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Inside the Mind of Joseph Smith: Psychobiography and the Book of Mormon Paperback – August 15, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 300 pages
  • Publisher: Signature Books; Reprint edition (August 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1560851252
  • ISBN-13: 978-1560851257
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,297,512 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

In the revised edition of her pioneering Joseph Smith biography, No Man Knows My History (Alfred A. Knopf, 1970), Fawn M. Brodie suggested that Smith's personality matches psychoanalyst Phyllis Greenacre's "imposter" profile, but cautioned that a "comprehensive clinical portrait" would require a qualified psychologist with a "much more intimate knowledge of the man than is presently possible" (p. xi). Now Robert D. Anderson, M.D., "a Semi-retired psychiatrist," has come forward with just such a portrait, based upon almost three decades of historical and psychoanalytical research since Brodie first applied Greenacre to Smith. Anderson's argument is that Greenacre's "imposter" is a species of narcissism, and he offers both a fascinating reading of the Book of Mormon and new research into Smith's life and times to show that Smith fits a narcissistic profile. The result is about as close to Brodie's "comprehensive clinical portrait" as historical sources and psychological research are likely to get. --Gary Topping, Journal of the West

About the Author

Robert D. Anderson, M.D., is a semi-retired psychiatrist in private practice whose studies at the Psychoanalytic Institute stimulated his interest in applied psychoanalysis. He is a contributor to The Prophet Puzzle: Interpretive Essays on Joseph Smith and has published in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought and in the American Journal of Psychiatry. He and his wife live in Bellevue, Washington.

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

38 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Mark Lee on February 26, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wish I could give it four and a half stars. Dr. Anderson takes a fine point to the early life of Joseph Smith. With impeccable care and documentation, he leads us through the childhood of a man who would exhibit a type of genius rarely seen in charismatic leaders. Anderson wisely limits himself to the effects of Joseph's experiences in the composition and contents of the Book of Mormon. By the time the "semi-retired psychiatrist" gets to the end of the book, he barely needs to justify or explain his diagnosis since he's already done so from a variety of angles previously. My only criticism is that occasionally Dr. Anderson extends his theories and suppositions quite far, but he usually does so with qualifications.
Not for the initiate into the arcane world of LDS theology and history. Try "Mormon America" first. But for a guy like me who spent 40 years (two as a missionary) in "the Church," it's a haunting trip into the mind of a very famous, unique American religious leader.
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90 of 108 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 10, 1999
Format: Paperback
The value of the insights in this book cannot be overstated. The author makes an extremely convincing case that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon himself, and in the process inadvertently let items from his [Smith's] own life color the narrative, providing a sort of "free association" setting during the dictation. Although the author uses these "colorings" to form a psychoanalytical profile for the Mormon prophet, the listing of parallels alone are well worth the price of the book.
The author's intent is to provide a tentative diagnosis, and he fully explains the inherent weaknesses in such an approach. Although there may be alternative diagnoses for Smith, the evidences themselves outlined by the author that Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon are *not* so weak and will be much more difficult for the apologists to refute.
Much material about Mormonism, pro- and con-, has been hashed and rehashed. This book does not contain any of that. This book offers a refreshing and unique dimension to the pro- vs. con- dialogue. Often I caught myself saying, "Why didn't I think of that?"
I heartily recommend this book.
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Duwayne Anderson on April 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
Anderson begins by accepting the scientific evidence supporting the conclusion that the Book of Mormon is a fraud. Within this context, and owing to its rapid dictation, he views the Book of Mormon akin to the sort of free association a psychologist might encounter with a patient. He then applies the principles of psychoanalytic analysis to discern specific attributes and traits of Joseph Smith's personality. In Anderson's words:

"This book is not about `Did Joseph Smith create the Book of Mormon?" but "How did Joseph Smith create the Book of Mormon." [xxvi]

I must admit I was skeptical about the author's claim. After all, psychoanalysis is viewed by many scientists as a branch of pseudoscience and quackery. Anderson tempers his approach, however, and when he goes out on a limb with his explanations he's quick to point it out to the reader, and to moderate his conclusions with warnings about the limitations of his craft.

Even if one disregards the psychoanalytic aspects all together, this book still has considerable value. Anderson presents a nice summary of interesting bits of early Mormonism that are probably unknown to most members, owing to the church's revisionist and exclusionary policy toward Joseph's early history. Anderson also presents some very compelling parallels between Smith's life and key events and themes in the Book of Mormon.

The author diagnoses Joseph Smith as a narcissist. He also claims the Book of Mormon plays out (often several times) key events from Smith's life. Some of the parallels he describes are truly interesting and hard to ignore. Because of this, the temptation is always present to use these parallels as evidence against the Book of Mormon.
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60 of 71 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 9, 1999
Format: Paperback
A superb and fascinating study, approached with the dual advantage of an insider and an experienced psychiatrist. Anderson has mastered the impressive literature and presents a convincing psychobiographic study of one of the great religious figures of the American scene. He unveils for us one of the most profound and perplexing questions in the understanding of religious movements--how important figures can translate psychic disturbances into messages of conviction and inspiration. The story itself is powerful, and the questions it raises are thought provoking.--W.W. Meissner, S.J., M.D., Professor of Psychoanalysis, Boston College; author, Ignatius of Loyola: The Psychology of a Saint and of Psychoanalysis and the Religious Experience.
Anderson has an excellent grasp of early Mormon history and writes with dispassion and good balance, impressive scholarship, and readable prose. His naturalistic explanation provides a unique and penetrating analysis of the factors which motivated and fashioned Joseph Smith's dictation of the Book of Mormon. We have been waiting a long time for this book.--Brigham D. Madsen, Professor Emeritus of History and former Vice President, University of Utah; editor, Studies of the Book of Mormon.
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