Richard L. Bushman

Richard L. Bushman


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Richard Lyman 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 religion in America, focusing on the early period. He has special interests in the history of Mormon theology and in lived religion among the Mormons. He has taken an active part in explaining Mormonism to a broad public and in negotiating the tensions between Mormonism and modern culture.

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The Refinement of America: ...

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Believing History: Latter-D...

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Great Awakening

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Mormons in American

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Making Space For The Mormons

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“But it is just possible that Americans may be living on one of those boundaries in human history when the virtue of an entire nation is in jeopardy, when the will of the whole people is approaching the point where it desires evil, and laws could be made which would compel men to do evil as the wicked kings in the Book of Mormon did. As religious faith deteriorates and moral standards inevitably fall, total corruption is possible.

To be subject to a sovereign people which is corrupt and vicious is a more terrible situation than to be subject to a corrupt monarch. The recourse under a corrupt monarch is revolution, but what is the recourse under a corrupt democracy? A people cannot revolt against itself. Mosiah told his people what must happen: "And if the time comes that the voice of the people doth choose iniquity, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time that the judgments of God will come upon you; yea, then is the time he will visit you with great destruction even as he has hitherto visited this land" (Mosiah 29:27). The entire society must be dismantled as it was in the days of Noah. . . .

The highest kind of political activity, then, is to teach virtue and faith. Ultimately there is no other way to preserve the Constitution of the United States and the freedom which it was established to protect. Citizens of the United States claiming Latter-day Saint heritage are required to act decisively to strengthen the moral foundations of liberty, that "every man may act in doctrine and principle pertaining to futurity, according to the moral agency" which the Lord has given him.

This work cannot be undertaken successfully in the last hour. The last hour is too late.”
Richard L. Bushman

“The Book of Mormon proposes a new purpose for America: becoming a realm of righteousness rather than an empire of liberty. Against increasing wealth and inequality, the Book of Mormon advocates the cause of the poor. Against the subjection of the Indians, it promises the continent to the native people. Against republican government, it proposes righteous rule by judges and kings under God's law. Against a closed canon Bible and non-miraculous religion, the Book of Mormon stands for ongoing revelation, miracles and revelation to all nations. Against skepticism, it promotes belief; against nationalism, a universal Israel. It foresees disaster for the nation if the love of riches, resistance to revelation, and Gentile civilization prevail over righteousness, revelation and Israel.”
Richard L. Bushman

“Not long after this attempt, the issue arose again. A conference on November 8 instructed Joseph Smith to review the commandments and 'correct those errors or mistakes which he may discover by the holy Spirit.' Correcting 'errors' in language supposedly spoken by God again raised the question of authenticity. If from God, how could the language be corrected? Correction implied Joseph's human mind had introduced errors; if so, were the revelations really his productions?

The editing process uncovered Joseph's anomalous assumptions about the nature of revealed words. He never considered the wording infallible. God's language stood in an indefinite relationship to the human language coming through the Prophet. The revealed preface to the Book of Commandments specified that the language of the revelations was Joseph Smith's: 'These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.' They were couched in language suitable to Joseph's time. The idioms, the grammar, even the tone had to be combrehensible to 1830s Americans. Recognizing the pliability of the revealed words, Joseph freely edited the revelations 'by the Holy Spirit,' making emendations with each new edition. He thought of his revelations as imprinted on his mind, not graven in stone. With each edition, he patched pieces together and altered the wording to clarify meaning. The words were both his and God's.”
Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling

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