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‘Statements’ great LDS resource

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STATEMENTS OF THE LDS FIRST PRESIDENCY: A TOPICAL COMPENDIUM, compiled by Gary James Bergera, Signature Books, 544 pages, $34.95

Because LDS Church doctrine asserts a foundation belief in continuing revelation through prophets, there is no more important vehicle for doctrinal questions or clarification on contemporary issues than official statements of the First Presidency. Yet there has not been a single, usable source for those statements until now.

Gary Bergera, an author, editor, scholar and currently director of the Smith-Pettit Foundation, which supports Mormon studies, has compiled this single-volume "Statements of the LDS First Presidency."

Unless a potential reader would rather comb James R. Clark's six-volume "Messages of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints," this would be a definite asset to any member of the church or student of Mormonism.

This easy-use volume is organized both alphabetically according to subject matter and in reverse chronological order. Bergera has culled all of the salient sources of these statements, then included the statement, or in the case of a lengthy one, the most relevant portions of it. Sometimes his sources include correspondence, private collections and excerpts from the Church News supplement of the Deseret Morning News.

Dale LeCheminant, a respected, retired LDS Institute instructor from the University of Utah, writes a useful foreword, and Bergera includes several pages of abbreviations for his sources.

Bergera declares his intentions to be "strictly educational," and he does not add any editorial comments whatsoever. It's possible, therefore, simply to thumb through the volume in search of a subject — abortion, baptism, cremation, exaltation, fasting, gospel, happiness, knowledge, marriage, music, obedience, prayer, politics, puritans, reverence, 12 apostles, word of wisdom, etc.

The volume is small and easily transported and can be easily used as a reference tool. Some may enjoy reading it through from beginning to end, but that seems unnecessary. It is carefully documented, making it a rich, reliable source as to what LDS Church leaders have stated on multiple issues.

Bergera has performed an important scholarly service that virtually all Mormons and students of Mormonism are sure to appreciate.

E-mail: dennis@desnews.com