Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling

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Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling: A Cultural Biography of Mormonism's Founder
Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling.jpg
Author Richard L. Bushman
Country United States
Language English
Subject Joseph Smith
Genre Biography
Publisher Alfred A. Knopf
Publication date
2005
Media type Print (Hardcover)
Pages 740
ISBN 1-4000-4270-4
OCLC 56922457
289.3/092 B 22
LC Class BX8695.S6 B875 2005
Followed by 2007 Vintage Books paperback

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling: A Cultural Biography of Mormonism's Founder is a biography of Joseph Smith Jr., founder and prophet of the Latter Day Saint movement, by Richard Bushman. Bushman is both a practicing member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History emeritus at Columbia University.

Approach[edit]

The title of the book refers to a self-description by Smith, "I [am] a rough stone. The sound of the hammer and chisel was never heard on me nor never will be. I desire the learning and wisdom of heaven alone."[1] Bushman is the author of many books on early American cultural and religious history, and his own religious and academic background enables him to locate Joseph Smith in the cultural context of early nineteenth-century America.

Although the five-hundred eighty-four page biography (with additional extensive notes and documentation) does not avoid controversial aspects of Smith's life and work, such as his practice of polygamy and his youthful treasure-seeking, it treats them cautiously, and as Bushman himself admits, with "greater tolerance for Smith's remarkable stories than most historians would allow."[2] Rough Stone Rolling makes use of much recent research and is the most complete biography of Joseph Smith published to date.[3]

Reception[edit]

Jane Lampman, reviewing the book for the Christian Science Monitor, called the book a fascinating, definitive biography, saying it explored the controversy surrounding Smith without attempting to resolve it, and lauded the book as "an honest yet sympathetic portrayal...rich in its depiction of developing Mormonism.".[4] Walter Kirn of the New York Times Book Review says that when reading Bushman's biography, "once the reader despairs of ever finding out whether Smith was God's own spokesman or the L. Ron Hubbard of his day, it's possible to enjoy a tale that's as colorful, suspenseful and unlikely as any in American history."[5] Larry McMurtry says that in reading Bushman, it is difficult to determine "where biography ends and apologetics begins."[3] In a long academic review, Jan Shipps calls the book "the crowning achievement of the new Mormon history," that is likely to "serve as the standard work on Mormonism's coming in to being" for the foreseeable future.[6] Retired BYU professor Marvin S. Hill, writing in Dialogue, says that Bushman "comes up markedly short at times and he does not always examine controversial issues carefully" but that "his book suggests that thought about the Prophet has matured among some faithful Latter-day Saints."[7]

In 2007, Bushman published a brief but revealing memoir about the publication of Rough Stone Rolling, which outlines both the genesis of the book and the reaction of audiences and reviewers during his yearlong book tour.[8]

Awards[edit]

Publication data[edit]

  • Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) ISBN 1-4000-4270-4 (hardcover)
  • Richard Lyman Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Vintage Books, 2007) ISBN 978-1-4000-7753-3 (paperback)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Diary, June 11, 1843.
  2. ^ Richard Lyman Bushman, On the Road with Joseph Smith: An Author’s Diary (Salt Lake City: Gregg Kofford Books, 2007), 124.
  3. ^ a b Larry McMurtry, "Angel in America," New York Review of Books, November 17, 2005, 35-37.
  4. ^ Jane Lampman, "He founded a church and stirred a young nation," Christian Science Monitor, December 17, 2005
  5. ^ Walter Kirn, New York Times Book Review, January 15, 2006, 14-15.
  6. ^ Jan Shipps, "Richard Lyman Bushman, the Story of Joseph Smith and Mormonism, and the New Mormon History," Journal of American History, 94 (September 2007)
  7. ^ Marvin S. Hill, "By Any Standard, A Remarkable Book," Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 39:3 (2006), 155-63 @ 162. For a review of Bushman's book from Mormon apologist Louis Midgley, see "Two Stories, One Faith".
  8. ^ Richard Lyman Bushman, On the Road with Joseph Smith: An Author’s Diary (Salt Lake City: Gregg Kofford Books, 2007).
  9. ^ "MHA Awards" (PDF). Mormon History Association. 2007. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  10. ^ "Previous Winners - Evans Biography Award" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-10-22. 

External links[edit]