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Orrin Porter Rockwell: Man of God, Son of Thunder Paperback – 1993

4.3 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Harold Schindler has attempted to strip away churchly whitewash and Gentile vitriol to reveal Rockwell as he was. At once a Mormon and a trained police reporter, Schindler comes well-equipped for the job. He is dispassionate in an area of American history long marred by partisanship."—Saturday Review

"It is clear that this will be one of the light-bringing books—or maybe one should call them books that clear the muddied waters....We can use it, and more, like it."—Wallace Stegner

"Because of the depth of primary research, ...this account will undoubtedly stand for some time as the standard volume on the subject."—Thomas G. Alexander, Brigham Young University

"One of the best biographies of its kind."—The Los Angeles Times

“Schindler presents an understanding of Porter Rockwell, a tough frontier-coarsened fanatic for cause.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“As the subject emerges from the legendary towards reality in the hands of the author the reader is introduced to a facet of history usually skirted in objective writing. The author neither indicts nor clears Rockwell of the dark deeds laid to his charge by the enemies of the Church who insisted that he belonged to, or perhaps even headed, an avenging Danite group.”—Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought

“Readers of this volume will doubtless be surprised to find how closely associated Rockwell was with the mainstream of Mormon history, and how close he was to the church hierarchy—from the earliest beginnings of his church until his dying day. As his life drew to an end, Rockwell had been a member of the church longer than any of his living contemporaries. By following the chain of events through the pages of this book, one gets a running sketch of Mormon history, as well as the activities of one of its most devout members.”—Arizona and the West

About the Author

Harold Schindler has been associated with the Salt Lake Tribune in various capacities since 1945. Shortly after the first edition of this book was published, he became a found (and charter Vice-President) of the Utah Westerners, an organization of scholars, writers, and dedicated enthusiasts founded upon fellowship and a commin interest in the history of Utah and the heritage of the west. In 1967 Orrin Porter Rockwell was awarded the prestigious Award of Merit of the American Association for State and Local History.

Dale Bryner, whose stunning illustrations continue to enhance the narrative of this second edition, is a professor of art at Weber State College in Ogden, Utah. He is a photographer, painter and designer as well, who has worked and studied abroad during seven extended visits, including an entire year's sabbatical in Japan. Recently he has created a number of architectural glass designs for business establishments throughout the Salt Lake Valley.


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 417 pages
  • Publisher: University of Utah Press (1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 087480440X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0874804409
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,370 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Harold Schindler's biography on Mormon bad-boy Orrin Porter Rockwell is still the best biography of Rockwell out there. Moreover, it may be one of the best biographies of any early Mormon written. This book is not even so much about the quiet, enigmatic Rockwell as it is the genesis of an American religious movement.
Rockwell is a hard historical figure. He is a legendary figure whom the LDS church has tended to whitewash. Non-Mormon historians have had a tendency to villify him, making him a murderer and a theif. Somewhere, undoubtedly in the middle, lies the truth. Instead of writing an indictment or an apology for his life, Schindler writes a well-balanced account of Rockwell's life. He doesn't necessarily try to provide answers or justifications, only gives the facts and lets the reader decide. No doubt Schindler's objectivity and meticulous research has made this volume stand the test of time to become a classic in Mormon history.
I don't think I have ever said this about a book before: Probably just as engaging and interesting as the book itself are the footnotes which sometimes take up more of the page than the text. This is an awesome bibliographic reference as well. Not only does Schindler tell you about the life and times of Rockwell, he also tells many fascinating historical asides. If you don't believe or are suspcious about his research, then one may look at the documents he was viewing. Schindler does an excellent job of backing up most everything that he says.
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Format: Paperback
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Traditional LDS history paints a picture of Nauvoo and Salt Lake City as though they were the very seats of culture and industry. The reality was, they were both on the edge of the frontier, and consequently, they tended to be rough places. No one figured more prominantly in the "Wild West" of the Mormon kingdom than Orrin Porter Rockwell.
One of Schindler's significant contributions to the landscape of Mormon history is the perspective of the "regular folks" who were cowboys, farmers, and hunters who lived close to the land, mixed with Shoshones, Utes, Gosiutes, Paiutes and others, and who were engaged in a daily fight for survival. Rockwell's life, while steeped in Mormon theology, doctrine and experience, was also one of gunfighting, saloons, Indian fighting, stagecoaches, the California Gold Rush, and everything that is so quintessentially "western." I've read a lot of Church history, and this is the first time I really got a flavor for that element.
The difficulty with this book is that it still leaves you wondering whether Rockwell was a saint, or a ruthless killer. Unfortunately for history and historians, Rockwell was himself illiterate, and so there is no personal record of his life and dealings. On the other hand, because of his reputation, there is much that was written that portrayed him as a zealous destroyer, the mercinary of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. To Schindler's credit, he doesn't draw any conclusions on the life of Rockwell...he leaves that difficult challenge up to you!
Regardless of who Rockwell was or wasn't, this is an engaging book that addresses most of the notorious "stories" that veil Rockwell in the mists of intrigue, mystery and wonder. You'll gain a fresh perspective on the rough-hewn life of pioneer times, the Wild Side of Mormondom!
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Format: Paperback
I enjoy American History and especially biographies, usually first-hand pioneer autobiographies are best. This book by Harold Schindler, however, I especially appreciate for it's earthy and realistic portrayal of a time, people and one, mostly unknown but equally notorious character, namely O.P. Rockwell. This book is a must read and has been painstakenly documented/researched by the Author to reflect as accurate a reflection of what the written documents, eye-witnesses' accounts and governmental records can believably reveal.
The only portion of this work that I find to be somewhat incredible is that if Porter Rockwell is responsible for only half of the events, murders and heinous acts that are mentioned in this book, it seems impossible that he has avoided the notoriety that should place him in a league with the most infamous personages of the "Wild West". His cold-blooded conduct ranks him with the Daltons, Youngers or James'. His loyalty, sense of duty and shootist skills place him on a par with Bill Hickcock or Wyatt Earp. His plainsman knowledge, scouting and hunter skills liken him to William Cody. Not bad company for a figure whom doesn't have a greater fame as one of the most infamous characters in Western History. This was a very pleasant and interesting read, especially for those in search of the more authentic stories with,"...raw hide leather, bumps and bruises".
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After reading Porter Rockwell Biography I was of course curious what this book would say about my personal hero Orrin Porter Rockwell. I felt like the author wrote this book from a completely non-bias point of view despite being a member of the Mormon church. I learned some new things about this highly controversial member of the old west!
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A little hard to follow with all the name dropping, this book is a good history of one of Mormonism's most colorful characters. Emma Smith may be the only other person in Church History about whom there are more contradictions and questions than Porter Rockwell.

Some of the text is outdated as new information has become available, most notably the introduction, but overall it's a good read. It's a pretty balanced portrayal of Rockwell as a human being with weaknesses and peculiarities, but extraordinarily good characteristics as well. I wish there were more information about him "stealing" that woman in Nauvoo. Some of the footnotes were unclear about references, but most were very good. Be sure to read them as you go along. My favorite part was when Rockwell led the first raid on the Federal Army which seemed like a huge success but ended with the loss of all the horses of the raiding party due to a simple bugle blast. My father and I had a good laugh about that. Rockwell is the kind of fella I would have liked to know. Despite the book's flaws and age, it's still worth your time to read.
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