Those who thought the four-volume Encyclopedia of Mormonism (New York: Macmillan, 1992) would be the last word in the encyclopedic treatment of Mormon topics will be pleasantly surprised by Garr, Cannon, and Cowan’s recently published Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History. While the former is knowledge in depth on a wide range of historical, religious, and cultural subjects, the latter provides the reader with (as the editors state) “a convenient, one-volume reference work” presenting “accurate, concise, and readable articles on a wide variety of Church history topics” (vii). With more than 1,400 entries from 350 plus contributors, this work paints—in broad brushstrokes—the history of the Latter-day Saints in a straightforward, succinct style.
Just how succinct this treatment is can be judged by the entries on “Blacks” in both encyclopedias, which were both contributed by Jessie Embry, with Alan Cherry as co-author of the Encyclopedia of Mormonism entry. In the earlier, four-volume work, the article contains approximately 1,300 words. In this current volume, the treatment has been pared to about 400 words. That is not to say that this work is merely an abridgment of the four-volume set. Although this new volume obviously benefited from the former work, which is now out of print, it also contains entries on people, places, issues, and events not covered in the earlier encyclopedia.
Contributors to this volume examine the Church’s history in every part of the United States, Canada, and over two hundred other countries and territories around the world. More than 450 biographical entries and essays cover those who have served in the Church’s First Presidency and Quorum of Twelve Apostles as well as other selected General Authorities and leaders. Sources are listed for each entry, and cross-references are found throughout the volume. The editors have appended a helpful Church chronology to the encyclopedic listings, along with a list of contributors. Unfortunately, this latter list is of little utility because the contributions of each writer are not indicated in this listing. Nonetheless, this work lives up to the editors’ expectations: it is a concise, readable, and handy one-volume (albeit a 1,454-page) reference work—a book that would make even former Assistant Church Historian Andrew Jenson smile.