Monthly Archives: July 2014

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.