It’s been about 100 years since the LDS Church published a history of the Church. Richard Turley thought it was about time to update it and pitched the idea to the brethren. Volumes 1 and 2 have been released so far, with two more volumes to be published over the next few years. Barbara Jones Brown talked to Rick about his role in getting these important volumes published.
Richard: I thought what we really needed was for members of the Church generally, to have a heightened understanding of Church History, to make all ships rise, if you will. So, what I ultimately proposed to our team was that we create a series of volumes that would fit the intersection of three circles that formed a Venn diagram. I drew a circle on the board. I put an H in it. I said, “First of all, these books have to be absolutely accurate historically.” We gathered together a group of historians to help us form the content of the books. Then I drew another circle, and I wrote an L in it. I said, “We want these, also, to be literarily interesting. We want them to engage people from a literary standpoint. We want people to want to read them.” What I said, joking about the fact that you know, many historians write things that are read by only a small audience. What I said to the team was, “We’re going to do something extraordinary. We’re going to write a history that people are actually going to want to read.”
Richard: Everybody laughed at that, because it’s a story that sometimes we write just to our peers. Then I drew a third circle, and I put a big A in it. I said, “The A stands for audience. We want to aim what we’re writing to a ninth-grade reading level, so that it will fit with members of the Church around the world in various cultures.” Then, in addition to all that, we talked about the need for it to be a global history, not just a history of the Church in Utah, but a history of the Church around the world. So that became the basic vision for the Saints volume. My hat is off to all the members of the team, I should say, teams, who helped to bring this about. I was talking to, after I’d gone to the Public Affairs Department, I was talking to a member of the team and I said to him, “How many people ultimately do you think were involved in the production of the first volume of Saints?” He said, “Well, if you take the various teams that wrote, and edited and consulted and translated and reviewed, we’re probably up over 900 people who contributed to that first volume.” So Church history, particularly during the 30 years that I had the privilege of being there was a team sport. I was just grateful to be a member of the team.
Check out our conversation….