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The Historical Record

The Inside Scoop on CHL News, Collections, and Services

Things You Didn’t Know (or May Have Forgotten) about Sunday School

August 28, 2017, by Elise Reynolds, Reference Librarian

How much do you know about Sunday School? Brush up on your history trivia and learn more about this Church auxiliary organization in this post.

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Researching in the Periodical Index

August 16, 2017, by Michael Robison, Church History Specialist

Official Church magazines and other publications are fertile research sources. Michael Robison describes our efforts to make these materials easily searchable through indexing, and how to use the periodical index in the Church History Catalog.

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The Original Book of Mormon Manuscript: From Analog to Digital

July 28, 2017, by Brian Simmons, Book and Paper Conservator

State-of-the-art multispectral imaging technology has made it possible to digitally rescue historic archival materials. Brian Simmons describes how we’ve rendered visible badly faded ink that is otherwise unreadable to the naked eye.

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Tales from the Trail

July 21, 2017, by Christine T. Cox, Manager, Visitor and Reference Services

Mormon pioneers experienced more than just sorrow and hardship on the trek west. They experienced adventures, miracles, and humorous moments, too. Chris Cox shares some insights into pioneer life using the pioneers’ own words.

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Hello and Welcome to the Library

June 27, 2017, by Anya Bybee, Event and Tour Coordinator

Learn about the variety of educational and inspiring group tours and presentations available at the Church History Library. Anya Bybee, the event and tour coordinator, describes each opportunity and how to schedule one for your group. 

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Truman Angell: From Apprentice to Church Architect

June 22, 2017, by Anne R. Berryhill, Reference Librarian

The Church History Library is currently featuring a short-term exhibit of architectural records dating from 1840 to 1865. Many of these records are the designs of Truman Angell, architect of the Salt Lake Temple and Utah Territorial Statehouse. Drawings by Angell’s mentor and colleague, William Weeks, are also on display.

Who was Truman Angell?

Truman Osborn Angell was born June 5, 1810, in North Providence, Rhode Island. He was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January 1833. He helped build the Kirtland, Nauvoo, and Salt Lake Temples. He then immigrated to Utah in 1847 and had a hand in designing many of the major buildings in Utah. He became Church architect in 1848. Read a brief biography of Angell here.

How was Angell trained in architecture?

Much of Angell’s training was received through a formal apprenticeship and on-the-job training. He attended school infrequently during his childhood years and began his formal apprenticeship as a carpenter and joiner at the age of 17. After finishing this apprenticeship, he began working on buildings in his hometown.

In 1835, two years after he was baptized into the Church, he and his wife moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where he almost immediately began working on the Kirtland Temple. Later, he was appointed the first foreman on the Nauvoo Temple construction, and he worked directly with architect William Weeks in constructing his design. During his years in Nauvoo, Angell also helped build Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo Mansion House.

What did Angell learn from working on the Nauvoo Temple?

By working on the Nauvoo Temple, Angell learned three important things: (1) He learned about the temple design process and likely saw that process from its inception to completion, (2) he learned about the relationship between Church architect and Church President, and (3) he learned how to look to existing buildings and published sources for design inspiration.

As Angell worked closely with William Weeks to construct the Nauvoo Temple, he learned about planning a new type of building—one that would accommodate sacred meetings and allow for the newly implemented ordinance work to be performed. He learned to plan functional spaces, and he learned to borrow design elements from familiar sources. Angell also likely gained a deeper interest in ornamental detail from William Weeks.

As he worked on the Nauvoo Temple, Angell saw, at least indirectly, the working relationship between William Weeks and Joseph Smith, with the Prophet offering much input on the temple design. Angell likely viewed this relationship as a pattern and drew from this during his later work with Brigham Young while acting as Church architect.

Through his close working relationship with William Weeks, Angell learned to look to existing buildings and architectural pattern books for design inspiration. He was even sent to Europe in 1856 to study the buildings there and glean inspiration from them.

Did Truman Angell design anything other than temples?

Yes. In addition to designing temples, Truman designed a number of other important buildings in Utah. One example is the Utah Territorial Statehouse, only a portion of which was ever built. The statehouse, built in Fillmore, Utah, was designed by Angell as a grand, domed building with four projecting wings. The only wing that was completed echoes the designs of existing Greek Revival buildings but with much more ornamental detail. Another inspiration for the statehouse may have been the Nauvoo Masonic Hall, known as the Cultural Hall. Designed by William Weeks, its influence can be seen in the design of the Utah Territorial Statehouse.

Another example of Angell’s designs is the Lion House, where Brigham Young and his family lived. The building is simpler in design than the statehouse but features a lively sculpture of a lion.

The work and drawings of Truman Angell show the continuation of a pattern begun by the first Church architect, William Weeks. The pattern is that of a trained builder-architect working with Church leaders to design and construct unique and grand edifices, combining design elements from existing buildings and published sources.


William Weeks: Gentleman Builder

June 16, 2017, by Anne R. Berryhill, Reference Librarian

A new exhibit now on display at the Church History Library highlights some early Latter-day Saint architectural designs. Some of these designs represent the work of William Weeks, the first Church architect. But how much do we know about William Weeks? This article will provide a little more information about him.

Who was William Weeks?

William Weeks was a carpenter and builder born in Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in April 1813. For a brief biography, see the Joseph Smith Papers website.

How did Weeks receive his architectural training?

Weeks was raised in a family of builders trained in local New England tradition. At the time, little formal training was available for those wanting to become architects, so builders like Weeks learned the trade through reading and hands-on training.

From what sources could builders learn the trade?

Asher Benjamin, Ionic volute, The Architect: Or Practical House Carpenter, 1843 edition. Image courtesy of Internet Archive.

Builders primarily learned the trade by studying the design of existing buildings or of those being constructed around them. The following example shows how builders often borrowed from others.

B. H. Latrobe (1764–1820), designer of the first Roman Catholic cathedral built in the United States, was the first professionally trained U.S. architect. Latrobe has also been credited with bringing Greek Revival and Gothic Revival architecture to the United States. Both styles became quite popular. American architect and author Asher Benjamin incorporated elements from both styles into a number of his buildings in the Boston area. It is quite likely that Weeks would have been familiar with some of these buildings, such as Old West Church, built in Boston in 1806.

William Weeks, drawing of capitals, Nauvoo Temple drawings

Buildings designed in these styles were constructed in most U.S. cities during the first half of the 19th century, and illustrations of the designs were included in widely distributed books of the period. These books were the other source from which young professionals learned the building trade. Architectural pattern books, as they were known, became popular, with many being published throughout the 19th century. These books provided fairly inexpensive ways to communicate new ideas about structure, plans, and ornamentation for buildings. Some of these books were created by the American architects and prolific authors Asher Benjamin and Edward Shaw.

How do we know that Weeks studied architectural pattern books?

The Church History Library has an architectural pattern book by Edward Shaw that was owned by William Weeks and his brother Arvin. Civil Architecture was printed in 1832. The notations and sketches throughout the book provide clues that the book was used by these brothers as they worked on their architectural designs. The drawings shown here are designs for the Ionic order by Asher Benjamin, Edward Shaw, and William Weeks. It is easy to see how design elements passed from books to those practicing the building trades.

Edward Shaw, Grecian Ionic, Civil Architecture, 1832

As the first Church architect, William Weeks would have encountered the problem of designing different buildings to serve different functions in Nauvoo, Illinois. For example, the design of the temple would have been dramatically different from the design of a boardinghouse. To solve such problems, he turned to existing architecture and to architectural books, finding creative ways to meet the architectural needs in that area. 

Some originals featured here are on display at the Church History Library until June 24, 2017. Find library hours and information here.

 


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

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 6 “Hello and Welcome to the Library"

Jump to blog post 5 part 2 “Truman Angell: From Apprentice to Church Architect"

Jump to blog post 5 “William Weeks: Gentleman Builder"

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”

Footnotes

[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.