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The Sword of Laban: Joseph Smith, Jr., and the Dissociated Mind Hardcover – January 15, 1998

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 246 pages
  • Publisher: Amer Psychiatric Pub; 1 edition (January 15, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0880488646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0880488648
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.9 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 2.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,101,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


" "The Sword of Laban" breaks exciting new ground in early Mormon scholarship. Dr. Morain draws on his experience as a surgeon treating childhood trauma to theorize brilliantly about the psychological consequences of young Joseph Smith Jr.'s painful leg surgery. He relates this, along with other insightful observations about Smith's familial and environmental influences, to a textual analysis of The Book of Mormon that is remarkably original and convincing. He drives home his arguments with a dramatic intensity, writing in a style that is both scholarly and colorful. You might not agree with all of the controversial conclusions reached in "The Sword of Laban", but you won't put it down until you've turned the final page."-- "William D. Russell, Professor of American History, Graceland College, Former President, Mormon History Association (1982-1983)"

About the Author

William D. Morain, M.D., was educated at Graceland College, Grinnell College, and Harvard Medical School. He trained in surgery at HarvardÂs Peter Bent Brigham Hospital and ChildrenÂs Hospital Medical Center and in plastic surgery at Stanford University Medical Center. Recently retired after two decades of academic practice, Dr. Morain was Professor of Plastic Surgery at Dartmouth Medical School. He has served as President of the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation and the Northeastern Society of Plastic Surgeons and as Secretary of the American Board of Plastic Surgery. Author of over 100 scientific and literary publications, he currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of the monthly journal Annals of Plastic Surgery.

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Customer Reviews

2.9 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 33 people found the following review helpful By I am the on June 25, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a quick and easy read, perfect for after dinner reading. The argument is intriguing, but one shouldn't take it so seriously. It's best to read this book with the same healthy skepticism one would bring to a "JFK assassination conspiracy" book. The author is simply connecting dots in Joseph Smith's life to construct his theory that Smith had a personality disorder, and that this disorder was the essence of his religious genius. The book's critical flaw is methodological: Morain never really compares Smith with other case studies from the literature on dissociative disorders, rendering his conclusions pure speculation. Still, Morain scores a few interesting points, and made me say "hmmmmmmmm" more than once. Five stars for readability. Three stars for scholarship. That's an average of 4.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Wanderer on June 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Note: I made some Mormon reader angry over my reviews of books written by Mormons out to prove the Book of Mormon, and that person has been slamming my reviews.
Your "helpful" votes are appreciated. Thanks.

On "The Sword of Laban": Morain has established beyond all doubt that Joseph Smith was not your "average man." For example, Morain's observations about Joseph Smith's two leg-bone operations as a child (age 7) are compelling. The affects extreme pain (burns and other injuries) is well known and does change the child's personality and way of looking at the world.
When Joseph Smith set out to compose the Book of Mormon at age twenty-two, he was far from an average person in his depth of experience. He had moved some seven times before age twelve; he had been a Bible reader from age twelve; he had suffered two horrific leg operations without anesthetic; he had also suffered the death of his beloved brother, Alvin.

When Joseph Smith began composing the Book of Mormon at age twenty-two, he was a married man (a maturing factor). Then just after composing 116 pages of the Book of Mormon (which were lost), his infant son died (another maturing factor). Then Joseph Smith waited some nine months (planning time) before he began again on the Book of Mormon (a little work in between).

From first line to last line, the Book of Mormon was a year-long project that Joseph Smith completed at age twenty three. Thus, Joseph Smith was in no sense a "farm boy," as is often claimed by Mormon writers, who also confuse his teenage visions with his dictating of the Book of Mormon as a mature adult.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Alan E. Barber on February 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Morain, a plastic surgeon, wanders far afield from his specialty in taking on the complicated psyche of Joseph Smith. This isn't the first time somebody has attempted to psychoanalyze Smith from a distance. Indeed, the first effort of which I'm aware is Woodbridge Riley's 1902 effort, The Founder of Mormonism: A Psychological Study of Joseph Smith, Jr. (1903). In the intervening 100 years, the psychological diagnoses of Smith haven't changed much: Joseph Smith suffered childhood traumas that produced in later years the delusions upon which Mormonism is based. That argument is old news; Dr. Morain doesn't add much to the discussion.
But rather than summarize the book or re-argue the points other reviewers have made, let me simply quote from a review of this book in the Spring, 2004 issue of the "Journal of Mormon History," which (despite its name) is not an apologetic journal produced by the LDS Church, but an independent academic journal from the academic body known as the Mormon History Association (of which I'm a lay member), edited by Mormon and non-Mormon historians, experts all in the field of Mormon history. The reviewers state: "Morain's work suffers from [these] weaknesses: Morain (1) draws upon noticeably biased research (relying almost exclusively on E.D. Howe's "Mormonism Unvailed" in interpreting early Mormon history); (2) diagnoses psychological disorders without sufficient documentation; and (3) uses the psychoanalytical approach that entails a significant amount of conjecture. . . .
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34 of 49 people found the following review helpful By cricket@latterdaylampoon.com on March 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Dr. Morain presents a professionally done work with plausible explanations of the internal motivations of Joseph Smith, Jr.
Anyone who has dealt with Post Traumatic Stress professionally or personally realizes the long term and powerful impact that trauma can have upon human beings, especially the young and impressionable.
The book is as vivid in its descriptions as it is in its theory and hypothesis.
Dr. Morains's book actually makes more sense and seems much more plausible than angels from heaven visiting Joseph Smith and giving him golden plates. One wonders why readers who so readily accept the angel stories, scoff at Dr. Morain's reasonable and scientific approach.
Ardent believers of Joseph Smith and readers of the Book of Mormon be wary of the mythical Sword of Laban cutting both ways, leaving logic and reason decapitated from the body of truth.
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