I recently read the two last books in Dean Hughes church history trilogy, As Wide As the River, and Facing the Enemy. These books chronicle the struggles of the Williams family during the restoration of the gospel. The plot line of the trilogy focuses mainly on the early Saints struggles in Missouri. It is similar to the Work and the Glory, but written on a level for the younger reader, and focuses more on character than on educating the reader on church history. I sometimes wished I had brushed up on my church history a bit more as I read these volumes, as they don’t take a whole bunch of time telling in the narrative or in copious historical notes about background details. Rather they show through the limited experience of the main character Joseph Williams, what a family might have encountered living in Missouri during the 1830’s.
In As Wide As the River Joseph and his family are still trying to recover from their expulsion from Jackson County by an angry mob. Joseph struggles with questions about religion, trials, and his personal dream to be a steamboat pilot on the Missouri River. His family has to build their life anew, while their father struggles to recover from the illness caused by effects of the mob in Jackson County.
Facing the Enemy continues the story of the Williams family, now settled in Far West. Joseph continues to struggle to do what is right while those around him are talking about fighting back against the mob. Joseph does his best to follow the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, and to help the saints in the ways that he is asked, even if his aid missions often put him in danger of capture. Then he learns that his brother Matthew is a part of a band called the Danites, a group that goes around to burn mob members out of their houses. Joseph questions how these actions can be justified, and whether the Mormons are just as bad as the mob members persecuting them.
I enjoyed completing this little church history series. I really enjoy Dean Hughes, and how he lets his characters grow, make mistakes, and even doubt, but ultimately they find their place. I found the story line about the Danites to be interesting and unique. I had heard of them, but didn’t know much about them, and so it was intriguing to watch the character deal with the ramifications of their existence. This series isn’t a new favorite of mine, but I still enjoyed reading it, and think they are worth picking up.
Dean Hughes website: http://www.deanhughes.net/