This daily feature is an introduction to a full book review by Donald Q. Cannon. To read the full text of this review, follow the link below.
Latter-day Saints who know of William W. Phelps tend to associate him with the hymns that he wrote. In fact, the words in the title of Bruce A. Van Orden’s biography, “We’ll Sing and We’ll Shout,” are taken from one of his most famous hymns, “The Spirit of God.” As influential as his hymns have been to Latter-day Saints then and now, Phelps contributed much more than that in his efforts to build the Church. Van Orden’s book is a detailed biography of this interesting and influential writer and Church leader. The book provides insight into both his ecclesiastical contributions and his personality. Phelps was eccentric and peculiar in some regard, sometimes dressing and behaving in strange ways and stating his religious views somewhat fanatically. Through a wide array of primary and secondary sources, Van Orden illuminates these little-known aspects of Phelps’s life and provides a more complete image of him, both as an individual and as a contributor to the Latterday Saint movement.
The extensive use of both primary and secondary sources throughout the biography is most impressive, and the research supports the thesis of the author. This biography is well written, with careful analysis and sound conclusions. The finished product provides a complete and accurate picture of the man and his times. For the book’s main audience of Church members who are interested in Church history and especially historical biography, it provides excellent information about an understudied early Church leader. Those interested in Latter-day Saint biography will want to add this book to their library.