While one of the greatest strengths of Mormonism is its missionary program, many public libraries lack objective and concise information for the curious investigator concerning the Church. All too frequently the only offerings are anti-Mormon in tone and content—some of them subtly so—and are therefore very confusing for a seeker looking for a balanced view of a new religion. This information gap is exactly what the Historical Dictionary of Mormonism fills best. Its small size is much less intimidating that the four-volume Encyclopedia of Mormonism, and its price is more affordable for public libraries.
Davis Bitton has done a great service by providing an introduction to the history of the Church and to its leaders and activities throughout the world. An initial perusal of the volume may indicate that the articles are similar to those in the Encyclopedia. However, Bitton presents the information from a fresh perspective, consistent with his lifelong ability to communicate clearly and concisely, whatever the topic. His explanation of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the United Order, and the Utah period of the Church are the finest summaries I’ve seen anywhere, and the articles on feminism and the roles of women exemplify Bitton’s clear understanding of current issues in the Church.