Reid L. Neilson and Fred E. Woods, Editors. Salt Lake City Utah: Deseret Book Company, 2012, 6.25×9.25″, 544 pages.
Young Latter-day Saint missionaries, both men and women, dressed in white shirts and dark suits or conservative dresses, have become the public face of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the twenty-first century. On June 25, 2007, just over 175 years since Joseph Smith’s brother, Samuel, first set out to proselyte with a knapsack filled with copies of the Book of Mormon, the one millionth Mormon missionary was beginning his two-year service. He joined the other 53,000 full-time young men and young women who were then evangelizing in the Church’s approximately 350 missions around the world.
Yet the 2007 Latter-day Saint landmark and its implication for religions in America and abroad remains one of the most unremarked-upon developments in historical and religious studies. The study of Mormon missiology need not—and should not—continue to fall through the cracks of traditional Christian mission histories. The collection of essays published within this book is an attempt to help some of the stories of Mormon missionary work to a broader audience.
Since Samuel Smith’s initial evangelistic foray, missionary work has become the lifeblood of the Restoration. At the annual Church History Symposium held at Brigham Young University (BYU), hundreds of historians and aficionados of the Mormon past came together to teach and learn about the growth and development of LDS missionary work since its inception. This symposium was sponsored by the Religious Studies Center at BYU. The authors write of the faith, sacrifice, and great love on the part of those who took up the call to spread the gospel in this dispensation and those whose lives were changed as they heeded the message of the Restoration and the Prophet Joseph’s charge not to “let a single corner of the earth go without a mission.”