New Release: “The Gospel: An Exposition of its First Principles” by B. H. Roberts

This is the first published book of B. H. Roberts (1857-1933), often considered the greatest intellectual in the history of the Church. It was first published in 1888; our version is based on the 1893 “revised and enlarged” second edition, which also includes a supplement entitled “Man’s Relationship to Deity.”   Though many in the LDS Church have some knowledge of the first four principles of the gospel, namely faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost, Roberts’ book seeks to expand upon that knowledge and help the reader see a more complete view of the gospel. Well-versed in scripture, Roberts supports his claims through the use of the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, and early versions of the Doctrine and Covenants, including the Lectures on Faith. Through a very methodical approach, the reader is guided through each of the first principles in a detailed, specific way.

For example, Roberts explains the following about faith:

“Faith is based upon evidence, then, and here I would remark, that the faith will be true or false according as the evidence or testimony is truthful or untruthful. Evidence is to faith what the fountain is to the stream; and as an impure fountain cannot send forth pure streams, so incorrect evidence cannot establish a true or profitable faith.”

Of repentance, he states:

“That repentance is the first result growing out of faith in God and the Gospel, is abundantly proven from the scriptures. The multitude that assembled on the day of Pentecost, and listened to the remarks of the apostles, and even heard them speak in tongues, by the power of the Holy Ghost, were ready to scoff at those things, and even went so far as to say that these men were drunken with new wine; but when Peter arose and reasoned with them from the scriptures, proving from the law and the prophets that Jesus, whom the Jews had slain, was both Lord and Christ, his words and testimony were accompanied by so much of the power of God, that conviction took hold of the people, and, as with one voice, they cried, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ In this instance, then, the first fruits of that faith which had been created in the minds of this people, was a desire to know what they were to do; and the first words that the inspired apostle said in reply were, ‘Repent, every one of you.'”

Following repentance, he teaches of baptism:

“That baptism is a general commandment all may learn who will take the trouble to make inquiry in respect to it. John the Baptist informs us that God sent him to baptize with water and to testify of him who was to come after him, and who was to baptize with the Holy Ghost; and those who refused to hearken to his teachings and to be baptized of him ‘rejected the counsels of God against themselves.'”

And finally, as he expounds upon the Holy Ghost, we learn:

“The necessity of this baptism of the Holy Ghost is made apparent, first, by the plain declaration of the Savior himself, wherein he says, except a man is born of the Spirit as well as of the water, he cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven; and of course outside of the kingdom of heaven there can be no salvation, nor perfect happiness; second, its necessity appears from the very nature of things.”

With these small excerpts, we catch but a glimpse of the vast knowledge and inspiration that B.H. Roberts shares in this book. It is a fascinating read, and will help anyone who reads it to come closer to Christ.

This blog post and book were produced by Kimball Gardner, one of our excellent BYU summer interns.

New Release: “Forty Years Among the Indians” by Daniel W. Jones

This riveting autobiography of Daniel W. Jones (1830-1915) is a journey through time. As described in the subtitle, it is “a true yet thrilling narrative of the author’s experiences among the natives.” Daniel W. Jones first thought that Mormons could not be trusted, but after an accidental gunshot wound in the leg led him to stop in Provo in 1850, he quickly realized they were good people and was baptized into the Church. He became a leader in the church, helping settle many areas and communicating with the natives. Although this history does include many encounters with the natives, Jones focuses on his own conversion and testimony. Although there were many times Jones felt conflicted over dealings in the church, he remained true to the Lord:

I counseled with those who presided over me, and though the advice I received was contrary to my ideas of justice and right, I followed it, though it was at the complete sacrifice of my home acquired by years of toil and hardship. I was determined to retain my standing in the Church at any cost, and leave judgment with the Lord, who will eventually deal out strict justice to all men.

One of the most interesting stories Jones includes in this history regards the church members’ associations with the natives. While working with the Indians, the natives expressed a desire to settle with the members:

Some of these Indians expressed a desire to come and settle with us; this was the most interesting part of the mission to me and I naturally supposed that all the company felt the same spirit, but I soon found my mistake, for on making this desire of the Indians known to the company many objected, some saying that they did not want their families brought into association with these dirty Indians…at the time I acted according to the best light I had and determined to stick to the Indians.

Jones continually worked with the Indians to try to find peace between their way of life and that of the lives of the members of the church. He always remained true to the church, but he also tried to help the natives as much as he could.

This book is an incredible read. It provides great insight on the early history of the church and shows the many miracles that helped the members settle and spread, while interacting with the natives.

This book and blog post were produced by Mariah Averett, one of our BYU volunteer summer interns.

New Release: “Items on the Priesthood” by John Taylor

This 1881 pamphlet by President John Taylor contains an early, authoritative doctrinal discussion of the role of bishops in the Church, which, in context, is more significant than it might appear at first blush.

As any careful reader of the Doctrine and Covenants will be aware, bishops with various duties were called early in Church history, but the office of bishop was not a Church standard for local lay ecclesiastical leaders. The history of the office is actually somewhat convoluted; in the early Utah period it seems there were simultaneously traveling bishops, a presiding bishop, and local bishops whose responsibilities overlapped with local presidents of the Melchizedek priesthood. Some confusion and conflict resulted, so towards the end of Brigham Young’s life he directed the institution of a more or less modern structure of wards and stakes, with recognizably modern bishoprics. This was announced in an Orson Pratt address in 1877. (I’m drawing most of this history from a fascinating Dialogue article and the Encyclopedia of Mormonism.)

Then, in 1881, John Taylor issued this pamphlet as a (perhaps the) definitive doctrinal explanation of the doctrine of the bishopric, with the following preface:

As there is more or less uncertainty existing in the minds of many of the Bishops and others in regard to the proper status and authority of the Bishopric and what is denominated the “Aaronic or Levitical” Priesthood, I thought it best to lay before the brethren a general statement of the subject, as contained in the Bible and Book of Doctrine and Covenants.

The following views have been submitted to the Council of the Twelve and have received their sanction; they were also laid before the Priesthood Meeting at the Semi-Annual Conference, held in the Assembly Hall, Salt Lake City, October 9th, A. D. 1880, and were unanimously accepted by the large body of Priesthood present on that occasion.

As you read the body of the pamphlet, it will seem familiar, but the key thing to realize is that this is one of the first detailed doctrinal statements on the bishopric that would seem so familiar to a modern reader. Furthermore, it was issued by the prophet and sustained in a general conference and by the Twelve, so it has checked off most of the key requirements for canonization. Given all this, it’s as close as we have (at least that I know of) to a scriptural explanation of exactly how all the pieces of the modern doctrine of the bishopric fit together. It sure seems like it should be better-known. Anyways, have a read.

Many thanks to Samuel Shreeve, our lone intern from Utah State University, for producing this e-book. It’s being released mid-week because, thanks to the wrap-up phase of the internship program, we already have another whole book to release this weekend and even more on the horizon. Keep an eye out for more releases.

New Release: “A Voice from Jerusalem” by Orson Hyde

This pamphlet compiles several letters Orson Hyde sent on his famous mission to Jerusalem, and includes his dedicatory prayer for the Holy Land at the Mount of Olives. Hyde (1805-1878), a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve, received a vision (described in the pamphlet) in which he was called to go to Jerusalem, as alluded to in his dedicatory prayer:

Now, O Lord! thy servant has been obedient to the heavenly vision which thou gavest him in his native land; and under the shadow of thine outstretched arm, he has safely arrived in this place to dedicate and consecrate this land unto Thee, for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants, according to the predictions of the holy prophets—for the building up of Jerusalem again after it has been trodden down by the Gentiles so long, and for rearing a temple in honour of thy name.

The prayer is a substantial portion of the pamphlet, but he also discusses his travels, his reception, and the state and future of Jerusalem and its environs. (For more general information on his mission, there’s a good Ensign article here.) His commentary on the future of the Jews is interesting and indeed prophetic:

It was by political power and influence that the Jewish nation was broken down, and her subjects dispersed abroad; and I will here hazard the opinion, that by political power and influence, they will be gathered and built up; and, further, that England is destined, in the wisdom and economy of heaven, to stretch forth the arm of political power, and advance in the front ranks of this glorious enterprise. The Lord once raised up a Cyrus to restore the Jews, but that was not evidence that he owned the religion of the Persians. This opinion I submit, however, to your superior wisdom to correct, if you shall find it wrong.

On a similar note, his discussion of the state of Syria at the time seems all too familiar:

Syria at present is in a very unsettled state. The Drewzes and Catholics are fighting almost constantly. They sometimes kill hundreds and hundreds of a day. In some sections it is not unfrequent that the traveller meets some dozen or twenty men by the way-side without heads, in a day. In a letter from Bavaria, I stated that hostilities had recommenced between the Turks and Egyptians; I took the statement from a German paper, but it was a mistake. The hostilities were between the lesser tribes in Syria. The American missionaries at Beyrout and Mount Lebanon have received official notice through Commodore Porter, our minister at Constantinople, from the Grand Sultan, that hereafter they can have no redress by law for any violence, outrage, or cruelty, that may be practiced upon them by the people; and advises them to leave the country. This course is approved of by Commodore Porter. I read the correspondence between him and Mr. Chassan, our consul at Beyrout; but all is going on in the providence of God. Syria and Palestine must ferment and ferment, work and work, until they work into the hands of Abraham’s children to whom they rightly belong; and may the God of their fathers bless the hand that aids their cause.

Beyond the historical/political aspects of this pamphlet, it’s fun to get a first-hand feel for missionary work in the early years of the Church. This is actually one of a number of pamphlets in what you might call the “mission report” genre that we hope to produce in the coming months and years.

The proofreading for this pamphlet was done by Renah Holmes, one of our tireless volunteers, and Samuel Shreeve, our Utah State University volunteer intern. Thanks!

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.