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No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith Paperback – August 1, 1995


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

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; 2nd Revised & enlarged edition (August 1, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679730540
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679730545
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (256 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #32,847 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

The first paperback edition of the classic biography of the founder of the Mormon church, this book attempts to answer the questions that continue to surround Joseph Smith. Was he a genuine prophet, or a gifted fabulist who became enthralled by the products of his imagination and ended up being martyred for them? 24 pages of photos. Map.

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3.9 out of 5 stars
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629 of 738 people found the following review helpful By Missing in Action on April 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
I've consummed a library of books on Mormon studies, and had held off on reading "No Man Knows My History" because I had already read a considerable quantity of biographical material on Joseph Smith. I capitulated at last only because it is among the most well known books on early Mormon history. I am so glad I did. No book could have pulled it all together and made sense of it all as well as Fawn Brodie's book. It is as valuable today as it was when it was first written over half a century ago. None of the objective scholarship of recent years contradicts her conclusions, but rather validates her, page after page after page. Her insight is piercing, her style is almost poetic, and her message is powerful.
It is not any easy book for a Mormon to read, as is evidenced by some of the reactionary attacks Brodie receives in some of the reviews already written. The faithful do not want to hear that Joseph Smith was an "evolutionary revolutionary," his doctrine growing with his ego and sense of personal magnificence. But this is no mean swipe at the character of Joseph Smith...if anything, you come away with a sense of awe at the creative genius, the charismatic giant that he must have been. If he brought scorn and violence upon himself and his people, it was a measure of the power he produced and the fear that he struck in lesser men with whom he shared his time and space. Nevertheless, Brodie's exploration of the world of Joseph Smith and the context within which his doctrine evolved is brilliant. She is adept at recognizing the role that projection has played throughout his career, beginning with the Book of Mormon, and continuing on through all of his other writings, including the History of the Church. Ms.
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85 of 104 people found the following review helpful By David C. Jackson on April 21, 2010
Format: Paperback
After hearing about the "controversial" nature of this book amongst my peers and how "horribly" written it was I decided I would read it for myself.

Needless to say I was enthralled from the very beginning of the book. I found the book and the subject matter fascinating. I had expected the book to have a clear bias, but I felt Brodie presented the information very fairly and in a suprisingly unbiased way... oftentimes giving both perspectives and the information where both sides claims come from (i.e. she'll present people's claims that Joseph Smith was a moneydigger and occultist, and than show the court documents where he was on trial for doing so, and than she would show the other side's argument.).

In fact the only part of the book that I felt had a truly negative biased tone was the "afterword" that was added several years after the author's excommunication.

In the end though, I would have to say that the part I enjoyed most about the book was that it not only gave a detailed account of Joseph Smith, but of other church history figures such as Sidney Rigdon, Brigham Young, John D. Lee, etc. I felt like a picture of what life was like back then was painted.

Granted true blue Mormons will be offended when reading this book because they haven't heard anything but the filtered down version, AND they will gnash their teeth and bash on Fawn Brodie... BUT give her a break! It was the first biography of its kind and it was written in the 40's for heaven sakes. All the teeth gnashing looks ridiculous as if you're trying too hard to prove your obedience and faith.

A good product will sell itself, and this book has sold suprisingly well despite being restricted to a small fraction of the world who actually knows what a "mormon" or who "Joseph Smith" was. I enjoyed the book very much, thank you Fawn Brodie.
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39 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Israel Drazin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 28, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the second edition of Fawn M. Brodie's classic 1945 biography of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. Brodie is well-known for her other highly respected biographies on Thomas Jefferson, Richard Nixon, Sir Richard F. Burton, and Thaddeus Stevens. The book is a detailed dispassionate factual narration of Joseph Smith's life and the early days of the Mormon Church until his murder by a lynch mob at age 39 in 1844.

While Brodie is careful not to disparage Joseph Smith, she presents him as a human with normal inclinations and faults, and Mormons might not like to think of him in this way. In fact, the Mormon Church excommunicated her because of this book. She writes that the "major original premises of this biography was that Joseph Smith's assumption of the role of a religious prophet was an evolutionary process, that he began as a bucolic scryer, using the primitive techniques of the folklore of magic common to his area, most of which he discarded as he evolved into a preacher-prophet."

Brodie offers evidence showing that Joseph Smith began his career offering to help gullible farmers find buried fortunes on their land. He originally intended to compose a fictional novel about buried treasures but then altered it into a true account of a revelation delivered to him on golden plates in a foreign language with tools to translate them. Brodie discusses the belief that much of this Book of Mormon was plagiarized from another person's novel. Joseph Smith claimed that he had his first vision of God and Jesus, who had human forms because God was once human, in 1820 when he was fourteen. Brodie shows that this dating is "sheer invention...
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