As a graduate student, Casey Paul Griffiths became fond of a book titled "The 100 Most Important Events in Christian History." The 1991 publication provided a broad scope of Christian history, and although it didn't mention The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, it gave him an idea.
"There should be something like this for Latter-day Saints," Griffiths said.
And now there will be, coming sometime in 2016.
Griffiths, a visiting professor, has teamed up with Susan Easton Black and Mary Jane Woodger, accomplished authors from the Department of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University, to write "The 100 Most Important Events in Latter-day Saint History."
The volume will feature a collection of 100 short essays introducing readers to the basic, foundational events of the LDS Church. It includes major events such as Joseph Smith's First Vision, the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the Saints' arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, as well as less prominent events such as David O. McKay's worldwide tour, the impact of the 1964 World's Fair on missionary work, the publication of the LDS edition of the scriptures and the 1995 release of "The Family: A Proclamation to the World."
The inspiration started with Griffiths' college book, but other factors spurred the idea along.
People with questions about LDS Church history have asked him for recommendations on which books to read for more information. He said that while some of the best sources, such as B.H. Roberts' six-volume comprehensive history of the LDS Church, are insightful, Roberts' history ends in 1930. A variety of other books contain worthwhile information, he said, but are written more for a scholarly/academic audience and would likely lose some readers in the opening pages.
"I was thinking of my former seminary students and a text for them that would be easy for them to approach," said Griffiths, a former seminary teacher. "I wanted (the text) to be relatively short."
Church members can turn to the gospel topics page on lds.org, but there are less than a dozen essays, Griffiths said.
A new LDS Institute manual and cornerstone course called "Foundations of the Restoration" also fueled the idea.
Griffiths began making lists of pivotal events in church history and sending them to BYU colleagues requesting feedback. In the process, he connected with Woodger and Black, who liked the idea and wanted to contribute their expertise and passion for church history.
"I thought it was an excellent idea," Woodger said. "We are in such a shortened, digitized generation. If you can get short, concise essays on these topics, that’s what people want right now. You aren't reading an entire, in-depth history, just finding out what happened and why it's important."
After several brainstorming sessions, the trio continues to refine the list while they each write their 30 or more essays, with Black volunteering to take a few extra because she is so fast, Griffiths said. Each essay is documented with scores of sources in case people want to dig deeper for more information.
BYU Campus Education Week participants received a sneak peek of the list. Griffiths divided the material into four classes: Infancy of the Restoration, 1805-1844; Zion in the Wilderness, 1845-1900; Out of Obscurity, 1901-1950; and Unto Every Nation, 1951-present. Due to shortness of time, Griffiths could only focus on five major events in each period, but the class was very well received, he said.
"A very positive reaction. I felt good about our list. We were thorough because no one said, 'Did you think about this?'" Griffiths said. "After the last class, people came up and asked, 'What are the next five events? At the end of the book I guess we'll have to include an essay, 'The Future of Church History.'"
The list is not intended to be conclusive, Griffiths said, and some important events will be left out. But the trio will continue to scrutinize and refine the list, especially events in the last several decades, until the manuscript is published.
"You need 30 years for something to become historical and know the impact of it," Woodger said.
Developing the list has led Griffiths to gain a greater appreciation for LDS Church history.
"There have been certain events that we put on the list, then we started to look at it, and realized, oh my goodness, I had no idea what a big deal this was and how much it changed things. We want people to read this and say, 'Whoa, you really think this is that important?' Or 'Why isn’t this in there?'" Griffiths said. "It’s not a definitive list, but an effort to identify our foundational events."
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