What is the best beginner book to learn Mormon history? Back in 2016, Dr. Casey Griffiths said there really wasn’t a book, so he set out to make one. We’ll talk some of the important events over the past 2 centuries in another one of his books: The 100 Most Important Events of Church History.
GT: One of the things that I love about your new book is it’s kind of like your old book. We haven’t talked about your old book. Why don’t you go ahead and show that one to us? And how old is that book, by the way? I’ve had that for quite a while.
Casey: This book was published in 2016.
GT: Okay, so it’s not that old.
Casey: What You Don’t Know About the 100 Most Important Events in Church History. That is a long title, right? Almost all of our viewers are like, that is an awkward title. Well, the background behind it is, I was looking for an entry-level book in Church History for people. My entry-level book in Church History was Church History in the Fullness of Times, which was the institute manual, which I just thought was fascinating. On my mission, I would split my study between Church History in the Fullness of Times and the Book of Mormon. I got so excited about it. But I came back, and I was serving as a bishop, and I had someone come up to me and say, “Hey, what’s the first Church history book that I should read?” I sort of realized, gosh, it was hard to find something that was entry level for people. This was before Saints was published, by the way. I think they kind of had the same idea as us. But I was like, what’s a book that in one volume, we could cover all the major events of the Church. Another problem I have sometimes, too, is that we have this major bias towards the 19th century. For instance, the first article I published was on an event that took place in the 1920s. My dad said to me, “Has anything really interesting happened after Brigham Young died?” I kind of said, “A lot of stuff that’s interesting has happened after Brigham Young died.”
So, me with Mary Jane [Woodger], my co-author, and Susan Easton Black helped us on this book as well, sat down and just had arguments about what we thought were the 100 most important events. Obviously, some things like the coming forth of the Book of Mormon, or the restoration of the priesthood were always on list. But, where we had a lot of fun was kind of arguing in the 20th century, what was a big deal. David O McKay, in 1920, goes on this tour of all the missions. He’s assigned to visit every single mission of the Church. He’s gone for a year.
The problem with that was the closer we got to the present, the harder and harder it was, to sort of say, “Is this going to be a consequential event for the History of the Church?” For instance, Mary Jane and Susan, and I all argued about the missionary age change in 2012. I was saying, “They’ve changed the missionary age a bunch of times. It doesn’t really seem like it’s that big of a deal to me.” So, I was arguing…
GT: From 19 to 18.
Casey: From 19 to 18. I was like, “What’s the big deal? We’ve always send out missionaries and the ages have changed. I don’t really see this as being something that is consequential in the history of the Church.” Mary Jane and Susan, both argued that it wasn’t the 19 to 18 change, it was the 21 to 19 change for women that changed it. They pulled out a couple of statistics that noted the shift in the missionary force of the Church. It had gone from being about four to one for males to being about a 50/50 split between males and females.
Casey: They pushed back by saying, “Don’t you think that having so many more female returned missionaries is going to have an impact on the Church?” I had to kind of back off and say, “Yeah, it seems like that is going to be consequential in the overall history of the Church, so that in the history of age changes, that might be the most significant age change.”
Do you agree? What do you think are the most significant events of the 21st century? Check out our conversation….