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5.0 out of 5 stars AN INSIGHTFUL COLLECTION OF INTERPRETATIONS OF JOSEPH SMITH, September 16, 2011
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This review is from: The Prophet Puzzle: Interpretive Essays on Joseph Smith (Essays on Mormonism Series) (Paperback)
This 1999 collection includes essays by figures such as Jan Shipps, Dan Vogel, Richard Bushman, Newell Bringhurst, Eugene England, and others.

The editor writes in the Introduction, "The essays in this volume take up Smith's legacy of enigma. Using tools from disciplines as diverse as history, psychology, literary studies, sociology, and theology, the selections here represent thirty years of writing about Joseph Smith... The collection's purpose is to make a variety of interpretations of Joseph Smith, both previously published and new, accessible to a larger audience."

Here are some quotations from the book:

"(Fawn) Brodie's principal drawback is that while she recognizes Joseph Smith's tremendous creativity, her views require ambivalence about the religion he created. Her narrative makes it plain that Mormonism was attractive and religiously satisfying to thousands of people during Smiths' lifetime and afterward, but in the end she sees ... 'the barrenness of his spiritual legacy...'" (Pg. 10)
"I suggest that Smith really believed he was called of God to preach repentance to a sinful world but that he felt justified in using deception to accomplish his mission more fully. Like the faith healer who uses confederates to create a faith-promoting atmosphere in which true miracles can occur, Smith assumed the role of prophet... and issued revelations to create a setting in which true conversion experiences could take place." (Pg. 61)
"As time went by, Joseph played down the place of magic and seerstones in his early life... he knew that involvement with magic would discredit the church... in 1830 he gave up using seerstones and spoke no more about them." (Pg. 79)
"A significant amount of Missouri/anti-Mormon hostility stemmed from anxiety concerning Latter-day Saint views on the issue of black slavery... The expression of Mormon anti-slavery attitudes is not surprising given that Smith along with the vast majority of his Latter-day Saint followers were from nonslave-holding regions of the northeast." (Pg. 123)
"It was no accident that the Smiths' leading collaborator in their Palmyra treasure-seeking was Willard Chase, a Methodist preacher. Because of the intersection with religious seeking I prefer to call them treasure-seekers rather than the more sordid-sounding money-diggers. And if we recognize this intersection, then they do not appear such a bad lot for the Smiths to have associated with." (Pg. 147)
"How does any form of Bipolar Affective Disorder explain the Book of Mormon, Smith's revelations, or the Book of Abraham? At best, it only provides Smith with thoughtful introspection when depressed and energy when hypomanic. It contributes little to the explanation of these 'miracles.'" (Pg. 229)
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Location: Sacramento, CA USA

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