Nominator(s): Trevdna (talk) 23:52, 29 November 2013 (UTC)
About two months ago, I listed this article for FA candidacy. Many concerns were raised, specifically in regards to the article's POV and overcitation. Both have come a long way since then, and I believe it's ready for another shot at the FAC. I feel that it is one of the very highest quality articles available on Wikipedia, even surpassing many current FAs in terms of readability, context, abundance of citations, and neutrality on a controversial topic. Additionally, it is about a figure that's very important in the history of modern religious thought, and in American history, and as such, would be a great addition to have as an FA on Wikipedia.
(A note about the sourcing: Yes, I know that there are LOTS of citations on this article, but they are purposefully included next to statements that could be controversial to one side or the other so that they are not easily challenged by any passing POV warrior. There might still be a few that could be pruned down, I admit, but for the most part, they are where they are for a reason.)
(Also, a note on reaching NPOV: Joseph Smith was and is a very controversial person. Even if the POV of the article does not match your own personal POV on Smith and his life, I invite you to use this as the criteria to evaluate the article: "Raul's Razor – An article is neutral if, after reading it, you cannot tell where the author's sympathies lie." -Raul654.)
Thanks in advance for your time in reading and evaluating the article. Other editors and I have put in some good hours on this article, and we look forward to your comments (and hopefully support!)
First, I'd like to thank you for working on and nominating an article on such a complex and controversial figure. These are the most important articles to get right, and I commend you on your work.
Here are some of the article's strengths. It is remarkably complete: there are no places that seem glossed over, or where I feel important information has been neglected. It is admirably thorough in its sourcing: the reader has absolutely no question where the article's assertions come from (and I don't think it's over-cited, at least not in a major way); and further, I don't find any close-paraphrasing problems when combing through the sources. It's reasonably well organized: I don't see the need for major changes to the content of various subsections or supersections. And it is surprisingly NPOV, given the polarizing topic: there may be tweaks to improve the neutrality, but I don't see the sort of systemic issues one might expect.
But the article does have some unfortunate weaknesses. It really needs a thorough copy-editing. I see that it has been given three peer reviews, three GAN reviews, and two previous unsuccessful FACs, but there are still problems in nearly every section where the text is awkward, unclear, or worded in unfortunate ways. Related to this, many of the notes are poorly or inconsistently formatted, and some of the images are missing necessary information. I'll do what I can to help, but it will probably require the efforts of other reviewers willing to really dig in. I'll go section by section.
Many of the image issues were resolved in the last FAC, but these issues remain:
The image description page of File:JosephSmithTranslating.jpg says that it was made by an anonymous relative of a Commons user in 2008. It's contradictory to publish a picture anonymously and release it under a license that requires attribution; since we can't attribute the author, we can't fulfill the terms of the license. To be honest, it's a low-quality recent imaginative rendering; I don't see it as particularly encyclopedic.
A caption should only end in a full-stop if it is a complete sentence. "A painting of Smith, drawn by Bathsheba W. Smith, around 1843" is not a complete sentence, for instance.
(All other images are legitimately free, with all required information present.)
Notes and references
I don't think it's a problem to have so many notes and references in an article like this, but they do need to be formatted correctly. Here are a few of the many minor problems I found.
Some notes end in full-stops and some do not (e.g., compare 38 with 39).
Multiple citations are usually separated with a semicolon and space, but there are frequent errors (e.g., 84, 239, and many others).
A year range like 1824–5 (note 6) is non-standard; the MoS says to use 1824–25 for year ranges. Further, page ranges such as "pp. 557–9" or "pp. 150–51" are inconsistent and potentially ambiguous; the full "pp. 557–559" or "pp. 150–151" is preferable.
In a non-consecutive page range, a space is needed after the comma. So the Bushman cite in note 54 is correct, but the Brodie cite in the same note is incorrect.
Miscellaneous MoS-errors and typos are just more frequent in the notes. (Note 57 is missing a comma, notes 63 has an extra parenthesis, note 74 has a spurious comma, a full stop is missing after the date in note 183, etc. etc.)
Please go over the notes with a fine-toothed comb to check for consistency and typos.
The lead is quite good, probably the best written part of the article. I made some copy edits with these edits; feel free to revert and discuss if you disagree with any of these changes.
Normally, quotes need direct citations. "Latter Day Saints" and "Mormons" aren't really direct quotes... are the quotation marks needed? "Center place" and "two personages" do need direct cites, if you use Smith's wording.
Most of the links in the lead are rather insightful, but the Book of Mormon article is linked to three times in the lead.
In "Joseph Smith, Jr.", Jr. is a parenthetic (like "Ohio" in "Cincinnati, Ohio" or "1980" in "June 1, 1980"), so it needs a comma after it.
I'm not familiar with the phrase "took a mortgage". Should it be "took out", or "took on", or some other verb entirely?
You introduce the description of the First Vision with the claim that (per Smith) it was "from God the Father and the Son". But nothing in the description of the vision mentions the Son, or the fact that he claimed to see two figures.
Redundancy: "...an ability to use seer stones for locating lost items and buried treasure, using a seer stone..."
You mention "money digging", but don't explain it. I'm not familiar with the term (Kanye West notwithstanding).
The sentence beginning "In 1823, Smith said..." should be broken up.
You say that "Smith had left his treasure hunting company", but no such company had been previously mentioned.
Redundancy: "...until mid-June 1828, until Harris began..."
In my opinion, Reformed Egyptian is important enough to be mentioned by name, not just linked to via "some characters".
The conjunction "but" should separate contrasting statements. "The Book of Mormon brought Smith regional notoriety, but also strong opposition..." is odd. You should find a way to reword that expresses your intended meaning.
When you describe Smith and Cowdery fleeing a mob, you say "Probably referring to this period of flight, Smith later told of a visitation..." but the description of the visitation and ordaining doesn't seem to have anything to do with flight from a mob, so it just seems confusing in the text.
The phrase "brough to trial as a disorderly person" sounds peculiar to me. Is that the actual charge? If not, it should probably be reworded to whatever is most accurate.
"Early on, Smith began receiving opposition from Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page, and other church members, who claimed to receive competing revelations undermining Smith's authority." Is "opposition" accurate? The note supports that they thought of themselves as "independent" and could "correct" Smith... If "opposition" is a fair assessment, keep it, but only if it's the best term.
It's hard to be NPOV about revelations, but I think "announced a revelation" would be more NPOV than "dictated a revelation". (I get that you're referring to dictation, but it just sounds like he directed it, which is one POV.)
As above, saying "Smith gave a revelation" supports the POV that Smith, not God, gave it.
The phrase "a Federal agent to the Indian tribes" sounds odd to me. Is that the title the sources use? Wikipedia seems unfamiliar with the phrase "federal agent to" as part of a title.
When you say "the Latter Day Saints in Kirtland suffered intense pressure from debt collectors and severe price volatility", it sounds like the saints themselves suffered price volatility, which would mean the price of saints went up and down a lot. Would something like this be accurate? "...the Latter Day Saints in Kirtland endured severe price volatility and suffered intense pressure from debt collectors."
You say that Smith "received a revelation that God had 'much treasure in this city'". The wording "God had" sounds odd. What did Smith's revelation announce? That God had treasure there, or that God said there was much treasure there, or that God had placed much treasure there, or what?
When the article says "among these five groups was a quorum of twelve apostles", "apostles" links to Apostle (Christian), which really doesn't explain what is meant here at all. The article never really describes what it means for these members to be called "apostles", and the term isn't capitalized here or clearly linked. It's next mentioned in "Life in Missouri", when the text says Young was president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (now capitalized), and then later it says some "apostles" were sent to Europe, but the reader doesn't know if this is an official designation or not, or what it means.
In the discussion of the war, the citizens were worried that the Mormons would take over the town if they were allowed to vote. (The notes for the Ohio section also show the concern that Mormons could gain control of the town if allowed to vote.) But the text never really says that the Mormons wanted to vote; it certainly never described any organized attempt by Mormons to gain influence through general elections. Did such an attempt actually occur? Do the sources describe Smith (or some other leader) encouraging Mormons to vote, so as to enact religious goals? If so, that could be a significant omission.
It seems odd to say Smith stayed "in Liberty jail". Should it be "in Liberty Jail"? Or perhaps "in the Liberty jail"?
"Many Latter Day Saints now considered Smith a fallen prophet". Well, not now. You must mean "then", or "by this time", or something.
The article says Smith "assured them he still had the heavenly keys", but no such keys had been previously mentioned. (It's not even clear if these are metaphorical keys or not.)
"The charter... granted Nauvoo habeas corpus power–which saved Smith's life by allowing him to fend off extradition to Missouri." This is not clear at all. First off, how did this save Smith's life? He had not been given the death penalty, though he was imprisoned in Missouri and escaped, but why does the article state unambiguously that he would have been killed? Second, the Habeas corpus article describes it as "a writ (court order) that requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court", which is clearly not what Smith wanted. The Habeas corpus in the United States article (which is probably a better article to link to) says "The privilege of habeas corpus is not a right against unlawful arrest, but rather a right to be released from imprisonment after such arrest." So how is that relevant to Smith, who was trying to not be arrested and brought to Missouri?
The article says Nauvoo "promised an unusually liberal guarantee of religious freedom." Perhaps I'm showing my ignorance here, but wouldn't it have been unusual (if not illegal) in 1839 for a U.S. city to outlaw certain religions?
Why the quotation marks around "Lieutenant General" and "Major General"?
This is a very strong statement: "In 1841, Smith began revealing the doctrine of plural marriage to a few of his closest male associates, including Bennett, who began using it as a license for free love." It seems to the modern reader that "plural marriage" is very different from "free love". ("Free love" usually refers to sex outside of any commitment, plural marriage or otherwise.) Are you sure that's a fair description? Also, the metaphorical phrasing "using it as a license for" sounds casual and borderline sarcastic.
Is the direct quote "lurid exposés of life in Nauvoo" from Bennett himself, or from one of the authors cited? If that's what Bennett called them, you should reword as "Bennett wrote what he called..." If that's what a later author called them, then the cited author should be made explicit in the note.
Similarly, who is quoted in "spiritual wifery"?
Would Mormons describe the early Nauvoo years as "a period of doctrinal innovation"? Or just a period of the revelation of previously hidden doctrines?
"Zion also became less a refuge from an impending tribulation than a great building project." Zion had not previously been described as a refuge from impending tribulation.
When the article says "Smith petitioned Congress", does that mean the U.S. House, the U.S. Senate, the Illinois House, or the Illinois Senate? (A link could make this clear.)
I haven't read Bushman. Is "beyond other governmental control" unambiguously accurate?
Did the Nauvoo Expositor really appeal to "the political views of the county's anti-Mormons"? Or just of the county's non-Mormons?
The phrase "bring the countryside down on the Mormons" sounds casual and unspecific.
A footnote reveals "Smith denied he had more than one wife". This is rather important to the text, I would assume, and should be included in the body.
This potentially contentious statement needs a cite. "Similarly, within Mormonism, Smith was memorialized first and foremost as a prophet, to the point of eclipsing his human virtues and defects."
I'm going to stop now. Please note that I have only proofread and commented on "Life", the first of five supersections of the article. All of the issues I've raised need to be dealt with, and someone needs to go through in a similar way and copy-edit the rest of the article, looking for ambiguous phrases or contradictions. If that is done, and all new issues are dealt with, I would be delighted to support. But at this point, I've spent more hours reviewing this than what I usually spend on two or three nominees, and I'm going to leave it to others. All the best, – Quadell(talk) 18:13, 1 December 2013 (UTC)
Wow. Just, wow. Thank you so much for your work on this. I will work as much and as quickly as I can on this, but it might take a few days to get to everything you've brought up. I definitely appreciate your work on this. As you can probably tell, it's been very hard to get this article right, so that every sentence is 1) NPOV and acceptable to all parties, 2) supported by the applicable scholarly research, and 3) well-written. I (and other interested editors) will certainly get to work on this just as quickly as my (our) schedule(s) allows.
Having said that, it's been somewhat difficult to generate interest in having unbiased 3rd parties come through and copyedit the article. Do you know of any community resources that would be willing to pick up where you left off on copyediting the remaining four supersections? (Admittedly, the "Life" is the longest and most arduous of the 5 - I suspect you've probably done just under half the article at this point.) Or should I (we) just hope that some other friendly FACer comes along and gets the rest? Trevdna (talk) 04:43, 4 December 2013 (UTC)
I see that you attempted to get the article peer reviewed back in August, but it didn't get any feedback. Have you tried Wikipedia:WikiProject Guild of Copy Editors? Alternatively, you could get lucky here... but if not, I'd recommend them. – Quadell(talk) 13:33, 4 December 2013 (UTC)
Great. I'll work on that if this FAC doesn't succeed. Trevdna (talk) 20:40, 11 December 2013 (UTC)
Death. "unassuming women"?? Do you mean "unsuspecting"??
"would bring the countryside down on the Mormons". Needs to be rephrased, though i am not sure of what is needed. It seems unencyclopaedic to me. What is meant?
"Smith, who feared another mob attack, supported the action," yet in the next para "Smith mobilized the Nauvoo Legion…" If he controlled the Legion, he could not merely have "supported" the action, as the previous para indicated. I don't think the verbs in these two paras can both be appropriate. One needs to be changed, or an explanation is missing.
"and excluding human qualities". Clumsy wording. Perhaps "downplaying his [something]" I say "something" because i don't really know what is meant by "human qualities" - his weaknesses? That isn't consistent with the sense of the phrase. His virtues? That would be POV in this context. Can you explain what is meant here?
Legacy. "prophet" is wikipinked about the fourth time it is used in the body text of the article. Please check what would be the first appropriate occurrence to link.
"called of God". I have not seen this expression before. Does it mean "called by God"?
"the product of his Yankee environment". This needs unpacking. I have no idea what this means. How is the source saying his myth making (i assume this refers to his visions and religion) are the product of a Yankee environment? Millions of Americans grew up in that environment, but few of them ended up living such extraordinary lives, so those words on their own are inadequate.
"who died mysteriously a month after his brothers" This phrase leads us to believe that all the brothers are dead, but the very next phrase introduces a fourth. Needs to be reworded. Perhaps "a month after Joseph and Hyrum" or even simply "after his two brothers".
I am not sure that an unborn child can have a claim in the present tense?
"who had based his claim on a forged letter of appointment". Is that not a rather strong claim that needs more than one citation? Or is this absolutely and universally accepted?
"which now has about 250,000 members" contains a clumsy repetition of "now", and in any case i think the MOS says to avoid talking about "now" in articles. As compromise, suggest you leave the "now" in the preceding parentheses, and change this to "which in 20xx had about 250,000 members". hamiltonstone (talk) 11:05, 4 December 2013 (UTC)
I would have to oppose this if there's no information added regarding Smith's plagiarism of the Book of Mormon from several sources, including in large portion from Josiah Priest's The Wonders of Nature and Providence Displayed (1825)--to which I'd refer you to the following sources: (1) Persuitte, David. Joseph Smith and the Origins of the Book of Mormon. (2nd Edition – Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2000), 130, 155–172; Abanes, Richard. One Nation Under Gods: A History of the Mormon Church. (New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2003), 68; and can refer you to additional sources. --ColonelHenry (talk) 21:49, 23 December 2013 (UTC)
Closing comment -- This has been open almost a month without approaching consensus to promote and, in any case, the nominator doesn't appear to have been around for a couple of weeks, so I'll be archiving it shortly. Per the FAC instructions, two weeks waiting time is required before nominating this or another article. Cheers, Ian Rose (talk) 07:22, 27 December 2013 (UTC)