Painting an Inspiring Story

New Illustrated History of the Church
I’ve been working around the clock the past two weeks with Barb Walden and David Howlett to create a new, brief, illustrated history of the church. We want to have the book published in time for the sesquicentennial of the Reorganization next year, so time is tight.

Our goal has been to tell the church’s history vividly, using the graphic-intensive format we created for last year’s illustrated history of the Kirtland Temple. The new book will be 74 pages long. Writing a 74-page book doesn’t initially seem like that big a deal, but some times it can be harder to write a short book than a long book.

For one thing, when writing an introduction designed for both church members and a general audience, you can’t just jump right into church jargon — you have to introduce and explain every word as you go. Take the statement, “the Temple was ultimately built on part of the original 63 acres that Bishop Edward Partridge purchased for the planned city of Zion.” There’s a lot of things that have to be introduced to make that statement. Not only who was Partridge, what’s a temple, what’s meant by Zion, but also, what’s a bishop?

The next big challenge was constructing a new historical narrative. Our historians community has done a great job deconstructing church history, but as we’ve challenged folklore, we haven’t always done a great job replacing it with an informed story that is inspiring. For me, that’s a shame, because I think the informed story has the potential to be infinitely more inspiring than the old folk tales.

So a lot of thought has gone into it, and I’m pretty proud of the results so far. I’m including here a sneak-peek at some of the 2-page spreads:

The book will be available next year from John Whitmer Books (and on Amazon), debuting at the Restoration Studies Symposium. I can’t wait!

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6 comments on “Painting an Inspiring Story

  1. Doug Gregory says:

    Let me be the first to say as well (at least on this site) that I can’t wait either. Hope this helps us move on from our apologetic mode!

  2. J. Stapley says:

    Beautiful work John. I look forward to the final product.

  3. Rich Brown says:

    Looks like a great project by John Whitmer. Congratulations. I’ll look forward to its publication. For a long time I was wondering if the church would pay much attention to the sesquicentennial of the Reorganization and the Herald.

    You’ve identified two critical issues for this book: knowing who you’re writing for; and establishing an effective narrative to replace a deconstructed one. I’ve always been amazed (and saddened) by the number of people who say they want to write a book but have no idea who they’d be writing for (or, put another way, who would buy it).

    In this case it’s not just 74 pages of information, but a compelling story that will connect with readers visually as well as intellectually. It’s a terrific thing to have well-trained historians and theologians in the Community of Christ, and if they’re skilled storytellers that’s even better.

  4. Matthew Bolton says:

    A great service to the church — well done and thank you John, David and Barb! Will you include a bibliography at the back of the book so if people want to read more they can?

  5. John Hamer says:

    Hey guys, thanks. The final book just went to our copy editor for a final read-thru. It should be at the printer in about a week and a half.

    Matt: I don’t think it will have a bibliography because on a color book, we’re more pressed for space. If there is any space, we’ll add one.

  6. [...] book about the history of the Community of Christ. You can see a preview of what it will look like at this link. Check it out to see what an artist John is when it comes to map making and book [...]

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