Earlier this year, I stumbled across the first several chapters of Saints in the Church History section of the My Gospel Library app. I listened to it on my phone, fell in love with the writing style, and finished it quickly. I read and listened to those available chapters several more times and kept checking back to see if more chapters had been added.
Imagine my happiness when I found out that this book was just part one of a four book series!
Elder Steven E. Snow wrote:
In 1861, President Brigham Young (1801–77) urged Church historians to change their approach. “Write in a narrative style,” he advised, and “write only about one tenth part as much.” (see Snow's introductory article about the book, Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days.)
What wonderful advice from President Young so many years ago and I am glad the Church has taken the initiative to write Saints in a narrative style. It is historically accurate and has been meticulously researched in every detail but it reads more like a novel. One of my favorite genres is historical fiction and this book FEELS like historical fiction but it is NOT fiction which makes it even more fascinating and meaningful.
One man, Steven C. Harper called Saints a "happy marriage between accurate history and narrative storytelling." This style helps people feel like they are experiencing the early years of our church rather than sifting through tons of historical documents (which would be a tedious and boring task, no offense historians). If you listen to the story, most of the chapters are around 15-20 minutes long. If you listen to just one chapter a day you can finish the entire book in 6 or 7 weeks.
The complete first volume of Saints was available as of September 4, 2018. It contains 46 chapters and is available in many languages.
Here's how you can access the first volume of Saints:
1) Gospel Library app (free)
2) store.lds.org ($5.75 for a paperback)
3) Online at saints.lds.org (free)
4) Deseret Book ($5.75 for paperback)
5) Amazon (Kindle) (free)
As Church Historian, Steven C. Harper, said:
This story is not about perfect people; it is about fallen people who are trying to become saints through the Savior's Atonement by making and keeping covenants.
Bingo! I appreciate the honesty and transparency in Saints. Often times people question their faith when they learn about uncomfortable historical events or the imperfections of Church leaders. For me, it is comforting to know that all people on earth struggle, fail, repent, succeed, learn, and grow.
Our early Church leaders communicated with Heavenly Father through prayer and received revelation, and inspiration, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. We can follow this same pattern today.
In the talk Precious Gifts from God By President M. Russell Ballard, it reads:
We should not be surprised to know that those individuals called to do the Lord’s work are not humanly perfect. Stories in the scriptures detail incidents about men and women who were called of God to accomplish a great work—good sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father called to serve in their assignments in the Church, striving to do their best, but none of them yet perfect. The same is true of us today. Given the reality of our human weaknesses and shortcomings, how do we move forward in supporting and sustaining each other? It begins with faith--real, sincere faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Faith in the Savior is the first principle of the doctrine and gospel of Christ.
Saints doesn't sugar coat the history of the early Church and the leaders and followers of that time. Were there things in the book that surprised me? Yes. Did they shake my faith. No. In fact, this book has strengthened my faith.
It would be harsh to judge people who lived hundreds of years ago based on our knowledge today. They saw things through a different lens than we do now just as my future grand-kids will see things from their own circumstances and perspectives. Saints allows us to glimpse what was happening in the world that our early Church leaders and members lived in.
I have also enjoyed listening to various episodes on the Saints podcast and also watching the Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults: A Face to Face Event with Elder Quentin L. Cook which was held in Nauvoo on 9/9/18. Both of these venues encourage discussion and thought about Church history and faith.
Many people worked on creating Saints. I heard that it took six years to finish it. You can tell that it was a magnificent joint effort between historians, creative writers, etc. I can't imagine the work that goes into researching, writing, translating, and publishing historical books like Saints. Of course this book was also read and approved by the First Presidency of the Church (which means it went through quite the approval process).
Based on the workload that was involved in creating the first volume, I have no idea when the next three volumes of Saints will be published. Hopefully they have already been working on it for a while. Out of curiosity, I searched online and found out what each volume will contain:
Volume 1 "The Standard of Truth" tells the story of the Restoration, from Joseph Smith’s childhood to the Saints receiving ordinances in the Nauvoo Temple in 1846. (AVAILABLE NOW)
Volume 2 "No Unhallowed Hand" will cover the Saints’ challenges in gathering to the western United States and will finish with the dedication of the Salt Lake Temple in 1893.
Volume 3 "Boldly, Nobly, and Independent" will narrate the global growth of the Church, ending with the dedication of the temple in Bern, Switzerland, in 1955.
Volume 4 "Sounded in Every Ear" will bring the reader to the recent past, when temples are located all over the world.
Saints need Saints (the book). In fact even if you're not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I encourage you to read it. If you need more convincing, here's a link to 6 Reasons Why You Should Read the New Church History Book, Saints.
I hope you feel motivated to read Saints and that you enjoy it as much as I have. Feel free to leave comments about your experiences with this book.