New Release: “Memoirs of John R. Young”

Working on the autobiography of John Young often led to interesting story-telling that left my friends constantly asking what other insane things John did in his life. He was Brigham Young’ s nephew and knew Joseph and Hyrum Smith personally as a child. In fact, it was Joseph who told John’s worried father:

“Brother Lorenzo, this boy will live to aid in carrying the Gospel to the nations of the earth.”

John’s memoirs detail many missions he completed in his life, all for the sake of the Prophet and the Kingdom of God that he loved so much. He rubbed shoulders with some of the most prominent figures in church history; serving under Parley P. Pratt in the Sandwich Islands, collaborating with Joseph F. Smith in the same mission, and constantly exchanging letters and visits with President Brigham Young, among others.

John was born in Kirtland, Ohio in 1837. He lived in Nauvoo and left with the saints when the persecution grew too great to remain there. He moved west, narrowly escaping being murdered by Native Americans and ruffians, and made it to the Salt Lake Valley with his family. He watched the people’s scanty wheat crop being eaten by crickets, and accounts his first-hand witness of the miracle of the seagulls. He served a four-year mission to the Sandwich Islands and encountered many miracles and many wild stories there. He served two missions to the Sandwich Islands, and one to Great Britain, as well as several settlement missions for the church.

John Young’s story is compelling, interesting, terrifying, heartening and enlightening. Much of his original poetry appears throughout the memoirs, as well as letters to and from his family and friends and various church leaders. His accounts of the Saints’ early struggles and the eulogies written for Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith are compelling and personal. His memoirs detail his faithfulness to the Gospel and to his family, of heeding the Prophets’ words and following the promptings of the Spirit.

“These are the scenes that many years have brought into my view,
And I testify, with soberness, the words I speak are true;
And to my wives and children dear, who cluster round my hearth,
I say, with tears of happiness, I’m glad I had a birth.”

Heidi Billy, one of our summer interns, produced both this book and this blog post. Thanks!

Double new release: “Kingdom of God” and “Divine Authority” by Orson Pratt

Orson Pratt is something of a colorful character in church history, and his writings prove his color. If he had a blog, he’d probably be something like Matt Walsh and a BYU religion professor put together. Both of these pamphlets, published in Great Britain, address two moving themes that particularly concern Latter-day Saints: Joseph Smith’s authority, and where, exactly, is the kingdom of God, and what does it entail?

Using logical arguments, Orson Pratt explores what might stipulate that God has again called a prophet and is working to establish His kingdom on the earth, in “Divine Authority.” Citing Biblical examples, prophecies, and stipulations, he shows that Joseph Smith truly was called and ordained of God to be His prophet, and to work to establish His church on the earth. “Kingdom of God” expands on his thoughts about what the Kingdom of God is and why it’s been missing for a long time. Again, he uses logic and some powerful statements to make his arguments and to strengthen his proclamations:

 “I will now tell you the reason why the King has kept silence so long. It is because he has had no subjects to converse with; all have turned away from him and advocated other governments as being the rightful and legal authority. . . . They have introduced a “God without BODY, PARTS or PASSIONS.” They have had the audacity to call this newly-invented god by the same name as the God of the ancient Saints, although there is not the least resemblance between them. . . . It is not to the true and living God that they send forth petitions, but it is to this imaginary being. No wonder that they have received no communication from him! no wonder he has not honored them with a visit. As he has no “PARTS,” he could neither be felt nor seen if he should visit them. Such a being could not speak, for he has no “parts” to speak with” (Kingdom of God)

These are the third and fourth Orson Pratt pamphlets we’ve made available (we released his “Interesting Account” and “Absurdities of Immaterialism” earlier this year), so a bit of biographical information about him is in order. Pratt was born in Hartford, Washington County, New York in 1811, descended from Anne Hutchinson, a famous woman of history for being religiously tolerant in very intolerant times. He went to school sporadically throughout his life, and at the age of 18 began to very earnestly pray about his salvation. Two missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints appeared in his neighborhood in September of 1830 and held meetings, which Orson and his older brother Parley P. Pratt attended. Orson was baptized on September 19, 1830, his nineteenth birthday. He then traveled independently to meet the prophet Joseph Smith. In a revelation given him by Joseph (D&C 34), he learned of his mission, to preach the gospel, and went on to serve several missions for the church. In 1836, Orson Pratt was called to the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in the newly restored dispensation. In his words,

“From 1836 to 1844, I occupied much of my leisure time in study, and made myself thoroughly acquainted with algebra, geometry, trigonometry, conic sections, differential and integral calculus, astronomy, and most of the physicial sciences. These studies I pursued without the assistance of a teacher.”

He became responsible for surveying land as the saints traveled west, measuring altitude and latitude, and is credited with helping to invent the odometer. He was also among the first to enter Salt Lake Valley. He made repeated trips across the country, using his travels to perform scientific research on the land the companies passed through. He continued his service as a member of the quorum of the Twelve, working for the kingdom and in his scientific pursuits, serving missions, presiding over branches of the church, and presenting in front of presidents and legislatures.

He was the last surviving member of the original quorum of the Twelve when he died in 1881, leaving behind a large family, a great body of mathematical research work, and a legacy of tireless service to the Kingdom of God. These pamphlets are part of his larger body of work, using logic and reasoning to discuss Joseph Smith’s calling as a prophet, what the Kingdom of God really entails, and what people can do to find the truth.

Both pamphlets and this blog post were produced by Heidi Billy, MTP Intern.

A prior version of this article incorrectly stated that Orson Pratt was born in Hartford, Washington, and was a native of Great Britain. He was actually born in Hartford, Washington County, New York. Apologies, and thanks for the comment that identified this.

New Release: “A New Witness for God” by B. H. Roberts

This book, first published in 1895 and now available on Project Gutenberg, is B. H. Roberts’ defense of Joseph Smith, the “New Witness” referred to in the title. He structures the book around four theses:

I. The world needs a New Witness for God. [One chapter.]

II. The Church of Christ was destroyed; there has been an apostasy from the Christian religion so complete and universal as to make necessary a New Dispensation of the Gospel; [Six chapters.]

III. The Scriptures declare that the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the last days—in the hour of God’s judgment—will be restored to the earth by a re-opening of the heavens, and giving a New Dispensation thereof to the children of men. [Two chapters.]

IV. Joseph Smith is the New Witness for God; a prophet divinely authorized to preach the Gospel and re-establish the Church of Jesus Christ on earth. [Twenty-one chapters.]

It’s thus an early, structured argument for the Restoration with an emphasis on Joseph Smith. To contextualize the book’s original publication date of 1895, consider that it was 16 years before James E. Talmage was ordained an apostle, and John A. Widtsoe was 23 at the time. I would bet that both read this book.

Apparently it met with success; later on, Roberts wrote two more volumes on the Book of Mormon as another new witness, and they and the original volume were printed together as “New Witnesses for God.” We plan to release all three volumes, and Diane, who did this one (and deserves all your thanks!), is already working on the second.


The twelve newest free ebooks of LDS classics—this year!

We’re halfway through 2014, and year-to-date the Mormon Texts Project has almost doubled the number of LDS books available on Project Gutenberg, as you can see from the graph. At the start of the year there were 21 LDS books on PG, and now there are 36. That’s more than two new books on PG per month, folks. Of the fifteen that are new to Project Gutenberg, twelve are all-new productions (hence the title of this post), and three were previously available but only on the MTP site and in fewer formats. Without further ado, here’s the list of new PG books:

  1. “The Vitality of Mormonism: An Address” by James E. Talmage
  2. “Leaves From My Journal” by Wilford Woodruff
  3. “The Mormon Doctrine of Deity” by B. H. Roberts
  4. “The Life of John Taylor” by B. H. Roberts
  5. “My First Mission” by George Q. Cannon
  6. “The House of the Lord: A Study of Holy Sanctuaries, Ancient and Modern” by James E. Talmage
  7. “The Government of God” by John Taylor
  8. “Essentials in Church History” by Joseph Fielding Smith
  9. “General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States” by Joseph Smith
  10. “History of the Prophet Joseph by his Mother” by Lucy Smith
  11. “Absurdities of Immaterialism” by Orson Pratt
  12. “An Interesting Account of Several Remarkable Visions” by Orson Pratt
  13. “Spencer’s Letters” by Orson Spencer
  14. “The Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt” by Parley P. Pratt
  15. “William Clayton’s Journal” by William Clayton

This would not be possible without our dedicated volunteers. They’ve put in many, many hours of proofreading, often starting from painful-to-read OCR output but ultimately producing the near-flawless texts you see on Project Gutenberg. My thanks go out to them.

Believe it or not, only one of the above was produced by our interns, but as the end of the internship program approaches and their projects start getting finished expect to see at least ten more books from them over the next couple months. The second half of this year should be even better than the first.

New Release: “The Vitality of Mormonism: An Address” by James E. Talmage

This is a short, but spectacular LDS pamphlet written by James E. Talmage, better known for Jesus the Christ and his other book-length works. Get it on Project Gutenberg.

The address was originally “delivered by invitation at a meeting of the Denver Philosophical Society, at Denver, Colorado, December 14th, 1916″ and was later re-printed in pamphlet form. It runs to only 45 pages, and provides a brief, but complete explanation of the important beliefs of Mormonism. Talmage divides his remarks under three headings: “facts attesting the vitality and virility of the Church,” “some causes thereof,” and “some of the results,” and he discusses the restoration, growth, and beliefs of the church through both the 13 Articles of Faith and a brief discussion of scriptures.

It’s similar to “The Story of Mormonism” and “The Philosophy of Mormonism” in that it’s an example of Talmage explaining the Church to educated non-members. His style shows:

“Mormonism” affirms that the “everlasting Gospel” has been restored to earth in the manner specified, that is by angelic ministration. The necessity of a restoration postulates the prior removal of the thing restored; and the restoration of the Gospel is proof of the precedent apostasy of mankind. But, it may be asked, had not we the Holy Bible, the scriptural repository of the Gospel record? The letter, yes. But surely the Gospel is more than a book. The Holy Bible prescribes administrative ordinances as essential to salvation baptism by water and the bestowal of the Holy Ghost by the authoritative imposition of hands, the rebirth of water and of the Spirit, without which, unless the Lord Christ spoke to Nicodemus falsely, no man can enter the kingdom of God. Who will venture to affirm that a possession of a copy of the Holy Bible, or even a letter-perfect memorization of the contents thereof, can give to men the right to administer in the ordinances therein prescribed?

Happy reading!


Special thanks to Emma Cahoon, who as part of her Mormon Texts Project internship proofread this pamphlet, produced it for Project Gutenberg, and contributed to this blog post. She was the first intern to finish the program, and she did great work, especially considering her patience as our first experimental intern. Her other project, History of the Church vol. 2, should be available on Project Gutenberg soon.

This prophet wants you to read his book.

New Release: “Leaves From My Journal” by Wilford Woodruff

This one’s pretty much self-explanatory: it’s an abridgment from Wilford Woodruff’s journals combined with a bit of his commentary, aimed at the youth of the Church. Get it on Project Gutenberg. The original publisher’s preface probably pitches it as well as I could:

Brother Woodruff is a remarkable man. Few men now living, who have followed the quiet and peaceful pursuits of life, have had such an interesting and eventful experience as he has. Few, if any in this age, have spent a more active and useful life. Certainly no man living has been more particular about recording with his own hand, in a daily journal, during half a century, the events of his own career and the things that have come under his observation. His elaborate journal has always been one of the principal sources from which the Church history has been compiled.

Possessed of wonderful energy and determination, and mighty faith, Brother Woodruff has labored long and with great success in the Church. He has ever had a definite object in view—to know the will of the Almighty and to do it. No amount of self-denial has been too great for him to cheerfully endure for the advancement of the cause of God. No labor required of the Saints has been considered by him too onerous to engage in with his own hands.

Satan, knowing the power for good that Brother Woodruff would be, if permitted to live, has often sought to effect his destruction.

The adventures, accidents and hair-breath escapes that he has met with, are scarcely equalled by the record that the former apostle, Paul, has left us of his life.

The power of God has been manifested in a most remarkable manner in preserving Brother Woodruff’s life. Considering the number of bones he has had broken, and the other bodily injuries he has received, it is certainly wonderful that now, at the age of seventy-five years, he is such a sound, well-preserved man. God grant that his health and usefulness may continue for many years to come.

Of course, this volume contains but a small portion of the interesting experience of Brother Woodruff’s life, but very many profitable lessons may be learned from it, and we trust at some future time to be favored with other sketches from his pen.

This book is the third in George Q. Cannon’s “Faith-Promoting Series,” which are relatively short books (originally ~100 pages) composed primarily of biography, missionary histories, etc. and aimed at the youth of the Church. George Q. Cannon’s “My First Mission” (also on PG) was the first in the same series. There are over a dozen books in the series; we hope to produce them all eventually, and one is currently in progress. For all you diehard Wilford Woodruff fans out there, we’re also working on Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life, a biography based extensively on his journals that runs to about 700 pages and ought to be useful for those of us who can’t shell out four grand to buy copies of the journals themselves (which are sadly out-of-print, rare, and still subject to copyright, as they weren’t published until long after his death).

Thanks to Benjamin Keogh and Elissa Nysetvold, two of our volunteers, for proofreading this book.

Introducing our BYU student research fund

Starting this Fall, MTP will fund one or more BYU student researchers who will help us increase our output of books. MTP is staffed by volunteers, our work to date has been done entirely by volunteers, and we expect that the majority of our work will always be done by volunteers. However, we recognize that many people who would like to support our work (including some of us, frankly) have more discretionary money than discretionary time,  and we’ve heard of interest in making donations, hence this program.

The best BYU students are as capable as anyone of quickly producing high-quality e-books. They are also typically in need of financial assistance and relevant career experience. Through this fund, we will simultaneously help students avoid debt, give them resume-friendly proofreading experience (“I proofread and produced five e-books start to finish”), and increase our output of books in a cost-effective way. At standard research assistant wages and average productivity, this program will make an extra book available on Project Gutenberg for every $425 we receive in donations. In light of all this, we believe that funding student researchers at BYU to work on ebook production offers excellent value for everyone involved. Furthermore, by channeling donations through BYU, donors can take advantage of BYU’s tax-exempt status and of many employer matching gift programs.

In the interest of putting our money where our mouths are, the staff and volunteers of MTP will be donating on an ongoing basis and putting up several thousand dollars to kick-start this program. For more information, see our Donate tab.