At Meridian Magazine today, I read a column entitled “Reading the Prophets in Context” written by the respected Mormon historian, Davis Bitton. And in it he includes a valuable list of the standard compilations that have been made from the sermons of each of the Presidents of the Church from the time of Joseph Smith down to the present. But he does more than that, he asks us to consider what goes into such compilations and what we might be missing by failing to read the full text of the sermons from which they are compiled. He comments on our current reading in Relief Society and our Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and groups. How did the committees that compiled these works decide what to include, and what to leave out? I think this is a valuable article. The list of standard compilations alone is worth the effort to read this article. He also points the reader to The Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley which is the collected conference sermons of President Hinckley since he became president of the Church in 1995. There are already two volumes in print, and each sermon is included in its entirety, not merely a few snippets. Also, he points the reader to The Words of Joseph Smith published in 1980 edited by Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook. I have owned two copies in hardback of this work, and it is undoubtedly the most important book and one of the most interesting reads I have run across in the last twenty years. And while sadly it is now out of print and almost impossible to obtain, the same material is going to be published some time in the future as part of The Joseph Smith Papers which even now is being prepared for publication by the Church Historians Office. Also, it is available electronically on Deseret Book’s GospeLink website, and on the CD-ROMS that have come out in recent years. It is on my LDS Collector’s Library ’97 from the now defunct Infobases.
For those of you who might find it useful, I have a page on my Zion’s Best website that links to all of President Hinckley’s conference sermons on the official Church website. I haven’t updated it to include his sermons during 2005 and the conference we just had in 2006, but I will get to that in the next day or two. In the meanwhile, the rest of his sermons are there, and they might be useful to you until you can get a copy of the Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley mentioned in Brother Bitton’s article.