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Book review: Historical novel 'One Candle' shares early Latter-day Saint missionary success in Italy

ONE CANDLE,” by Gale Sears, Deseret Book, $17.99, 296 pages (f)

Elder Lorenzo Snow, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, received a mission call in October 1849 to establish a mission in Italy.

“One Candle” is a novel based on those efforts of missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Italy bringing to life the experiences of the missionaries and early converts.

Author of "One Candle," Gale Sears at her home in Sandy, Utah, in August 2010.
Author of "One Candle," Gale Sears at her home in Sandy, Utah, in August 2010.
Mike Terry, Deseret News

After arriving in Italy, Elder Snow and his companions feel impressed to go to the Piedmont region, where the persecuted Waldenese have been living.

The Waldenese believed that Christ’s original church had fallen into apostasy, had separated themselves from the Roman Catholic Church and had fled to the mountains.

Author Gale Sears uses several different perspectives to share the story of the early missionary efforts, including Elder Snow and his companions Elder Stenhouse and Brother Toronto; an aging local Catholic priest, Father Andrew; his great-niece Albertina Guy; her friend Madeleine Cardon, who had a dream about evangelists coming to their valley to preach the gospel; and Elder Snow’s sister, Eliza R. Snow, back in Salt Lake City.

“One Candle” shares the challenges these missionaries faced as they learned a new language, shared the experiences of the Prophet Joseph Smith and worked to produce a tract and the translation of the Book of Mormon, witnessed miracles and how they handled the opposition they faced.

Madeleine’s family readily accepts the missionaries and their message, but while Albertina is drawn to this new faith, she knows that her Catholic family would never approve.

Sears uses historical experience, letters and sermons as she weaves a narrative that is both engaging and endearing. She also adds notes to help separate fact from fiction.

"One Candle" has no swearing or sexual situations. It generally describes previous violence to the Waldenese people along with a moblike reaction to the missionaries.

Sears has written similar historical novels of early members of the church in Russia, Hong Kong and Hawaii, along with several other novels.

“One Candle” is also available in Italian.