Online Collection of Historical Church Magazines Expanding
In an effort to share as many of its materials as possible with Church members around the world, the Church History Department has recently added several Church magazines dating back more than 100 years to the Internet Archive, a nonprofit digital library where organizations like the Church History Library can offer free access to books, movies, music, and other media it uploads.
“These magazines contain direction from our prophets since the Restoration of the Church,” said Randy Olsen, digital library development coordinator. “To be able to go back and read the words of our prophets and apostles from a hundred years ago is a remarkable experience.”
Five English magazines, as well as three non-English magazines (see below) have been or are in the process of being digitized and added to the Internet Archive, and they will eventually be available on the Church History Catalog through history.lds.org.
“It’s a work in progress,” Brother Olsen explained. “We’ve identified a series of magazines the Church has published, and we’re in process of digitizing them and uploading them to Internet Archive. Our plans are to digitize many historic Church magazines over the next three years.”
The collections of the Church History Library contain materials such as manuscripts, books, photographs, oral histories, drawings, pamphlets, newspapers, maps, and audiovisual materials chronicling the history of the Church from its beginning in 1830 to the present day.
Earlier this year, the Church added audio and video to general conference archives dating back to 1971 on LDS.org. Previously, the Church History Department scanned all the conference reports in English since 1880 and placed them online in the Internet Archive.
Church History employees add to the archive on a daily basis.
With the recent completion of the Improvement Era collection, the Church is focusing on completing the digitization of its Der Stern collection, which was the international German periodical of the Church from 1869 to 2000. All language editions of the Liahona are also in the process of being digitized and uploaded to the archive. In some cases, the Church has been working with other partners, such as Brigham Young University, to archive these Church magazines online.
Tyler Thorsted emphasized that these collections are more than just articles from the past: “There’s actually quite a bit of great Church, mission, and family history. . . . They can be great resources for family research,” he said, pointing out that many international issues contain details about local Church units and members from that time. Issues of Der Stern, for example, often included information about emigrating Saints.
Each issue of the magazines appears in various formats, including text, PDF, EPUB, Kindle, Daisy, full text, and DjVu, and is downloadable.
The Contributor (1879–1896) was intended “to represent the Mutual Improvement Associations, and to furnish a publication of peculiar interest to their members and to the mature youth of our people.”
The Improvement Era (1897–1970) followed The Contributor as the official arm of the Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association and became the premier adult periodical of the Church through its General Authority sponsorship and its focus on theology, history, contemporary affairs, and life in the Church.
The Juvenile Instructor (1866–1929) was the first children’s magazine published between the Mississippi River and the West Coast of the United States. Its purpose was to help prepare the children of the Church for future responsibilities. The magazine published editorials, poetry (some by Eliza R. Snow), and a monthly column, “Voices from Nature,” by Karl G. Maeser. It also printed essays, stories, and biographical sketches that often focused on moral issues or the history of other cultures. As its interests turned more toward filling the needs of teachers, it became the teachers’ magazine of the Church and was renamed The Instructor in 1929.
The Instructor (1929–1970) was the official publication of the Sunday School beginning in January 1901, when it was still called The Juvenile Instructor. Its pages were filled with articles on teaching methods and gospel subjects to be used by the several Church auxiliary organizations, especially the Sunday School. It ceased publication in December 1970, when the Church consolidated its English language magazines into three publications: the Ensign for adults, the New Era for youth, and the Friend for children.
The Latter-day Saints’ Millennial Star (1840–1970) was the official publication of the Church in the British Isles and the longest running Church magazine ever published. Parley P. Pratt, an Apostle of the Church and the first editor of the periodical, outlined its purposes: “the spread of the fullness of the gospel,” “the restoration of the ancient principles of Christianity,” “the gathering of Israel,” “the rolling forth of the kingdom of God among the nations,” “the signs of the times,” and “in short, whatever is shown forth indicative of the coming of the ‘Son of Man,’ and the ushering in of his universal reign on the earth.” The Millennial Star was retired in 1970, when it was incorporated into the Ensign. This collection begins with the January 3, 1901, issue and ends in 1970. The BYU Digital Collections features the issues from 1840 through 1900.
De Ster (1896–2000) was the international Dutch periodical from the Church. It became an international magazine in 1967, and its name was changed to Liahona in January 2000.
Der Stern (1869–2000) was the international German periodical of the Church. It became an international magazine in 1967, and its name changed to Liahona in January 2000.
Skandinaviens Stjerne (1851–2000), meaning “Scandinavian Star,” was the periodical for the Scandinavian and Danish Mission. It became an international magazine in 1967, and its name changed to Liahona in January 2000.