Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling

by Richard L. Bushman

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling

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While many “experts” continue to view Joseph Smith as a controversial figure, renowned scholar (and Latter-day Saint) Richard Bushman locates Joseph in his historical and cultural context, fleshing out the many nuances of nineteenth-century American life that produced such a fertile ground for emerging religions. While this book stands in the intersection of faith and scholarship, it does not avoid the problematic aspects of Smith's life and work, such as his practice of polygamy, his early attempts at treasure-seeking, and his later political aspirations. In the end, Smith emerges as a genuine American phenomenon, a man driven by inspiration but not unaffected by his cultural context.

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  • SKU: 4983110


Average rating

based upon 16 reviews
A disservice to the Smith Family
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

Bushman obviously spent much time in researching for this book however he was seduced by the anti-authors whom he copiously quotes and footnotes. He was obviously trying to have his book accepted by the academic world and wrote for that audience. He took the comments from neighbors and the trends of the time and attributed them to Joseph and his family. He states the Smith's had a 'psychologically crippled child' and he states Father Smith was useless and the family had rejected him, which nothing could be further from the truth. Father Smith was a Spiritual giant as recorded by contemporaries, etc. Regarding the charge of an affair in Kirtland, he states there is no evidence or written record of the person being named but then spends pages quoting anti-authors as to who the lady was and that it did happen. He spends many pages in his book citing and 'proving' the negative aspects and ascribing such to Joseph and his family but then comes back in a few short sentences saying...'but he was a Prophet.' He took the very comments Joseph says were being falsely circulated about his family and sets out to say they are true because it then makes the Smith family 'fit' in and be like their neighbors. The point is they were not and that is why the Lord could use them and why they were persecuted. This book does a real injustice to the Smith family and to Joseph. I cannot recommend this book.

I strongly recommend this book.
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

This book has been controversial because of its varied acceptance in the LDS community. Perhaps I expected more because of all of the hype. While I didn't read this book in hopes that all controversial issues would be the focus, I did read it hoping that they would be addressed at least more sufficiently than they were. Where detail may be lacking in significant events in Joseph's life, he does an excellent job in filling in gaps between these events. He provides a more clear window into the life and humanity of Joseph Smith, and shows Joseph growing into his prophetic roll, as a 'rough stone rolling.' His research is reflected strongly in his book, and where Bushman is well researched, his biography is profoundly articulate. The perspectives he brings to the table are unique on many subjects, and almost turns historian-apologist in some places. I couldn't imagine some of the points that he makes to be more clear, precise, and profound than they are. Where Bushman is on, he is dead on. When he strikes gold, it is the pirates treasure trove. Overall, despite my complaints, I recommend this book. While I have my own complaints, I believe that any study on Joseph Smith would be incomplete without having read this book.

One of the best!
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

Excellent! This and Lucy Mack Smith's history on Joseph Smith should be read by all Joseph Smith enthusiasts.

About the Author

Richard L. Bushman

Richard L. Bushman a general editor of The Joseph Smith Papers along with Ronald K. Esplin and Dean C. Jessee, is Gouverneur Morris Professor of History Emeritus at Columbia University. He has been appointed Howard W. Hunter visiting professor at Claremont Graduate University for 2008–2009. He received his B.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Harvard University. He taught at Brigham Young University, Boston University, and the University of Delaware before joining the Columbia faculty. His published works include From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690–1765 (1967), King and People in Provincial Massachusetts (1985), and The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities (1992). He has served as president of the Mormon History Association and the Society for Historians of the Early American Republic.

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