In this work, Bruce Van Orden, associate professor of Church history and doctrine at Brigham Young University, surveys and analyzes the life of George Reynolds. The author assigns Reynolds to a “second-echelon” of Latter-day Saint leaders “whose influence was considerable during their lives but whose names are not easily recognized by most Church members today” (viii).
Although Reynolds (the husband of three wives and the father of thirty-two children) is best remembered today for his role in testing the constitutionality of the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act in the United States Supreme Court, he fulfilled a variety of ecclesiastical and civic responsibilities. Reynolds’s activities included service as a secretary to the First Presidency from 1865 to 1909, membership in the First Council of the Seventy, service as a missionary and Church emigration agent in Britain, and zealous labor as a Sunday School administrator. As proof of Reynolds’s contribution to gospel scholarship, Van Orden lists in an appendix eight books, including the monumental Complete Concordance of the Book of Mormon, and 463 articles. Reynolds was, Van Orden maintains, “one of the most influential people in the Church” from 1870 until his death in 1909 (vii).