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After my daughter was born, I could always tell which of my fellow Mormons had read The Work and the Glory novels by the way they a) immediately associated the first name Jerusha with Hyrum Smith’s first wife and b) assumed (wrongly, as it happened) that reading that nine-book series was how I fell in love with the name.
The Work and the Glory made for terrible history: sanitizing, hagiographic, and undocumented. It wasn’t especially strong fiction either, for that matter. But it filled a need, which explains why it was so popular among Mormons twenty years ago, with Relief Society sisters trading the large hardback volumes back and forth to each other after church.
Page - Website - Saints - History - Church
The front page of the new website for “Saints,” a history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Today, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints releases the first of four volumes in a narrative history that’s the first “official” such history since 1930. I hope every member of the Church will read it. The first installment of Saints is nearly 700 pages with all the back matter, so I’ve only read it impressionistically so far, but I’m impressed for several reasons.
The stories are memorable.
The need that The Work and the Glory filled but nonfiction histories generally had not was to satiate our human demand for story. The novels from twenty years ago aimed to flesh out a history of the Mormon people that would hint at larger-than-life historical figures being real people who lived and loved and had complex emotions.
Saints - Church - Audience - Mormon - Religion
With Saints, the Church is aiming for that same audience: the everyday Mormon who would like to know more about our religion’s history but isn’t that interested in wading through traditional historical apparatus like footnotes. People want stories. And orthodox Mormons are often too scared...
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