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The Doctrinal Foundation for Church History

The Doctrinal Foundation for Church History
When Alma handed over the responsibility for the Church to his son Helaman, he went to great lengths to ensure that Helaman understood the importance of keeping records. No doubt Helaman thought it was “a small thing”, prompting Alma to say, “Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…” (See Alma 37:6). 
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“Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass…”

He goes on to explain the reasons why keeping and preserving the records are so critical:

“And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls.” (Alma 37:8)

“And now, it has hitherto been wisdom in God that these things should be preserved; for behold, they have enlarged the memory of this people, yea, and convinced many of the error of their ways, and brought them to the knowledge of their God unto the salvation of their souls.”

In this dispensation the Lord commanded Joseph Smith to keep a record, as recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 21:1 – “Behold, there shall be a record kept among you…”  This commandment was given in 1830 immediately after the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized.  In subsequent scriptures the Lord assigns the responsibility to compile histories to the clerk and describes what these histories should contain (D&C 85:1-2).

“Behold, there shall be a record kept among you…”

The importance of keeping accurate and complete historical accounts of our ministry in the LDS Church is attested to by the Saviour’s dialogue with Nephi at the time of his visit to the Nephites. The Saviour asks to see the records. He points out that the record of the prophecy of Samuel the Lamanite was incomplete and the portion that was excluded should be inserted (see 3 Nephi 23:9-13).  We may not understand why this oversight needed to be corrected. We know that all things are done in the wisdom of God who provides us with everything we need to be strengthened in our faith. The underlying lesson the Saviour taught is how essential it is to keep complete records.

Elder Marvin K. Jensen, who preceded Elder Steven E. Snow, the current Church Historian, spoke about the importance of remembering: “The scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon make clear that ‘remembering’ is a fundamental and saving principle of the gospel . . . Remembering the past gives us needed perspective as God’s children to have faith in our future destiny and thus to live more faithfully in the present.”

“The scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon make clear that ‘remembering’ is a fundamental and saving principle of the gospel . . . Remembering the past gives us needed perspective as God’s children to have faith in our future destiny and thus to live more faithfully in the present.”

Recording our history enables us to remember, and to strengthen our faith.  President Henry B. Eyring, at one time in his life, learned how remembering what the Lord had done for him helped him to become more aware of the Lord’s hand: “As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day.  As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”

“As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day.  As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”

As we reflect upon our day and seek to recognize the Lord’s hand in our lives, we will become more sensitive to how a loving Heavenly Father is involved in the “details of our lives”. If we take the time to record these things, they will be a blessing to our children, their children and future generations.

Surely it is the Lord’s will that we record our histories. There is much that He can do for those whom we love, with what we may consider to be small and insignificant things.