Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling

by Richard L. Bushman

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling

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PaperbackSKU 4983110

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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.

Reviews

Average rating

based upon 16 reviews
A Great History!
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I have read through this book twice and every time I opened the book I learned something new that expanded my testimony and opened me up to new areas of study.

This is a history book. I would not recommend this to everyone. If you want a testimony of the Prophetic call of Joseph Smith, there are many other books that will instill that testimony. Once you have a testimony of that truth, this book will strengthen your understanding of how he came to be the great man that he was. 5 Stars for sure.

Amazing!
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

It's was an amazing journey reading this book. I got to know the real Joseph Smith, the flawed man. We've all received accounts of Joseph Smith throughout our lives. These accounts were subject to the interpretations and failings of those who gave us those accounts. Because of this, we usually get a very romantic account of Joseph’s life, making us believe that he was super human somehow. I know I based my testimony on many of those stories. This book will give you the real Joseph Smith and allow you to contrast that knowledge with what you were taught as a child. It will affect your testimony, and you will have to rebuild it based upon the new knowledge you will receive. Then, your testimony will be built upon the real Joseph Smith, and not on the highly romanticized versions you heard as a child. Don’t be afraid of truth! It will allow you to get even closer to our faith and its principles.

Deserves 10 Stars
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I'm so happy Deseret Book carries this book. I've read this book twice, and it's really helped me understand and appreciate Joseph Smith: the human being who was also a prophet. Thanks Richard Bushman! I hope the lesson manuals at church start to reflect this sort of history. I think it would help a lot of people who are silently dealing with hard questions.

A hard read, but a MUST read.
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

As a missionary serving in the south I was confronted with anti-mormon literature constantly from people of other faiths. Although I did not let it get to me in the beginning I began to have a desire to really have a better historical knowledge of the PROPHET Joseph Smith. I have read many books about the prophet, each finding some new aspect or insight into his life but I must say this book presents a historical perspective unlike any other book about the prophet. Bushman does quote many other authors, even Anti-Mormons in the perspective times, but it allows for the reader to be taken back into a completely different time and understanding of America and its culture as well as an understanding of Joseph's pressures as an untutored boy rising to greatness. A sometimes hard read but I recommend the book because it answered questions for me that could only be answered the way Bushman does. Joseph Smith was indeed a rough stone rolling and was sculpted from an obscure boy to become a mighty prophet of God.

Solid, scholarly study on Joseph's life
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

This is likely the best historical and balanced study on Joseph Smith's life in print. Richard Bushman as a historian strives for greater historical objectivity than is available from many other works about the Prophet, yet maintains his position as a faithful member with an active testimony (Bushman is a current patriarch and former Stake President). It does not shirk from providing a comprehensive view of the Prophet, including many facets that made Joseph human. This is not the "Primary" version of Joseph's history -- those having no interest in the human side of Joseph or those unable to tolerate some of puzzling aspects of early Church history (including plural marriage) may be better served by other books that take a more selective approach. However, those genuinely interested in a full rendering of the man and Prophet can find no better volume.

Succesfully walks the academic line without tarring and feathering Joseph Smith
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

Although some have used Bushman's biography as a scapegoat to leave the church, any damage done by this book is simply due to unrealistic expectations of Joesph Smith. Bushman presents an honest and fair portrait of the Prophet, admitting his bias as a church member, and explores not only Smith's life through letters, journals, and the accounts of others, but discusses key doctrines of the restoration as outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants.
I find the academic approach refreshing and I don't feel Bushman reveals anything about Smith's life for shock value (as many others do), nor does he sympathize with anti-mormon views; rather, he builds credibility by including multiple perspectives, both positive and negative.
Ultimately, Bushman prevails because he presents multiple views of the prophet, demands for an in depth look at Smith's life, and lets the reader decide for themselves.

Excellent
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

The author is a Harvard Ph.D historian and a believing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This book presents a detailed historical analysis of Joseph Smith. The book does not seek to increase or destroy the reader's testimony. It just seeks to tell the historical story of Joseph Smith as it happened. The author leaves nothing out - any events or details about Joseph Smith, whether controversial or not, are explained, and the reader is left to make his/her own assumptions. A must read for any believing Latter-Day Saint, but a fair warning: this is not a "black and white" testimony that some teary-eyed ward member gives on Fast Sunday. If your testimony is based all on the heart and nothing from the mind and nothing from rational thought, you might have a hard time with this book. However, given the historical facts, one must deal with this information about Joseph Smith sooner or later. Personally, I embrace all the truth about the Prophet Joseph Smith, and this book did increase my admiration of him, and my testimony. It might not do that for you.

This book brought me back to the Church
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

I came across this book while I was estranged from the Church due to my own moral failings. I didn't see the simpleness and the complexity of the Gospel and its messenger until I had read this book. When I was first converted to the gospel, it was because of the testimony of Joseph Smith, and through the diligence of academic thought Bushman utilizes (I am a trained historian myself), I became convinced again of the Lord's divine restoration. This is a profound and complicated work sure to cause controversy with some of it's assumptions and conclusions, but I would exect nothing less written about a man whose experiences have changed the face of modern Christianity.

A wolf in sheep's clothing.
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

If you have any desire to read this, it would be better to read The Myth Makers by Hugh Nibley first. For Nibley is by far a superior and more recognized scholar, not only in LDS circles, but also one of the most respected scholar/author's in the world. He touches on similar subjects with clarity and both deep scholastic knowledge and his references are taken from his own research from original sources, not relying on the work of others as this book often does.

A Gospel Classic
By , Submitted on 2015-02-25

It will not be very long before this book is in the homes, minds, and bookshelves of the majority of Saints who are interested in learning about Church History. Rarely does a book come along that not only is true to the Historical aspect of biographies (where they just tell things like it is, and that's it), but also appeals to the spiritual, inspirational side as well. Bushman shows Joseph in his true colors as an imperfect person like ourselves, the only difference is he had a Prophetic calling. It feels like you grow up with young Joseph as he tries to figure out his place in the plan of the Father while still trying to grow up in the first place. My favorite chapters in the book are the ones about the Book of Mormon, Moses, Enoch and Joseph, and then the one about polygamy. No one has ever written with such clarity on such 'controversial' aspects of Joseph's life like Brother Bushman does. Out of the many hundreds of religion-related, books I have read, I would rank this as my second favorite--The infinite Atonment being first.

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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