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: [Read more…] about Book Review: Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 1: The Standard of Truth 1815-1846