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Church History


The Historical Record

The Inside Scoop on CHL News, Collections, and Services


Why the Historical Record?

March 28, 2017, by Tyson Thorpe, Reference Librarian


Some of you might be wondering why we named the Church History Library blog the Historical Record. The title comes from a magazine of the same name printed in the late 1800s by Andrew Jenson, assistant Church historian from 1897 to 1941. The magazine carried articles about the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Andrew Jenson, ca.1880

Andrew Jenson was born in Denmark in 1850 as Anders Jensen. His parents joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in 1854, and the family immigrated to Utah in 1866. To better fit into his new home country, Anders anglicized his name to Andrew Jenson. He became interested in the history of the Church and eventually gained employment in the Historian’s Office and traveled extensively, documenting the early history of the Church in various areas and countries throughout the world. In 1897 he became an assistant Church historian to Franklin D. Richards. During his life, Jenson published many books and magazines on Church history.

First appearing in January 1882, the Morgenstjernen (meaning “morning star” in Norwegian) was published by Jenson for Danish and Norwegian converts who had immigrated to Utah Territory. The subtitle, translated as “A Historical-Biographical Journal,” communicated to readers that the focus of the magazine was the history and lives of the Saints, setting it apart from other publications at the time that tended to focus more on doctrine, instruction, and current events. The last issue of the Morgenstjernen appeared in December 1885 as Jenson transitioned it into the English-language Historical Record.

The Historical Record was privately published and edited by Jenson in Salt Lake City, Utah. It carried the subtitle “Devoted Exclusively to Historical, Biographical, Chronological and Statistical Matters.” The first issue was dated January 1886, and the final issue December 1890. In the preface to a compilation of volumes 5 through 8 of the Historical Record, Jenson stated that his original purpose for the magazine was “to give the public a work of reference on Church history, covering the entire period from the Prophet Joseph Smith’s birth to the present time.”1 An editorial in the January 1890 issue stated that “it is the earnest desire of the editor and publishers of the Record to gather, compile and publish facts, narrate events as they have actually transpired, and hand down to posterity truths as they are gathered from participants in and eye-witnesses to the events described.”2

In fulfilling these purposes, Jenson’s magazine provided much valuable insight on the history of the LDS Church, some examples being the brief biographies of the Twelve Apostles published in volume 6 and the lengthy history of Nauvoo published in volume 8.

We wish to carry on the legacy left by Andrew Jenson with this new Historical Record, that we “may give future generations a true conception of the labor performed by the early workers in the cause of Christ.”3 Many of our posts will briefly touch on various historical events, persons, and places. But we will also expand upon Jenson’s initial motive by posting research tips, behind-the-scenes looks at the Church History Library, and other interesting insights.


Daughters of God Exhibit

March 24, 2017, by Elise Reynolds, Reference Librarian

There is a lot of discussion about women and womanhood in the world at present. This month, the Church History Library is hosting a temporary exhibit entitled Daughters of God, which explores how Latter-day Saints might answer the question of what it means to be a woman.

The heart of the exhibit is “The Relief Society Declaration.” This document, presented in the September 1999 general meeting for the Relief Society by Sister Mary Ellen Smoot, was intended to help women in the Church understand their identity as daughters of God.

Building on this, the exhibit uses documents and photographs to share the stories of women in the Church who characterize the traits identified in “The Relief Society Declaration.” From Lucy Mack Smith to Relief Society sisters in Jamaica, the stories span time and nationalities. The stories are told through journals, branch records, photographs, and publications. For example, anyone who has seen the recent videos about Julia Mavimbela, one of the first members of the Church in Soweto Township, South Africa, may be familiar with her commitment to service. But Julia also had a deep love of the temple, and this story is shared in the display, accompanied by photographs.

Visitors to the exhibit can learn about Tsune Nachie, a Japanese sister who mothered uncounted missionaries serving in Japan and Hawaii. You can see the Relief Society minutes of the Smithfield Branch, which recount how Drusilla Hendricks relied on prayer to endure her trials, or learn about another pioneer, Desideria Quintanar de Yañez, who followed the Spirit and joined the Church in Mexico after seeing a copy of Parley P. Pratt’s Una Voz de Amonestación (A Voice of Warning) in a dream.

The women featured in the accounts come from diverse and imperfect backgrounds. Despite this, they exemplified their divine nature as daughters of God, and this is the message of the exhibit: characteristics such as faith and charity matter most. 

The exhibit will be on display from March 6 to April 8, 2017, during library hours. Along with this short-term exhibit, the library also offers a group presentation entitled “I Am a Woman in the Gospel,” which can be scheduled online year-round. 


Three Types of Records You’ll Find at the Church History Library

March 24, 2017, by Keith A. Erekson, Director

One way to better understand the library’s collections is to consider that there are three types of materials on our shelves: Church and local records (whose call numbers begin with the prefixes CR or LR), published materials, and manuscript materials (call number prefix MS).

Church and Local Records

Church and local records are produced daily as Church leaders, employees, and members carry out their normal activities. For example, as quorums, committees, and leaders meet, they generate minutes, decisions, and plans. Local records from stakes, districts, wards, and branches include sacrament meeting and auxiliary meeting minutes, chapel construction and dedication records, programs, calling lists, and photographs of leaders and events. The Church also publishes scriptures, hymnals, handbooks, and manuals. Membership in the Church produces membership records, ordinance records, patriarchal blessings, records of financial donations, missionary service records, and annual historical reports. Once historical records are no longer needed by their creators, they are transferred to the Church History Library, which serves as the Church’s corporate archive.

Published Materials

In an effort to preserve everything published by or about the Church, published materials are sought out and purchased. These printed and often rare materials include books, pamphlets, newspapers, periodicals, broadsides, and audiovisual materials (call number prefix AV). In collecting and preserving these types of materials, the Church History Library operates much like the Library of Congress or other national libraries.

Manuscript Materials

Church members and others donate manuscript materials such as journals, personal histories, correspondence, and photographs (call number prefix PH). Most of these manuscripts are rare and unique. The collection also includes materials from an extensive oral history program that began in 1972 and documents the experiences of Latter-day Saints throughout the world. These manuscript materials make the library somewhat like a university’s special collections or a specialized research library, similar to the Huntington Library in California.

Storing and Accessing the Collections

The Church History Library’s collections are stored in secure, climate-controlled facilities in Salt Lake City as well as in approximately two dozen satellite locations throughout the Americas, Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific. Like other archives, the library may restrict access to items that contain information that is sacred, confidential, or private in compliance with external statutes and regulations, the desires of record creators or donors, and the best practices of the profession. Items from the collections are made available for public access through the online catalog, at the library and the Church History Museum in Salt Lake City, and at Church historic sites and other locations around the world.

Interested in donating documents, diaries, letters, photographs, books, or other artifacts to the Church History Library? Contact our acquisition specialists here.

The Church History Library

January 20, 2017, by Keith A. Erekson, Director

If you’ve ever visited Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, you may have seen the Church History Library across the street from the Church Office Building and wondered, “What happens in that building?”

Simply put, the Church History Library is home to all of the archival, manuscript, and print collections of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Keeping meticulous records has been a staple of the Church since the 1830s. On the day the Church was organized, Joseph Smith received a revelation in which the Lord instructed, “Behold, there shall be a record kept among you” (D&C 21:1). Today the Church’s records are kept in the library and are an important part of carrying out the work of the Church. Many of the records are also available to external researchers, including students, scholars, genealogists, and journalists.

How Is the Church History Library Different from a Public Library?

The Church History Library is part corporate archive, part special collections, and part research library. Unlike a public library, which loans items to patrons, the Church History Library makes records available online and in a secure reading room. We invite anyone interested in exploring Church history to visit the library online or in person to study our collections, draw conclusions, and make responsible interpretations.

What Records Will I Find at the Church History Library?

The Church History Library holds the world’s largest collection of materials by and about the Church and its members. The holdings span the Church’s chronological history from the 1820s to yesterday; its geographical expansion from New York to the world; its ethnic and linguistic variety, including items in more than 150 languages; and its organizational structure, from Salt Lake City headquarters to the smallest local Church unit.

These records tell the story of the Restoration through institutional development and personal experiences, including those of Church Presidents, members, missionaries, pioneers, congregations, auxiliary organizations, temples, family history, worldwide Church growth, and service.

Can I Visit the Church History Library in Person?

Yes! Visitors come to the Church History Library to research topics related to the Church and its history, do family history research, or participate in programs and events. hosted in the library.

Visitors to the library can also view original documents on public display. The Foundations of Faith exhibit displays some of our most priceless treasures, including a page from the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon; the extremely rare Book of Commandments; Joseph Smith’s letter from Liberty Jail, excerpts from which were later canonized as Doctrine and Covenants 121, 122, and 123; personal journals of early Church leaders; and founding records of Church auxiliary organizations and activities.

In the library, you can browse reference materials in the open stacks, but most of the library’s materials are preserved in climate-controlled storage and can be called to a secure reading room for viewing. In preparation to access physical materials, patrons watch a brief orientation video and register using an LDS Account. Once registered, patrons are able to request items from the secure stacks, save online searches, and access additional digital assets in the online catalog. Registration can also be completed online before arriving at the library.

You can plan a visit to the library here. Do you have a question for a Church historian or conservator? Ask us here.

Jump to blog post 4 “Why the Historical Record?”

Jump to blog post 3 “Daughters of God Exhibit”

Jump to blog post 2 “Three Types of Records You’ll Find at the Church History Library”

Jump to blog post 1 “The Church History Library”


[1] Andrew Jenson, “Preface,” in Historical Record, vols. 5–8 (1886–89).

[2] Andrew Jenson, “ Volume Nine,” in Historical Record, vol. 9, no. 1 (Jan. 1890), 24.

[3] Andrew Jenson, “Publisher’s Valedictory,” in Historical Record, vol. 9, nos. 7–12 (Dec. 1890), 124.