Saints, The Standard of Truth book club

Beginning next week, Daniel Ortner and I will begin a book club to discuss the Church’s new history book, Saints vol 1.

We’ll have two posts per month, each covering two chapters. The chapters are rather short, so it will be easy reading. All are  invited to share in the comments. It may be a chance to compare this with other books on Joseph Smith

The first post will also cover the introduction.

Mountain Saints and Prairie Saints

The John Whitney Historical Association met in Independence, Missouri, this weekend. This conference is an intimate gathering of those dedicated to study of the restoration faiths which arose from the teachings of Joseph Smith. Though I was only a second-time attendee, I still felt like I was returning to a gathering of friends and family.

Amidst this group, the struggles between factions of the “Mountain Saints” (~16M strong, who look to Salt Lake City for guidance) gain context as we embrace the similar struggles experienced by the “Prairie Saints” (~250K strong, who gathered to the banner of Joseph’s sons) and the “Sylvan Saints” (~20K strong, those who looked to Sidney Rigdon and then William Bickerton). We visited the Temple Lot and surrounding buildings of disparate denominations of Church of Jesus Christ (via covered wagon). It becomes clear that Joseph’s legacy spawned a diversity of religious expression peopled by good and earnest individuals. Continue reading

History and Mastermind: Decoding Clues

Courtesy of

In the past few days, the Church published the first volume of Saints, a massive volume that addresses the history of the early years of the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as led by Joseph Smith Jr.

With slightly less fanfare, the Church has uploaded hundreds of pages of new sermons from the 1800s that had previously only been available to scholars, none of whom were able to read the archaic Pitman shorthand used by George D. Watt. LaJean Carruth is the pioneering scholar who learned how to decode the archaic Pitman. 1 You can find these new transcriptions by logging in at, then searching for “CR 100 912” under Research: Church History Catalog.

As in the game “Mastermind,” it is by accumulating clues we trust that we are able to narrow down the possibilities for when events occurred. This was of particular interest to me this week. The new Church History, Saints, contained a sentence which, if accurate, would completely overturn a major portion of my conjectures regarding how plural marriage evolved in Nauvoo. Continue reading


  1. Modern Pitman is very different from the original Pitman that was available to George Watt, see the Wikipedia article on Pitman shorthand.