Before you take up the study of Outlines of Ecclesiastical History, I beg leave to call your attention to the structure of the work, and the purpose for which it was written. First, then, as to its structure.
The work is divided into four parts. Part 1. deals with The Establishment of the Church through the ministry of Messiah and his apostles; Part 2. with The Apostasy, brought about through the severe persecution to which the early saints were subjected, the rise of false teachers, changing the ordinances of the gospel, intermingling pagan philosophy with Christian doctrine, and a transgression of the laws of God; Part 3. deals with “The Reformation,” treating it, however as a revolution instead of a reformation since the so-called reformation by no means re-established primitive Christianity, either in its form or essence, but it did overthrow the power of the Catholic Church in the greater part of Western Europe, gave larger liberty to the people, and thus prepared the way for the great work which followed it—the introduction of the Dispensation of the Fullness of Times. Part 4. treats of The Restoration of the Gospel, in the aforesaid Dispensation, through the revelations which God gave to the Prophet Joseph Smith.
The parts above enumerated are separated into sections, these sub-divisions being determined by the several subjects into which the main idea of the respective parts naturally divides. The sections are again separated into topics, the titles of which are printed in bold-face type, and the paragraphs are numbered for reference. These divisions, it is believed, will better enable the student to discern the relation of the respective parts to the main subject, and at the same time afford a convenient division for the assignment of lessons to classes. Ordinarily it will be found that a section will be sufficient for a lesson for either a class or quorum; but in some instances two of the shorter sections may be taken for a lesson; but some of the longer sections should be divided into two or more.
At the end of each section will be found a collection of notes bearing upon the important points treated in the text of the work, at which place reference will be found to the note at the end of the section. The author cannot, in his opinion, too emphatically urge upon the student the importance of turning to the notes to which he is directed in the text and reading them. They will be found to throw additional light upon the subject treated in the text, either by giving the statement of a recognized authority, supplying pointed argument—with which it has been thought best not to burden the body of the work—or giving illustrations to the statement made in the text. Another purpose for placing these notes at the end of the sections has been to arouse an interest in the works of the authors quoted; that the students of this text book may be induced to delve deeper into the study of Ecclesiastical History than a perusal of these pages will enable them to do. And here let the author confess, while he believes he is presenting a very valuable collection of facts to those who will take up the study of his work—yet if the study of these pages shall result in merely awakening in the minds of the elders and the youth of Israel an interest in the subject, he will account the objects of his efforts successfully attained.