By Angela Lee and R. Devan Jensen
At the Religious Studies Center, we love publishing content about Church history, gospel doctrine, ancient scripture, and more. This year the RSC decided to focus on Church history both far and near. For 2017, we take you around the world by focusing on specific regions and their stories. We take you from Italy to Hawaii, from Arizona to England, and from Taiwan to Utah’s Dixie area, and we finish our tour with Canada!
Italy: With Mormons in the Piazza, visit Italy in the 1850s up to the present day to experience what those Latter-day Saints felt amidst a backdrop of historical forces—political upheaval, world wars, social change, and internal Church dynamics—that presented both obstacles and opportunities for growth. Authors James A. Toronto, Eric R Dursteler, and Michael Homer have done a masterful job. This book, writes Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, a professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, “is certain to become the seminal work not just of the history of the Latter-day Saints in Italy but also of ‘how new religious movements arise, expand, and take root in societies around the world.’”
Hawaii: With Kalaupapa: The Mormon Experience in an Exiled Community, Fred E. Woods discusses the dread disease of leprosy (known as Hansen’s disease today). In the nineteenth century, this disease spread through the Hawaiian Islands, causing the king of Hawai‘ito sanction an act that exiled all people afflicted with this disease to Kalaupapa, a peninsula on the island of Moloka‘i. Kalaupapa was separated from the rest of the world, with sheer cliffs on one side, the ocean on the other three, and limited contact with anyone, even loved ones. The message of the Kalaupapa community reminds us of the acute need for each of us to apply the Latin maxim “in the essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.”
Arizona: In Pioneer Women of Arizona, walk alongside the Mormon girls, young women, mothers, and grandmothers who traversed the desert to settle the Arizona strip. Donald G. Godfrey, a professor emeritus at Arizona State University, writes that this book—written by Roberta Flake Clayton, Catherine Ellis, and David Boone—“is a phenomenal contribution to pioneer women’s history in the Arizona and Utah LDS communities. . . . I highly recommend this work to Mormon historians, to those interested in women’s contributions to history, and to those who just enjoy wonderful pioneer stories.” Released June 15, 2017.
England: Follow Wilford Woodruff and other Apostles to England to discover the story of remarkable missionary success in the Three Counties area of England. Ronald D. Dennis, editor and translator of the Zion’s Trumpet series, writes of this book, “The Field Is White takes the reader on a fascinating tour of research findings regarding a long-neglected topic—that of the missionary efforts of Wilford Woodruff and others among the truth seekers known as the United Brethren. Carol Wilkinson and Cynthia Doxey Green have been thorough and even relentless in their pursuit of information on every person, place, and reference associated with Mormon missionaries and their converts in Worcestershire, Herefordshire, and Gloucestershire—the Three Counties. Numerous color photographs, charts, and detailed maps further enhance a very fine read.” Released June 15, 2017.
Taiwan: We are finalizing a volume by Felipe and Petra Chou titled Voice of the Saints in Taiwan, which covers the history of the Church there. Elder Liang Shih-an (Kent), first Chinese Area Seventy from Taiwan, wrote that “this book explores how the restored gospel was received by the Chinese people despite difficult circumstances. It further discusses the growth of the Church in Taiwan over the last sixty years. Today’s success is the result of Heavenly Father’s blessings and the dedication of the missionaries, members, and church leaders. It is a fulfillment of the promises in Taiwan’s dedicatory prayer. The publication of this book will especially inspire and contribute to the future faith of the Chinese people.” Released July 31, 2017.
Utah’s Dixie area: Of course, we recognize the importance of exploring not only distant places but also regions closer to home. Dixie Saints: Laborers in the Field is the story of the common folk—the farmers and ranchers, the fruit peddlers, the road builders, the timber cutters and lumber makers, the freighters, the midwives, the mothering women and child nurturers, the quilters and gardeners, the teachers, the choir singers and band players—those whose names are on genealogy charts but are seldom in the history books. It is about agriculture before machines and hard muscle labor in gardens, farms, and ranches. “These interviews,” writes Brian Q. Cannon, professor of history at Brigham Young University, “are a unique, unparalleled source for the social history of Mormon life in the Mojave Desert region following the pioneer era.” W. Paul Reeve, director of graduate studies in the University of Utah History Department, wrote, “Dixie Saints vividly illustrates . . . their story told in their own words. It is a compelling slice of social history expertly organized and edited by Douglas Alder, one of Southern Utah’s treasured historians. In his hands, these forgotten voices from the past speak again. . . . From the mundane to the miraculous, they share absorbing tales of lives well lived but otherwise forgotten.” Released July 31, 2017.
Canada: Finally, Canadian Mormons, Roy and Carma Prete’s edited compilation, gives a panoramic view of the rise and progress of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Canada. It has all the elements of a great saga. It includes stories of converts who joined in Canada; moved to Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois; and then trekked across the Great Plains to Utah in the Rocky Mountains. It tells of Mormon pioneers from Utah arriving in southern Alberta after 1887, having made a second grand trek to escape their persecutors, and details the settlement of Mormons in Alberta. It is the story of an ongoing missionary effort from the late nineteenth century, throughout the twentieth, and into the twenty-first, with a vast number of missionaries and the sustained effort of thousands of lay leaders and members laboring relentlessly to build up the Church in that region, which now consists of nearly 200,000 members, making the Church an essential part of the Canadian religious landscape. Released October 30, 2017.
As you embark on this global tour of Church history, we wish you all “bon voyage”!