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Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism

3.95 of 5 stars 3.95  ·  rating details  ·  225 ratings  ·  15 reviews
Focuses on the first twenty-five years of Smith's life, describes his visions, and recounts how he established the Church of the Latter-day Saints.
Paperback, 272 pages
Published December 1st 1987 by University of Illinois Press (first published 1985)
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The first few chapters are painful...a lot of back history on the Smith and Mack families, but once into Joseph's family it is a great book. For one who often struggles with faith (me), this was a fantastic read. This story only goes through Joseph's early years and up to the start of the church, but I really liked all of the history, especially the "touchy" subjects including Joseph's much criticized "gold digging days". It made me realize that Joseph was a human, just like the rest of us--he w ...more
Joseph D. Walch
One of the more inclusive scholarly works exploring the place of Joseph Smith and the founding of the 'Mormon' religion. I am indebted to the author who shed light into such touchy subjects such as the accusation of treasure seeking and the interesting fact that clergy may have responded so negatively to the First Vision not from pure anti-Christian motive, but from the experience dealing with universal spiritualists who were making regular and wild claims of heavenly manifestations.

The subject
Joel Stucki
I fell in love with book before Rough Stone Rolling was published. This was the beginning of the research done for that book and much of it is recovered in that later book's early chapters. I was taken a bit by surprise with the way the book abruptly ends when many of us know the story was just getting started and it definitely leaves you feeling a want for the rest of the story which Bushman would deliver many years later after much more research. Still this remains a even more detailed look at ...more
I loved this book! Bushman is a wonderful historian. He writes clearly and beautifully. As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I have known for years about the history Bushman describes, yet there was a freshness and clarity that I enjoyed immensely. Since I have attended graduate school and written a doctoral dissertation, I consider myself to some extent a scholar, and I was hooked on the scholarship of this book. I was so captivated by this author's style that I am cu ...more
Mary Holston
Helpful to the non Mormon.
I bought this book several years ago and did not make it past the first two pages. However, when I opened it just recently I became riveted. I appreciated the inclusion of various perspectives and the depth that was provided to historical events. This book helped me to understand a bit more of the general history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in light of its contemporary history. The author clearly holds one view, but is willing to share other views and provides ample refere ...more
An interesting, fair and thought provoking look at Joseph Smith's life up until the Kirkland, Ohio era. Dr. Bushman does a thorough job of looking at Joseph Smith's maternal and patriarchal extended family legacy and does not shy away from the more gritty and sensational aspects of his life. Next up (also by Bushman) Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. I have heard that the beginnings of that book is nearly identical to this one so perhaps I will be able to skip ahead.
Bushman does a fine job of tackling the early formation of the Church, including touchy things like multiple versions of the First Vision account, the trials for disorderly conduct, and the Smith family's penchant for magic and treasure-seeking. This is a well-rounded book which is largely favorable to the Church. I would recommend it to those already secure in their faith.
This was a great scholarly work about the early Mormon church. Bushman did a good job examining Joseph Smith from all angles. He was not afraid to explore the idiosyncrasies of Joseph Smith the man and showed how even as an imperfect man, he was a great prophet and he performed a great work. It helped strengthen my testimony of the prophet Joseph Smith.
This is the first of what I consider a series of books. Rough Stone Rolling. This book is fantastic, but ends rather abruptly during the Ohio years. I happened to bump into the author in Manhattan and over small talk (we were both ushers at the temple dedication) I queried as to why. Bushman's respons was wait for the sequel. Fantastic historian and scholar.
Started this one today and I'm not really enjoying it. The part about Joseph Smith's ancestors is interesting, but the overall tone of the book or something is too dry, and I'm not really that motivated to keep going. I will read a few more chapters and see if my opinion changes.
zoe nicol
I learned that I could make a Mormon cry on an eight-hour flight...that's what I learned. Facts can do that. I didn't mean to make him cry but I love me some history and some cultural context. I would have bought the man a beer but he's well...notsomuch into that.
I had a difficult time sitting and reading this book for some reason. I might try and read it again
One of the best summaries of the early Mormon Church and its beginnings from a great scholar.
Joe Spencer
Unimpeachable research. It speaks for itself.
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Richard Bushman published widely in early American social and cultural history before completing his biography, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. Among his books were From Puritan to Yankee: Character and the Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765 and The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities. He teaches courses on Mormonism in its broad social and cultural context and on the history of ...more
More about Richard L. Bushman...
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling Mormonism: A Very Short Introduction On the Road with Joseph Smith: An Author's Diary The Refinement of America: Persons, Houses, Cities Believing History: Latter-Day Saint Essays

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