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 organized 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 and 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 69:0).
Whatever you think of Joseph Smith and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, theirs is a rich, remarkable history. This series is an excellent way to learn more. It's purposely written in an engaging, readable way in order to appeal to readers of all ages, backgrounds, and familiarity with Church history/doctrine. It's honest, well-researched, and engaging. I definitely recommend taking advantage of this incredible price (FREE for the e-book) and giving it a shot. I've been a member of the Church my whole life, and I still learned a ton from it.
Read my full review at: http://www.blogginboutbooks.com/2018/09/engaging-readable-lds-church-history.html
Love it, love it, love it!!! It is so visual, compelling, and inspiring. I constantly find myself asking, “ How would my faith stand up to the persecutions and trials of those early Saints? Could I endure? Has my service and sacrifices come close to the ones they made building up God’s kingdom? The people in this book consume my thoughts and give me a desire to be more committed and faithful.
Twelve-year-old Emily Partridge prepared to return to school in Clay County Missouri. Emily enjoyed school and loved playing with her friends, using simple vines as jump ropes. She lived in a cabin, previously used as a stable, with a large fireplace as the only source of heat during the long, cold winter. Emily and her family had been unjustly forced out of their home in Jackson County, Missouri because of their religious beliefs.
From beginning to end, “Saints” focuses on the individuals who took part in the humble beginnings of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints - ordinary people who felt an extraordinary zeal for what they believed to be the truth. The pages of the book open the curtain to pre-Civil War historical events. The documentation at the back of the book is worth reviewing to understand the book’s research and accuracy. Addition articles, videos, and related topics can be found on the website, https://history.lds.org/saints?lang=eng&cid=rdb_v_saints_eng.
Joseph Smith is the central character of this historical record. He is portrayed as a young man who is learning line upon line, precept upon precept about how to become a prophet of God. If you read the book with an open mind and heart, the enormity of his sacrifice and the difficult trials he had to face at such a young age will impress you. Stories that have been taken out of historical context on the Internet about his life are also explained.
The life of Joseph Smith is not the only story that is told. Many other faithful saints, men and women alike, are highlighted. Jennetta Richards heard a group of missionaries speak in Preston, England. As she heard the men speak about angels, an ancient record, and a living prophet who received revelations from God, like prophets in the Bible, she knew it was true and was baptized into the new religion. Jennetta’s father was the minister in Walkerfold, England. He heard his daughter’s story and he became very interested in the missionary’s message. Jennetta immigrated to the United States to be with the other saints. This was a journey that thousands of English converts would make.
The martyrdom of Joseph does not end the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as many members of the mob had hoped. Instead, the faith of the saints kept the Church moving forward, even during the difficult final days in Nauvoo. The book ends with the saints looking westward for a new home away from persecution.
Don’t let the page count deter you; it is a fast read and one that will touch your heart and your mind with the faithfulness of these early Church members.
Whether you are a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or not, you will enjoy reading about the spirit and the dedication of these people who believed the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith’s First Vision as truth. They were willing to suffer adversity, and depravation for their beliefs. What people of faith and fortitude!
Saints is an engaging narrative history, written in an accessible style and based on solid historical research. I thoroughly enjoyed reading an almost too-familiar story that felt surprisingly fresh and authentic because it is told through the experiences of previously underrepresented characters—particularly women. As a scholar, I was impressed with the deliberate treatment of difficult events in the history. Saints gives a more three-dimensional representation of Joseph Smith and includes more of Emma Smith’s perspective than previous historical accounts produced by the Church. I consider it an accomplishment to produce this kind of a comprehensive historical account with brevity, clarity, and accessibility for a global Church, while not putting the reader to sleep. This is a must-read for both insiders and outsiders who seek to understand how the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints defines its foundational history at this moment.
My wife and recently finished our mission as Site Director couple at the Hill Cumorah Visitors' Center and learned so much about Church history from 1816-1830. After 1830 we don't know much. Every chapter in this book that covered the history up to 1830 contained something we didn't know previously. This is an easy read and filled with details many members of the Church don't know. We have learned that these details corroborate Joseph's story and the accounts of others and strengthen our witness every time. I highly recommend this book.
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 first-person accounts that share deep emotions felt during intense times of crisis. The book includes many, many 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 others. Readers can enhance their experience with new Church History Topics essays: https://www.lds.org/languages/eng/content/history/topics/awakenings-and-revivals?lang=eng.
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 : 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
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).
The Standard of Truth
For the first time, a complete history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints written in narrative form is available through major booksellers. It is titled:
The Standard of Truth
Published by the Church, it is the first of four volumes to be written in a storytelling style, rather than a history of facts and events. It is engaging and easy to read.
Covering the events leading up to the First Vision to the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith and the Saints’ exile from Nauvoo, Saints volume 1 offers the reader a vivid understanding of the book’s subtitle, The Standard of Truth. As penned by Joseph in 1842, The Standard of Truth reads:
The standard of truth has been erected.
No unhallowed hand can stop the work from
progressing; persecutions may rage,
mobs may combine, armies may assemble
calumny may defame, but the truth of God will
go forth boldly, nobly, and independent till it
has penetrated every continent, visited every clime,
swept every country, and sounded in every ear,
till the purposes of God shall be accomplished and
the great Jehovah shall say the work is done.
The nearly 600 pages are replete with examples of suffering and sacrifice, disease and death, persecution and purification. There is also much about miracles and divine manifestations. Even though the Lord tries and tests his people, Saints demonstrates how we can find the priceless blessings of peace and joy in this life and the hope of exaltation in the life to come. It contains countless witnesses of the truth. It proves that courage and faith prevail.
As Joseph Smith and his friends experienced gospel gladness in spite of the confines and miseries of Liberty Jail, I, too, was deeply moved by the Spirit as I read about these trials and could exclaim with the prophet Joseph:
“Shall we not go on in so great a cause?”
Review by Sister Daryl V. Hoole
A perfect historical read for those of us enjoying simple, straight forward, inspiring accounts of faith and fortitude. The true story of imperfect individuals, whose combined efforts miraculously restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As a Family Home Evening read aloud, "Saints" easily springboards into teaching and discussing Gospel Principles.
I am a mother of four and grandmother of eight and I highly recommend the book “Saints”. I consider myself a simple reader and the narrative style of this book made it easy for me to read. I have grown up as a member of the Church and I have heard many of the stories but there are many that were new to me. All of the stories were told in such a compelling manner that it constantly pulled me back to want to read more.
I love the way the series was introduced as a world event that led to the restoration of the gospel, I felt the spirit immediately. I love the way the story moves from person to person and place to place, so that the story is portrayed chronologically, as it happened.
I highly recommend this book.
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)
Firstly, I would like to thank the Church History Department for sending me an Advance Review Copy of this book.
As one who is engaged in Latter-day Saint apologetics and scholarship, one always appreciates Church history and other issues being more accessible to non-specialists. While, alas, many histories of the Church would fall more under the label of “historiography” and faith-promoting material that ignores many issues (often “difficult” issues), it was refreshing to read this volume, as it presents early LDS history during the Joseph Smith era, “warts and all,” in a way that will be accessible to all members of the Church, not just nerds like me who love delving into the complexities of various issues and love pursuing dusty old manuscripts. I plan on loaning this copy out to the young men in my branch and others.
As one who is a firm believer in inoculating church members by discussing, in an open and faithful way, “difficult” issues, I look forward to the forthcoming 3 volumes remaining in this series.
Here are some important excerpts that show, among other things, the very open manner the Church now discusses difficult church issues (e.g., early LDS polygamy) and other topics those engaged in LDS apologetics will appreciate:
Endorsement from the First Presidency
Throughout the scriptures the Lord asks us to remember. Remembering our shared legacy of faith, devotion, and perseverance gives us perspective and strength as we face the challenges of our day.
It is with this desire to remember “how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men” (Moroni 10:3) that we present Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days. This is the first volume of a four-volume series. It is narrative history that includes stories of faithful Latter-day Saints of the past. We encourage all to read the book and make use of the supplementary material available online.
First Vision—bringing together 1832 and other accounts
As the Savior spoke, Joseph saw hosts of angels and the light around them blazed brighter than the noonday sun. “Behold, and lo, I come quickly,” the Lord said, “clothed in the glory of My Father.” (p. 16)
FV: JS did not share it too much after initial rebukes
Once Joseph discovered that sharing his vision only turned his neighbors against him, he kept it mostly to himself . . . . (p. 18)
Josiah Stowell and the 1826 hearing//JS’ abilities as a “seer”
Standing before the local judge, Joseph explained how he had found the stone. Joseph Sr. testified that he had constantly asked God to show them His will for Joseph’s marvelous gift as a seer. Finally, Josiah stood before the court and stated that Joseph had not swindled him.
“Do I understand,” said the judge, “that you believe the prisoner can see by the aid of the stone?”
No, Josiah insisted. “I positively know it to be true.”
Josiah was a well-respected man in the community, and people accepted his word. In the end, the hearing produced no evidence that Joseph had deceived him, so the judge dismissed the charge. (pp. 33-34)
Joseph seeking copyright for the 1830 BOM
Before he completed the translation, he had filed for the book’s copyright to protect the text from anyone who might steal or plagiarize it. (p. 77)
Extreme Religious Events at Kirtland
Some of the Saints in Kirtland took their beliefs to wild extremes, reveling in what they took to be gifts of the Spirit. Several people claimed to have visions they could not explain. Others believed the Holy Ghost made them slide or scoot across the ground. One man bounced around rooms or swung from ceiling joists whenever he thought he felt the Spirit. Another acted like a baboon.
Relationship of WOW to similar ideas//origin of D&C 89
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. (p. 167)
WOW was not a commandment originally
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” . . . 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. (pp. 167, 168)
WW Phelps and early LDS attitudes towards blacks
William also addressed the church members’ attitudes towards black people. Although he sympathized with those who wished to free enslaved people, William wanted his readers to know that the Saints would obey Missouri’s laws restricting the rights of free blacks. There were only a few black Saints in the church, and he recommended that if they chose to move to Zion, they act carefully and trust in God.
“So long as we have no special rule in the church as to people of color,” he wrote vaguely, “let prudence guide” . . . The Book of Mormon declared that Christ invited all to come unto Him, “black and white, bond and free,” but William was more concerned about the entire county turning against the Saints.
Acting quickly, he printed a single-page leaflet recanting what he had written about slavery: “We are opposed to having free people of color admitted into the state,” he insisted, “and we say that none will be admitted into the church.” The leaflet misrepresented the church’s stance on baptizing black members, but he helped it would prevent future violence. (pp. 173, 175)
Comments on Polygamy
After receiving the commandment, Joseph struggled to overcome his natural aversion to the idea. He could foresee trials coming from plural marriage, and he wanted to turn from it. But the angel urged him to proceed, instructing him to share the revelation only with people whose integrity was unwavering. The angel also charged Joseph to keep it private until the Lord saw fit to make the practice public through His chosen servants.
During the years Joseph lived in Kirtland, a young woman named Fanny Alger worked in the Smith home. Joseph knew her family well and trusted them. Her parents were faithful Saints who had joined the church in its first year. Her uncle, Levi Hancock, had marched in the Camp of Israel.
Following the Lord’s command, Joseph proposed marriage to Fanny with the help of Levi and the approval of her parents. Fanny accepted Joseph’s teachings and his proposal, and her uncle performed the ceremony.
Since the time had not come to teach plural marriage in the church, Joseph and Fanny kept their marriage private, as the angel had instructed. (p. 291)
The prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon taught that no man should have “save it be one wife,” unless God commanded otherwise. As the story of Abraham and Sarah showed, God sometimes commanded faithful followers to participate in plural marriage as a way to extend these blessings to more individuals and raise a covenant people to the Lord. Despite the trials it brought, Abraham’s marriage to his plural wife Hagar had brought forth a great nation. Plural marriage would likewise try the Saints who practiced it, yet the Lord promised to exalt them for their obedience and sacrifice . . . Still, he knew the practice of plural marriage would shock people, and he remained reluctant to teach it openly. While other religious and utopian communities often embraced different forms of marriage, the Saints had always preached monogamy. Most Saints—like most Americans—associated polygamy with societies they considered less civilized than their own.
Joseph himself left no record of his own views on plural marriage or his struggle to obey the commandment. Emma too disclosed nothing about how early she learned of the practice or what impact it had on her marriage. The writings of others close to them, however, make clear that it was a source of anguish for both of them.
Yet Joseph felt an urgency to teach it to the Saints, despite the risks and his own reservations. If he introduced the principle privately to faithful men and women, he could build strong support for it, preparing for the time when it could be taught openly. To accept plural marriage, people would have to overcome their prejudices, reconsider social customs, and exercise great faith to obey God when He commanded something so foreign to their traditions. (pp. 433, 434)
Relationship to the Endowment to Masonry
When the ceremony was finished, Joseph gave some instructions to Brigham. “This is not arranged right” he told the apostle, “but we have done the best we could under the circumstances in which we are placed, and I wish you to take this matter in hand and organize and systematize all these ceremonies.
As they left the store that day, the men were in awe of the truths they had learned from the endowment. Some aspects of the ordinance reminded Heber Kimball of Masonic ceremonies. In Freemasonry meetings, men acted out an allegorical story about the architect of Solomon’s temple. Masons learned gestures and words they pledged to keep secret, all of which symbolized that they were building a solid foundation and adding light and knowledge to it by degrees.
Yet the endowment was a priesthood ordinance meant for men and women, and it taught sacred truths not contained on Masonry, which Heber was eager for others to learn.
“We have received some precious things through the prophet on the priesthood that would cause your soul to rejoice,” Heber wrote Parley and Mary Ann Pratt in England. “I cannot give them to you on paper, for they are not to be written, so you must come and get them for yourself.” (pp. 454-55)
The Relationship between Emma and Joseph (near the end of the latter’s life)
. . . Joseph asked her to write the blessing she desired and promised he would sign it when he returned.
In the blessing she penned, Emma asked for wisdom from Heavenly Father and the gift of discernment. “I desire the Spirit of God to know and understand myself,” she wrote. “I desire a fruitful, active mind, that I may be able to comprehend the designs of God.”
She asked for wisdom to raise her children, including the baby she expected in November, and expressed hope in her eternal marriage covenant. “I desire with all my heart to honor and respect my husband,” she wrote, “ever to live in his confidence and by acting in unison with him retain the place which God has given me by his side.” (p. 544)
I would recommend this resource for any LDS library, both personal and ward/branch, especially for the Church’s youth who wish to learn about the history of the faith.
Saints 1815-1846: The Standard of Truth, is the most well-documented and easy-to-read history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints yet to be published. Citing over 600 sources, the Church History Department has laid out well-known and little-known facts about the Restoration. The facts that have been taught for years, and those that may have been perceived as controversial, are presented to the reader for open inspection. Saints, volume 1, provides an opportunity to learn for oneself the complete story of the beginnings of the church and to search the sources to deepen our testimonies of the Prophet Joseph Smith.
Since the book is written in a narrative style, it is quick and interesting reading. But even with this writing style, “it does not go beyond information found in historical sources. When the text includes even minor details, such as facial expressions or weather conditions, it is because these details are found in or reasonably deduced from the historical record” (Note on Sources, p. 660.) For example, near the end of Joseph’s life, when he was speaking to a council of the church, he “picked up a long ruler and gestured broadly with it, as a schoolmaster might do…. When Joseph finished speaking, he accidentally snapped the ruler in half, to the surprise of everyone in the room” (p. 529). Or this example when “in a burst of revelation, Brigham [Young] remembered how Joseph had bestowed the keys on the Twelve Apostles. Bringing his hand down hard on his knee, he said, ‘The keys of the kingdom are right here with the church’” (p. 559). Details such as this—not assumed but coming from original sources—offer the reader a factual look at the human side of many of the early saints.
With nearly 100 pages of notes of the sources cited, the reader can quickly see where the information included in the text is found. While reading, if a new piece of the story is discovered, one can find the citation and, in many cases, follow a digital link to read the original source. To illustrate, much of the beginning chapters of the book come from the prophet’s mother, Lucy Mack Smith’s, history. An interested reader can click on the note, and go to mother Smith’s history which shows the original, hand-written text and a transcribed version for the modern student to easily read. In this way, we can see for themselves how the text of Saints was composed.
Additional resources bring further richness to the story. The “Topics” referenced throughout the book provide a deeper look into many issues. I found the “Seer Stones” topic very interesting and learned how Joseph found a seer stone before his vision of the Father and the Son and used it to “help neighbors find missing objects or search for buried treasure.” There is even a picture of a seer stone Joseph Smith owned. This same seer stone was later used during the translation of some of the Book of Mormon.
The podcasts which can be found on iTunes (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/saints/id1426076077) or the Mormon Channel (https://www.mormonchannel.org/listen/series/saints) are another rich source of more detail for the book. Historians, writers, editors, and others talk candidly about the preparation of the book and its implications to modern church members. I found the approximately 25-30 minute episodes very insightful as some questions I had while reading the book were discussed. I listened to discussion about a new fact to me that Joseph heard for first time about reading in James 1:5 to “ask in faith” from a minister while attending a sermon. Only after hearing this from the minister did Joseph go home and read and ponder the verse from the Bible.
For me, Saints is the beginning of a new opportunity to study church history and search deeper into resources that bring much original information to light. I appreciate the Church History Department, under direction of The First Presidency, and the way they are making all details of our history available. I believe that it will “enlarge [our] understanding of the past, strengthen [our] faith, and help [us] make and keep the covenants that lead to exaltation and eternal life” as the Message from the First Presidency indicates in the beginning pages of the book. I highly recommend this book to all readers, young or old, and believe you will find your testimony strengthened as I have by allowing the telling of church history with greater detail and openness to distill upon my mind.