An around-the-world journey made by an Apostle may not be something extraordinary today, but in 1920 it was monumental. Hugh J. Cannon’s To the Peripheries of Mormondom details the historic trip of Elder David O. McKay—the first Apostle to make a journey of this magnitude and to visit most of the places he did. He and Hugh J. Cannon were called on a one-year fact-finding mission to visit the Church’s non–North American congregations and to study the customs and needs of the people at each place. This mission was the beginning of a major push toward the globalization of the Church.
Though this is not the first time Cannon’s manuscript has been published, editor Reid L. Neilson’s additions and annotations have greatly increased the book’s value. The editor’s preface introduces the memoir by describing another journey—the journey of the manuscript itself. Cannon’s family worked hard to get this book to press; it was first published in 2005, almost a century after the mission itself.
Researchers interested in McKay’s travels and the globalization of the Church should take notice especially of the introduction and appendices that Neilson added. The introduction presents a possible background of the decision to undertake the mission in the first place. The appendices include information about the missions visited and lists of documents important to the story.
But Neilson has made Cannon’s memoir accessible to more than just researchers. Neilson’s careful annotations clarify names, terms, and places along the journey, making the story easy for any reader to follow. Neilson further enriches the McKay-Cannon journey by including a photographic essay consisting of fifty-four images, both photographs and postcards, that visually document the journey. The photographs, particularly those of McKay and Cannon on their journey, make the places, people, and customs even more vivid and palpable than the text alone can.
A highlight of Cannon’s record is the anecdotes, sometimes humorous and other times sobering, of encounters with foreign cultures and traditions. McKay and Cannon at times are awed by the beauty of places or humbled by unfamiliar customs but are always welcomed by devoted members with love and celebrations. President David O. McKay’s efforts in transforming the Church into a global organization was one of his greatest accomplishments, and it began with this special mission.
Cannon’s narrative exudes a mystical aura of discovery, and Cannon entices any reader with his invitation, “Come with us, therefore, on our trip around the world” (1).