Tag Archives: B. H. Roberts

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: 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.

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: “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.

New Release: “The Mormon Doctrine of Deity” by B. H. Roberts

This 296-page 1903 book, now available on Project Gutenberg, presents a debate originally published in the Improvement Era between B. H. Roberts and the Catholic Rev. Van Der Donckt regarding the titular subject, along with some related material. As the editors of the Improvement Era wrote:

In the first two numbers of the present volume of the Era, an article on the Characteristics of the Deity from a ‘Mormon’ View Point, appeared from the pen of Elder B. H. Roberts. It was natural that ministers of the Christian denominations should differ from the views there expressed. Shortly after its appearance, a communication was received from Reverend Van Der Donckt, of the Catholic church, of Pocatello, Idaho, asking that a reply which he had written might be printed in the Era. His article is a splendid exposition of the generally accepted Christian views of God, well written and to the point, and which we think will be read with pleasure by all who are interested in the subject. We must, of course, dissent from many of the deductions with which we cannot at all agree, but we think the presentation of the argument from the other side will be of value to the Elders who go forth to preach the Gospel, as showing them what they must meet on this subject. It is therefore presented in full; the Era, of course, reserving the right to print any reply that may be deemed necessary.—Editors.

Roberts in fact wrote a lengthy reply. The original Roberts article, Rev. Van Der Donckt’s rebuttal, and Roberts’ reply form chapters one, two, and three, with a combined length of 170 pages. The balance of the book consists mostly of selected other discourses, including another lengthy Roberts lecture entitled “Jesus Christ: The Revelation of God”; extracts from Joseph Smith’s King Follett Sermon; and talks by Brigham Young, Orson Pratt, and Joseph F. Smith.

The debate, especially Roberts’ rebuttal of the ‘sectarian’ doctrine of deity, is the most interesting part of the work. He quotes scripture, philosophy, and ecclesiastical history (showing himself to be very well-read) to demonstrate the Greek origin and self-contradictory implications of the ‘sectarian’ doctrine and the merits of the ‘Mormon’ doctrine. He’s surprisingly candid and unashamed of the Gospel, espousing a belief in the “plurality of Gods” with confidence. An excerpt from Roberts’ reply to Mr. V (as he calls the Rev. Van Der Donckt) shows a bit of his engaging, adversarial style of debate:

After thus [in the preceding quote from Herbert Spencer’s “First Principles”] running to absurdity the prevalent conceptions of the “Infinite,” the “Absolute,” the “Uncaused,” Mr. V.’s “Most simple or not compound” “Being,” the churchman does what all orthodox Christians do, he commits a violence against all human understanding and good sense—he arbitrarily declares, in the face of his own inexorable logic and its inevitable deductions, that, “it is our duty to think of God as personal; and it is our duty to believe that he is infinite;” that is, it is our duty to think of the infinite as at once limited and unlimited; as finite and infinite—”which,” to use a phrase dear to Mr. Van Der Donckt, “is absurd,” and therefore not to be entertained.

The other discourses presented in the later part of the book serve to further flesh out the Mormon doctrine and demonstrate that it’s been uniform throughout the history of the Church. In summary, Mormon Doctrine of Deity offers a brilliant writer’s authoritative treatment of the topic, an engaging debate, and extracts from a who’s who of early Church leaders and thinkers. It’s well worth a read.

Excerpt: John Taylor on socialism and French philosophy

The Icarians, a French socialist group, established a commune in Nauvoo after the departure of the saints. On his mission to France, John Taylor discussed the gospel with one of their leaders and took a rather dim view of both socialism and French philosophy in general. B. H. Roberts, in The Life of John Taylor (which we recently released on Project Gutenberg), writes the following:

Shortly after the discussion Elder Taylor left Boulogne for Paris, where he began studying the French language, and teaching the gospel. Among the interesting people whom he met there was M. Krolokoski, a disciple of M. Fourier, the distinguished French socialist. M. Krolokoski was a gentleman of some standing, being the editor of a paper published in Paris in support of Fourier’s views. Another thing which makes the visit of this gentleman to Elder Taylor interesting is the fact that it was the society to which he belonged that sent M. Cabet to Nauvoo with the French Icarians, to establish a community on Fourier’s principles. At his request Elder Taylor explained to him the leading principles of the gospel. At the conclusion of that explanation the following conversation occurred:

M. Krolokoski.—”Mr. Taylor, do you propose no other plan to ameliorate the condition of mankind than that of baptism for the remission of sins?”

Elder Taylor.—”This is all I propose about the matter.”

M. Krolokoski.—”Well, I wish you every success; but I am afraid you will not succeed.”

Elder Taylor.—”Monsieur Krolokoski, you sent Monsieur Cabet to Nauvoo, some time ago. He was considered your leader—the most talented man you had. He went to Nauvoo shortly after we had deserted it. Houses and lands could be obtained at a mere nominal sum. Rich farms were deserted, and thousands of us had left our houses and furniture in them, and almost everything calculated to promote the happiness of man was there. Never could a person go to a place under more happy circumstances. Besides all the advantages of having everything made ready to his hand, M. Cabet had a select company of colonists. He and his company went to Nauvoo—what is the result? I read in all your reports from there—published in your own paper here, in Paris, a continued cry for help. The cry is money, money! We want money to help us carry out our designs. While your colony in Nauvoo with all the advantages of our deserted fields and homes—that they had only to move into—have been dragging out a miserable existence, the Latter-day Saints, though stripped of their all and banished from civilized society into the valleys of the Rocky Mountains, to seek that protection among savages—among the peau rouges as you call our Indians—which Christian civilization denied us—there our people have built houses, enclosed lands, cultivated gardens, built school-houses, and have organized a government and are prospering in all the blessings of civilized life. Not only this, but they have sent thousands and thousands of dollars over to Europe to assist the suffering poor to go to America, where they might find an asylum.

“The society I represent, M. Krolokoski,” he continued, “comes with the fear of God—the worship of the Great Eloheim; we offer the simple plan ordained of God, viz: repentance, baptism for the remission of sins, and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Our people have not been seeking the influence of the world, nor the power of government, but they have obtained both. Whilst you, with your philosophy, independent of God, have been seeking to build up a system of communism and a government which is, according to your own accounts, the way to introduce the Millennial reign. Now, which is the best, our religion, or your philosophy?”

M. Krolokoski.—”Well, Mr. Taylor, I can say nothing.”

“Philosophy” has always been a passion with the French; but Elder Taylor seems not to have had a very high regard for what he saw of it among them. He held it in the same esteem that Paul did the “science” of the Greeks—he considered it a misnomer—philosophy, falsely so called.

One day in walking through the splendid grounds of the Fardin des Plantes with a number of friends, one of the party purchased a curious kind of cake, so thin and light, that you could blow it away, and eat all day of it and still not be satisfied. Some one of the company asked Elder Taylor if he knew the name of it. “No,” he replied, “I don’t know the proper name; but in the absence of one, I can give it a name—I will call it French philosophy, or fried froth, which ever you like.”

B. H. Roberts reviews John Taylor’s “Mediation and Atonement”

B. H. Roberts’ The Life of John Taylor, which we just released, contains this discussion of Taylor’s An Examination Into and an Elucidation of the Great Principle of the Mediation and Atonement of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (available on PG). The rest of this post consists of an extract from Chapter 42 of the former:

In the main, it is a collection of scriptural passages bearing upon the subject, brought together from both ancient and modern revelations, and arranged in such manner as to develop the necessity, sufficiency, efficacy, glory, power and completeness of the atonement made by Messiah, for the sins of the world. It is not a work ambitious of displaying literary skill, or written with a view to meet the shallow and trifling objections urged against this great, central fact of the gospel by glib-tongued infidels and repeated without thought by their apish followers. It was the object of the author to bring together all the testimonies to be found in holy writ on this subject, as well in modern as in ancient scripture; and most admirably did he succeed, linking the testimonies together with such remarks as make their meanings and bearings clear, and increase the value of the original passages. The student of the great subject of the atonement, will find in President Taylor’s work a most valuable collection of material for his consideration.

In chapter XXIII he will also find a most valuable reference to the doctrine of evolution as believed in by the Darwinian school of philosophers–a school of philosophy which professes to trace living phenomena to their origin, and which, if it were true, would at once destroy the doctrine of the Atonement.

In the appendix to the work, also will be found some interesting information in relation to the ideas of a general atonement and redemption entertained by the ancient heathen nations, traces of which may still be found in the traditions of their descendants. From these facts some noted infidel writers have sought to make it appear that the Christian doctrine of the atonement was derived from the heathens; but President Taylor clearly proves that the heathens originally derived their knowledge of these things from the earlier servants of God, and have preserved those truths, though in a mutilated form, in their traditions. “Exhibiting,” as President Taylor writes, “that the atonement was a great plan of the Almighty for the salvation, redemption and exaltation of the human family; and that the pretenders in the various ages, had drawn whatever of truth they possessed, from the knowledge of those principles taught by the priesthood from the earliest periods of recorded time; instead of Christianity being indebted, as some late writers would allege, to the turbid system of heathen mythology, and to pagan ceremonies.”

New release: B. H. Roberts’ “The Life of John Taylor”

Get it here on Project Gutenberg,. Here’s a contemporary blurb from the back of the 1895 first edition of A New Witness for God, also by Roberts:


Third President of the Church of Jesus Christ, in the Dispensation of the Fullnes of Times, is a handsome volume of four hundred and sixty-eight pages, and containing ten illustrations finely executed, and the portrait of President John Taylor as the frontispiece. These are all well executed, and the steel engraving of the subject of the work is a striking and pleasing likeness.

Deseret News:–“The literary ability displayed in the book is to be highly commended. The volume is from the pen of Elder B. H. Roberts, and he has treated his theme in an able manner. The interest of the readers is maintained throughout. The life of President Taylor abounded with incidents of uncommon import. They are presented in forcible and pleasing style. The language is simple yet eloquent, and not overloaded with rhetoric.” Price, full cloth, $2.50; half leather, $3.00; full leather, $4.00; Morrocco, extra gilt, $5.00.

Sadly, no Morrocco extra gilt for you guys, but at least the price is right, and the book really is remarkable. John Taylor too often ends up known as “the one after Brigham Young,” but as Roberts says in his preface,

Justice to the character and labors of John Taylor demanded that his life be written. The annals of the Church could not be recorded without devoting large space to the part he took in her affairs; but no notice of his life and labors, however extended in a general history, could do justice to his great career: for of course there is much in that career peculiar to himself, and of a character, too, to make it worthy of a separate volume.

It really is a great book. I’ll be posting a some fun excerpts over the next few weeks, including stuff related to communism, Indian attacks, and the Relief Society.

“The Mormon Battalion: Its History and Achievements” by B. H. Roberts

This nice Sunday afternoon read (just 96 pages in the original), available on Project Gutenberg, offers a straightforward history of the Battalion.

It’s especially interesting in that it gives good background of how and why the Battalion came to be formed – turns out the Church actually asked the government for a way to serve in the West (originally expecting to build forts or supply posts, etc.). At around that time, the Mexican-American war happened, and the Church’s agent in D. C. agreed to the idea of the Battalion. After getting government permission to be on Indian land (more or less in exchange for the Battalion) Brigham Young supported the whole thing. I once had an impression that levying the Battalion was something of an oppressive act by the government; though it was a sacrifice, the real history’s more nuanced, and it was a mutually beneficial arrangement. 

It then traces the route and history of the Battalion and discusses its significance, including the Battalion’s road-making, its members’ roles in starting the California gold rush, the record-making length of its journey, etc. Roberts also says:

Commenting on the Battalion’s march and the map he made of it, Colonel Cooke says: “A new administration, (this was the Pierce administration, 1853-1857) in which southern interests prevailed, with the great problem of the practicability and best location of a Pacific railroad under investigation, had the map of this wagon route before them with its continuance to the west, and perceived that it gave exactly the solution of its unknown element, that a southern route would avoid both the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevadas, with their snows, and would meet no obstacle in this great interval. The new ‘Gadsden Treaty’ was the result: it was signed December 30, 1853.” This purchase added to the territory of the United States forty-five thousand five hundred and thirty-five square miles; for which was paid $10,000,000. The purchase was made by James Gadsden of South Carolina, minister to Mexico, hence the name Gadsden Purchase.

So, arguably Tucson (inside the Gadsden Purchase area, along with much of southern Arizona and New Mexico) is part of the United States because of the march of the Mormon Battalion. Anyways, it’s a quick read that will cement the history of the Battalion in your mind and has a number of fun tidbits; I recommend it.