The pattern of keeping records dates back to the earliest days of the church, when Joseph Smith, the church’s founding prophet, announced the divine decree, “Behold, there shall be a record kept among you” (D&C 21:1). Leaders of the church have strived to obey that command. Contemporaneous records were kept of revelations received by the prophet, the calling and interaction of early leaders, missionary assignments, the building of temples, and much more.
The Latter-day Saints continue to be a record-keeping people. In fact, there may be no other people on earth of comparable size who have a richer record-keeping tradition than the people nicknamed Mormons. It is a part of the church’s administrative system, reaching from small committees to the church’s general conferences and from new members to the most senior leaders. Because of this tradition, scholars can readily evaluate Latter-day Saint history from a wealth of primary documents.
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