NAUVOO, Illinois — With the historic Nauvoo Illinois Temple as a backdrop, Elder Quentin L. Cook promised young adult members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that studying the history of the Church will deepen their faith and their desire to live the gospel more fully.
“In learning more, we will bind our hearts together with Saints of yesterday and today,” said Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “We will find examples of imperfect people who went forward with faith and allowed God to work through them to accomplish his work.”
Addressing young adults ages 18 to 30 in a worldwide “Face to Face” event, Elder Cook answered significant questions of Church history on Sunday evening, Sept. 9.
Joined by Church historians Kate Holbrook and Matt Grow in the broadcast, Elder Cook spoke about polygamy, the methods Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon, the differing accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, and other issues of historical importance. The Church is not hiding aspects of its 188-year-old history, he promised some 250 young adults on the temple grounds and thousands more gathered in locations across the globe.
“Church history can be a significant source of faith,” Elder Cook said. But for some, Church history “has been misunderstood or overlooked” or “crowded out by larger concerns of the world.”
Some people “have even purposely misrepresented stories of the past to sow doubt,” he said.
Broadcast as the sun set along the banks of the Mississippi River, the “Face to Face” event was held to “inform and answer questions with an emphasis on Church history.” The broadcast followed the recent release of the Church’s new narrative history, “Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days.”
Church leaders chose the location for the broadcast — just over the hill from the final resting place of Joseph Smith, his wife Emma, and his brother Hyrum — “because Nauvoo and this temple were so pivotal to the history of the Church,” said Elder Cook. “The temple meant everything to the early Saints, and the ordinances they received there empowered them to do remarkable things in building the Kingdom of God.”
Elder Cook praised the generation — which has produced 600,000 full-time missionaries. “That is over 40 percent of all the missionaries that have ever served in this dispensation,” said Elder Cook.
In preparation for the event, the Church received thousands of questions from young adults across the globe. Hosts Spencer Heslop, 24, and Maile Mayer, 18, read several questions during the broadcast, which focused on the time period from the First Vision in 1820 until the Saints completed the Nauvoo temple in 1846. “We will answer as many as we can to give our perspective on the history of the Church,” said Elder Cook.
Grow said the early Church moved forward with young, faithful leaders and members. “The early Latter-day Saints moment was a movement of the young people,” he said. "That is one of the exciting things about speaking to the young adults of the Church; it was their age group who converted to the Church in the 1830s and the 1840s. It was their age group who built the Church.”
Holbrook said that "standing here in Nauvoo" has given her an awareness of how early Latter-day Saints "were able to prioritize faith in God’s will over every other consideration."
"I have found that when I study Church history I gain spiritual ancestors," she said. "Their examples, their experiences, their suffering, all of it is really meaningful to me. It makes me feel rooted. It makes me feel stronger than I did before learning their stories."
Responding to the first question, Elder Cook, Holbrook and Grow each assured the young adults of the Church commitment to history.
“The history of the Church can withstand scrutiny,” said Grow. “We don’t need to be afraid of it. It is inspiring. Sometimes we will have questions. But there are good answers.”
The Church History Department is not trying to hide or censor history but instead trying to make Church history “accessible, available and understandable,” said Grow.
Elder Cook said in the over 22 years he has been a General Authority, the desire of Church leaders “is to be as transparent as possible in terms of Church history and doctrine.”