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SETTLING THE VALLEY, PROCLAIMING THE GOSPEL: The General Epistles of the Mormon First Presidency,” by Reid L. Neilson and Nathan N. Waite, Oxford University Press, $45, 430 pages (nf)

LDS Church historian and recorder Reid L. Neilson joins with associate editorial manager for the Joseph Smith Papers Project Nathan N. Waite to write an invaluable volume for those interested in early history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Settling the Valley, Proclaiming the Gospel: The General Epistles of the Mormon First Presidency” consists of 14 general letters sent by the First Presidency of the LDS Church to its members worldwide between the years 1849-1856 into one volume.

The book begins with two essays written by editors Neilson and Waite, which provide insight into two important themes addressed by the letters, as well as providing observations and historical backgrounds of the different epistles.

Additionally, Neilson and Waite provide religious contexts for the focus for the LDS Church from its humble beginnings in New York to the mass exodus to Utah and the following years of cultivation and settlement. They also discuss how these epistles and the missionary efforts of early church members fit into the time period and Christian perspective in the United States.

The essays written by the editors are interesting and well documented by research, providing important background to help readers understand the context preceding the different letters. The essays also help readers further understand the culture of not only the early LDS Church members but also Christian theology and ideas that existed in the United States at that point in time.

The letters included are presented word for word as they were originally published. However, they are often accompanied by footnotes explaining theologies, quick biographies of important historical figures and other related events from that time period.

Overall this volume of work, written in academic style and filled with research and historical notes, provides interesting facts and insight into the early LDS Church and its members that should satisfy anyone interested in history.

Lauren McAfee is a librarian assistant at Cedar City Public Library. She manages the social media platform, writes grants and assist with other outreach efforts in the community. Her email is

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