Jason Olson, Deseret News
Every year, the Deseret News releases a new Church Almanac of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The almanac is prepared and edited by the staff of the Church News, a section of the Deseret News, with the assistance of the LDS Church History Department.
Shaun Stahle, an editor in the visual/editorial department for the Deseret News, began working on the almanac for its 2004 edition and is the current almanac editor.
The 2012 Church Almanac has 608 pages and is packed with statistics and information on the leadership, history and growth of the church.
"It's not a book you sit down and read like a novel," Stahle said. "It's very short on the plot, but it's intensely thick on the details."
The information in the almanac comes from many different sources. The statistical information, including the number of stakes, wards and branches, missionaries, missions and temples, comes from the church's statistical department. "They're very gracious about helping us," Stahle said.
Although numbers and statistics may not appear interesting to many people at first glance, Stahle said, "It shows the church in motion, and I love that thought. You compare numbers year after year, or even five years, and you see that there is movement … You get a grand sense of the church in motion, how it's growing and gaining momentum."
Another "significant element" of the almanac is the news and major events of the church, which is taken from Church News articles.
Among the major events included in the 2012 Almanac are the creation of the first LDS Church stake in Russia in 2010, the creation of five new missions and disaster relief aid.
"I think that's an important part of the book there — talk about how the church is working, communicating, dealing with and touching the world," Stahle said.
Major events also include changes in church leadership, temple news, awards and honors and deaths of well-known church members and general authorities.
Biographical information and photographs of past and present general authorities are also contained in the almanac, as well as an index of temples and a historical chronology of the church.
Stahle estimated that about half of the book deals with the history of the church worldwide. A history is given for each state and country where the gospel has spread. Those histories, Stahle said, are important to those who work on the almanac.
"We think that every member of the church ought to have the history and the background of the church in their area; the faith that was exerted, the sacrifices made."
The hardest part of compiling the almanac, Stahle said, is keeping the histories updated, because it requires a lot of communication to gather news of the church from area presidencies and church members throughout the world.
"My hope is to get much more of this information by year for every area of the church and expand this a great deal."
Stahle estimated that about 10 to 15 percent of the almanac's total information changes each year, as new things are added and previous entries are updated.
Production on each year's almanac is "largely a continuous process," Stahle said, but is usually stepped up beginning in March and continues until the book goes to press in November and is released at Deseret Book the week before Thanksgiving. There's always a scramble to get in the final updates after October's general conference session, when leadership changes, new temples and other news are announced.
As for the cover design, Stahle said, "We try different pictures and different approaches with all those things. We'll try several different covers and show them to people and see which ones kind of speak to them."
The almanac does more for the church and its members than just keep a record and share statistics and facts, Stahle said. He believes that it also unifies the church's members.
"Every member in any part of the world is important; they're part of the big picture. And where they are and how they live is part of this record."
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