The Church in South America

POSTED BY: holzapfel

11/19/08


My friend Mark L. Grover is the author of a new book, A Land of Promise and Prophecy: Elder A. Theodore Tuttle in South America, 1960-1965, published by the Religious Studies Center at BYU.

When he sent me an early draft of the manuscript more than a year ago, I dove in and read it completely. I was impressed; this was a thoughtful history that a commercial press like Deseret Book would likely not publish, but it was the kind of project our donors are willing to support to preserve the story for future generations.

A word about the process: Once I am satisfied a manuscript is right for our audience, I send it out for two blind peer reviews. The reviewers do not know who the author is, so their reviews focus on the content and not the author. It helps keep scholars honest. We ask them to carefully read the manuscript and answer some basic questions: Does the manuscript provide new insights to the topic? Does the author have a firm grasp of the current literature on the topic? Is the manuscript well written? Is this the kind of book the RSC should publish? Once we receive these reviews, we then decide whether to accept it for publication. Then we begin the work of turning a manuscript into a polished book—editing, source checking, designing, and printing and binding. When the printed book finally arrives, another flurry of activity begins as we take care of copyright issues, publicity, and distribution.

No matter how many times I have gone through this publication ritual (for my own publications or for those published at the RSC), it is an exciting moment to open the box that contains a new book. I always look carefully at the cover and then begin to thumb through the book, looking at photographs, captions, and other design features. I often smell the pages as I fan through the book. I love the smell of a brand-new book. Eventually, I take the time to read the book cover to cover. Even though I have become intimately acquainted with its content through the nearly yearlong publishing process, there is still something exciting about reading it again as a complete, bound book.

Last night I took my copy of Mark’s book home and began to read. I could not put it down. I was so interested in reading the story for pure enjoyment instead of as a gatekeeper and editor. Mark provides a readable and moving account of Elder A. Theodore Tuttle’s labors in South America during a pivotal period (1960-65). He opines that it was “key to the evolution of the Church because it represented a significant adjustment in approach and direction, particularly from Church headquarters in Salt Lake City” (vi). Mark acknowledges, “It is dangerous to suggest that the evolution of the Church in South America belongs to one person or one period” (11) but adds that “in history there are always pivotal and important moments” (12). The book tells us why the five years between 1960 to 1965 represent a defining moment in LDS history in South America and why Elder Tuttle is central to that story.

Today, there are seventy-one missions, fifteen temples and more than three million members of the Church in South America. This suggests that Elder Tuttle, the mission presidents, missionaries, and courageous converts who lived and labored in the southern continent during this period laid an important foundation that has been built upon by so many more.

History provides context to the present. Mark Grover has provided us something truly significant to consider as we read about the Lord’s work spreading across a giant continent among a diverse people. It is a remarkable story of faith and courage that matches any story from the Latter-day Saint past. I think you will like it!