and staffing. While I prefer historical works that give authorial attribution, I’m not sure if that is even possible here. I think what we can best hope for is deft and keen editorial oversight. Maybe editorial attribution would have been possible?

Comments

  1. J., Thanks for the comments and links. Is Lucy’s “root beer” recipe available somewhere?

  2. Eric Facer says:

    Thanks for this JT.

    By the way, I believe the bibliography you reference is not from “The Awakenings” topic; rather, it can be found at the end of one of the others: “Christian Churches in Joseph Smith’s Day.”

  3. J. Stapley says:

    Thanks for the catch Eric. I had them all open and got my wires crossed. Another good pointer was to Holifield in the “Religious Beliefs in Joseph Smith’s Day” essay.

  4. Eric Facer says:

    If that’s the biggest mistake you make today, you’ll be doing better than me.

  5. Love this, thanks for the news!

  6. Kevin Barney says:

    Thanks for this commentary on the fledgling project.

  7. I hadn’t thought about how serialization would mean this will be available for all the many Liahona languages. Do we know if the 4 volume set will be published under many languages? And will this be under the Church’s own imprint, like was done for Revelations in Context? I wonder if this will have far reaches in so many languages in libraries throughout the global Church, while so many other standard histories and groundbreaking histories were only ever in English.

  8. J. Stapley says:

    rich, that is my understanding, and with the online supplemental material being available in the languages as well. It should be worth noting that this material is available in the gospel library app and website, which will probably have way more traction than the printed volumes.

  9. Paul Ritchey says:

    As a young, progressive Latter-day Saint, I am so excited about this! Thanks for sharing, J.

  10. The entry for this item from Church Distribution is listing 15 separate language options. Available for preorder beginning in June. https://store.lds.org/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/Product3_715839595_10557_3074457345616706195_-1__3074457345617088719.

  11. This looks like a very interesting project! Thanks for pointing it out! This looks like a pretty legitimate, though brief, relevant history of Smith’s milieu. It’s a lot more detail than I ever got from Seminary or Institute! Of course, it all has a very lds coloring to it, but that’s to be expected. Also, you’re right, some of the bibliography does look more interesting than the original articles.