Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 3: Boldy, Nobly, and Independent, 1893-1955 is a fantastic addition to the Church’s official histories. Picking up after the ending of the previous volume at the dedication of the Salt Lake City Temple, this volume begins with the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and wraps up with the dedication of the Bern, Switzerland Temple in 1955. It covers a time of growth and transition for the Church and discusses shifts and decisions at Church headquarters in Utah that are significant in shaping the institution today; expansion in Europe, Central America, South America, and Asia; the development of the welfare programs of the Church during the Great Depression; and the experiences of Church members in the two world wars. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this volume.
The writing style of the book is very readable, continuing the approach of being written in the style of a novel with focus characters throughout. In the early parts of the book, Susa Gates continues to be a central character, along with her daughter Leah Dunford and son-in-law John Widtsoe. Along with these people, other individuals from Church History are used as the ensemble of characters for the book, such as B. H. Roberts, Heber J. Grant, Hirini Whaanga, and others. As time passes, the narrative shifts its focus onto other individuals, including lesser-known Latter-day Saints like Paul Bang in Cincinnati, Ohio; Helga Meiszus in Germany; Evelyn Hodges in Utah; the Cziep family in Austria; and Chiye Terazawa in Hawaii. A few well-known Latter-day Saints like Neal Maxwell and Gordon Hinckley also are given moments to shine later in the book. Using a format where actual quotes from historical documents are placed in the text also allows key quotations from significant sermons and documents to be embedded in the text, something that I have greatly appreciated in both this volume and the previous one. The volume provides a good balance of “greatest hits” in stories from the era and introduction of lesser-known narratives and voices in an accessible way.
One concern I had going in was that as the Church continues to expand, there becomes more and more threads to follow, leading to less focus in the narrative. Overall, they managed to still pull it off very well. In particular, I will mention that the section about World War II was, for me, the most dramatic, powerful, and engaging section of the entire series so far.
I loved this volume of Saints. Like the other books in the series do far, it provides important historical information that illuminates why the Church is the way it is today, but (more importantly) they also provide spiritual nourishment. I found that my belief in God and His influence in guiding people through the Holy Spirit was strengthened, as was my love of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by reading Saints, Volume 3.