Saints, Volume 2: No Unhallowed Hand became available on the gospel library app and in print on Feb. 12.
This is the second volume of the series “Saints,” a publication of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that goes into detail about the early Latter-day Saint history.
There is a team of writers, editors and historians that work together to produce these multi-volume history books.
Jed Woodworth, managing historian of the Saints project and a general editor, said that something that makes the production process unique is that the team is made up of not just historians but people who are either trained in short-story writing, who have backgrounds in English composition, novels and poems but aren’t trained in history.
“You put those two groups together and that makes for an interesting combination, and so sometimes people will say to us; ‘this doesn’t read like a standard history’ and I say ‘Well of course it doesn’t, because it wasn’t written by standard historians, it was written by people who know how to write a short story,'” Woodworth said.
According to Lisa Olsen Tait, Saints, Volume 2 historian and general editor, Saints is the first multi-volume history published by the Church in almost 100 years. She said the main purpose is to tell the history of the Church in broad, global terms and bring it up to date.
“It is intended to do that by presenting and engaging, page-turning narrative that is accessible to members of all ages, nationalities and educational backgrounds,” Tait said.
She said that one of the things that makes Saints so powerful is how it shows the faith and experiences of the early Saints, including Church leaders, in an everyday context.
“Life is complex messy and difficult, and yet the hand of the Lord is there,” Tait said.
Journals, letters and memoirs from the Church History Library were used to write the book.
“There’s wonderful letters that we used to get the perspective of Joseph F. Smith, for example, the journal of Wilford Woodruff is a great resource,” said Angela Hallstrom, a writer of Saints, Volume 2.
Hallstrom said they also used letters and journals and memoirs written by regular members of the Church.
“That’s one of the things we want to emphasize; we want to tell the story of the Church from a perspective of ordinary people as well as from the perspective of Church leaders,” Hallstrom said.
According to a media resource guide provided by Woodworth, readers can expect to learn more about the pioneers’ journey to the Salt Lake Valley, the expansion of missionary work to various nations, plural marriage and more in this volume.
Woodworth said that one of the themes in the book is how the Saints find religious freedom in pluralistic land, and in particular when the federal government doesn’t like a religion.
“By the end of the volume, what we see is that the Saints find freedom in their temple work but in order to find that freedom, they have to give something up, and that something is plural marriage,” Woodworth said.
Tait added that a major thread in the book is women’s history, with the period covered in the booking being one of the most vibrant in Latter-day Saint women’s history.
“It was a time of institution building, with the reorganization of the Relief Society and establishment of a young women’s organization and the Primary,” Tait said. “LDS women became active in national women’s movements, especially suffrage, and we show them speaking out and standing up to defend themselves and the Church.”
Tait said readers will get to know familiar figures, such a Brigham Young, Wilford Woodruff and Eliza R. Snow, much better and become acquainted with many people that they may not know of or have never heard of.
“Especially dear to my heart is Susa Young Gates, who is one of our major characters,” Tait said. “We first meet her as nine-year-old Susie Young, a daughter of Brigham growing up in the Lion House, and then we watch as she goes through an unhappy first marriage and divorce, a happy second marriage, a mission in Hawaii, building a career as a writer and editor and participating in temple work.”
Scott Hales, a general editor and lead writer of Saints, Volume 2, said that writing the books can be very challenging.
“Oftentimes people ask me if it’s a daily spiritual experience, if writing these books just keeps me on a spiritual high all the time, and that’s not necessarily true,” Hales said. “These are hard books to write, it’s very challenging to take the historical sources and write them in a way that’s true to the historical documents, true to the historical records, but also interesting for people to read.”
Even though the writing is often difficult for Hales, he said there are moments when he feels connected with the people he is writing about.
“When I get to work and take a look at a document as I prepare to write a scene or as I prepare to write a chapter and read these words, words that may not have been read for a hundred years, and to hear the voice of somebody long gone can sometimes be a very spiritual experience, especially when the person who wrote the document is writing about a sacred experience that they had,” Hales said. “In times like that, the work, in my opinion, becomes much, much easier.”
BYU history major Wyatt Macfarlane said he is excited to read the second volume after his experience with the first.
“I am excited to continue the story, to feel the same engagement I felt reading the first, and to learn more about things I was never aware of,” Macfarlane said.
He has already started reading Saints, Volume 2 and said that, so far, it’s continuing to catch him.
There will be a Saints launch event in the JSB auditorium on Feb. 21 at 1 p.m. where several members of the Saints team will discuss the book and answer questions.