Welcome to the Saints vol 1, book club.
The manual is a very different history book of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter -day Saints. First, it is written in narrative format, which means it is easy reading. Second, while it is inspiring, it faithfully discusses the more controversial issues that were often buried or intentionally ignored in the past. Third, it contains the experiences of several people, particularly women. Fourth, it uses many sources, from Lucy Mack Smith to Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling to the Joseph Smith Papers Project.
Chapter one begins by discussing the 1815 volcanic eruption of Tambora in Indonesia. This brought about the year without a summer in 1816, which forced the Smith family to move from Vermont to Palmyra.
The text notes JS sr had various economic struggles, but does not discuss them. For example, in a get rich quick attempt, he spent his fortune on a ship that would bring rare spices and dyes from the Far East. The captain later wrote JSSr saying the ship sank off the coast of Africa, with all the cargo lost. Such events led JSsr into alcoholism, which is not mentioned in the text.
The text discusses Joseph’s leg surgery, and the difficult winter journey to Palmyra by Lucy and the children. It explains at length the religious fervor of the Great Awakening, partially inspired by the hardships of the 1816 freeze. For many Americans suffering through the year without a summer, God’s anger was clearly manifest.
,In chapter 2, we learn of the First Vision. Details of Satan attacking Joseph are found in the narrative. We learn of many events from the various versions of the First Vision, such as Joseph hearing footsteps, and Satan harming him, hosts of angels with God, and Christ forgiving Joseph of his sins (1832 FV account).
“Once Joseph discovered that sharing his vision only turned his neighbors against him, he kept it mostly to himself, content with the knowledge God had given him. Later, after he moved away from New York, he tried to record his sacred experience in the woods. He described his yearning for forgiveness and the Savior’s warning to a world in need of repentance. He wrote the words out himself, in halting language, trying earnestly to capture the majesty of the moment.
“In the years that followed, he recounted the vision more publicly, drawing on scribes who could help him better express what defied all description. He told of his desire to find the true church and described God the Father appearing first to introduce the Son. He wrote less about his own search for forgiveness and more about the Savior’s universal message of truth and the need for a restoration of the gospel.”
This is an example of the narrative that deals with past issues that were ignored by the Church previously. I like that they deal with it briefly, positively, and concisely.
It was different for me to begin reading a narrative, as I’m used to reading history books that deal solely in facts, and not adding a level of inspiration. But, as I’ve read 1/3 of the Saints history book, I’ve grown to like this format. I also appreciate it discusses, although sometime very briefly, some of the previously secreted issues, it deals well with many of them, making most issues known. There can no longer be claims that the Church is hiding its history. It is all right here in their new history books.
Chapters 3-4 will be discussed in about 2 weeks. Here’s your chance to comment on these chapters, and prepare for the following chapters.