During my senior year of BYU and for a year after graduation, I worked for the Church History Department. No, I don’t know lots of things about family history because no, Church history is not family history (although it is usually thought to be so). While I many be biased, I think that the Church History Department has some of the greatest hidden treasures in it. For example, the year that I worked there full-time, I was in charge of Annual Histories, which are histories that every single stake, mission, and district submits to Salt Lake City (specifically, my desk) as a summation of their year. Most people had never heard of the Annual History, and if they had, they assumed nobody looked at them. However, Annual Histories are some of the most used items within the Church History Library. I loved calling down the histories from the stake I grew up in and seeing if I could find myself in the annals of Church History. I also love Church History because it is full of stories of Saints from all over the world. It is amazing to see the gospel at work across all continents.
Here’s another little known fact: there’s actually a Church History section in your LDS Library app. It’s at the almost very bottom of the main list, under the subtitle of “other.” Inside there, you’ll be able to find some of the publications I’m going to talk about.
1. Saints, Volume 1.
I am so excited about this four-part publication. You can actually find some of it published in The Ensign. Saints, Volume 1 tells the story of the Church in a narrative style. No longer do you need to try and piece together the history of the Church thorough the revelations within D&C. Now, you can read the history of the Church and feel as though you’re reading a novel—included with great footnotes for when you’re more curious about something mentioned within the text. What also excites me about this publication is that it’s going to cover all of Church history—not just the Restoration. I’m so excited to see the later volumes about the expansion of the Church into a global Church. It’s such an amazing and little-known part of our history. You can find the published chapters within your LDS Library and online (linked above).
2. Pioneers in Every Land
Pioneers in Every Land is one of my favorite Church History publications. Amazing videos and stories about Saints from every corner of the earth and their own journeys as pioneers in their countries. So often, we celebrate our pioneer ancestors who trekked across the United States, while not thinking about the Saints who are the first members of the Church within their own nations. These stories are powerful and so incredibly faith-building. The things people around the world sacrifice to be members of this Church is amazing to me.
3. At the Pulpit: 185 Years of Discourses by Latter-day Saint Women
I talked about this amazing publication last month, but in case you missed that, let me reiterate the importance of this book. As women within the Church, it is so important that we know what we can do and what we have done. It is important for us to read the discourses of our predecessors and incorporate them into our lessons and our lives. These discourses are beautifully written and so insightful. I promise that you will not be disappointed to learn from the female leaders of the Church through the years. This book can also be found within the LDS Library.
4. Revelations in Context
If you find yourself studying D&C, this book should be an essential part of your studies. Section by section, this book gives the background on revelations, including information about the people mentioned within the revelations. It’s fascinating to read and so helpful because it allows you to really begin to understand the revelations. It also shows insight into the way that prophetic revelation works and what the early Church was like. This book is within your LDS Library.
5. Gospel Topic Essays
Hopefully most people are already aware of the “Gospel Topic Essays,” but in case you aren’t, you now can be. The “Gospel Topic Essays” are essays written by historians and others within the Church about difficult Church subjects—including polygamy, the 1978 Revelation on the Priesthood, and the Book of Abraham (just to name a few). These are great resources when you bump into a subject that you don’t quite understand, as they are candid essays about various aspects related to touchy subjects. They’re so much more helpful than anything you can find from a simple google-ing of these topics.
Next time you’re looking for a great Sunday activity, I suggest heading over to History.lds.org to discover the great hidden treasure that is the Church History Department. Additionally, if you’re in Salt Lake, you can visit the recently redone Church History Museum and Church History Library at Temple Square. They are amazing resources and will open your eyes to all the department has to offer. Church History isn’t boring; it’s incredible and fascinating. I promise that if you take some time to dive into these resources, your life will be enriched.