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BYU Studies compiles firsthand accounts of founding of church

"Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844" now available

Recently released by BYU Studies, "Opening the Heavens: Accounts of Divine Manifestations, 1820-1844" attempts to bring together, for the first time, all known early documents relevant to the founding years of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"The value of these documents is immeasurable," said John W. Welch, professor of law at Brigham Young University and editor-in-chief of BYU Studies. "In the history of world religions, no other body of foundational documentation rivals it for its immediacy and size. Think, for example, how few documents have survived from the time of Mohammed. In the case of Joseph Smith and the key events of the Restoration, we enjoy, by comparison, an overwhelming abundance."

"Opening the Heavens" starts by examining the 10 different accounts of Joseph Smith's First Vision. In these accounts, Smith related to friends, the general public, visitors and journalists the experience he had in 1820 when God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him.

"Readers can examine for themselves the different elements present in each account," said Welch.

The second key event is the publication of the Book of Mormon. Included in "Opening the Heavens" are more than 200 accounts of individuals who attested to the translation process and subsequent printing of the Book of Mormon in upstate New York in the early 19th century.

Readers will also find a large number of early Church documents about bestowal of the priesthood by heavenly messengers on Joseph Smith. Half of these documents come directly from Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, who testified they received the priesthood directly from John the Baptist, and from Peter, James and John, apostles of Jesus Christ.

"Opening the Heavens" also contains accounts of several other visions, visitations or visual revelations experienced by Joseph Smith and other early members of the Church.

"The firsthand accounts contained in 'Opening the Heavens' make it one of the most persuasive books ever published on Church history," said Welch.

BYU Studies, which prepared the book for publication, is a major publisher of books on LDS history, culture, art and beliefs. The quarterly journal published by BYU Studies has placed great emphasis on the publication of scores of newly discovered documents from the founding years of the Church.

Some of its books, including "Opening the Heavens," are published under the Brigham Young University Press imprint.

For more information, contact John W. Welch, (801) 422-3168, or David Johnston, (801) 422-5194.

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