Stop what you are doing and be inspired by Renah Holmes, who has probably proofread more early church literature than you have read.
Renah has volunteer proofreading credit on nineteen different e-books. (Name the last nineteen early church books you read…) That number is not because she’s been taking the softball projects, either–she’s worked some of the most doorstop-worthy volumes we’ve ever done, including Scrap Book of Mormon Literature vol. 1 and History of the Church vol 5. She has done literally thousands of pages of proofreading. And she just knocks it out. She is easily the most prolific proofreader I’ve ever been blessed to work with.
Her productivity, and the fact that I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting her in person, almost makes me wonder if she is secretly a whole basement full of people operating under an assumed name. Against that idea, though, her work has been incredibly consistent and high-quality ever since she started in 2014. This comes through in the finished product, as you can appreciate. It also makes my work in the the post-production process super easy (which has also tended to result in more books getting done sooner).
Be like Renah Holmes. You’ve sort of missed your chance to proofread a ton of the most important old church books and help make them freely available (not least because Renah already did, to the point that the low-hanging fruit has been picked). But maybe if you consistently pour hour after hour into volunteer work for years you, too, can make thousands of peoples’ lives a little bit better, even if they will mostly never know who to thank.
Thank you, Renah Holmes.
(P.S. Renah, hopefully this isn’t too embarrassing, but I suspected you might be too modest to want it posted if I asked permission, so there you go.)
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 1, Volume 2, Volume 3, Volume 4, Volume 5, Volume 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.)
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!
History of the Church vol. 3 is now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg! Obviously, HotC is a big deal, and we’ll just let it stand at that. (Unless you have some strange desire to read only about the 1838-39 window of Church history, you really ought to start with vol. 1, and if you’ve already read vol. 1 and 2 you probably don’t need an introduction to 3, so no further commentary at this time.)
It was proofed and produced by our excellent BYU research assistant Mariah Averett, thanks to donor support for her position.
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.
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.
Want the gospel knowledge of a general authority? Big surprise: they read classic LDS books, including works we’ve produced and stuff we’re currently working on. Flipping through the citations of April 2014 General Conference talks, I found several familiar books:
- President Monson, in his talk “Be Strong and of a Good Courage,” quoted the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt (MTP edition here) at length for the story of Joseph Smith rebuking his guards while imprisoned in MIssouri.
- Elder Hales, in his talk “If Ye Love Me, Keep My Commandments,” quoted Joseph Fielding Smith’s 1922 Essentials in Church History (MTP edition here) for the story of Martin Harris’ loss of the 116 pages.
- Elder Cook, in his talk “Roots and Branches,” cited the History of the Church in his discussion of Moroni’s message to Joseph Smith. MTP interns Jared and Emma are currently working on the first two volumes of History of the Church, and we plan to have the six volumes that are in the public domain done this year.
- Elder William R. Walker, in his talk “Live True to the Faith,” quoted from Matthias F. Cowley’s book Wilford Woodruff: History of His Life and Labors as Recorded in His Daily Journals for the story of how Wilford Woodruff found the United Brethren and baptized most of them. An MTP volunteer was already at work on this book before conference and it’s currently just over half done.
- Elder Christofferson, in his talk “The Resurrection of Jesus Christ,” quoted the paragraph from Jesus the Christ (available on PG thanks to Distributed Proofreaders, kindred spirits who beat us to it) where Talmage describes the resurrected Christ’s first interaction with Mary Magdalene.
This just from one scan through the proceedings of one conference, which I doubt was unusual in this regard. So go follow the prophet and read the Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt.