The Church has produced many new resources to help us better understand early Latter-day Saints as they lived the Restoration. The gospel was restored nearly 200 years ago—in a time when life was different in many ways. Yet the challenges of early Church members were also like ours in many ways. We can learn from their powerful examples of faith and determination and apply that same faith as we face challenges in living the restored gospel in our day.
Editor’s note (1 September 2023): Read an updated version of this article here.
Two key resources for understanding historical events are the following:
- History.lds.org is the main Church History section of LDS.org
- Gospel Topics (topics.lds.org), which is the LDS.org section for studying principles of the gospel. Among the 250+ topics, you will find 11 essays (lds.org/topics/essays) that were written specifically about important Church history topics that are sometimes misunderstood.
An article in the February issue of the Ensign titled “New Resources for Understanding Church History” gives the following list of resources that can help us understand Church history by giving historical context.
- Church History website (history.lds.org) is a great place to start. It has links to many of the resources listed below.
- The Gospel Library Mobile App. A new section on this app provides a wealth of Church history information to access on mobile devices. Simply scroll to the section labeled “Church History.”
- Revelations in Context (lds.org/section/revelations). Articles give background information on practically every section of the D&C, often through the story of a particular individual.
- Pioneers in Every Land (lds.org/section/pioneers). This web page features articles and short videos depicting Latter-day Saint pioneers around the world.
- Gospel Topics (topics.lds.org). Study 260 gospel topics. Also read straightforward essays on important historical and doctrinal topics at lds.org/topics/essays.
- Prophets of the Restoration (lds.org/section/prophets). View short video presentations and online exhibits about the lives of each of the Presidents of the Church.
- Joseph Smith’s Accounts of the First Vision (lds.org/firstvision). Original sources of Joseph Smith’s four accounts of the First Vision as well as essays and videos that provide context.
- Instructor’s Resource Page (lds.org/studyguide). Listing of key resources coordinated with the lesson schedules for Gospel Doctrine, Relief Society, and Melchizedek Priesthood meetings.
- Historic Sites (lds.org/section/historic-sites). Take a virtual tour of places central to the Restoration of the gospel.
- Foundations of Faith (lds.org/exhibit/foundations-of-faith). A digital exhibit of priceless foundational records that document the Church’s restoration and growth. The exhibit includes short videos of 25 important artifacts housed at the Church History Library in Salt Lake City.
- The Heavens Are Opened (lds.org/maps/the-heavens-are-opened). Use an interactive map to learn about objects from this Church History Museum exhibit. Access all the museum’s online exhibits at history.lds.org/section/museum.
- Church Historian’s Press (churchhistorianspress.org). Books published under this imprint provide original source material and historical context. The materials are searchable and freely available online. Publication is ongoing and includes the following:
- Joseph Smith Papers (josephsmithpapers.org). This series contains original documents, transcribed and annotated, that provide in-depth insight on every major aspect of the Church’s founding.
- The First Fifty Years of Relief Society (churchhistorianspress.org/the-first-fifty-years-of-relief-society). This project brings together original, annotated documents conveying the contributions and challenges of Latter-day Saint women in the 19th century.
Trustworthy Non-Church sources:
- Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship. A collection of scholarly research designed to deepen understanding of religious texts and traditions. (Formerly F.A.R.M.S. and BYU Studies.)
- Fair Mormon (FairMormon.org). Well-reasoned and faithful responses to doctrinal, historical, and social questions.
- Joseph Smith Foundation (JosephSmithFoundation.org). An organization that seeks to increase faith in Jesus Christ by offering scholarly articles on Joseph Smith, The Book of Mormon, and other Gospel related topics.