Tag Archives: John A. Widtsoe

New Release: “What Jesus Taught” by Osborne Widtsoe

Is it still nepotism when you look into a dead guy’s book because his brother* was cool? We’re somewhere in that vicinity…Elder John A. Widtsoe’s brother Osborne Widtsoe wrote this 1918 book for the Deseret Sunday School Union, for use as a youth Sunday School course, and I will admit I initially found it through the family name. But the proofreader tells me What Jesus Taught does stand on its own merits.

It includes 40 lessons, each with references and discussion questions. The discussion questions get pretty intense–I’d like to have a youth class today discuss the significance of Napoleon Bonaparte’s testimony of Christ, or the “particular value [of Christ’s] testimony to the disciples on the road to Emmaus.” The book definitely makes for an interesting time capsule of what youth were seeing back in the day.

In Widtsoe’s words:

This little book is an attempt modestly to present in popular form the teachings of Jesus. It is intended for boys and girls of high-school age. It is to be understood, then, that there is here no exhaustive treatise of the teachings of Jesus; nor is there conducted a study and investigation of profound scholarship. Such a work from the Mormon point of view must be deferred, if desirable at all. But it is hoped that what Jesus taught—in part at least—is here presented simply and plainly and truly, so that anyone who reads may understand. It is further hoped that the writing of these lessons has been “moved by the Holy Ghost,” so that those who read them may learn to love the teachings of Jesus, and to know and to love God, and His Son, Jesus, whom He sent to redeem the world. “Worship God: for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

So there you go. Happy reading.

*On Elder John A. Widtsoe being cool: his book Rational Theology is my favorite non-scriptural Mormon work and is the reason I got involved in MTP–I read the PG version of Rational Theology, saw the credit line, and wanted more.

Key Free Doctrinal Works: A Reading List from the Encyclopedia of Mormonism

I recently stumbled on the Encyclopedia of Mormonism’s list of books that “have made significant contributions to the understanding of doctrine.” It’s an interesting reading list–if you want a thorough grounding in Mormon doctrine through the ages, these are the books–and naturally it lines up well with what people have chosen to get up on Project Gutenberg.

Here’s the pre-1923 (i.e. out of copyright) portion of that list, with links to PG for the works we’ve completed:

Read these books!

Autobiography of Anthon Skanchy, translated by John A. Widtsoe

Anthon Skanchy (pictured) was the early Norwegian missionary who baptized noted Apostle John A. Widtsoe and his mother into the Church. Skanchy wrote this autobiography in Norwegian, and Widtsoe translated, edited, and published it as Anthon L. Skanchy: A Brief Autobiographical Sketch of the Missionary Labors of a Valiant Soldier for Christ. We’ve recently released it as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg.

Skanchy led an interesting life; he served various missions in his native Norway, and much of the book recounts his mission experiences, including both some remarkable spiritual incidents and some interesting temporal details, such as his employment as a fisherman during parts of his mission. He also worked on the Logan temple and tabernacle and served as a bishop. He eventually took charge of the Scandinavian mission, with a special charge to build mission houses in Denmark, Sweden, and Norway. Unlike mission homes today that often just house the mission president, these included substantial meeting halls, pictured in the book. It’s a window into an interesting life and, weighing in at 56 pages, a fun Sunday afternoon read. Enjoy.

New Release: “Gospel Doctrine” by Joseph F. Smith, ed. Widtsoe

Elder John A. Widtsoe’s 1919 compilation of Pres. Joseph F. Smith’s sermons and writings is now available as a free e-book on Project Gutenberg. (Still also available on the internet as a $30 paperback, but really…)

At 685 pages, it’s a pretty meaty doctrinal work. Widtsoe is fantastic, and as the preface states, this is his “Joseph F. Smith—Greatest Hits” compilation:

President Joseph F. Smith was so long in the public service of the Church that his published sermons and writings would fill many volumes. The difficult problem of the compilers of this volume has been to make a collection of extracts that would do full justice to the man and that, at the same time, could be contained in a volume of moderate size. Every reader who knows Church literature will note the shortcomings of the work; and none more than the compilers. However, incomplete as it may be, this collection is well worth while, for it contains a wealth of gospel wisdom, to instruct, comfort, and inspire the Saints.

The literature of the Church has been carefully and systematically searched to discover all of President Smith’s public writings and sermons. Those of a historical nature have not been used in this collection, as they may well be made into another volume.

The compilers give their thanks to the many who, with hearts full of love for President Smith, have helped in the work.

The work has reaffirmed to us that prophets, speaking for God, are with us.

The Compilers.

Thanks to Noah Read for proofreading the whole text. Enjoy.