Gregg Kofford Books
"Converting the Saints: A Study of Religious Rivalry in America" is by Charles Randall Paul.

"CONVERTING THE SAINTS: A Study of Religious Rivalry in America," by Charles Randall Paul, Greg Kofford Books, $26.95, 256 pages (nf)

The early 20th century was an interesting time in Utah religion. After members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints agreed to follow federal anti-polygamy laws, conflict over the church’s legitimacy as a Christian denomination continued to be in question.

“Converting the Saints: A Study of Religious Rivalry in America” focuses on early efforts by Protestant missionaries to convert church members to more traditional Christian belief systems.

The author, Charles Randall Paul, serves as board chairman, founder and president of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. Paul has lectured as well as written a number of articles on methods for engaging both religious and ideological differences.

“Converting the Saints” observes the cases of three Protestant missions in Utah, which were helmed by John Danforth Nutting, a pastor at the Plymouth Congregational Church in Salt Lake City from 1892 to 1898 and secretary of the Utah Gospel Mission ministry in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1900 to 1949; William Mitchell Paden, a pastor at the First Presbyterian Church in Salt Lake City from 1887 to 1912; and Franklin Spencer Spalding, bishop of the Episcopal Church in Utah from 1905 to 1914.

In the book, each Utah missionary is given a lengthy chapter thoughtfully exploring their lives, and Paul did a fairly good job of presenting things. Paul also wrote the book in a pretty concise manner, coming in at a lean 256 pages.

Comment on this story

Americans are engaged in a time of great divisiveness at this juncture in history, and “Converting the Saints” extends an invitation to readers to consider that contesting religion, ideology and founding principles are not only normal but healthy for freedom to truly succeed within a secular, diverse society. Overall, “Converting the Saints” provides an easy-to-understand overview of the relationship between Protestant Christians and Latter-day Saints in the early 20th century.

The book doesn’t contain any violence, sexual content or inappropriate language.