Merry Christmas! Our gift to you–three new (free) book releases!

Thanks to some great work by our volunteers, President Heber C. Kimball’s Journal (Faith-Promoting Series book #7), Precious Memories (Faith-Promoting Series book #16), and Cowley’s Talks on Doctrine by Matthias F. Cowley are now up on Project Gutenberg.

Heber C. Kimball was a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve, member of Brigham Young’s First Presidency, President of the British Mission, etc., so his journal is naturally of interest. Precious Memories, like various other books in the Faith-Promoting Series, is an anthology of missionary and other stories targeted at the youth of the Church; anyone who’s read anything in the series will probably understand our enthusiasm for it. Finally, Matthias F. Cowley was a member of the Twelve, and Ben E. Rich, the noted mission president and publisher, liked his talks so much that he published the just-released compilation for use in a missionary context.

As you can see, although December’s been slow for the blog, the project’s work has been moving along well. Several big projects are right on the brink of completion; keep your eyes out for more holiday surprises and an annual report.

Merry Christmas and happy reading!

New Release: B. H. Roberts’ “New Witnesses for God”, vol. 2 of 3

In A New Witness for God, originally published as a stand-alone work in 1895 and previously released, Roberts made his case for Joseph Smith. Volumes 2 and 3, published in 1909, make his case for The Book of Mormon. This, not his devil’s advocate “Studies” that sometimes attract more attention (both apologetic and critical), should be considered Roberts’ key treatment of the Book of Mormon. Vol. 2 is now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg thanks to the dedication of Diane Evans, who also proofread vol. 1 and is now working on (wait for it…) vol. 3.

Volumes 2 and 3 discuss four topics:

I.—The Value of the Book of Mormon as a Witness for the Authenticity and Integrity of the Bible; and the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

II.—The Discovery of the Book of Mormon and its Translation, Migrations, Lands, Intercontinental Movements, Civilizations, Governments, and the Religions of its Peoples.

III.—Evidences of the Truth of the Book of Mormon.

IV.—Objections to the Book of Mormon Considered.

Vol. 2 treats the first three, with Part III forming the bulk of the text. Among other evidences, Roberts discusses at length the testimony of the Eight, Three, and other witnesses, as well as then-current knowledge of the ancient Americas as it relates to The Book of Mormon. It’s a must-read for understanding B. H. Roberts’ thought on the founding scripture of the Restoration. Expect volume 3 to be released sometime next year.

New Release: “History of the Church”, vol. 2

All you who have already finished volume 1 and have been waiting on pins and needles, rejoice! History of the Church vol. 2 is now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg thanks to excellent work by Emma Cahoon, one of our interns last summer, and Mariah Averett, our BYU research assistant. (Mariah’s work is generously supported by a handful of donors, who we also thank.) They’ve put a tremendous amount of work into it; producing a book of this size that maintains the original footnotes, page numbers, index, etc. is quite an achievement.

If you missed vol. 1, that’s available here. More to come in the coming months.

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

Turns out Talmage wrote two works with this title: the pamphlet subtitled “An Address”, which we’ve previously released and discussed, and the book subtitled “Brief Essays on Distinctive Doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints”, which we’ve just released on Project Gutenberg. They don’t seem to be related by much other than Talmage’s enthusiasm for the title.

Talmage states in his preface: “The short essays following have been published at weekly intervals through two years; they number therefore one hundred and four. Concise rather than exhaustive treatment has been attempted.” They treat a variety of gospel topics. Frankly, this is another one where other people did all the proofreading and I haven’t been able to read it yet, but it’s Talmage and that alone is a pretty good recommendation.

With this, Project Gutenberg has a pretty complete collection of Talmage’s out-of-copyright original religious books. (His scientific works are a bit outside our typical scope, so don’t hold your breath on that front.) Pat on the back to all the volunteers involved, both ours and those from Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders (responsible for Jesus the Christ and Articles of Faith).

New Release: “Gospel Doctrine” by Joseph F. Smith, ed. Widtsoe

Elder John A. Widtsoe’s 1919 compilation of Pres. Joseph F. Smith’s sermons and writings is now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg. (Still also available on the internet as a $30 paperback, but really…)

At 685 pages, it’s a pretty meaty doctrinal work. Widtsoe is fantastic, and as the preface states, this is his “Joseph F. Smith—Greatest Hits” compilation:

President Joseph F. Smith was so long in the public service of the Church that his published sermons and writings would fill many volumes. The difficult problem of the compilers of this volume has been to make a collection of extracts that would do full justice to the man and that, at the same time, could be contained in a volume of moderate size. Every reader who knows Church literature will note the shortcomings of the work; and none more than the compilers. However, incomplete as it may be, this collection is well worth while, for it contains a wealth of gospel wisdom, to instruct, comfort, and inspire the Saints.

The literature of the Church has been carefully and systematically searched to discover all of President Smith’s public writings and sermons. Those of a historical nature have not been used in this collection, as they may well be made into another volume.

The compilers give their thanks to the many who, with hearts full of love for President Smith, have helped in the work.

The work has reaffirmed to us that prophets, speaking for God, are with us.

The Compilers.

Thanks to Noah Read for proofreading the whole text. Enjoy.

New Release: History of the Church, vol. 1

Our multi-format free e-book of History of the Church, vol. 1 by Joseph Smith (ed. B. H. Roberts) is now available on Project Gutenberg thanks to the work of intern Jared Ure and research assistant Mariah Averett. It takes the history of the Church up to 1834 and includes the original 1902 edition page numbers, footnotes, and index.

A discussion of why we’re producing the History of the Church may be in order. The entire History of the Church is available as a paid Kindle e-book or for free as a webpage or .pdf, and the Joseph Smith Papers are reproducing much of the same material. The Joseph Smith Papers are available for free online (in a format that I find isn’t friendly to through-reading, but is fine for looking up one-off documents) and are superior as a scholarly source, but for whatever reason their e-books are absurdly expensive on Kindle (up to $40/volume, last I checked) and many volumes don’t appear to be available in e-book formats.

So why invest a substantial amount of time in producing our own version? Because best I can tell, this is the first time this material has ever been released for free in Kindle and epub formats. I think there are plenty of readers in the Church who would like to give the History of the Church a try, but don’t want to have to sit at a computer or pay to do so. Now they can.

This fits with our broader philosophy: we want to make it as easy as possible to read Church literature and thus increase the total amount of Church lit that actually gets read. Taking obscure works from unavailable (e.g. hard copies exist in one archive) to free improves availability. Taking well-known books from free+inconvenient (e.g. pdf scans) and/or cheap+convenient (e.g. dubious-quality $0.99 Amazon editions) to free+convenient also improves availability. The obscure work wins “most improved” and goes from having one reader/year to five readers/year. The well-known book goes from having 100 readers/year who are willing to deal with the .pdf or risk their dollar on an e-book to 500 readers/year who are willing to download our free e-book. Both projects are good, and we do work on some more obscure books. However, given our goal to increase the total amount of Church lit reading that goes on in the world, we’ll typically work on better-known books, hence the History of the Church. Anyways, look out for volume 2 in the next month or so.

Largest release ever: five new e-books

It was a productive summer, and my pace of writing official release posts for books has fallen behind volunteers’ pace of production. To catch up in one fell swoop, the following are now available on Project Gutenberg:

Rays of Living Light by Elder Charles W. Penrose is a collection of twelve pamphlets on basic doctrines of the gospel.

The Strength of the “Mormon” Position by Elder Orson F. Whitney is a 48-page pamphlet published by the missions of the Church in 1917.

Lydia Knight’s History by Susa Young Gates has a pretty self-explanatory title.

Gems for the Young Folksthe fourth book of the Faith-Promoting Series, is an anthology of missionary anecdotes and similar material.

Early Scenes in Church History, the eighth book of the Faith-Promoting Series, is a similar anthology.

I’d give more detail, but frankly I haven’t been able to read any of these yet. (Hazards of the pace we hit this summer.) Maybe in the future. Anyways, happy reading!