It is remarkable that such a fine historical work, first published in 1976, has never attracted any reviews. In fact the only attention it has received is unwarranted criticism from those who should -but oviously don't- know better. The 1972 re-vamped history department led by Leonard Arrington with the approval of church president, Joseph Fielding Smith, saw many pieces of quality work produced over a decade. The department assigned the role of this weighty one volume work to James Allen and Glen Leonard. It was in no way a 'puff job' but attempted to tell the incredible story of the Saints in a scholarly,dispassionate tone. In short anyone with a love of history and interest in the subject was impressed. However some powerful church figures (Benson, Petersen and Packer)felt the book wasn't spiritual enough and failed to promote the faith. However, the then church president, Spencer W Kimball, and a future leader Howard W Hunter both felt it was a great work and that some of the critics were out of order in their 'unchristian' attacks on the authors. It is hard reading this today to understand why this book was deemed so divisive and why a second edition was never run until 1992. Nevertheless the History Department's activities were curtailed, plans for a 16 volume history work cancelled, retrenchments made in staff, bureaucratic oversight strengthened and the entire history division was eventually transferred to BYU, in 1982. Words objected to included 'communitarian' and 'primitivists'.In fact the history of the Saints has balanced rugged individualism with a strong sense of community, not only in the 19th century but even today in the church welfare program. It is an attractive part of LDS history.Read more ›
In the Preface to the revised 1992 edition of this fine work, the authors write, "The history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is constantly changing as new information becomes available and as each generation asks fresh questions about its past. It was because of the need to synthesize such new research for an audience of interested general readers that we first prepared (the book) for publication in 1976. Now, after sixteen years, ongoing events in the Church's history and additional scholarship suggested the apropriateness of a revision. In this second edition, our intent remains unchanged. We offer a compact, introductory overview, principally in narrative form. In order to provide an up-to-date look at Latter-day Saint history, we concentrate more heavily on events in the twentieth century than most other writers."
Here are some quotations from the book:
"Joseph was digging a well with Willard Chase, not from from the Smith home, and he discovered a smooth, dark-colored stone, about the size of an egg, that he called a seerstone. He later used it to help in the translation of the Book of Mormon and also in receiving certain revelations." (Pg. 41) "Unfortunately, some of Joseph Smith's closest associates failed to separate his role as prophet and religous leader from his activities in the temporal world, not recognizing that his business failure had nothing to do with the integrity of his religious experiences." (Pg. 123) "Though plural marriage became one of the major focal points for legal and political action against the Church, it played a relatively small role in the total life of most Mormon communities. Most Saints accepted it in principle but did not practice it....Read more ›