Early in my church membership I discovered I sometimes felt like the new kid in school. Members often talked of a past I knew nothing about. They had lived under prophets I didn’t know and experienced church events I’d never heard of. One day, while shopping at the church owned Deseret Industries thrift store, I discovered some very old Ensign magazines. The Ensign is the church’s magazine for adults. I sifted through them until I found some that were published long before I joined the church and purchased them. At home, I began to get caught up. I read the words of David O. McKay, a prophet many church members remembered and loved, and began to understand the things he had cared about. I read news stories of past events. After a while, I felt I had a better understanding of the church years I had missed by converting as a teenager.
Today, of course, this process is much easier. Many old church magazines are now online at LDS.org in the Gospel Library. It can be fun to wander through the old magazines and learn about the churches history—recent to long time members, but unfamiliar territory for you.
Spencer W. Kimball was the prophet when I joined the church. He was a prophet for a very long time, so you may hear of him often. You can read some stories from his life in an article called, President Spencer W. Kimball:No Ordinary Man By Elder Boyd K. Packer. (Boyd K. Packer, “President Spencer W. Kimball: No Ordinary Man,” Ensign, Mar 1974, 3)
In this article, for instance, you’ll read this small story that shows you who he is:
“After his call to the Twelve he suffered a series of heart attacks. The doctors said that he must rest. He wanted to be with his beloved Indians. Brother Golden R. Buchanan took him to the camp of Brother and Sister Polacca, high in the pines of Arizona, and there he stayed during the weeks until his heart mended and his strength returned.
One morning he was missing from camp. When he did not return for breakfast, Brother Polacca and other Indian friends began to search. They found him several miles from camp, sitting beneath a large pine tree with his Bible open to the last chapter of the Gospel of John. In answer to their worried looks, he said, “Six years ago today I was called to be an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. And I just wanted to spend the day with Him whose witness I am.’“
For a more organized study of church history, LDS.org has a section on the history of the church. Here you can get the story of the gospel from its restored beginnings, including the stories of all the prophets.
There is an entire website just on Joseph Smith you can explore, which includes images of original historical documents.
LDS.org is a wonderful way to catch up on the church’s fascinating history. You can search it in small bits as you have time, and soon you’ll understand all the references others make about our past.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.