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Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism Paperback – December 1, 1987
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"Brilliant... Written with style and felicity, it deals with all the difficult topics that must be probed in describing and interpreting the controversial early history of Mormonism." -- Leonard J. Arrington
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Probably due to it's shorter length, Beginnings of Mormonism is better edited than Rough Stone Rolling and lacks that vaguely rambling tone. If you've read or own Rough Stone Rolling, you won't find anything new in this book and will probably be disappointed. It's only worth buying Beginnings of Mormonism nowadays unless you're a collector.
As a silly personal aside, can't somebody update the cover of this book? Gosh, I felt like I needed to put on another dustjacket while I was reading it -- so ugly!
An example of Bushman's use of Mormon apologetics is his depiction of the First Vision. Joseph Smith recorded four versions of the First Vision, one in 1832, '35, '38, and '42. Each version differed from the other and some differences were on very significant points. In his presentation of the First Vision, Bushman rationalizes the variance among the versions saying: "In 1832 he [Joseph Smith] explained the vision as he must have first understood it ... [i]n actuality there was more in the vision than he first understood ... certain aspects took on an importance they did not possess at first" Here Bushman indirectly acknowledges the differences in the versions but implies that the information added on to later versions were actually present but not written down because Joseph Smith did not understand their importance at that time. Bushman deceptively presents Smith's First Vision as harmonious when in actuality it is four versions that do not agree with each other on significant points.
An example of Bushman's blunt omission of facts and deceitful implications can be found in his narrative of Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon. Bushman's description leads the reader to believe that Joseph Smith translated the plates by some logical process of translation: "There was no problem with the plates because Joseph looked in the seerstone or the interpreters, and the plates lay covered on the table." Bushman omits the fact that Joseph Smith had his head in a hat during the entire translating process. Indeed, Bushman's depiction of the translation of the text tells the reader almost nothing about the actual translation process at all.
Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism is a whitewashed presentation of Mormon history. Although Bushman does not avoid the unsightly happenings of Mormonism's origins, he processes and frames them to minimize their aversive nature to Mormonism. This book is a faith-promoting work askew from objectivity.
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I also gave one-star reviews to Hugh Nibley's books. Read more
Bushman is able to give a thorough and well documented history, without the "sanitising...Read more