Preface, in Window of Faith: Latter-day Saint Perspectives on World History, ed. Roy A. Prete (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2005), ix–xi.
This book, consisting mainly of articles by Brigham Young University scholars, represents an approach to world history for Latter-day Saints that acknowledges the hand of God in the historical process. It views the unfolding of history within the perspective of Heavenly Father’s plan for the salvation of His children. The thesis of the work is that God, working through human agents, has shaped world history for the accomplishment of His purposes. In the great work of salvation, chief among God’s purposes in the modern era are the Restoration of the gospel and its dissemination to the all the world in preparation for the Second Coming of the Messiah (see D&C 1:1–23, 34–36; 65:1–6). The millennial reign will thus be ushered in and the great redemptive work of administering saving ordinances for the untold myriads who have lived on earth without a knowledge of the gospel will be accomplished.
Several major themes emerge in the blending of the history of the modern era with divine purposes. Modern prophets and apostles have long identified the divine hand at work in several aspects of Western history, such as the flowering of art and literature in the Renaissance, the discovery of America, the religious renewal of the Reformation, the development of representative constitutional government and human rights in Britain, and the rise of freedom in America, to mention but a few. The providential rise of freedom in America has been identified as a necessary step in preparation for the Restoration of the gospel.
But as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints extends its reach across more and more of the earth, broader themes emerge. A theme of prime importance is the development of freedom in the Western world—the United States, in particular, but also in other countries—and its spread in one form or another to the peoples of the earth, thus facilitating the spread of the gospel to all the world. A second theme that has taken on greater importance is the unparalleled disbursement from heaven of scientific and technical knowledge in the modern era, which has blessed all of mankind and greatly accelerated the Lord’s work, providing systems of transportation and communication for a worldwide church and information technology for vastly expanded family history research and temple work. A third major theme has been the rapid progress of the Church since 1945, allowing it to assume by degrees its worldwide mission of spreading the gospel “unto the ends of the earth, as the stone which is cut out of the mountain without hands shall roll forth, until it has filled the whole earth” (D&C 65:2; see also Daniel 2:44–45). Following the turbulent events of the early twentieth century, the world has been prepared to receive the gospel through the spread of freedom and by other means. Several themes in the preparation of the world for the receipt of the gospel, such as the rise of literacy, the amelioration of social and economic conditions, the intellectual preparation of the minds of the people, and the improved image of the Church, have only been lightly touched upon and invite further exploration and discussion.
As the work of the Lord’s Church progresses, the gathering of the house of Israel according to God’s ancient covenants is being accomplished in its spiritual dimension, while the literal gathering of the house of Israel continues to unfold. Our Father in Heaven is the God of the whole earth and has not worked with just one people but, as ancient and modern prophets have indicated, has guided the destinies of all peoples and has given them light and knowledge as He has seen fit. One may thus conclude that while God’s intervention has not always been very visible, He has played a major role in guiding the affairs of men. Ever respecting the agency of man, He has nonetheless shaped to His purposes the destinies of mankind, for, as Moroni declared, “the eternal purposes of the Lord shall roll on, until all his promises shall be fulfilled” (Mormon 8:22).
Many individuals and groups have contributed to the preparation and production of this volume. I want to express special thanks to Robert S. Patterson, dean of the David O. McKay School of Education at Brigham Young University, who mentored the project and provided support in numerous ways; to Richard E. Bennett in Religious Education for his initial support and unfailing help; and to John W. Welch at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, whose keen insight helped shape the scope of the work. Equal praise is reserved for the hardworking members of the editorial board, Brian Q. Cannon, Richard O. Cowan, D. Mark Prescott, and Craig J. Ostler, who brought to bear the expertise of their several fields in support of the project. Brian Q. Cannon also organized a two-day symposium at BYU, February 6–7, 2003, which provided a forum for contributors to present their findings to students and faculty prior to publication. The several contributors are to be warmly applauded. They have contributed insights from their spiritual inquiries and a wide range of academic fields, including religious education, history, law, technology, and education. Special thanks go to the numerous unpaid individuals who reviewed the articles. Two student research assistants at BYU, Sherilyn Farnes and Suzanne L. Bills, made a significant contribution.
Long-term friends of the editor, Douglas R. Serres and LeRoy E. Whitehead, shared ideas and made helpful suggestions at various stages. Another friend, A. Michael Shumate, a graphic designer at Saint Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario, prepared the maps.
Among institutions who contributed, the Royal Military College of Canada, in Kingston, Ontario, must be cited, which provided a sabbatical leave for the editor to undertake the project, and also provided travel funds and administrative support. At BYU, Frank W. Fox, acting chair of the History Department, is to be commended for providing a home for an innovative scholar and arranging an honors class for him to test his ideas. The Religious Studies Center at BYU provided financial support for the project, and the managing director, Richard Draper, and executive editor, Devan Jensen, have been unfailingly helpful and have gone the extra mile in moving the project through to publication. Charlotte A. Pollard has directed typesetting and produced the graphs.
Finally, I want to express appreciation to my wife, Carma, who served as a sounding board for each new idea and read and commented on each contribution, and whose support has been continuous and unfailing; also to family members for their support and reflections. It should be pointed out that the ideas and views presented in this volume are those of its authors and are not the official views of any of the sponsoring institutions or of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Roy A. Prete