“Keep a history, and a general church record of all things that transpire in Zion” (Doctrine and Covenants 85:1).
Imagine a Latter-day Saint pilot whose B-17 bomber was shot down over Germany during World War II. If he survived parachuting from his plane, he likely would have been captured and found himself in a prisoner-of-war camp. In such circumstances, how would he practice his faith in Jesus Christ? One record housed at the Church History Library tells the story of a handful of young Latter-day Saints who lived that very experience.
A group of young prisoners in Stalag Luft I, a German prisoner-of-war camp, recorded details about the Church meetings they held together. They also wrote down principles of their faith from memory, including information about baptisms and confirmations, sacrament prayers, and the Church’s 13 Articles of Faith. It appears that none of the group members could remember all the Articles of Faith, as two are missing from the record.
Like these young men, Latter-day Saints around the world have kept congregational records so that people both living and yet unborn can better understand how the Church operates as well as how it impacts individual lives. Although the types of records kept by local congregations have changed over the years (as will be discussed in our next blog post), they continue to flow into the Church History Library, which houses thousands of these documents.
The library collection also includes corporate records created by Church entities worldwide, such as local administrative offices, temples, and farms that produce food for humanitarian purposes. These records include minutes, correspondence, reports, and emails produced as part of the daily activities of these organizations. Once records become outdated, Church History Department staff members permanently preserve those that have historical value. The library houses tens of thousands of corporate records.
Some records are restricted for reasons such as privacy or confidentiality (for more information, see our Access Policy), but researchers may access much of this voluminous material in the library. Some local records have even been digitized and made available online, including the Brigham Young Office Files, the Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company general files, and a large number of mission histories (available through the mission pages of the Early Mormon Missionaries database).
Historians, genealogists, and others who venture through the pages of these records will find evidence of the faith and strength of Latter-day Saints through the ages.