"GO YE INTO ALL THE WORLD: The Growth and Development of Mormon Missionary Work," edited by Reid L. Neilson and Fred E. Woods, Deseret Book and BYU Religious Studies Center, $32.99, 571 pages (nf)

The history, development and impact of the missionary program of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a story both unique and remarkable. It is also a story that has largely been untold — at least until recently.

In March 2011 an unprecedented religious symposium was at Brigham Young University. A rich variety of presentations were given, each one covering some aspect of the history of missionary work. These presentations have been edited and compiled into a single volume and have now been published in book form. “Go Ye Into All The World: The Growth and Development of Mormon Missionary Work” is a delightful and inspiring book. The stories that fill its pages are both comprehensive and personal.

Several of the titles are representative of what is found in the pages of the book: “Called to Serve: A History of Missionary Training,” “The History of Preach My Gospel” and “The Role of Local Missionaries in 19th Century England.” Many of the presentations dealt with individual missionaries and the impact of their service on the advancement of missionary work generally. Some of them are perhaps well-known, while others are Latter-day Saints that will be new to many readers. These include D. Arthur Haycock, better known for his service as a secretary to a number of the presidents of the LDS Church. Others include Ben E. Rich, Elam Luddington and Louisa Rich.

Louisa Rich’s story is a particularly poignant one, detailing her life spent, in her words, as a “missionary widow.” Her story is representative of the consecration and selflessness common to any called to serve.

Although this symposium took place well before the recent historic announcement by President Thomas S. Monson regarding the changes in missionary age, the publication of this remarkable volume seems perfectly timed. Each presentation is replete with insights and inspirational stories about how the present-day missionary program came to be. Readers will gain new appreciation for how God has directed his prophets and other inspired servants to bring to pass the great harvest of souls spoken of in both ancient and modern scripture.

“Go Ye Into All The World” is available for purchase at all LDS book retailers.

Scott Livingston blogs about the uphill climb of becoming a writer at sleye1stories.com. He blogs otherwise at sleye1.blogspot.com. And he tumbles at sleye1stories.tumblr.com.