Jake's Reviews > Joseph Smith the Prophet

Joseph Smith the Prophet by Truman G. Madsen
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Jun 15, 2009

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bookshelves: religion, biography
Read 3 times. Last read October 1, 1994.

These lectures ought to be titled: Joseph Smith the Hero. By the time Madsen is done painting his portrait, the Mormon Prophet seems more a Greek statue than a human.

When I was a green LDS missionary in rural Maine, my trainer introduced me to this collection of lectures. We listened to them as part of our morning study. My mission boundaries included the birthplace of Joseph Smith, and the town where he had a famous leg operation as a boy. So I was primed to relish these lectures.

Madsen is candid at times, especially about Joseph's introduction of the practice of polygamy. That being acknowledged, this lecture series is first and foremost a testimonial. Madsen even ends each lecture by testifying and closing with the Mormon liturgical coda: "In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen."

By way of disclosure, I am no longer a practicing Mormon. There is much of Joseph Smith's history that Madsen doesn't cover, or makes no attempt to be objective about. So I do not recommend this book as an academic resource. But as a cultural sampling of how endeared Joseph Smith's memory is to contemporary Mormons, I say don't pass it up.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
Finished Reading
Started Reading
October 1, 1994 – Finished Reading
June 15, 2009 – Shelved
January 24, 2010 – Shelved as: religion
January 26, 2010 – Shelved as: biography

Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by David (new)

David Menzies Out of interest, is it Joseph Smith's history that has led you to not practise Mormonism anymore or for other reasons?

Jake David wrote: "...is it Joseph Smith's history that has led you to not practise Mormonism anymore or for other reasons?"

Hi, David. It is difficult to sum up my journey out of practicing Mormonism. I could write at length about the various reasons I woke up to, and began to appreciate, my agnosticism.

I would not single out Joseph Smith's history as a singular reason. It is one of several. The common thread is the disconnect between Mormonism as it is depicted, and frankly marketed, in Sunday services and church publications: simplistic, polished, immaculate. Contrast that with Mormonism according to a wide and well-vetted range of historical sources in and out of the Church: complex, messy, evolving. The conflict between those two renderings of the Church is in fact one of the tensions that Truman G. Madsen wrestles with in his opus to Joseph. But again, Joseph's history by itself is not the key reason. Though, it is one of the roots of my skepticism.

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