For All The Saints – Book Review

Kristen Smith Dayley put together memories, lessons, histories, and accounts of hundreds of people in a newly released book titled “For All The Saints – Lessons Learned In Building The Kingdom”.  The project began over 15 years ago, Clayton Christensen (Harvard Business School professor and best-selling author) to record and preserve the legacy of Latter-Day Saint pioneers in New England, a group of volunteers interviewed people around the country who had a role in the growth of the church in that area.

The stories shared are about the people in New England, but the lessons learned can be applied to everyone.  President Eyring states at the end of the first chapter of the book. “What you learn is that it’s not about buildings, it’s not about huge congregations, it’s a few faithful families and then the Lord builds around them. . . . It’s a story of heroes. It’s a story of how the Lord grows the Church.”
What I loved most about the book are the real people.  They aren’t all famous scholars, teachers, leaders.  What echoed the most in my mind was the thoughts of Betty.  “Betty gave a lesson in Relief Society to  the latest batch of young wives who had come east with their husbands, many reluctantly.  “Don’t hold your nose and wait until you get home to Utah.  Don’t cook the stuff from Utah and say, “This Boston clam chowder is no good.   Dip your feet here.  Come to the clambake… hear the Boston Pops.  Take some culture home with you from this place.”  I think this is an amazing attitude to have, and share with the people who may only be there for a few years.  Enjoy it, learn from it, embrace it.

I got the privilege of asking Kristen Smith Dayley a few questions about the book, because I can’t imagine what a task it would be to assemble it all.

BB: Can you tell me more about yourself?
KSD: I am a mother with four children at home, including a set of five-month-old twins, who keep us hopping and very happy. I’ve had the privilege of living many different places, which has taught me that there are wonderful people and amazing things to discover no matter where you are. We have been in the Seattle area for nine years now and, having just built a home here, hope to stay put long enough to raise our children. That being said, my East Coast roots are strong and I insist on making regular pilgrimages out to New England with my children in tow so that they have some tie to the area I remember from my own childhood.

I am a practicing attorney and have been for 16 years now. Three years ago I formed my own law firm with some colleagues, which gives me the ability to work from home. The commute is unbeatable, but it does make for a crazy mixture of tasks in any given day, with hours that often stretch from 5:30 a.m. to midnight. Luckily I’ve done this so long that I seem to have learned to get by on less sleep – and I never suffer from insomnia! I don’t often get time to sit down and watch television, but I’m completely captured by Downton Abbey and love well-written dramas like House, The West Wing, and White Collar.

BB:What inspired you to write this book?
KSD: Truthfully, I never aspired to be a writer. Eight years ago, Clayton Christensen, who is a best-selling author and a professor at Harvard Business School, called and told me that he’d spent the last ten years working with a team of people to collect oral histories from individuals who had been involved in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in New England since the 1930s. They had collected hundreds of transcripts of interviews they’d conducted with General Authorities, new converts and everyone in between. 

He proceeded to tell me just a handful of stories from that collection and they were powerful. It was his desire to turn them into a book that would inspire faith, instill a sense of gratitude for the sacrifices of those who have gone before, and teach lessons about what it means to be a disciple and build the Lord’s kingdom wherever we are. When I received the thousands of pages of material Clayton’s team had gathered, I was immediately captured by the powerful stories, testimonies and insights. It took me eight years to sort through the transcripts, organize the examples and turn it into a cohesive narrative and there were many times I wanted to throw in the towel, but I felt an immense sense of responsibility to share the accounts that I’ve had the privilege to work with and learn from all this time. I’m in the very unique position of having received a volume of untouched source material so rich that it was begging to be told. I found the insights profound, the people colorful and engaging, and the stories enlightening – it was a privilege to delve into them and find a way to share them with a larger audience.

BB: What are your favorite books to read?
KSD: I love historical fiction. I love learning more about a time and a place through characters’ eyes and perspectives. Several years ago I read Here Be Dragons by Sharon Kay Penman about the intrigue and relations between the Welsh and English in the 13th century and was so inspired that I made a trip over to Wales to see for myself. I was impressed at how well her story line held up to real scrutiny against the historical records and artifacts and fell in love with Llewelyn, the Prince of North Wales.

I also enjoy non-fiction writers like Malcolm Gladwell and Atul Gwande who make fields such as medicine, science, and sociology come alive through highly engaging anecdotes and personal experiences. I hope readers find the anecdotes and personal narratives in For All the Saints similarly eye-opening and valuable.

I hope you have enjoyed hearing about the book as much as I enjoyed reading it. The book is available to purchase from Amazon, Deseret Book, and Seagull Book.