In August 2001, The North America West Area Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with responsibilities over the State of California, felt there was a lack of knowledge among members of the Church in California and the general population of the state, regarding the Church’s contributions to early California History. The position of Director of Public Affairs over LDS Historic Sites was created at that time and S. Dennis Holland, author of “Sierra Saints, A Brief History of the Mormons in Western El Dorado County from 1847 to 1997” and the person responsible for the Church making the video, “More Precious Than Gold, Contributions of the Mormon Battalion,” was called to fill that position. The charge at that time was to work with Federal, State, and local governments in identifying, preserving, and promoting LDS Historical Sites in California. A further charge was made to do whatever possible to educate Church members, as well as the general public, about the great contributions early members of the Church had made to early California History.
It became evident early on in this calling that there were small clusters of Living History activity taking place in various locations throughout the state. There was very little, if any correlation or Priesthood leadership direction in these activities. The history relating to a particular event, group of people or person might be told with many variations and lack of uniform accuracy. Director Holland spent considerable time meeting with various factions all over the state in an attempt to try and bring the activities under Priesthood leadership and direction, and to try and develop a central state committee to help standardize the material and appearance of that being presented, for accuracy and relevance. Due to the fact that many of these presentations would be made on state park or school property, where no missionary discussions would be allowed, it was decided that the program seemed to best fit in the bridge building of understanding and friendship to the community under the activities of the Public Affairs program. The other attempt would be to help advance this activity in areas that could use this type of activity, but had not yet done anything of this nature. An attempt would also be made to improve communications of what activities of this type would be taking place around the state, so that groups could support each other in these events. On the next page is a letter send out by the Area Presidency to every stake president in the State of California in November 2003, regarding their feelings about the program and what they hoped would be achieved by it.
Many presenters have gone the full measure and spent over $1000.00 for appropriate looking clothing for an event and then one or two people will show up wearing modern day sunglasses or footwear such as cowboy boots or Nike athletic shoes, which is so obvious to the public, that it totally detracts from the entire group and presentation of the day. Be diligent in what you do, as we are not only honoring the remembrance of those gallant pioneers we are trying to portray, but we represent the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and should endeavor to do the very best we can in word, deed and appearance.
This is a work in progress! Please direct any corrections or additions you feel should be made to the State Living History Committee so that these changes or additions can be sent the various committees that are using this manual.