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Saints (Part 4 of 5)

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….

Richard Turley describes his role in the first LDS Church history in 100 years: Saints!

Don’t miss our previous conversations!

477: Opening Doors for Female Historians

476: Turley on MMM

475: Hired After Hofmann


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“I Just Love Church History” (Part 1 of 4)

I’m excited to have our first LDS General Authority on the show!  (Although we have had an apostle and Seventy from the Community of Christ, as well as member of First Presidency from the Remnant Church!) We’ll get more acquainted with Elder Steven Snow in this first episode, and I’ll ask him about his favorite stories in Church history.

Elder Snow:  I will continue to be the Church Historian until August 1, and then I will be officially released at October conference, but my duties finish up August 1.

GT : One of the big questions that I get delving into Mormon history, and so I’d like to pose this to you is, how can you maintain a testimony and know all this church history?

Elder Snow:  Well, that’s a very interesting question, and I hear it too. For me, the more I learned about our history, as a church, it actually strengthens my testimony.  The more I learn, the more respect I have for those that went before and the hard things they did, that were driven by their faith, many of these accomplishments.  I just find it very inspiring. Now, there are situations and experiences in the past that sometimes are sensationalized by others online. I really believe in studying things in the context of time and place and trying to understand what was going on. But at the same time, understanding the big picture.  If you get too wrapped up with non-consequential issues, then it’s hard to progress, and so I just love church history. The more I learn, the more my testimony grows.

GT:  Can you share with us, studying church history, what has been the most inspirational story that you’ve learned?

Elder Snow  5:30  It’s hard to identify just one, Rick, but I think the first volume of Saints is a good representation. I think of many stories, some of which members of the church will not know.  I just think, how did they do it? How did they suffer all this persecution, and I’m sure it was a sifting process for many. But, boy, they had a lot of courage and a lot of faith, those that stayed true and came west and established Zion here in the Rocky Mountains. It’s just an inspiring story, I think, our history.

I also asked if there was anything that troubled him.

Elder Snow:  No, there’s little surprises that come up every once in a while. But one thing I’ve done is I’ve really loved to study church history. So there’s not a lot of things new that have troubled me as we’ve studied and learned our history. I just think people that don’t study history enough, are the ones that tend to be a little bit surprised, and maybe rocked a little bit or are jarred by what they learned, so I encourage people to study history and to really learn the story, rather than just get hung up on a couple of little issues that may have been troubling. That’s why I like Saints, the new series, the first volume of the four-volume series that we have out. I enjoy that because you read some of these little episodes in the context of the whole story. They seem really what they are, rather insignificant to the whole narrative. So no, I really haven’t found much that’s troubled me, nothing really that’s troubled me. A few little surprises, but nothing too much.

Check out our conversation…..

Elder Steven Snow, Church Historian and member of 1st Quorum of Seventy

In our next episode, we’ll talk about the Gospel Topics Essays, and you might be interested in some historians and scientists who helped with this effort.

009: Dr. Paul Reeve’s Role in Race Essay

053: Did Hales Write the Gospel Topics Essays?

078: Did Ugo Write the Gospel Topics Essay?



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Richard Turley Writes on Saints… and Sinners (Part 1 of 4)

Richard Turley is not only an amazing historian but is Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church.  In our next conversation, we’ll get acquainted with him and learn about a few of the books he has written, including the recent release of Saints: The Standard of Truth.

Turley:  So Saints, the story of The Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter-days, is the first multi-volume history of the church produced officially since B.H. Roberts’ comprehensive history, which was compiled from a series of journal articles that he wrote and published as a set in 1930 as part of the church’s centennial. Saints is a four-volume work that breaks the history of the church up into four time periods: 1815 to 1846, and then from there until 1893, and then from there until the mid-1950s. Then from that point to the present day.

It is a history that is written in narrative style. So, unlike a lot of histories which was just somewhat expository, this one is narrative, which means it’s deliberately intended to be engaging to the reader. The content is extraordinarily accurate history that’s been source checked repeatedly. You can find the sources in the back of the book. But it’s also written in a very engaging style. So, it has already become, by perhaps an order of magnitude, the single most read history in the history of the church.

GT : Well, it’s sold out too. Do you know that?

Turley: We give it away electronically, and we’ve had a vast number of downloads. We’ve also had a vast number of chapter views. So, we know that we have over a million people reading it right now.

GT : Well, I tried to get it for my mom for Christmas, and it was sold out, and I was like, “Are you kidding me?”

Turley: Well, it’s remarkable. Volume 1 is remarkable, and the other volumes will appear in succession. I encourage everyone to read it.

We also talk about his past and future books on the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

Turley: So when my co-authors and I were writing Massacre at Mountain Meadows, we gathered a lot of information. In fact, we ended up with more than 50 linear feet of files that we had collected from 31 states in the United States and the District of Columbia. I include in that the National Archives on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC, the National Archives in Maryland, what we sometimes call Archives Two and the Denver facility for the National Archives. So, we had a lot of information. The information that we gathered included historical documents, legal documents. The legal documents were particularly important, because no one had ever really examined the case from that perspective before and I, having a legal background, was particularly interested in doing that. So, working with the Janiece Johnson and LaJean Purcell Carruth, who is a shorthand transcriber, we put together these two volumes, and then an associated website that has on it thousands of additional pages of information. These volumes gave you the perspective from a legal standpoint of the Mountain Meadows case, including information related to the nine people who were formally indicted for the massacre.

Check out our conversation…

Richard Turley is not only an amazing historian but is Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church.
Richard Turley is not only an amazing historian but is Director of Public Affairs for the LDS Church.

Check out our other conversations about the Mountain Meadows Massacre with Rick’s co-author, Barbara Jones Brown.

261: Who Bears Responsibility for MMM? (Jones Brown)

260: After the Killing (Jones Brown)

259: Cattle Rustling Turns Deadly (Jones Brown)

258: Tackling Myths of Mountain Meadows (Jones Brown)

257: Revenge for Haun’s Mill & Pratt’s Murder? (Jones Brown)

256: Utah War & Mountain Meadows Massacre (Jones Brown)