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Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling Paperback – March 13, 2007


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Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling + No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith + An Insider's View of Mormon Origins
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 784 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400077532
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400077533
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.1 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (215 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #67,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

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 The New Yorker

Joseph Smith claimed that he was visited by an angel who gave him golden plates from which he transcribed the Book of Mormon, and he had organized a church before he was twenty-five. His personal charisma and his administrative genius helped spread Mormonism throughout the Western United States, turning the sect into a legislative federation complete with social and political institutions. There were always those who thought Smith a charlatan and a fanatic, and, in 1844, at the age of thirty-eight, he was fatally shot by an angry mob. Bushman is both an emeritus professor of history at Columbia and a practicing Mormon, and his exhaustive biography carefully treads a path between reverence and objectivity, as when he investigates the phenomenon of "plural marriage"; Smith, in order to establish "a Righteous race . . . uppon the Earth," had more than thirty wives.
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

The book is well written and very informative.
Bob
The thing is--it's just as good as we all hoped it would be.
R. W. Rasband
This book takes you all through Joseph Smith's life.
J. Swift

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

567 of 630 people found the following review helpful By J. Swift on July 26, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I would like to start the review admitting I am not a Mormon. I love biographies of great people in history. I read "No man knows my History" by Fawn Brodie. I came on that book by accident. And I realize from some of the reviews on Amazon that Mormons dont like that book much. I thought it was great, but admit that she paints Joseph Smith in a negative light sometimes. But I could still see through enough to see a great man behind her attacks on his character.

"Rough Stone Rolling" is the exact opposite of that book. Richard Bushman uses a lot of the same stories but doesnt have the same negative slant. But he still shows that Joseph Smith was not perfect, which I admire. This is the best biography I have ever read.

This book takes you all through Joseph Smith's life. From a farmboy in New York who got on his knees and asked God to show him the way, to the man who was gunned down in Carthage a martyr for his calling.

If he was a Prophet or not is up for debate. As a Christian I believe that God is real and God can still speak today. Before I read the history of Joseph Smith if someone asked me if he was a prophet, I would have said no. After reading up on the man I would answer that it is not out of the realm of possibility. I believe he believed he was a prophet. I believe that some unexplainable things happened around him and the early Church.

The question was he a great man or not has been settled in my mind at least. I think he was a great man. To be tared and feathered and beaten, and still preach that next morning. To take persecutions and imprisionment in stride, to never compromise what you believe even in the face of death. These things are the very definition of a great man.
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352 of 391 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Rasband VINE VOICE on November 12, 2005
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It's hard to overestimate just how much Richard Bushman's long-awaited biography of Joseph Smith has been eagerly anticipated by Mormon readers. Now that it's finally here it would be only natural if it didn't live up to expectations. The thing is--it's just as good as we all hoped it would be. "Rough Stone Rolling" is the culmination of almost forty years of what has been called "the new Mormon history." It's impossible for LDS writers to be objective about Joseph given his place in LDS history, so Bushman aims for balance and candor and succeeds brilliantly.

When I was growing up as a Mormon I have to admit that much of the LDS writing about Joseph was an obstacle to my faith. According to many he was a ideal man without flaw, a sort of 19th-century superhero. This made him a papier-mache saint that was impossible to relate to on a human level. Bushman describes a man who trusted the wrong people at times; was hotheaded, impulsive, and contentious; couldn't abide personal criticism; was a lousy businessman--in short, a man with familiar human foibles. On the other hand he had a large, open heart, an expansive view of human possibilities, and an almost scary insight into the religious quandries of our lives. He was able to convince many, many others that the heavens had been opened. Much of 19th century Protestantism seemed spiritually dead as a stone; Joseph and his followers believed he had restored the flow of revelation that had existed in Biblical times. He became a prophet in a distinctly American vein.

Perhaps his most famous line for non-Mormons was "no man knows my history; if I hadn't lived it I wouldn't have believed it myself." Bushman captures the sheer mystical mystery of Joseph's life.
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216 of 239 people found the following review helpful By Fr Phillip Bloom on August 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Desiring some basic understanding of Mormonism, I asked a priest friend from Utah to recommend a book. He said that it is hard to find a good book because writings on Mormonism tend to be either Mormon propaganda or anti-Mormon attacks. He did mention that a lot of people were reading *Under the Banner of Heaven* by Jon Krakauer. It turned out be a slash-and-burn attack not only on Mormonism, but religion in general. Shortly after reading Krakauer's book, I discovered *Rough Stone Rolling.* What a contrast! And what an amazing accomplishment! As both a practicing Mormon and a Columbia University professor, Dr. Bushman enables an outsider (like myself) to appreciate the life and times of Joseph Smith.

Before commenting on *Rough Stone Rolling,* I want to make an obvious (but necessary) disclaimer: As a Catholic I do not accept the basic thesis of Mormonism - namely, that Jesus founded a Church and then allowed it to fall into apostasy until a nineteenth century American named Joseph Smith restored it. Mormons believe that, with the death of the last apostle, the Church also died. Catholics, by contrast, believe that the pope and bishops are successors of the apostles.

With that disclaimer in mind, I must say that Dr. Bushman helped me appreciate the great genius of Joseph Smith. At a time when rationalism was robbing people of a direct experience of God, Smith convincingly presented himself as a prophet and wanted others to have similar revelations from God. But he also recognized the need for authority to prevent individual revelations from fracturing the community. In the process he set up structures very familiar to Catholics: a priesthood, a hierarchy with one final authority and rituals which connect believers to divine mysteries.
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