Tag Archives: George Reynolds

From the Salt Lake Temple capstone: “Compendium”

You know the granite sphere that the Salt Lake Temple Moroni stands on? It’s hollow, and inside there’s something of a time capsule that includes a handful of key Church books. A Compendium of the Doctrines of the Gospel by apostle Franklin D. Richards and co-author James A. Little, published in 1882 and now available free on Project Gutenberg, is one such book. It was sufficiently authoritative that James E. Talmage, listing it among the capstone’s contents, can refer to it as just Compendium. It’s also one of only seven works from the 19th century that makes the Encyclopedia of Mormonism’s list of doctrinally significant books.

So what’s the big deal? Compendium is the first reasonably comprehensive, topically organized doctrinal exposition the Church ever produced. It took 74 key gospel topics and provided a succinct statement regarding each, along with key scriptural and other references establishing the stated doctrine. Think the Topical Guide, Bible Dictionary, Index, and True to the Faith all rolled into one, released for the first time ever.

Today, anyone who wants to know the Church’s doctrine on baptism or spiritual gifts or the second coming can Google it, look it up in any number of books, check the various study helps in the scriptures, etc. But lest we forget, the Topical Guide and Bible Dictionary date back only to 1979. The Book of Mormon itself first received an index in Talmage’s 1920 edition, and Reynolds’ Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon was only published in 1900. In the earliest days of the Church, you had the text of the scriptures (if you were lucky enough to have access to the Pearl of Great Price or its constituent works) and some periodicals or pamphlets.

So if, in 1881, you asked “what is the Church’s doctrine on [insert basic topic], and what are the key scripture reference, talks, etc. establishing that doctrine?” you were courting a substantial research project. But with the 1882 publication of Compendium, for the first time in Church history, that information was at any reader’s fingertips.

As a default source of such information for decades, with reprints as late as 1925, the importance of Compendium as a doctrinal standard can hardly be overstated (although it may seem I’m doing my best). It’s one of those books I can hardly believe no one’s heard of. So go read it. And someone please publish a brilliant paper on its doctrinal impact, and let me know when you do.

Katie Liston, one of our summer 2015 interns, proofread and produced Compendium–many thanks to her!

New Release: “The Myth of the Manuscript Found”

Recently released on PG, The Myth of the Manuscript Found, published in 1883 as the eleventh book of the Faith-Promoting Series, was written to combat the theory that the Book of Mormon was based on a book called The Manuscript Found. This unpublished work was written around 1812 by Solomon Spaulding, a Congregationalist preacher. It was supposedly translated from a Latin parchment found in a cave and gives a history of the first settlers of America, using the names Mormon, Moroni, Nephi and Lamanite. Many anti-Mormon publications and lecturers in the mid-19th century claimed that the Manuscript Found was the foundation for the Book of Mormon. Author George Reynolds combats this claim through accounts of the discovery and translation of the plates from Joseph Smith, Parley P. Pratt, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and Martin Harris. He also discusses the Book of Mormon’s historical accuracy and fulfilled prophecies, and exposes the discrepancies between the content of the Manuscript Found and the Book of Mormon. At a little over 100 pages, it is a fairly quick but highly interesting read, demonstrating once again how well the Book of Mormon stands up to criticism.

A statement from Orson Pratt toward the end of the book sums up the Book of Mormon’s own evidences of its truthfulness:

“If we compare the historical, prophetical and doctrinal parts of the Book of Mormon with the great truths of science and nature, we find no contradictions, no absurdities, nothing unreasonable. The most perfect harmony therefore exists between the great truths revealed in the Book of Mormon and all known truths, whether religious, historical, or scientific.”

McKayla Hansen, one of our 2015 BYU history summer interns, proofread and produced Myth of the Manuscript Found and contributed to this blog post.

New Release: “Are We of Israel?”

Are We of Israel? by George Reynolds, just released on Project Gutenberg, offers a deeper look at the twelve tribes and the circumstances surrounding the scattering of the ten. Originally intended for use as a Sunday School manual, Reynolds’ book speaks with clarity and ease. Readers will learn of the historical implications of the scattering of Israel, as well gain a new appreciation for blessings promised to those of the House of Israel, a virtue of the Abrahamic covenant. Reynolds also discusses various speculative theories on the relationship between various European peoples and the lost tribes.

According to the Old Testament, the prophet Jacob had twelve sons, each of whose posterity became known as the one of the twelve tribes of Israel. As the grandson of Abraham, Jacob entered into a covenant with God that promised to bless the people, conditional upon their willingness to obey the commandments of God. Due to the rebellion and disobedience of ten of the tribes, these people were carried up into the “north countries” and lost until a later date.

In the Book of Abraham (which Reynolds quotes) it reads, “My name is Jehovah, and I know the end from beginning; therefore my hand shall be over thee [Abraham] and I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee above measure … for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.”

And so one will come to understand the meaning and significance of belonging to the House of Israel and the “blessings of the gospel” in this succinct yet engaging read. It’s valuable both from a doctrinal perspective and as an example of late 19th century Church understanding of Israel-related historical issues.

Margaret Willden, one of our summer 2015 BYU editing interns, proofread and produced Are We of Israel? and contributed to this blog post.