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Welcome to Mormon Americana!

On April 6, 1830, the "Church of Christ," predecessor to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded at Fayette, New York. On this day, the Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith recorded this commandment of the Lord to the fledgling Church: "Behold, there shall be a record kept among you; and in it thou [Joseph Smith] shalt be called a seer, a translator, a prophet, an apostle of Jesus Christ, an elder in the church ... inspired ... to lay the foundation thereof, and to build it up unto the most holy faith" (LDS Doctrine and Covenants [1981] 21:1-2). 

The Latter-day Saints have long been a record-keeping people. Institutionally and individually, Mormonism has documented itself remarkably. The volume of letters, diaries, minute books, newspapers, photographs, financial records, and other primary source materials amassed over the years is incredible. Due to the "professionalization" of the LDS Church Archives and the organization and acquisition of Mormon Americana at universities and elsewhere, in the past two generations, the research and writing of Mormon history has "blossomed as the rose."

This wealth of primary sources presents challenges to the scholarly researcher, the amateur historian, and the casual student of Mormon history. The vast amount of material demands extensive consideration. Documents are separated geographically. Access to important (but sensitive) items is restricted. Finally, locating specific a specific record can be time-consuming. Despite all of these obstacles, historians Leonard J. Arrington and Davis Bitton have observed, "From the point of view of primary source material, present-day scholars are in a position their predecessors would have envied" (The Mormon Experience: A History of the Latter-day Saints [New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979], xiii).

 

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