Monthly Archives: June 2014

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.

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.

“Spencer’s Letters” Excerpt: Testimony of the Book of Mormon

The following excerpt, from Letter I of Spencer’s Letters, discusses Orson Spencer’s conversion from the Baptist faith. As we discussed last week, Spencer was a Baptist minister with two college degrees before converting and eventually becoming President of the British Mission, Chancellor of the University of Deseret, etc. 


While I was inquiring to know what the Lord would have me to do, many brethren of different denominations warned and exhorted me faithfully; but their warnings consisted very much in a lively exhibition of evils to be endured, if I persisted; or, in other words, they appealed to my selfish nature. But I knew too well that truth should not be abandoned through the force of such appeals, however eloquently urged. Some with whom I conversed, gave glowing descriptions of the obnoxious character of Joseph Smith, and of the contradictory and unscriptural jargon of the Book of Mormon, but it was their misfortune usually to be deplorably ignorant of the true character of either.

Of the truth of this statement many instances might be furnished, if the limits of my sheet would allow. My own solicitude to know the character of Mr. Smith, in order to judge of the doctrines propagated by him, was not so great as that of some others. My aversion to the worship of man, is both educational and religious; but I said boldly, concerning Mr. Smith, that whoever had arranged and harmonized such a system of irresistible truth, has borne good fruit. Some suggested that it would be wisdom to make a personal acquaintance with Mr. Smith, previous to embracing his doctrines; but to me the obligation to receive the truths of heaven seemed absolute, whatever might be the character of Mr. Smith.

I read diligently the Book of Mormon from beginning to end, in close connexion with the comments of Origen Bachelor, Laroy Sunderland, and Dr. Hulburt, together with newspapers and some private letters obtained from the surviving friends of Mr. Spaulding, the supposed author of that book. I arose from its perusal with a strong conviction on my mind, that its pages were graced with the pen of inspiration. I was surprised that so little fault could be found with a book of such magnitude, treating, as it did, of such diversified subjects, through a period of so many generations. It appeared to me, that no enemy to truth or godliness would ever take the least interest in publishing the contents of such a book; such appeared to me to be its godly bearing, sound morality, and harmony with ancient scriptures, that the enemy of all righteousness might as well proclaim the dissolution of his own kingdom, as to spread the contents of such a volume among men; and from that time to this, every effort made by its enemies to demolish, has only shown how invincible a fortress defends it. If no greater breach can be made upon it, than has hitherto been made by those who have attacked it with the greatest animosity and diligence, its overthrow may be considered a forlorn hope. On this subject I only ask the friends of pure religion to read the Book of Mormon with the same unprejudiced, prayerful, and teachable spirit that they would recommend unbelievers in the ancient scriptures to read those sacred records. I have not spoken of the external evidence of the truth of the Book of Mormon, which is now worthy of much consideration; but the internal evidence, I think, will satisfy every honest mind. As you enquire after the reasons that operated to change my mind to the present faith, I only remark that “Steven’s Travels” had some influence, as an external evidence of the truth of the Book of Mormon.

My present view, after which you also enquire, is, that the evidence, both internal and external, have been multiplied. It may have caused surprise and wonder to many of my respected and distinguished friends in New England, how I could ever renounce a respectable standing in the churches and in the ministry, to adhere to a people so odious in every one’s mouth, and so revolting to every one’s natural liking; the answer in part is this:—As soon as I discovered an identity in the doctrines of the Latter-day Saints and the Ancient Saints, I enquired whether the treatment bestowed upon each was also similar. I immediately began to dig deep to find the foundation and corner-stone of the true church; I looked at the demeanour and character of those who surrounded the Ancient Saints. The result of my observation seemed to be, that even Jesus Christ had many objectionable points of character to those who observed him. Those who were reputedly most conversant with Abraham, Moses, and other prophets of the Lord, pronounced him unfit for the respect and confidence of a pious community; and why did such men find so many objectionable points in the character and conduct of Jesus Christ? for substantially the same reasons that men of high intelligence and devotion find fault with Joseph Smith and his doctrines. Those who bore down with heavy opposition to Jesus Christ were honourable men, whose genealogy took in the worthiest ancestry; they were the orthodox expositors of revealed truth. Those who now oppose Joseph Smith (a person ordained and sent forth by Jesus Christ), occupy the same high and respectable standing, and manifest a similar bearing towards the reputed impostor of the present day. The ancient worthies were the repositories of learning, and so are the modern worthies. The ancients taught many things according to truth and godliness, and verily believed they were substantially right in faith and practice; this is also true of modern religious teachers.