All That Was Promised by Vickie Hall is a look at the life of Richard Kenyon, a young Welsh Methodist reverend, and the lives of those around him, as they are introduced to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or the Mormons, in the mid 1800s. Kenyon hears of the restored gospel through Elder Ben Lachlan, an LDS missionary, and through him his wife, her family, and a few of his Methodist congregation come to believe in the gospel.
Not all is easy, though. Quite the contrary—while Richard’s conversion comes swiftly, his wife Leah is hard-pressed to believe what she hears, even after her sister and brother-in-law join the Church as well. It’s not until after seeing a miraculous healing first-hand that she realizes she can’t deny the Church any longer. Persecution comes from all sides, though, and Richard’s own brother is eventually revealed to be involved in trying to get the Mormons out of Wales.
This book is very well researched, with language and details that really pull you into the 19th century Cardiff setting, and simultaneously raised and quelled the urge I’ve long had to explore Europe. The relationships between the characters are full of heart and feel very real throughout the book, which put the tenderest interactions between the characters close to my heart. The book is also very well structured, with loose ends tying themselves up in surprisingly fitting ways.
I will say, though, that there were many parts of this book that I think and wish could have been expanded on more thoroughly. The book carries along at a rapid speed—almost breakneck, I would say. Pacing is very important in writing, but it seems almost as if the author here has confused pacing for speed. Events happen quickly in this novel. So quickly, that it seemed like there was no time to celebrate triumphs or joyful moments, because they were always momentarily overwhelmed by more trials and persecution. The lives of early Latter-Day Saints were indeed tumultuous and trying, but many of those burdens were balanced by great joy and triumphs, and I feel like those were largely missing from this book.
I also feel that a lot was taken for granted here. This is an LDS book for an LDS audience, but I feel that I still would have enjoyed learning about the gospel along with the characters, instead of having it glossed over. There were moments where we were able to see why various characters decide to join the Church, but we don’t really get to see them learning about what they’re joining, which seems almost as if they are making a big decision they don’t know any details about, and it’s mildly disconcerting as a reader.
I have to admit, also, that I found the villainous characters somewhat over exaggerated. Most of the non-member characters described in the book are maliciously trying to persecute the Church and all of its members, and this seems a little unfair to humanity in general. Of course the beginning of the LDS Church really was met with opposition on all sides, but as there are today, there were also good people—many very good people—who simply did not believe the gospel, or chose to continue to live their lives as they always had.
Not every person who was not a member hated the Church, and not all that persecuted the Church did so without remorse. Many who did persecute the Church were Christians by faith, and so understood that violence and hatred towards others is wrong and felt badly for what they did, even as they felt that they were duty-bound to do it.
So all in all, I come away from this book not feeling fully satisfied with it. I think it could have benefited greatly from some more rigorous editing and expansion. That said, though, I honestly enjoyed the book very much and left it wondering what kind of future was in store for many of these characters. We’re left with them preparing to emigrate to America to join the Saints in the Great Salt Lake valley, and I find my mind wandering over the journey I know is ahead of them, and hoping them well. For characters that I imagine will stay with me for some time, I say well done, Ms. Hall.
I was provided with a copy of this book for honest review.