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Question

 

Gramps,

Who is writing the history of the Church today?  Nephi kept a record of the proceedings, of wars and nations, etc.  Who is doing that today?  Can we see it?  (General Conference, church magazines are not history) I know there is a church historian, so is that his job?  Can we see what has been written?  If not now, when?

Diane

 

Answer

 

Diane,

Thank you so much for your question.  I think it’s a great question.

One thing that needs to be considered is, was the Book of Mormon written as a history book or as religious book?  Many would say it was both and that would be correct.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland had this to say about the Book of Mormon:

“[It] should be considered the most remarkable and important religious text to be revealed since the writings of the New Testament were compiled nearly two millennia ago. Indeed, in its role of restoring plain and precious biblical truths that had been lost, while adding scores of new truths about Jesus Christ and preparing the way for the complete restoration of his gospel and the triumphant day of his millennial return, the Book of Mormon may be considered the most remarkable and important religious text ever given to the world”   ( (Christ and the New Covenant [1997], 9–10).)

So while it was written as both, the main purpose was as a religious text.  The Book of Mormon wasn’t written for the people in that day.  It was written for the people in our day.  It is another testament of Jesus Christ.

Elder Russell M. Nelson had this to say in a 1999 General Conference talk entitled, A Testimony of the  Book of Mormon,

I would like to add my testimony of the divinity of this book. I have read it many times. I have also read much that has been written about it. Some authors have focused upon its stories, its people, or its vignettes of history. Others have been intrigued by its language structure or its records of weapons, geography, animal life, techniques of building, or systems of weights and measures.

 

Interesting as these matters may be, study of the Book of Mormon is most rewarding when one focuses on its primary purpose—to testify of Jesus Christ. By comparison, all other issues are incidental.

When Mormon abridged these records, he noted that he could not write a “hundredth part” of their proceedings. Thus, historical aspects of the book assume secondary significance. (emphasis mine)

Now as far as your question regarding the role of the Church Historian.  Elder Marlin K. Jensen,(previous church historian) explains the role of the  historian in an article that appeared in the Church News entitled, “Departing Church Historian shares History, Purpose of the Calling.

We also find the definition at Wikipedia to say:

“Church Historian and Recorder (usually shortened to Church Historian) is a priesthood calling in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The role of the Church Historian and Recorder is to keep an accurate and comprehensive record of the church and its activities. His office gathers history sources and preserves records, ordinances, minutes, revelations, procedures, and other documents. The Church Historian and Recorder also chairs the Historic Sites Committee and Records Management Committee, and may act as an authoritative voice of the church in historical matters.”

So in looking at what Elder Jensen states is the role and how it is defined at Wikipedia, I don’t see a mention that the Church Historian would be responsible for writing a history book.

Elder Steven E. Snow is the current general authority that holds the position of Church historian.

We currently have approximately 3,274 stakes and 23,022 wards worldwide.  Can you imagine the monumental task that would be to write a history of the  Church and what is happening in each of those units worldwide?  That’s why leaders are tasked with sending in reports that are kept and archived by the Church Historical Department.

As far as early Church history we have the Doctrine and Covenants.  This gives us a very comprehensive look at the early stages of the restoration.  The revelations given to Joseph Smith and to others regarding the translation of the Book of Mormon and the early structure of the Church.

Today, in the age of technology, there are numerous resources available to us where we can read about the history of the Church.  Some of those resources are:

Mormon Newsroom

Church History

Ensign Magazine

The Joseph Smith Papers

The official Church website

General Conference

Humanitarian Service

These are only a sampling of the numerous websites maintained by the Church.

While one might think that General Conference and Church magazines such as the Ensign are not history, I’m afraid I would have to disagree with this.  Listening to General Conference talks gives us the wonderful opportunity to hear from our prophets.  We get to hear their counsel and testimony of Jesus Christ.  We also get announcements of new temples, new general authorities and new organization presidencies.   All of which are historical moments within the Church,  They are then put into written form in our monthly magazines.  These conferences talks are also available online for millions of people to watch and to read.  They become a history of that General Conference session.  Just like we can read of the prophetic words of prophets of old in the scriptures, we can read the prophetic words of modern day prophets in our church magazines and online.

So I would invite you to check out the many resources already available to us.  I’m afraid we aren’t going to get a nice, tidy little package of a book for all to read.

 

Gramps

 

 

 

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