Included in the first words of the Gospel of John, the Beloved wrote, “And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.”
Of course it is not scripture, but the recent publication of “Saints – The Standard of Truth” points to the fact that Jesus is the Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God the Father.
Please do not let the thickness of the first volume of history (698 pages), or the subject matter, lure you into “I don’t have time to read that” mode.
I’m telling you, this is a page-turner. And it costs one nickel less than six bucks. How can you possibly go wrong by grabbing or ordering a copy?
It is written in a narrative style that brings to life the ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and real lives of those every day people of the formative years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I have loved reading from times gone by ever since Rowe Harrison captured my imagination with Utah history when he ignited my thirst for learning as my fourth grade teacher at Central School.
The challenge I personally faced reading various histories of my church was that I felt short-changed.
My curiosities of what really happened were frequently left unanswered. I suppose this was because of embarrassing incidents, deficient knowledge, or lack of research.
How the Urim and Thummim really worked, aspects of polygamy, the Mountain Meadow massacre, and blacks being barred from holding the priesthood for so long are just a handful of the historical head scratchers that have puzzled me over the years.
You will find, however, that the first volume of “Saints” is written in a straight-forward style that sheds light on many aspects of our history.
For example, the book does not sugar coat the fact a young Joseph Smith really was thinking about the monetary value of gold when he was initially unable to obtain the plates.
It also clearly describes how the Urim and Thummim worked (and sometimes did not work) when the Book of Mormon was translated.
Although Joseph Smith’s plural wives are not mentioned in previous official histories of the Church, “Saints” addresses the subject directly.
In a little twist — that may make many professional writers cringe — first names are used throughout the book. We read about Vilate, Mercy, Edward, Drusilla, and Isabella on each use rather than last names after first reference.
Brigham Young counseled early Church historians to do more than simply record the facts and historical highlights. “Write in a narrative style and write only about one tenth part as much.”
The final work of this first volume compiled by researchers, historians, writers, and editors precisely followed that advice and the final product is one that takes that counsel from heart, to head, to print.
For those who enjoy digging deeper into specific topics, most chapters have more than 30 footnotes to research. They are easily searchable online at lds.org or Gospel Library.
In its introductory message of “Saints,” the First Presidency writes, “We pray that this volume will enlarge your understanding of the past, strengthen your faith, and help you make and keep the covenants that lead to exaltation and eternal life.”
I know it has helped me do exactly that and I am confident it will do the same for you.
Charlie Roberts is a former LDS bishop of the Tooele 6th Ward.