Book review: Book details global journeys of then-Elder David O McKay

By Mike Whitmer

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, April 7 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

"TO THE PERIPHERIES OF MORMONDOM — The Apostolic Around-the-World Journey of David O McKay, 1920-1921," by Hugh J. Cannon, edited by Reid L. Nelson, The University of Utah Press, $29.95, 350 pages (nf)

Based primarily on the writings of Hugh J. Cannon, “To The Peripheries of Mormondom — The Apostolic Around-the-World Journey of David O McKay, 1920-1921” is a narrative of the events experienced by two Latter-day Saint leaders called to go beyond the primarily U. S. boundaries of early 20th century Mormon influence.

Shortly after World War I, the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints determined to make a fact finding tour of church missions outside the United States to gain a clear understanding of where they should allocate their evangelistic resources, which were increasing with the end of the war. Junior Apostle David O. McKay was called to undertake this journey and was assigned Hugh J. Cannon as his travelling companion.

Beginning just before Christmas 1920, the year-long trek of the two “missionaries” included visits to Japan, China, Hawaii, Samoa, New Zealand, Australia, Tonga, Tahiti, India, Egypt, Palestine and several European countries.

During their travels, Elder McKay and Cannon both kept detailed journals of their experiences. Brother Cannon once observed, “The missionaries traveled on 24 ocean-going vessels. They spent the equal of 153 days on the water, traveled a total of 61,646 miles…. Of the miles traveled, 23,777 were by land and 37,869 were by water.”

Upon their return both men felt the desire to publish their experiences in a book suitable for members to read. Unfortunately, the untimely death of Cannon and other circumstances caused the manuscript to languish, despite the best efforts of the Cannon family.

With the publication of “To The Peripheries of Mormondom — The Apostolic Around-the-World Journey of David O McKay, 1920-1921,” readers will finally be allowed to experience the significant travels and activities of these two dedicated Mormon leaders. The reader will follow future LDS Church President David O. McKay as he meets with missionaries, dresses in native garb, and invokes blessings on members who had never seen a modern-day apostle.

In addition to offering entertaining and uplifting stories, editor Reid L. Neilson, the managing director of the Church History department, has included dozens of photographs discovered in the church's archives and gleaned from the McKay and Cannon families. The result is an exciting history of a remarkable, and somewhat forgotten, journey undertaken at a time when most of the world considered the Latter-day Saints to be a solely American institution.

Mike Whitmer lives in West Valley and is fond of reading, fly-fishing, and trivial pursuits. His email is grundelwalken@gmail.com and he blogs at mtwhitmer.blogspot.com.

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