History of the Church | BYU Studies

History of the Church

Trinta Anos Após o "Dia Há Muito Prometido": Reflexões e Expectativas

Em 1978 o anúncio da revelação que estendeu o sacerdócio a todos os homens dignos da Igreja independente de raça, foi comemorado como a chegada do "dia há muito prometido" ( Doutrina & Convênios, Declaração Oficial-2). Ao refletir sobre o trigésimo de aniversário dessa revelação, eu sinto profunda gratidão ao Senhor por enviar-me à terra numa era em que me seria permitido receber o sacerdócio... Read more

“A Pentecost and Endowment Indeed”: Six Eyewitness Accounts of the Kirtland Temple Experience

Author Steven C. Harper,
This Bookshelf Single is an excerpt from the book Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844, Second Edition. In this chapter, Steven C. Harper reproduces the richest historical documents associated with the dedication of the Kirtland Temple—the contemporary writings of eyewitnesses. They are published here together as a collective testimony of the fulfillment of divine... Read more

The Earliest Accounts of the Restoration of the Priesthood

Author Brian Q. Cannon,
This Bookshelf Single is an excerpt from the book Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844, Second Edition. In this chapter, Steven C. Harper reproduces the richest historical documents associated with the dedication of the Kirtland Temple—the contemporary writings of eyewitnesses. They are published here together as a collective testimony of the fulfillment of divine... Read more

The Miraculous Timing of the Translation of the Book of Mormon

Author John W. Welch,
This Bookshelf Single is an excerpt from the book Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820–1844, Second Edition. Few events in the history of the Restoration are as consequential as the bestowal of the priesthood upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. The following excerpts from early Church documents recount all of the known direct statements from the first twenty years of... Read more

Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844 (Second Edition) eBook

Author BYU Studies,
"Opening the Heavens allows readers to decide for themselves about certain key events of the Restoration ... All the crucial documents are laid open for inspection with enough commentary to put them in context. For serious students of Latter-day Saint history, nothing could be more helpful—and inspiring." —Richard Lyman Bushman "The categorizing of a large number of primary sources makes it easy... Read more

The Mormon Reformation

Author Paul H. Peterson,

Revelations on the Priesthood: Historical Studies, Personal Essays, and Book Reviews from BYU Studies

Author Various,
In the April 1937 general conference, President David O. McKay, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, asked the following question, “If at this moment each one [of you] were asked to state in one sentence . . . the most distinguishing feature of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, what would be your answer?” He then said: “My answer would be . . . divine authority by direct... Read more

Succession in Church Leadership after the Martyrdom

Author Various Authors,
This compilation of groundbreaking articles about succession in the presidency after Joseph Smith's death is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles on succession in Church leadership, the passing of the mantle from Joseph to Brigham, two years of hostility and distrust after the Martyrdom, a declaration of the Twelve regarding... Read more

The Handcart Migration

Author Various Authors,
This compilation of groundbreaking articles about the handcart migration is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles on the Martin company at the Sweetwater; Francis Webster's testimony regarding the Martin company; weather, disaster and responsibility; and reviews of books about the handcart migration. Contents "Francis Webster:... Read more

The Life of Dr. Frederick G. Williams: Counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith

Author Frederick G. Williams,
The Life of Dr. Frederick G. Williams: Counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith is a thoroughly researched documentary history of Frederick G. Williams and his immediate family. This book provides an intimate look at many significant events in the Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and pioneer Utah periods of Church history. Frederick G. Williams (1787–1842) was an important figure during the early days of... Read more

The Worlds of Joseph Smith

Author Various Authors, Editor John W. Welch,
The Worlds of Joseph Smith contains all the papers presented at the Joseph Smith bicentennial conference in the Library of Congress, May 6-7, 2005. This volume elucidates Joseph's life and mission by positioning him — to the degree possible — within the larger framework of American spirituality and world religions. The papers in this volume examine the worlds of Joseph Smith, past, present, and... Read more

Wayward Saints: The Social and Religious Protests of the Godbeites against Brigham Young

Author Ronald W. Walker,
A story that includes spiritualistic seances, hidden conspiracy, and an important church trial, Wayward Saints chronicles the challenge, during the 1870s, of a group of British Mormon intellectuals to Brigham Young's leadership and authority. William S. Godbe and his associates revolted because they disliked Young's authoritarian community and resented what they perceived as the church's... Read more

Joseph Smith and the Church in Ohio

Author Various Authors, Compiler BYU Studies,
This compilation of groundbreaking articles about Joseph Smith is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles on Kirtland, the chronology of the Ohio revelations, the Book of Commandments and Revelations, the United Firm, the Kirtland Temple, Mormon political involvement in Ohio, and more. Contents "Kirtland: A Perspective on Time and... Read more

Early Mormon Polygamy

Author Various Authors,
This compilation of articles and book reviews on Mormon polygamy is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles on the Church's legal confrontation with government over polygamy, various aspects of plural marriage in St. George, the perspectives of two prominent Mormon plural wives (Eliza R. Snow and Emmeline B. Wells), and several... Read more

Doctrinal Developments in the Early Church

Author Various Authors,
This compilation of groundbreaking articles about Joseph Smith's doctrinal teachings is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles on the law of adoption, Mormon perceptions of death, the preexistence, the King Follett Discourse, corporeality, and more. Contents "Doctrinal Development of the Church during the Nauvoo Sojourn, 1839–46"... Read more

Celebrating Zion: Pioneers in Mormon Popular Historical Expression

Author Eric A. Eliason,
More than a century after Latter-day Saints trekked across the Mormon Trail, Church members continue to celebrate this pioneer experience as an identity-defining touchstone of their American-born religion. Latter-day Saints commemorate their pioneer past in folklore, art, museums, and monuments, as well as with annual plays, pageants, and parades throughout the West. Read more

A Call to Arms: The 1838 Mormon Defense of Northern Missouri

Author Alexander L. Baugh,
*This book was footnoted by lds.org in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. This 1996 dissertation demonstrates that the expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from Missouri in 1838–1839 was "entirely unwarranted and illegal." Analyzing the history of the seven military episodes of this conflict, especially in terms of the traditional roles of local militias in the United States, Alexander L... Read more

Give It All Up and Follow Your Lord: Mormon Female Religiosity, 1831-1843

Women constituted a significant portion of the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during its first decade of existence. However, little historical analysis exists to document the contribution and experience of these women as a whole. Janiece Johnson's work examines the religious experience of some of those early Mormon women through the documentary editing and analysis of nineteen letters written between 1831 and 1843.

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High Treason and Murder: The Examination of Mormon Prisoners at Richmond, Missouri, in November 1838

The Richmond court of inquiry, the preliminary hearing that sent Joseph Smith and other Latter-day Saint leaders to jail following the so-called Mormon War of 1838 in Missouri, has long been viewed within the LDS community as a sham trial, held by Missouri officials to give legal covering to their persecution of the Saints. Joseph Smith labeled it a "mock examination" in which "there was not the... Read more

Mormon Land Rights in Caldwell and Daviess Counties and the Mormon Conflict of 1838: New Findings and New Understandings

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in an expanded Gospel Topic on their site. A newer edition of this article was published as a chapter in Sustaining the Law. Follow this link to view the chapter. Jeffrey N. Walker explains how Missouri persecutors in Daviess County profited from driving Mormons off the lands they had settled. In 1830, laws allowed... Read more

Habeas Corpus in Early Nineteenth-Century Mormonism: Joseph Smith's Legal Bulwark for Personal Freedom

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in a Newsroom post on their site. After Joseph Smith's incarceration in Liberty Jail in Liberty, Missouri, in 1838-1839, Smith believed that he would not survive another imprisonment. It was in fact his jailing in Illinois that ended in his murder in 1844. This paper explores Smith's use of writs of habeas corpus to... Read more

Which Is the Wisest Course?: The Transformation in Mormon Temple Consciousness, 1870–1898

From the 1870s to 1890, the first Latter-day Saint temples in Utah were completed and temple work was fully underway, and at the same time the Church was being legally compelled to abandon polygamy. In 1890, Wilford Woodruff faced disenfranchisement of the Church and the loss of the temples. He was prepared to defend polygamy, but upon revelation from God changed his course and issued the... Read more

Strange Ramblings: The Ideal and Practice of Sermons in Early Mormonism

People who attended meetings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints during its first seventy years heard many sermons preached (fig. 1). But the sermons often seemed different from those heard in Protestant and Catholic congregations. For the Saints, this was further evidence that Mormonism was not tied to a professional clergy, but, like primitive Christianity, allowed wide... Read more

The Record of the Twelve, 1835: The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles' Call and 1835 Mission

In 2011, the Joseph Smith Papers Project of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made public a document created in 1835 by Orson Hyde and William E. McLellin. That document is presented in its entirety here with an introduction and editorial notes. Ronald Esplin and Sharon Nielsen, members of the editorial team of the Joseph Smith Papers, give historical context of the document: in... Read more

Missouri Thoughts (April 15, 1972)

We had an unforgettable experience rolling down the highways of Missouri, getting to places whose names are familiar to us from our history books. We felt the twinge of disappointment that is inevitable when we descend from the historic imagination to the present reality, when we return to sites that had meaning in the past only to find them changed, lost perhaps in the grey smog of our own... Read more

Chattanooga's Southern Star: Mormon Window on the South, 1898–1900

A window through which one can gain a fascinating glimpse of the LDS church in the South in the late nineteenth century is Southern Star, the weekly tabloid published at the headquarters of the Southern States Mission in Chattanooga, Tennessee, from 8 December 1898 until 1 December 1900. An examination of its contents provides significant insight into the status of the Church in the southern... Read more

True and Faithful: Joseph Fielding Smith as Mormon Historian and Theologian

Joseph Fielding Smith (1876–1972) was not only an apostle and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was a prolific writer of Church history and doctrine. Smith's historical approach tells the truth of the intellectual landscape he inhabited and thus holds historical value. The survey that follows is intended as a primer to Smith's written corpus for a new generation of... Read more

Understanding the Council of Fifty and Its Minutes

Joseph Smith organized the Council of Fifty, a civic body of leading Mormon men as well as a few non-Mormons, in March 1844 in Nauvoo, Illinois. William Clayton took minutes of the Nauvoo meetings. Minutes of the Council of Fifty are now published in full by The Joseph Smith Papers project. These minutes preserve teachings and statements of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young on government and related... Read more

All Hail to Christmas: Mormon Pioneer Holiday Celebrations

Mormons celebrate Christmas like most other Christians—with the nativity account in Luke, gift exchanging, spending time with family and friends, Santa Claus, decorated trees, and the redemptive story of Ebenezer Scrooge. Richard Ian Kimball follows the history of Christmas celebrations among the Mormons beginning with the Pioneers. He concludes that although the Saints were secluded in the West... Read more

Road to Martyrdom: Joseph Smith's Last Legal Cases

While the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in June 1844 played a role in the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844, there were other factors. These included fear of the Nauvoo Legion's power and the concentration of power in Joseph Smith himself, economic competition with some of the leading Mormon opponents, and political unrest due to the rapidly increasing Mormon... Read more

Independence, Missouri, and the Mormons, 1827-1833

Without the quest for money there would not have been an Independence, Missouri. Two economic factors were the primary cause of Independence coming into existence where and when it did: the Santa Fe trade and the Missouri and Rocky Mountain fur trade. Perhaps the most pressing problems which both the Santa Fe trade and the fur traders faced was getting their trade goods as far westward as... Read more

Minutes of the Afternoon Meeting of the Council of Fifty, April 11, 1844

This document is an excerpt from The Joseph Smith Papers, Administrative Records: Council of Fifty, Minutes, March 1844–January 1846 . It is William Clayton’s record of a council meeting on April 11, 1844, in Nauvoo. The Council of Fifty was a body of leading Mormon men and a few non-Mormons created to support the civic goals of the church. Minutes include a statement from Joseph Smith on the... Read more

The Prophets Have Spoken, but What Did They Say? Examining the Differences between George D. Watt's Original Shorthand Notes and the Sermons Published in the Journal of Discourses

From 1851 to 1868, George D. Watt took shorthand of hundreds of speeches given by LDS leaders. A few of his shorthand notes were preserved but were inaccessible to researchers because no one could read the Pitman shorthand. Some notes have now been transcribed. These notes reveal that extensive rewriting and polishing was done between the taking of the notes and the publication of these speeches... Read more

Adam-ondi-Ahman

Adam-ondi-Ahman seems to have had reference at an early date to a general area rather than to a specific spot. If the Prophet Joseph Smith knew at that time (March 1832) of a specific location in Missouri to which the name also applied, he left us no written evidence of it. A second reference came some thirty-six months later, on 28 March 1835: the "valley of Adam-ondi-Ahman" is specified in a... Read more

The Online Journal of George Q. Cannon

A long-anticipated project is coming to completion. Much of the journal of George Q. Cannon, covering the last half of the nine­teenth century, is now freely available online at www.churchhistorianspress.org/george-q-cannon/, and the remainder of the journal will soon be available. Next to Brigham Young, George Q. Cannon was arguably the best-known Latter-day Saint in the last half of the... Read more

The Missouri Redress Petitions: A Reappraisal of Mormon Persecutions in Missouri

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began settling western Missouri in 1831 during the Jacksonian era, at a time when small Utopian religious communities dotted the land west of the Allegheny Mountains. Their prophet-leader, Joseph Smith, dedicated several sites in Jackson County for the future use of the Church, and with determination the Mormons began to build their homes... Read more

Doctrines of Faith and Hope Found in Emma Smith's 1835 Hymnbook

The hymn texts included in A Collection of Sacred Hymns, for the Church of the Latter Day Saints, compiled by Emma Smith and William Wines Phelps, provide a window through which we can view the hopes, beliefs, and convictions of the early Latter-day Saints. Doctrines that were important to the new church were expressed and taught in hymn texts: agency, evangelism, baptism by immersion, and the... Read more

The Kirtland Safety Society and the Fraud of Grandison Newell: A Legal Examination

Latter-day Saint leaders founded the Kirtland Safety Society in 1836 to meet the commercial needs of a growing community. They first attempted to obtain a charter for the bank, but the Ohio legislature was uncooperative. They changed the Society to a joint stock company and also allied it with a Michigan bank that was already chartered. For a few weeks, the company generated economic activity in... Read more

Joseph Smith and Egyptian Artifacts: A Model for Evaluating the Prophetic Nature of the Prophet's Ideas about the Ancient World

Joseph Smith’s collection of Egyptian antiquities has been the point of much interest, both in his day and ours. Among those things that piqued great attention during the Prophet’s lifetime, and continue to do so today, are his explanations of the drawings (known as vignettes when referring to ancient Egyptian literature) on the papyri he possessed and connections he made between the papyri,... Read more

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