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Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling [Paperback]

Richard Lyman Bushman
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 13 2007
Founder of the largest indigenous Christian church in American history, Joseph Smith published the 584-page Book of Mormon when he was twenty-three and went on to organize a church, found cities, and attract thousands of followers before his violent death at age thirty-eight. Richard Bushman, an esteemed cultural historian and a practicing Mormon, moves beyond the popular stereotype of Smith as a colorful fraud to explore his personality, his relationships with others, and how he received revelations. An arresting narrative of the birth of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling also brilliantly evaluates the prophet’s bold contributions to Christian theology and his cultural place in the modern world.

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Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling + No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith
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From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. How should a historian depict a man's life when that man, and his religion, remain a mystery to so many 200 years after his birth? Bushman, an emeritus professor at Columbia University and author of Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, greatly expands on that previous work, filling in many details of the founding prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and carrying the story through to the end of Smith's life. Many continue to view Smith as an enigmatic and controversial figure. Bushman locates him in his historical and cultural context, fleshing out the many nuances of 19th-century American life that produced such a fertile ground for emerging religions. The author, a practicing Mormon, is aware that his book stands in the intersection of faith and scholarship, but 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. This is a remarkable book, wonderfully readable and supported by exhaustive research. For anyone interested in the Mormon experience, it will be required reading for years to come. (Oct. 10)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Peter Burnett, California's first governor, never converted to Mormonism, but he came away from his encounter with the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith convinced that he had met "much more than an ordinary man" teaching "strange and striking" doctrines. Both the extraordinary man and his highly distinctive doctrines receive illuminating attention in this landmark biography, published to mark the bicentennial of the American prophet's birth. A distinguished Columbia historian, Bushman stresses the boy seer's thoroughly ordinary origins--born to a hard-pressed New England farm family and denied all but the rudiments of a formal education--to emphasize the marvel of the religious revolution he brought about. Beginning with the publication of a new volume of scripture--the Book of Mormon--recounting the resurrected Christ's ministry in ancient America, that revolution eventually produced a dynamic church run by a complex lay ministry and committed to spreading its message worldwide. Though himself a practicing Latter-day Saint (Mormon), Bushman steers clear of hagiography by permitting readers to hear the voices not only of the prophet's loyal followers but also of various skeptics and adversaries. Readers see in particular detail the views of those who rose against Smith during the turbulent final years of his life, when the practice of plural marriage helped stoke a firestorm of religious conflict. Though that storm ended with the prophet's death at the hands of an angry mob, Bushman gives the slain revelator credit for the remarkable durability of the church he left behind. A deft portrait of a deeply controversial figure. Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
By Kirialax TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
A lot of people have started off their reviews with a discussion of their own religious backgrounds. I am a historian reviewing a biography. Judge it for what you will.

In 'Rough Stone Rolling', Bushman has done an excellent job in writing popular biography. It is comprehensive and well-researched, but has enough flow that casual readers shouldn't have a difficult time getting through its 550+ pages of text. There is very little to say about the nature of book; it begins with Joseph Smith's grandfather and ends with a brief discussion of the chaos following Joseph and Hyrum's death; a little addendum on Emma and briefly covers the rise of Brigham Young. However, where this book really shines is its general nature to not shy away from the more negative aspects of Joseph's life. For example, Bushman briefly brings up the issues with the Book of Lehi, polygamy and the Kinderhook Plates, and this is what makes the book an excellent biography: it generally does not act as an apologetic work. While certain details are at times omitted or stressed, this book remains a biography and that is what it does: it tells the story of Joseph Smith's life, but provides plenty of details on the characters closest to him, such as Emma Smith and Sidney Rigdon. The other excellent area of this book is its work on the context in which Joseph Smith lived. Bushman talks widely about the various religious ideas in the eastern United States in the 19th c., and this adds greatly to the understanding of Joseph Smith as a person. It also does not attempt psychoanalysis, and firmly concludes that we really can't know what was going on in Joseph's head.

If this book has one failing, it is a subtle bias from the first page to the last.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Read Dec 2 2012
Format:Paperback
This book is excellent. It presents the history of the life of Joseph Smith in a neutral but sympathetic manner. I highly recommend the book to Latter-day Saints, and those of other or no faiths.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Blank Cover June 28 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The jacket is missing and the book cover is completely blank - no title - no author. It is on the spine but not on the front cover. The book itself is very good.
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