Mormon Records

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Mormon Joseph Smith Papers

Mormons are a record-keeping people due to direct commandments from God to keep exacting records. The principle behind this practice stems from a scriptural mandate: “There shall be a record kept among you” (Doctrine and Covenants 21:1), intended for the “good of the church” and “the rising generations” (Doctrine and Covenants 69:8).

Mormons keep records of all of their meetings, ordinances performed, history, and membership. Genealogical records are also kept, obtained, and digitalized. Once in each member's lifetime, he or she receives a "patriarchal blessing" which (through the laying on of hands by a Patriarch in the Church) reveals to the person his or her lineage among the tribes of Israel and prophetically give information about the person's role on the earth. A record of those blessings is kept, so if a member loses his or her personal copy, it can be replaced. Members are also urged to keep personal journals and to do their family history, gathering records for the use of the extended family group. The Church also has appointed historians at all times to keep a record for future generations.

"Consistent with this long tradition of sacred record keeping, the Church has devoted substantial resources to construct a new library. This building, which, in the words of Church Historian Marlin K. Jensen, 'will rival the great libraries of the world with its facilities and collections,' is more than a physical repository of information. It is, at its heart, a vast spiritual undertaking aimed at expanding the collective memory of a people. And yet, without the laborious process of preserving tangible records, the spiritual act of remembering is diminished. Memory, both collective and personal, is a fragile thing." [1]

The connection between religion and history is essential for Latter-day Saints. "The new Mormon Church History Library is the substance behind the growing emphasis of transparency in the Church’s interaction with the public. This facility opens the door for researchers and historians of all kinds to flesh out the stories of Mormon heritage that pass through the imagination of Latter-day Saints from generation to generation."

The pulication of the Joseph Smith Papers adds to the understanding of the prophet's life, accomplishments, and the cultural setting within which the early church was born.