Mormons now have a first-person narrative of a significant leader—a narrative that stands on the same level as the autobiography of Parley P. Pratt. Not just anyone who writes an account of his or her life will attract interest beyond the built-in audience of the immediate family. But when you combine a varied life extending over the turbulent decades of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries with a colorful personality and a vigorous writing style, the result makes for a good read.
Although Roberts never became president of the Church or a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, he touched the Mormon experience at so many points that his life provides a valuable vantage point for understanding the larger history. Here are some of the rubrics of his life: family conversion and immigration, growing up in a frontier environment, missionary work and defending Mormonism, polygamy, politics, the writing and editing of Church history, and tensions within the growing Church organization. In each of these areas, Roberts was a central, sometimes a noisy, figure.