Category Archives: Book Commentary

Posts that discuss specific books, whether or not they’re new releases.

All 6 volumes of “History of the Church” now free on Project Gutenberg

You can now get all six volumes of the original Joseph Smith/B. H. Roberts History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for Kindle, for free, on Project Gutenberg.

For academics the Joseph Smith Papers, which have superior editorial standards and more comprehensively cover their scope, have rightly gone a long way towards supplanting HotC. Any general reader ought to start with Saints vol. 1, which is just better–it covers the same time period, more readably, in fewer pages, to a higher standard of the historian’s craft. But HotC was the definitive Church history for generations, and now it’s at your fingerprints if you’d like to dive deeper. Have a look: Volume 1Volume 2Volume 3Volume 4Volume 5Volume 6.

Thanks to all those who did the OCR proofreading/transcription for these volumes–I know that was a ton of work. (Anyone who looks carefully at the posting dates will see we got Vol. 1 released on PG in October 2014, and Vol. 6 was in November 2019. An embarrassing proportion of that gap relates to lag in my post-processing backlog, but there really was a whole bunch of proofreading done in there too.)

Free e-books of B. H. Roberts’ “New Witnesses for God”

This three-volume set is now available on Project Gutenberg in its entirety. The “New Witnesses” Roberts discusses are Joseph Smith (volume one, 1895) and the Book of Mormon (volumes two and three, both released 1909). I commented on volume one here and volume two here back when they were released.

Volume three picks up right where two left off, with further consideration of evidence for the Book of Mormon, and then goes over objections to it. Have a look!

New release: 1912 Young Women’s manual on “The Restoration of the Gospel”

As the author Osborne Widtsoe (Elder John A. Widtsoe’s brother) wrote, “The following chapters on the subject of the Restoration are the outcome of an invitation to write, during the winter of 1910-11, a series of lessons for the Young Ladies’ Mutual Improvement Association.” The result, now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg, was originally published with a preface by then-Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith, where he stated:

This book, prepared by Elder Osborne J. P. Widtsoe, dealing with the important subject of the restoration of the everlasting Gospel, should be read and its contents carefully considered by those who are seeking after truth. It treats the restoration clearly, and places before the people many things that have not been generally considered heretofore. It will be a means of strengthening the faith of the youth of Israel and will impart information that is invaluable. May the spirit of truth accompany the work and rest upon all those who diligently read it with a desire to learn of and profit by the restoration of the Gospel!

Thanks to Renah Holmes and Andy Hobbs for their work on this one.

New Release: Parley P. Pratt poetry anthology

Full title is “The Millennium, and Other Poems: To Which is Annexed, A Treatise on the Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter,” first published 1839 in NYC. It’s now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg. Here’s the original preface:

When these Poems were first written, the Author had no intention of compiling them in one volume: they sprang into existence one after another as occasion called them forth, at times and in places, and under circumstances widely varying. Some came forth upon the bank of the far-famed Niagara, and some were the plaintive strains poured from a full heart in the lonely dungeons of Missouri where the Author was confined upwards of eight months during the late persecution; some were poured from the top of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and others were uttered while wandering over the flowery plains and wide-extended prairies of the west; some were written in crowded halls and thronged cities, and some in the lonely forest; some were the melting strains of joy and admiration in contemplating the approaching dawn of that glorious day which shall crown the earth and its inhabitants with universal peace and rest; and others were produced on the occasion of taking leave of my family, friends, or the great congregation, on a mission to other and distant parts; and some were wrung from a bosom overflowing with grief at the loss of those who were nearest and dearest to my heart, “The Regeneration and Eternal Duration of Matter,” in particular was a production in prison, which was more calculated to comfort and console myself and friends when death stared me in the face, than as an argumentative or philosophical production for the instruction of others. At length, the Author was induced to embody the whole in one volume in the hope that perhaps others might find them a source of instruction, edification, and comfort.

New Release: “Scrap Book of Mormon Literature” vol. 1

Are you pathetically ignorant of early Church pamphlets? Or, getting past pathetic ignorance into more of an ashamed, repentant ignorance, maybe you have thought “Hmmm, based on the importance of pamphlets in early Church history, I wish there was a selection of them that I could read. Ideally it would be chosen by someone early enough in Church history to be close to the pamphlet tradition, but who lived late enough to have a broad selection to choose from. I’d also want the person choosing them to have a boots-on-the-ground perspective on real missionary pamphlet usage and which pamphlets were effective or worth reading. Basically I really wish I could get a mission president in perhaps the early 1900s to select a few dozen pamphlets for me to read, and get them on my Kindle.”

Well, President Ben E. Rich of the Eastern States Mission has got you covered, and the first volume of his Scrap Book of Mormon Literature (first published 1911) is now available on Project Gutenberg. It contains 38 pamphlets by the likes of B. H. Roberts, Orson Pratt, Lorenzo Snow, George Q. Cannon, Orson Hyde, Charles W. Penrose, John Morgan, etc. etc. Volume 2 has been available for a while too (e-book, post on its contents).

Thanks to Renah Holmes for proofreading this one.

New Release: B. H. Roberts’ “Seventy’s Course in Theology” (5 vols.)

Back in the days when there were many more Seventies spread throughout the Church (146 quorums in 1904!), B. H. Roberts of History of the Church fame wrote five years of manuals for quorum meetings, collectively the Seventy’s Course in Theology. First published 1907-1912, they are now available on Project Gutenberg for your reading pleasure.

The manuals are broken out into lessons, most beginning with an outline and references, followed by a series of notes. Many of the notes are quotations from other commentators or Roberts’ other work.

It seems clear that Roberts wanted to radically improve his typical student’s intellectual stature, and that’s inspiring to see in action. In one lesson, he identifies the works of thirteen different philosophers as references, and since those works may “only be available to those within reach of reference libraries,” he also recommends eight “one-volume works that would be of great service in studying this lesson.” In several locations he comments of his lesson notes that “They make difficult reading, but—well, master them.”

Each year has an overarching topic, as follows:

Year 1 – Outline History of the Seventy and a Survey of the Books of Holy Scripture

Year 2 – Outline History of the Dispensations of the Gospel

Year 3 – The Doctrine of Deity

Year 4 – The Atonement

Year 5 – Divine Immanence and the Holy Ghost

I’d suggest starting with the topic that is the most interesting to you rather than reading in sequence, as the different years don’t seem particularly cumulative. Year 3 seems to have some overlap with Mormon Doctrine of Deity.

Thanks to Renah Holmes for proofing two volumes, and BYU Transcribe as coordinated by Rachel Helps for proofing the other three!

New Release: George Q. Cannon’s “The Life of Joseph Smith, the Prophet”

This biography (e-book link), originally published 1888, was written by First Presidency member and publisher George Q. Cannon, who finished it while imprisoned for polygamy. Best I can figure, from a church perspective this would have been the key biography of Joseph Smith for at least a decade after its publication. The competition might include Edward Tullidge’s Life of Joseph the Prophet or the early versions of History of the Prophet Joseph, by His Mother, but of course Tullidge (a member of the Reorganized Church) hardly would have carried the same implicit church endorsement as Cannon, and Brigham Young was not a fan of the History. Cannon knew Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, and as he served in the First Presidency with Brigham Young, John Taylor, etc. he obviously had access to many other contemporaries with firsthand recollections.

Our e-book is based on the 1907 edition, which originally ran to just over 500 pages. Thanks to David Cramer and Katie Liston for the proofreading.

This is my first book release post in a long time, but there should be about a dozen more like it by the end of the year if I can hold to my schedule–I’m working hard to clear my book post-processing backlog and much of it has already turned into a “needs release post” backlog. My personal life is a lot more conducive to progress now that I’m done with my MBA program and so forth.