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Joseph Smith, Jr.: Reappraisals After Two Centuries Paperback – December 2, 2008
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About the Author
Terryl L. Givens did graduate work at Cornell University in intellectual history and at UNC Chapel Hill, where he received his PhD in comparative literature. He holds the Jabez A. Bostwick Chair of English and is Professor of Literature and Religion at the University of Richmond, where he teaches courses in nineteenth-century studies and the Bible's influence on Western literature. His writing has been praised by the New York Times as "provocative reading," and his numerous books include When Souls Had Wings, a history of the idea of premortal life in Western thought, as well as The God Who Weeps (with Fiona Givens) and Wrestling the Angel.
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They write in the Introduction to this 2009 collection of essays (by both LDS, and non-LDS scholars), "The rationale behind this collection is that the day has come when the founder of Mormonism and his prominent role in America's history and religious thought cannot be denied... It is our intent to reflect in these pages the wide-ranging interest in Joseph Smith that the commemorative conferences only suggested."
Here are some additional quotations from the book:
"Of all these movements, Mormonism came to be seen as the most serious threat to the hegemony of evangelicals." (Pg. 40)
"Read from a metaphysical perspective, perhaps none were so significant for the Hermetic underlay of early Mormon theology as the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg. With his doctrines of divine influx, of God as the 'Divine Human' with its hints of the Father Mother God of Hermeticism, of heaven as a material place with elaborate mansions and well-appointed tables and flower gardens, and of the 'conjugal love' between heavenly soulmates with their etherealized sex, the mysticizing Swede was known to many Americans... Accounts of Swedenbog ... were also available in Palmyra's public library... Smith's 'telestial,' 'terrestrial,' and 'celestial' heavens to a certain extent recalled the Swedish seer's earlier 'natural,' 'spiritual,' and 'celestial' versions." (Pg. 68-69)
"For nearly a decade, (Joseph) Smith was invisible in Latter-day Saint proselyting. His name was not even mentioned in missionary literature or in sermons, as far as can be told." (Pg. 101)
"Smith's production of the Book of Mormon was the most conspicuous embodiment of this challenge to biblical sufficiency; the new scripture itself hammered home the message of God's word as endlessly iterated and endlessly proliferating." (Pg. 115)
"Although stories of Joseph Smith's visions of deity and angels were known in the early years of the church, several scholars have noted that Joseph's First Vision did not immediately acquire a central place for the young LDS community." (Pg. 162)
"I argue that there are grounds for construing Joseph Smith as a genuine prophet of world historical importance. More work needs to be done, however, on what kind of prophet Joseph was." (Pg. 201)