Encyclopedic History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
Compiled by assistant Church historian Andrew Jenson in the early 20th century and serialized in the Deseret News, the Encyclopedic History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (M272.03 J54e 1941) was published in 1941 and is one of the most frequently used reference resources in the Church History Library.1 The Encyclopedic History primarily contains brief historical sketches of branches, wards, stakes, districts, conferences, and missions, collectively referred to as “local units.” It also contains information about selected historic locations (“Springville, Utah”), Church-published periodicals (“Liahona, the Elders’ Journal”), and Intermountain West railroads (“Utah Northern Railroad”). Occasionally, the Encyclopedic History also discusses topics related to Church practices (“Fast Day”).
All the entries are arranged alphabetically. For local units, entries generally include a brief description of a unit’s geographical2 and jurisdictional setting; a short synopsis of the unit’s founding and development; a list of bishops, along with the years they served; and the unit’s “population” (that is, membership), usually based on information from the year 1930 (apparently obtained from a Church census conducted that year).
For example, consider this entry for “Midview Ward,” a ward located in Utah’s Duchesne Stake:
MIDVIEW WARD, Duchesne Stake, Duchesne Co., Utah, consists of the Latter-day Saints residing in a farming district known as Midview, thus named because of being located about midway between Lake Fork and the Duchesne River. The center of the ward, or the townsite of Midview, is situated one mile north of the Duchesne River and three miles south of Lake Fork, about six miles in a straight line or eight miles by road west of Myton, and 15 miles northeast of Duchesne. The farms in Midview are mostly irrigated from the Duchesne Irrigation Company’s canal, and a few farms also from a government canal known as the Redcap Ditch.
That part of the country now included in Midview was settled in 1905 soon after the Uintah Indian Reservation was opened for settlement. Harold Carter was one of the first settlers. A Sunday school was organized at Midview in 1906. The saints in the Midview district were organized July 20, 1910, as a branch of the Church with Albert A. Burgener as presiding Elder. He presided until Sept. 21, 1913, when the Midview Branch was organized as a ward with Fred S. Musser as Bishop. He was succeeded in 1916 by Alma A. Burgener, who on Jan. 5, 1930, was succeeded by Charles W. Smith, who acted Dec. 31, 1930. The Church membership on that date was 177, including 35 children. The total population of the Midview Precinct was 159 in 1930.
Due to its distant era of publication, information obtained from the Encyclopedic History should be checked against original and other sources, as there are errors in some entries.
The Church History Library also has an index of the Encyclopedic History in hard copy format. A digital, word-searchable version of the volume can be found online courtesy of both Brigham Young University–Idaho and the Internet Archive.
For additional information on local units, especially those units created after 1941, researchers should consult the manuscript history, annual reports, and minute books belonging to the local unit of interest. These records can be found listed in the Church History Catalog. You can also learn more about local units’ records in our research guide on the topic.
Top image: Duchesne, Utah, circa 1920 (PH 10990), near the Midview Ward featured herein
1. To access the digitized version of the Encyclopedic History of the Church in the Church History Catalog, a Church account is required.
2. A local unit’s geographical description can be quite useful when trying to determine the ward in which an individual lived.