In the early 1900’s many of the Mormon stats beat the same stats for the rest of the nation, but what one stat was significantly better for the LDS Church when compared to the rest of the nation?
b. Free throw percentage
c. Infant morality
C. The Book of Mormon
The story of Pietro Emanuele Giannini, one of the first Italians baptized after the arrival of the missionaries  illustrates the challenges and isolation that Italian converts often faced during this period as they turned away from their traditional religion toward a new religious identity and way of life. In late 1964, Leavitt Christensen received a letter from Giovanni Ottoboni, a Church member of Italian origin living in Argentina, who said that he wanted to teach and baptized his mother, two sisters, and an uncle who were still living in Italy. President Russon agreed to send two of the first missionaries in Italy to Varese Ligure, a small village sixty kilometers north of La Speczia, to help teach Ottoboni’s relatives. Some of them expressed a desire to be baptized, and on June 26, 1965, Christensen and his wife, Rula, together with the two missionaries, drove to the village to conduct the baptismal interviews:
“When we got there we found that the local priests had scared more of the family off. They had told them that anyone who joined the new sect would be denied burial in the town and would be [cut off] from all social activity. The aged mother and daughters then refused baptism but the old uncle was not intimidated and decided to go through with it. In doing so he put his little business and his only means of living in great jeopardy. His name was Pietro Emanuele Giannini. He was found to be worthy of baptism. Brother Ottoboni [who was visiting from Argentina] had prepared a pool in the thick foliage at the outskirts of the town. So all members went there for the baptism. The event had not gone unnoticed in the town. As we looked about us we could see several townspeople peering through the foliage. They showed both curiosity and consternation. We invited them to come closer to watch but they would not. Instead they jeered and flung ugly names at Brother Giannini. They reminded him of the fate that would befall him. He was not moved by any of it. Amid this the baptism was held.”
To avoid further disruptions, the group walked a mile uphill to a secluded spot to confirm Giannini a member of the Church. News of the baptism spread quickly through the isolated village, and within thirty minutes spurious rumors were circulating that the Mormons had baptized Giannini naked. Then local religious leaders took action, presumably as a lesson to those who might consider conversion in the future: “Now the priests have apparently forbidden people to come to the old man’s tavern and he is about to close it due to lack of customers. . . . The old man says he doesn’t care anyway because what he was selling is against the word of wisdom and he shouldn’t be in that business.”
Six months later on January 2, 1967, Christensen and Daniel Walsh, president of the LDS American servicemen’s group in Livorno, traveled to Varese Ligure to visit the new Italian convert:
“On the way we worried lest Brother Giannini might have drifted back into his old ways due to his dependence on the little business and also due to loneliness. As we walked into the establishment no one was there except Brother Giannini who sat alone in a far corner. When we approached he looked up and then sprang to his feet and embracing each, planted the usual hello kiss on each cheek of each of us. When we looked at the table we found that he had been reading the Book of Mormon. Brother Walsh asked him if he had read it all the way through. He replied that he had read it many times. Brother Walsh’s question was unnecessary because a quick look at the book showed that all the pages were dog-eared and dirty from handling. Brother Giannini stated that the Book of Mormon was his best and only real friend in town. We returned home happy in the knowledge that he had so much courage, but sad that he had to endure so much in the little village.”
James A. Toronto, The “Wild West” of Missionary Work” Reopening the Italian Mission, 1965-71, Journal of Mormon History, Fall 2014, 12-15.