The Story of the Latter-day Saints

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Book Review
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The Story of the Latter–day Saints
Author James B. Allen Author Glen M. Leonard
Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, in Collaboration with the Historical Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter–day Saints, 1976

The Story of the Latter-day Saints

Reviewer S. George Ellsworth

The publication of this one-volume survey history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an event of some moment, long-awaited. No doubt the book will be of influence in the long line of Mormon historiogtaphy. The amount of work required for such a coverage is enormous, the task of synthesis is overwhelming, and there are more difficulties for the historian than any reader or writer of monographic history can imagine.

Basically a narrative history, The Story of the Latter-day Saints attempts to cover essential themes from before 1830 to 1976. Four purposes for writing the book are listed by Church Historian Leonard J. Arrington: "to prepare a history that might serve the same needs that [Joseph Fielding Smith's] Essentials in Church History had provided for so many years" (p. vii); to use the "much new material" acquired by the Church Archives; "to record the important events that have taken place in recent years", and to offer, principally in narrative form, "a compact, introductory overview". There are also four outstanding themes in Mormon history named which may also be special interpretations: the Latter-day Saints were a religious people, not "motivated largely by personal economic or political considerations"; "the Church was always influenced to some degree by the events of the world around it"; the Church "as a religious body" expanded "to claim an international membership," hence the how and why of its worldwide expansion; and the "dynamics of change" exist within the Church, hence an interest in the how and why of new programs, the operations of "continuing revelation," as well as the "things that have remained constant". The first and second themes are surely present in the book; the third is touched upon only lightly; the fourth shows up from time to time.