History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints by Joseph Smith (edited by BH Roberts)
History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
(supposedly) by Joseph Smith
This ‘official history’ of the early LDS Church is edited from the Utah church’s viewpoint. Although the church hasn�t officially denounced this history as being written by someone other than Joseph Smith, the fact is that much of it was not written by him and most of it was put together after he was dead. The early church historians did many creative things with this history including adding prophecies attributable to Joseph Smith that had been �fulfilled� after his death. (Hmmmm… seems like the early Christians did the same thing). The early historians also censored much of the material to make it more �faith promoting�.
This history would still be very disturbing (although few active members have bothered to read it) in the eyes of most Mormons who are only familiar with the typical �Sunday School� sanitized version of the church�s supposed spotless history. This 7 volume set read in conjunction with the Quinn & Newell books will give you a fairly accurate look at the beginnings of Mormonism–far more so then if you look to your seminary teacher, gospel doctrine class or Ensign for a true glimpse of Mormon history.
Additional resources providing an objective look at early church history can be found in these magazines.
Richard Van Wagoner comments on this official history in Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess beginning on page 321 as follows:
The matter [of Rigdon supposedly betraying Joseph Smith to Govenor Carlin] was put before the Saints who by acclamation decided to table the issue until October. The original version of Sidney’s 7-8 October hearing, as recited in the Times and Seasons, was recast when reported in the Deseret News and later published in the History of the Church. This falsification conveyed an erroneous image of Rigdon that prevails in Mormon tradition to this day and warrants rectification. Hagiography being such a hallmark of LDS history, this was particularly true in post-martyrdom Mormonism after the Quorum of the Twelve closed ranks, reserving the right to realign past realities. This labor to sanctify the Mormon experience resulted in distorted history heavily oriented toward justifying leaders. When ‘evil speaking of the Lord’s anointed’ was considered worse than lying, the truth suffered.
The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that ‘no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed’ is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations, these seven volumes are not always reliable. The official history is a partisan chronology, a flawed legacy for rank-and-file believers. Not only does this history place polygamy and Brigham Young’s ecclesiastical significance in the rosy glow of political acceptability, it smooths out Joseph Smith’s rough-hewn edges, tidies up his more disreputable adventures, and deletes unfulfilled prophecies. In the process of remaking Mormon history, a monumental disservice was done to Rigdon and others who challenged the Quorum of the Twelve’s 1844 ascent to power.
The nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary:
I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Nauvoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was ‘doctored’ to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.
The Quorum of the Twelve, under Young’s leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith’s death. Contrary to the introduction’s claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church.