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On October 6, 2016, Hannah Stoddard joined Defending Utah (Ben McClintock, Enoch Moore) and Cherilyn Eager on The Liberty Lineup Radio Show (KTALK 630) to discuss the recent article, “‘The dominant [Church history] narrative is not true . . .’ LDS scholars encourage new history, new policy, new Church.”

Read this first! Some have been confused regarding the position of LDS Answers and the Joseph Smith Foundation regarding the progressive historians quoted and their call for a “reconstructed narrative”. The Joseph Smith Foundation promotes the traditional teachings of ancient and Latter-day prophets. The purpose of this post is to raise awareness of where many LDS intellectuals would like to move the Church. Again, the Joseph Smith Foundation will be providing materials to counter the statements in this article. This is not a discussion of anyone “anti-Mormon”.  The scholars quoted are also active members of the Church, although we disagree with their positions.  

Read the article referenced in the interview: “The dominant [Church history] narrative is not true . . .” LDS scholars encourage new history, new policy, new Church

 

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LDS Answers is dedicated to providing real answers to the tough questions regarding LDS history and doctrine. Many struggle to resolve concerns dealing with Joseph Smith's polygamy, evolution, education, parenting, latter-day prophecy, historical issues and many other "Mormon stumpers". LDS Answers will provide accurate, faith-filled answers that tell the real story with the real facts and the real history.

46 COMMENTS

  1. The church needs to give answers to all of these statements by previous lds scholars, teachers and historians that say, Joseph was influenced by a preacher named benjamin whom was a preacher in josephs day that had his followers sit arround him in tents to listen to his last sermon, did this really happen? what about the ethan smith book etc , what about the testimony of the plates, was it in vision or physical, thier is so much that the church needs to explain to keep thinking people from having serious doubts about the foundation of the church. I see the church now as a good place to raise our kids and want to know the truth, if it happens that the history if not all accurate Im fine with it, just dont send our kids on missions and have them tell falsehoods, tell a more accurate story if thier is one, for example if joseph did indeed recieve the book of mormon from other inspired events then say that, i wouldnt mind as its still a book that leads us to believe in christ.

  2. Why are some of the intellectuals in the Church trying to change our history, and even some of the words of our prophets? Doctrine and Covenants 1:38 says,
    “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” In that same section in verse 19 it says, “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh…”
    How much clearer could the Lord make this?
    What we need is less re-writing of history, and more faith.

    • “Why are some of the intellectuals in the Church trying to change our history, and even some of the words of our prophets?” Probably because it suits their agenda. Why does Hannah Stoddard repeatedly twist the words of LDS scholars in this radio show? Again, probably because it suits her agenda.

      Seriously though, what scholars are you referring to? John Dehlin? Mike Quinn? Dan Vogel? I think the simplest answer is they don’t believe. The same cannot be said of men like Richard Bushman though.

      • I’ve read a lot of the scholar’s words… I can’t find any twisting let alone repeatedly. Richard Bushman is pretty honest of his view in his book, “But the consequences of Joseph’s charismatic authority can easily be misconstrued. He was not the luminous central figure he is sometimes made out to be. Attention focused on his gift, not his personality. Although he served the vital function of revealing God’s word, he was thought of as an instrument. The early missionaries told audiences that revelation had been restored; they rarely name the revelator. When Joseph summarized Church principles for the public in 1833, he obscured his own part in the movement. “The Lord has declared to his servants,” he said, referring to a revelation. The point was not that a great prophet had arisen among them, but that revelation had come again. His own person was effaced.” (Rough Stone Rolling, pg. 111-12) As he has said, “I find inspiration in prophetic sorrow and defeat as well as in triumph.” That’s his viewpoint and very well if it works for him.

        So what is Hannah Stoddard’s agenda? Just for the record, anyone who is even slightly acquainted with her knows that you will be hard-pressed to find anyone her age who is as wholly devoted to “[living] by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God” (D&C 84:44) to the best of her ability. As committed to nobility, refinement, lifting up and encouraging others. Standing firmly in the forefront for truth and consecrating all time, efforts and energy to the cause of Christ, to maintaining the foundations Joseph Smith laid upon the Restoration of the Gospel.

        To restore the view of the men who knew the Prophet, “To me, Joseph Smith seemed to possess more power and force of character than any ordinary man. I would look upon him when he was with hundreds of other men, and he would appear greater than ever. The more I heard his sayings and saw his doings, the more I was convinced that he had of a truth seen God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and also the holy angels of God. If I know anything on this earth, I surely know that he was a prophet” (Daniel D. McArthur, They Knew the Prophet)

        Her agenda here is to extol and revere the name of the Prophet of God, to “Wake up the world for the conflict of justice,” and boldly proclaim, “Millions shall know ‘Brother Joseph’ again.”

        • “I’ve read a lot of the scholar’s words… I can’t find any twisting let alone repeatedly.” How about when she implies that Bushman no longer believes? The context of his statements make it clear that he is referring believing *in the way he did before.* But that doesn’t have nearly the shock value it does without the context. Her treatment of snippets from Rough Stone Rolling is suspect to the same bias.

          “As [Bushman] has said, ‘I find inspiration in prophetic sorrow and defeat as well as in triumph.’ That’s his viewpoint and very well if it works for him.” That’s a wonderful sentiment, but one that is not at all evident in this episode. Rather, the episode characterizes Bushman and his views as dangerous and a conspiracy to remake the Church. If all of this were simply a matter of live and let live, then this episode wouldn’t exist. If it were a matter of scholarly inquiry, then why aren’t they interviewing Bushman himself? Ask him to write something for this website, or reach out for a clarification of his beliefs! But none of those roads have been taken, which leads to my answer to your question.

          “So what is Hannah Stoddard’s agenda?” Based on this episode, apparently convincing Church members that “progressive” historians are trying to destroy the Church from the inside out by presenting a false historical narrative, despite presenting almost no evidence during the episode that this is the case. You say that she is dedicated to “restor[ing] the view of the men who knew the Prophet,” but how is that different from Bushman’s biography? The very nature of the work means that it is based on hundreds, if not thousands, of documents produced by the men and women who knew Joseph Smith.

          • You may be interested to learn that LDS Answers invited Ron Barney to engage in a civil, constructive, online discussion months ago. He initially responded favorably, but then reconsidered. We are currently waiting to see if once his book is finished, he wants to have an online discussion. Richard Bushman’s viewpoint is extensively online and in his writings. He has been clarifying his ideas about Joseph Smith and Church history for many years. We have had many mothers, fathers, sons and daughters come to or contact us because family members have left the Church after reading Rough Stone Rolling. The fruits of Bushman’s work speak for themselves.

            We would be more than happy to extend an invitation to Richard Bushman for a civil, constructive online discussion as well. Whether he responds or not, we all have his writings. He is very clear and it is not difficult from Rough Stone Rolling, etc. to deduce exactly where he is coming from.

            • “You may be interested to learn that LDS Answers invited Ron Barney to engage in a civil, constructive, online discussion months ago.” I am indeed, and I hope he has the opportunity to do so when he has more time. Incidentally, if you are as committed to open discussion and equal presentation of views as the episode suggests, consider including information such as this in your publications. Whether you have reached out for comment from those you attack, and what, if any, is there response is highly relevant to the discussion.

              “We have had many mothers, fathers, sons and daughters come to or contact us because family members have left the Church after reading Rough Stone Rolling. The fruits of Bushman’s work speak for themselves.” This is lazy and fallacious logic; for one, correlation does not prove causation. Leaving the Church after reading Rough Stone Rolling does not mean that Rough Stone Rolling caused the leaving. More importantly, however, there are members who leave the Church or lose their testimonies after reading the Bible or discovering “anachronisms” in the Book of Mormon. Are they reflective of the fruits of the Bible or the Book of Mormon? What about members who left the Church because of the policy that requires the children of gay parents to wait until they are 18 to be baptized? Are they reflective of the fruits of the policy? And if they aren’t, why are people leaving after reading Rough Stone Rolling somehow reflective of its merits? And what about the many people who have read Rough Stone Rolling and found it incredibly inspiring and faith-strengthening? Why are they too not fruits of Rough Stone Rolling?

              Lastly, if, as you claim, “the fruits of Bushman’s work speak clearly for themselves,” it is only because the good fruits have been ignored. That’s the agenda I’m referring to. Much as I want to believe your “Read this first!” disclaimer, it’s not born out by the episode and publications on the subject up until this point. I sincerely hope that changes.

              • “How about when she implies that Bushman no longer believes? The context of his statements make it clear that he is referring believing in the way he did before.

                I can only imagine the “twisting” you are referring to was this remark by Miss Stoddard, “I think that is an important perspective that people need to understand. When they [these historians] look at testimony, as Bushman says himself in his own words, they don’t have a testimony in truth, they have a testimony in goodness. They see the gospel differently, they see truth differently, they don’t believe you could actually know something.”

                You might find Bushman’s own words interesting, when asked bluntly how he could believe in Joseph Smith he concluded with, “I don’t use the word “know” a lot, but I do know I am a better person for being a Mormon.”

                “I have not tried living by the tenets of any other religion and acknowledge I might very well benefit by some other religious discipline. From all I can tell, religions of all kinds help people to live well. But I am not about to give up my religion to try out others when mine serves me so well. It is one important reason why I hang on to Mormonism. An article in the New York Times yesterday reported research that found people with faith are happier than those without. What would you do if your mind told you there is no God but living as an atheist made you miserable. That is a tough spot to find yourself in. I am grateful that what I believe to be true also helps me to live a satisfying life.”

                Are you implying that Bushman no longer believes due to such a perspective? I still cannot perceive this twisting you referenced, any particular quote from Rough Stone Rolling you take issue with? My intention was never to insist this was “simply a matter of live and let live,” obviously that’s neither of our goals or these comments wouldn’t exist. The point is, Richard Bushman has his worldview and he is welcome to it but we need to understand that the histories we write are interpreted from our specific perspective. I, like the team at LDS Answers believe that we should drop all pretense of impartiality and be upfront about our viewpoints, offer the sources and let the others come to an informed decision rather than reconstruct and announce “this is how it is now.” There is a difference between the traditional viewpoint and the neo-orthodoxy, you know as much as I by your remarks, so do the non-members. http://www.mormonwiki.org/Mormon_neo-orthodoxy.html

                “how is that different from Bushman’s biography?” The difference I see is in, “not the luminous central figure” and “There were prophets before, but Joseph has the spirit and power of all the prophets.” (Hyrum Smith, HC 6:346) Works like Mark L. McConkie’s Remembering Joseph directly quote the words of the people and do not pull sources from above mentioned historian Michael Quinn nor the likes of Fawn Brodie. If you feel that they have truth in their works worth incorporating into the narrative than very well. As for myself, I deeply resonated with the testimony of Elder Ronald A. Rasband this conference,

                “I bear witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know he saw and talked with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, just as he recorded in his own words.”

                If such a perspective was taken in RSR than I am certain it would be removed from the exmormonfoundation.org recommendation list. Considering this entire episode consisted of Hannah Stoddard calling for dialogue and civil, constructive discussion upon this points I’m positive Richard Bushman will be welcome to make a statement to dispell any misconception or appear in a podcast anytime he so chooses. Even if the conclusion of all parties remains a wide gulf apart, everyone only stands to benefit from such discourse.

                • “I am grateful that what I believe to be true also helps me to live a satisfying life.” How is this not a testimony? Additionally, he wrote concerning Mormonism in 2010 (so 5 years after the publication of RSR) that “I am looking to support what I know in my heart is good and true.” Hannah also says that if evidence came out that Joseph Smith were a charlatan then bushman would believe it, which strikes me as wholly unfair, given his statements to the contrary, and an arrogant assumption about a person’s conversion and heart, something only the person and God can know. That’s the twisting I’m referring to. Sure, you can take a single quotation devoid of context and make it sound like the person in question would disbelieve, but that ignores other statements (not to mention context) that push back against that conclusion. To mention only the one that favors your position is dishonest.

                  “any particular quote from Rough Stone Rolling you take issue with?” There’s actually a lengthy comment on the Youtube video itself that has a section about Hannah’s treatment of quotations from Rough Stone Rolling and its sources. It’s not comprehensive, but I agree with it.

                  “I, like the team at LDS Answers believe that we should drop all pretense of impartiality and be upfront about our viewpoints, offer the sources and let the others come to an informed decision rather than reconstruct and announce ‘this is how it is now.'” Have you read Rough Stone Rolling? Because that’s pretty much how Bushman writes. He provides a narrative, certainly, but that’s because all history books have a narrative. (That same comment on the Youtube video I referenced above also has a part about this.)

                  The quotation you cite from pages 111-112 is not a statement about Joseph Smith from Bushman, but about how Joseph Smith *was seen* by the early Saints as opposed to how he is often currently depicted. It’s not a reflection of Bushman’s view of the Prophet but rather how the early Saints treated the arrival of a prophet among them. The focus wasn’t on Joseph, it was on his role as prophet.

                  “Works like Mark L. McConkie’s Remembering Joseph directly quote the words of the people and do not pull sources from above mentioned historian Michael Quinn nor the likes of Fawn Brodie.” For what I hope is the last time, Bushman uses primary sources. He “directly quote[s] the words of the people.” That’s how good history is done, and Bushman is a good historian. To say that he does not use primary sources is false and betrays a startling ignorance of Rough Stone Rolling. As to McConkie not referring to scholars, that’s because his work is not an academic biography. For Bushman to attempt write the definitive biography of Joseph Smith without referencing preceding biographies and other secondary research pertinent to his subject would be criminally negligent in the scholarly world. It’s not as though Bushman cites only scholars like Quinn and Brodie. To ignore primary sources in favor of their interpretation would also be a fatal flaw. In order to recount how people have seen Joseph Smith, he references their work occasionally.

                  “If you feel that they have truth in their works worth incorporating into the narrative than very well. As for myself, I deeply resonated with the testimony of Elder Ronald A. Rasband this conference, ‘I bear witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. I know he saw and talked with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, just as he recorded in his own words.'” A couple of points. 1) These two things are not mutually exclusive as you imply. 2) Elder Rasband’s testimony resonated with me as well. Maybe it did with Bushman, too; none of us are in a position to judge him.

                  “If such a perspective [as stated by Elder Rasband were] taken in RSR than I am certain it would be removed from the exmormonfoundation.org recommendation list.” Another couple of points. 1) It would be unprofessional for Bushman to take such a position in an academic biography. 2) Who cares what anti-Mormons think? One ministry I know of has a book by Elder B. H. Roberts of the Seventy listed on its “Resources” page. Just because anti-Mormons think something doesn’t mean we’re beholden to it.

                  I did appreciate the call for civil and constructive dialogue. This episode was not that, however. Once again, the lengthy comment on the Youtube video does an adequate job outlining why. Like I said in my last comment, “Much as I want to believe your ‘Read this first!’ disclaimer, it’s not born out by the episode and publications on the subject up until this point. I sincerely hope that changes.”

                  • “How is this not a testimony? …Hannah also says that if evidence came out that Joseph Smith were a charlatan then bushman would believe it, which strikes me as wholly unfair, given his statements to the contrary” It appears I will have to again restate myself and Miss Stoddard for when did she ever say he did not have a testimony? What she said was that he has a different testimony and a different perspective on truth than say, myself. Isn’t that obvious? Hannah has said in effect exactly what you have said, “The context of his statements make it clear that he is referring believing in the way he did before.” Quoting Bushman again, “On bad days, Claudia and I often say we are out of sync with the universe. Over the many years I have been in the Church, I find that following the Mormon path puts me back in sync.” Yet you insist that such a perspective is indicative that he does not “believe”. Let me illustrate the point for you in a forum Richard Bushman participated in.

                    Questioner:It seems that if the organisation that taught you who and what God is turns out to be a fraud, the the credibility of the existence of said god comes into question. What would you say to those who feel they can’t believe in God or Christ because they think Joseph Smith made this whole thing up?

                    Richard Bushman: I believe that is what indeed happens, but it implies Mormonism is the whole world for people. When the Mormon world cracks, everything crashes down. Lots of people believe in God and Christ who are not Mormons. Are they all as flawed as the Mormons?
                    I will say something a little abrasive in hopes of being informed. Should not Mormons have a connection with God that goes beyond the Church? Do we worship God or do we worship Mormonism? What should we teach our people to protect them from this vulnerability?

                    Questoner: Your abrasive comment is something that people in the church need to take seriously. For the past few years I have been transitioning my faith so it can survive independently of the church. I was worried my shelf would come crashing down, and with it my belief in God. As such, I feel that mormonism is more of a tool or lense I use to view God, and is not central to my belief. The Book of Mormon helps me understand Christ, and having living prophets who are, in reality, no different or more spiritually capable than myself helps keep things in perspective.

                    He never answered or dissuaded the conclusion of the questioner, so whether or not he agreed, it is evident enough that Bushman’s testimony by his own words is rooted upon the “Mormon path”, in “goodness” as Hannah described. Are you seriously going to keep contending about “twisting”? So if there was evidence that Joseph Smith was a charlatan or if a doctrine such as polygamy, did not coincide with the progressive standards of today, would completely denouncing it bother him? If Michael Quinn’s book and the affidavits in Mormonism Unvailed said Joseph was involved in black magic, would he discountenance them, rise up like Joseph F. Smith once did in behalf of President Young and say, “that is a damned infernal lie,” because of his perspective of truth and the Prophet’s character? Or do you think he would be up for it?

                    • “[W]ould he discountenance them, rise up like Joseph F. Smith once did in behalf of President Young and say, “that is a damned infernal lie,” because of his perspective of truth and the Prophet’s character?” I have no idea; I’m not Bushman. I have no idea how he feels about calling the people who made those affidavits “damned infernal li[ars].” Not being Christ or God, I have no interest in pursuing a line of questioning that requires me to know the intents of others’ hearts, which is what I found objectionable about the presentation in the first place.

                    • “I have no interest in pursuing a line of questioning that requires me to know the intents of others’ hearts”

                      Brigham Young said, “You cannot hide the heart, when the mouth is wide open.” Therefore you and I probably understand each other better than we think, haha! However, the sentiment you maintain is not really evidenced by our discussion.

                      Why does Hannah Stoddard repeatedly twist the words of LDS scholars in this radio show? Again, probably because it suits her agenda.
                      How about when she implies that Bushman no longer believes?
                      “So what is Hannah Stoddard’s agenda?” Based on this episode, apparently convincing Church members that “progressive” historians are trying to destroy the Church from the inside out by presenting a false historical narrative, despite presenting almost no evidence during the episode that this is the case.

                      Why characterize Hannah Stoddard’s intents as dishonest, arrogant etc, before really considering what she actually said? When interpreting history understanding the historian’s perspective is critical. Allow me to put it this way, based upon the above Q&A and the other examples, Bushman’s belief in the Church is not founded upon Joseph Smith. You can accept that one. So if evidence came out antagonistic towards Joseph, it would likely not effect his status in the Church. Perhaps, in an attempt to be fair he would even consider it. When the Mark Hoffman letters came into existence they initially did not effect the standing of the people who saw them. Yet, there was difference in reactions, some said, “well Joseph wasn’t perfect” and reconstructed explanations for the contents. Others like Elder McConkie said, “that isn’t Joseph.” That’s the two perspectives. Why would I jump to such a conclusion? Because Richard said himself that it was works critical of Joseph that led him to speculate upon the inner Joseph in his new biography which he considers “reconstructed narrative” and yes (perhaps in an effort to be professional as you have cited) he does include narrative drawn from sources such as those affidavits. From the beginning this wasn’t about Richard Bushman, this is about Rough Stone Rolling. I would be more than happy to move the discussion upon that point. There was only a brief statement about understanding his perspective from his own words. Even if they disagree with him, no one on the LDS Answers team is announcing a claim against Richard Bushman’s standing in the Church or accusing him of not being a believer.

                    • Not being Brother Bushman, I cannot say, which is entirely my point. His statements have made it clear that he has a testimony of the gospel. Whether he would be willing to declare Quinn and the people who offered affidavits “damned infernal li[ars]” is unknown to me and to all except him and the Lord, who knows his heart. For this reason, I have no interest in debating the legitimacy of a Saint’s testimony.

                    • That quotation about President Joseph F. Smith defending the honor of President Brigham Young seems to have offended you. Hyrum’s son had been with family back east, they offered him a compliment and said he would make a good Smith if he would give up Brigham Young and then went on to perpetuate propaganda about President Young. President Smith would have no such talk and delivered his powerful sentiment. I don’t expect anyone to be so fearless in our day, but I always thought it was a great example of a Prophet defending the character of a Prophet and not offering credence to the antagonist claimants bitterly aligned against the Lord’s anointed. Elder Packer expressed hopes that Bushman would write the book as if he was a 19th century historian, Bushman said he couldn’t since this was the 21st and has wondered since if Elder Packer was disappointed. I like Elder Packer wish we could have the old perspectives in our day! The point I was attempting to make is that we don’t have to give credence to these characters. Dr. Hurlbut was an immoral liar, it is well documented. He was excommunicated from several denominations for his foul treatment of women. On the other post, someone noted that the publisher of the affidavits Howe thought Mormonism was a delusion. We don’t need to be sourcing such material.

                      You’ve ignored my point though, while you continue to maintain such a sentiment, you seem content in judging the heart of Hannah Stoddard and not leaving that to the Lord. You may continue to do so, but understand you are doing the same thing.

                      For what I hope is the final time, I have defined for you what Miss Stoddard has said and what Bushman has said, there is no twisting. This isn’t a debate on how the scriptures define faith and testimony. This is about Rough Stone Rolling and how the character of Joseph Smith is being portrayed. “Even if they disagree with him, no one on the LDS Answers team is announcing a claim against Richard Bushman’s standing in the Church or accusing him of not being a believer.”

                      Come, if we are to continue this conversation let us move on to the issue at hand.

                  • “There’s actually a lengthy comment on the Youtube video itself that has a section about Hannah’s treatment of quotations from Rough Stone Rolling and its sources. It’s not comprehensive, but I agree with it. Have you read Rough Stone Rolling? Because that’s pretty much how Bushman writes. He provides a narrative, certainly, but that’s because all history books have a narrative. (That same comment on the Youtube video I referenced above also has a part about this.)”

                    I agree that the comment was both lengthy and not comprehensive. I happen to own Rough Stone Rolling and that is not exactly how it reads. In the YouTube comment, this Nathan Phair insists that Bushman’s claims on black magic are buttressed by the accounts of Oliver Cowdery and Lucy Smith (neither of which are Joseph’s own words and neither of which excerpts are definitive). I would encourage everyone to go back and reread Oliver Cowdery’s letter VII. For one this is a second-hand account (<-Again in this instance not Joseph's words), for two the narrative in RSR caricatures (I hope you do not mind if I borrow one of your signatures) the event with such additions, "Joseph's mind flashed back to the tales of the treasure-hunters", "the angel's instructions connected the greed of the money-digger with the powers of Satan." "It may have taken four years for Joseph to purge himself of his treasure seeking greed." If one were to read the letter linearly and in context, they would likely not arrive at the conclusion that Joseph's employment under Josiah Stowell prospecting for a silver mine connected him to the occult.

                    All Nathan Phair managed to illustrate to me was that he completely agrees that Richard Bushman's psychoanalysis of two unrelated accounts, up for interpretation, are enough to assert, "Magic and religion melded in Smith family culture." All Hannah does is critique Bushman's interpretation (shall I insert the historians own terminology "reconstructed narrative"?) to be based off a progressive bias. Despite his insistence that would be "acceptable discussion" because "two people can have different interpretations of sources", this YouTube goer ridiculed Hannah Stoddard, attempted to display her as a dishonest manipulator responsible for the bold comments of the hosts and demeaned her admiration and respect for her father's studies. The irony is, he never quoted the book to defend it, only his rosy perspective on it. Hannah did the exact same thing, expressed her own perspective, except she quoted the RSR.

                    • “Bushman’s claims on black magic are buttressed by the accounts of Oliver Cowdery and Lucy Smith (neither of which are Joseph’s own words and neither of which excerpts are definitive).” But if we discount these, then we must discount anything about Joseph Smith that is not comprised of his own words, an untenable position.

                      “If one were to read the letter linearly and in context, they would likely not arrive at the conclusion that Joseph’s employment under Josiah Stowell prospecting for a silver mine connected him to the occult.” But they could, especially when that letter is contextualized with dozens of other pieces. And note that, like you, Bushman couches his conclusions in probability as well, “It may have taken four years for Joseph to purge himself of his treasure seeking greed.” He’s suggesting a possible interpretation, not participating in subversive attacks against the LDS Church, which the episode is about.

                      Which brings me to the larger problem: Hannah’s role as the guest of the show was to provide evidence that progressive historians are attacking the Church. You claim that all she does is critique Bushman’s narrative, but 1) she does not make that claim herself and 2) when the hosts say things like, “So again, that’s just propaganda!” and “[Bushman’s] rambling off what he thinks,” she does nothing to correct their statements. She doesn’t say, “It’s not propaganda, just a different interpretation that I disagree with.” This is not honesty the way the Gospel Principles manual defines it. And based on that definition, I stand by the YouTuber’s discussion of Hannah’s treatment of the Lucy Smith quotation. She accuses Bushman of misrepresenting it, but she does not provide the full quotation, whereas Bushman does. Leaving out details, whether it be parts of the Lucy Smith quotation or implying that Bushman provides no context for Lucy Smith’s quotation when he does, is dishonest.

                      “[The Youtuber] demeaned her admiration and respect for her father’s studies.” No he didn’t. He didn’t say her father lied about his study or didn’t actually study, just that we have no way of knowing if what he says is true; that’s noticeably different. Bushman has prestigious degrees and clear respect as a historian, which you can discount as Hannah does, but then we have no more reason to trust her father than we do Bushman. Finally, the YouTuber’s point about the argument changing is correct: the discussion switches from “Bushman is making this up out of nothing” to “My father and Bushman have different opinions about the same sources.” As Nathan notes, the second statement is fine (though again, we have no reason to trust that Hannah’s father is an authority on Joseph Smith, at least not anymore than Bushman if we discount his educational achievements) and the first is not. And if the second is true, then the first should never have made an appearance, because the disagreement would have centered around interpretation rather than accusations of lying from the very beginning.

                    • “But if we discount these, then we must discount anything about Joseph Smith that is not comprised of his own words, an untenable position.” You don’t seem to have gathered my point on this not that I think we have to agree, only that it is important to understand one another. Nathan Phair began his statement by saying, “that Hannah can say with a straight face that Rough Stone Rolling isn’t about getting to know Joseph Smith using his own words is jaw-dropping.” Can you find any words from Joseph Smith that he was involved in magic? That it was a stepping stone in his spirituality? Neither did he ever say such a thing and neither are either of those two quotations definitive and don’t have the same effect without the narrational backdrop.

                      “But they could, especially when that letter is contextualized with dozens of other pieces.” If you would care to display more than your opinion on this matter, you may come to realize that the “dozens of other pieces” are all based upon either the anti-Mormon tracts, such as Mormonism Unvailed or cultural environment with no connections to the Prophet. I am going to go with the view of President Hinckley on this one.

                      “I have no doubt there was folk magic practiced in those days. Without question there were superstitions and the superstitious. I suppose there was some of this in the days when the Savior walked the earth. There is even some in this age of so-called enlightenment. For instance, some hotels and business buildings skip the numbering of floor thirteen. Does this mean there is something wrong with the building? Of course not. Or with the builders? No.

                      Similarly, the fact that there were superstitions among the people in the days of Joseph Smith is no evidence whatever that the Church came of such superstition.

                      Joseph Smith himself wrote or dictated his history. It is his testimony of what occurred, and he sealed that testimony with his life. It is written in language clear and plain and unmistakable. From an ancient record he translated the Book of Mormon by the gift and power of God. It is here for all to see and handle and read. Those who have read with faith and inquired in prayer have come to a certain knowledge that it is true. The present effort of trying to find some other explanation for the organization of the Church, for the origin of the Book of Mormon, and for the priesthood with its keys and powers will be similar to other anti-Mormon fads which have come and blossomed and faded. Truth will prevail. A knowledge of that truth comes by effort and study, yes. But it comes primarily as a gift from God to those who seek in faith.” “Lord, Increase Our Faith,” (Ensign, November 1987, pp. 52-53 also Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 10)

                    • “And note that, like you, Bushman couches his conclusions in probability as well, ‘It may have taken four years for Joseph to purge himself of his treasure seeking greed.’ He’s suggesting a possible interpretation.” Go back and reread the statement, “Magic and religion melded in Smith family culture.” That sounds pretty absolute. My challenge to anyone who is interested is to go, pages 50-52 and see for yourself if the narrative implies that it was only a probability that the Smith’s were involved in magic.

                    • “No he didn’t. He didn’t say her father lied about his study or didn’t actually study, just that we have no way of knowing if what he says is true; that’s noticeably different.” Who said that he claimed her father lied? Now I’m wondering who is doing twisting. You’ve pretty much repeated in effect exactly what he has. Obviously, she didn’t have nine hours to go into the details of everything her father has studied, she merely expressed her admiration and respect for her dad and said he had studied the same things and had arrived at a different conclusion. Well, since he doesn’t have a lot of fancy degrees obviously we should instead criticize her estimation of him as illogical.

                    • “You claim that all she does is critique Bushman’s narrative, but 1) she does not make that claim herself and 2) when the hosts say things like, ‘So again, that’s just propaganda!’ and ‘[Bushman’s] rambling off what he thinks,’ she does nothing to correct their statements.” Again, you like Nathan Phair insist on blaming her of being the manipulator behind the reactions of others. So you are going to condemn her for what she didn’t say more than what she did? Hannah Stoddard was there to present evidence contrary in regard Richard Bushman’s claim about black magic in a digestible format that would tie into LDS Answers, because of concerns about how Joseph Smith the Seer looked forward to for centuries in prophecy and scripture, a man who has done more save Jesus alone for the salvation of the souls of men, is coming to be viewed even by members of the Church. She didn’t have time to deliver hours upon hours of a debate. This was merely to inspire people to go back and take a look at the sources, to encourage conversation on the traditional and the reconstructed narrative. She didn’t write the title for the show. Besides, I can see an irony in the host’s reactions, because aren’t Mormonism Unvailed and Early Mormonism and the Magic World View the same old propaganda that has been brought against Joseph for years? Didn’t you just attempt to say that Bushman’s views on magic as only a “probability” or his interpretation or “what he thinks”? Reviewers of Rough Stone Rolling Mormon and non-Mormon recognize that the narrative’s attempts to move the Church into a “new era” of historical interpretation. I think you can agree with that, but many question why we would disparage the good name of our Prophet Joseph Smith when there is literally no reason? If history really is just interpretation why do we have to accept the interpretation we have been assaulted and abused with by the anti-Mormon for generations?

                    • “Leaving out details, whether it be parts of the Lucy Smith quotation or implying that Bushman provides no context for Lucy Smith’s quotation when he does, is dishonest.” Actually, that is disputed. Can you show evidence that Bushman included the full context? Once again all I am getting is an offended opinion and some name-calling and not a lot from the actual book. She didn’t have time to address the issue in this episode but they have dissected the entire page out of Lucy’s journal in other presentations and you will get a chance to have see an in-depth analysis/discussion on this website.

                  • “For what I hope is the last time, Bushman uses primary sources. He “directly quote[s] the words of the people.” That’s how good history is done, and Bushman is a good historian. To say that he does not use primary sources is false and betrays a startling ignorance of Rough Stone Rolling.”

                    Sure, I never said Bushman didn’t supply an extensive amount of sources in the footnotes. Only that those sources are mingled with the viewpoints of scholars and sources antagonist toward Joseph Smith. Let me quote Rough Stone Rolling for you again,

                    “The Smiths were as susceptible as their neighbors to treasure-seeking folklore. In addition to rod and stone divining, the Smiths probably believed in the rudimentary astrology found in the ubiquitous almanacs. Magical parchments handed down in the Hyrum Smith family may have originally belonged to Joseph Sr. The visit of the angel and the discovery of the gold plates would have confirmed the belief in supernatural powers. For people in a magical from of mind, Moroni sounded like one of the spirits who stood guard over treasure in the tales of treasure-seeking.” (Rough Stone Rolling, p 50)

                    That is quite the claim! What is our source to back it up? None other than Michael Quinn. Need I quote his sources? Do you see why someone may disagree with the reconstructed narrative? It is the narrative people are finding fault with in the first place, it has the potential to completely misconstrue the events. As you can see the portion I have just quoted is not based in the words of Joseph Smith, nor his dictated history.

                    • “That is quite the claim! What is our source to back it up? None other than Michael Quinn. Need I quote his sources?” Um, yes. At least, if you want to have a credible discussion. You can’t say “I disagree with this author’s conclusions, therefore his work is worthless.” Bushman shoes proper academic rigor and maturity by acknowledging what has been said before, sometimes agreeing and sometimes disputing. Ignoring conflicting evidence isn’t good argumentation.

                      What exactly is it in the foregoing paragraph that you dispute? Bushman says “the Smiths probably believed” and that “magical parchments . . . may have originally belonged to Joseph Sr.” He’s not definitive here, but he is acknowledging sources and reasons to think that way. What is he supposed to do, deny that the parchments handed down in the Hyrum Smith family exist? Deny that the culture the Smiths lived in was one where “Moroni sounded like one of the spirits who stood guard over treasure in the tales of treasure-seeking”? I’m at a loss as to what you think Bushman should have done here.

                    • A source for Hyrum Smith’s family parchments and exactly what they are would be appreciated but so far I haven’t found one.

                      “Moroni sounded like one of the spirits who stood guard over treasure in the tales of treasure-seeking”? What I think he should have done was not source an anti-Mormon quoting a forgery in the name of “academic rigor”. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salamander_letter Michael Quinn relies heavily upon this letter for such an attestation.

                  • “The quotation you cite from pages 111-112 is not a statement about Joseph Smith from Bushman, but about how Joseph Smith *was seen* by the early Saints as opposed to how he is often currently depicted. It’s not a reflection of Bushman’s view of the Prophet but rather how the early Saints treated the arrival of a prophet among them. The focus wasn’t on Joseph, it was on his role as prophet.”

                    Alright, considering I have quoted RSR and displayed the sources for such, I would like to ask you to return the same courtesy. Please provide a source to prove how Bushman’s narrative is correct in this conclusion. That this is how Joseph Smith “was seen” by the Saints in his day. This concept is the focal point throughout the book down to the very epilogue. After quoting the Doctrine and Covenants that “Joseph Smith, the prophet and seer of the Lord, has done more, (save Jesus only,) for the salvation of men in this world” the narrative still concludes that “His followers had thought of him first and foremost as a prophet” however, “He had never been considered a model man” (See page 558) I am not looking for Joseph’s own humility on this point either, who among his faithful disciples did not view him as Daniel McArthur whom I have cited.

                  • “I did appreciate the call for civil and constructive dialogue. This episode was not that, however.”

                    I am curious what your vision of that dialogue would be. If Hannah Stoddard, who has literally devoted her entire teenage and young-adult years to learning and producing material about the Prophet Joseph Smith, his teachings, and greatness (which no one just does by the way), disagrees with the progressive, reconstructed narrative in Rough Stone Rolling and you think addressing these concerns is not constructive nor civil, how would you consider your current format?

                    She has charged Bushman with mixing up the facts and telling the history out of context based upon his progressive perspective. You sustain that you cannot know Bushman’s heart, but you have accused Hannah, a bright, humble young woman of being arrogant, dishonest and evidently agree with Nathan Phair’s opinion of her. You realize you have accused her in the exact style you insist she accuses Bushman and Rough Stone Rolling? Ironic, because, didn’t you say, “You can’t accuse someone of bad faith for doing this and then do it yourself.”

                    Satire aside, I hope you see my point, this entire episode, your side and mine, I would still consider civil even though we have reached vastly different conclusions.

              • “those you attack” Interesting that you considered it an attack on Bushman to simply quote his (Bushman’s) own words in context. I don’t believe most would consider this an attack unless they were trying to hide something.

                • I’m not sure you’re actually reading my responses. I explicitly note that one of my frustrations with both this presentation and the previous article stems from a lack of context. The problem isn’t quoting Bushman; the problem is quoting Bushman and then interpreting him in a way contradictory to the context of the quotation. And as I believe I have noted, this is especially ironic given that you accuse Bushman of doing this in Rough Stone Rolling. You can’t accuse someone of bad faith for doing this and then do it yourself.

              • “This is lazy and fallacious logic” So to you Bushman promoting a Joseph Smith that does not know his own mind, a treasure seeking, greedy Joseph Smith that dabbles in magic and has a effaced character does not necessarily lead people out the Church? I believe you may want to consider checking your own logic. If Joseph Smith and his family are embarrassing, morally weak characters why would any reasonable person not have weakened faith?

                • This is a caricature of Bushman’s interpretation in Rough Stone Rolling. Have you read the book? Because it doesn’t sound like it. Bushman points our that there is evidence that Joseph Smith participated in treasure-seeking and the folk magic culture of his day, that his experience with poverty made gold plates a temptation, and that at times he was unsure. I don’t see how this leads to “a[n] effaced character;” it means that mortals can be used by God.

                  “If Joseph Smith and his family are embarrassing, morally weak characters why would any reasonable person not have weakened faith?” Um, neither Bushman nor I am suggesting that the Smith family “[is] embarrassing” or that they are “morally weak characters.” Besides, this question is directly at odds with the definition of faith you quote below. If that is the definition of faith that we are working with, then nothing about the Smith family’s character should have anything to do with faith.

              • “there are members who leave the Church or lose their testimonies after reading the Bible . . .” Comparing reading the Bible to reading Bushman is a strain at best. The Bible promotes faith and Joseph Smith. Bushman on the other hand . . . .

                “or discovering “anachronisms” in the Book of Mormon” Generally people don’t discover anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, they have them pointed out by some antagonistic third party. Bushman in this case is a good comparison as he is antagonistic to the character of Joseph Smith.

                • “Comparing reading the Bible to reading Bushman is a strain at best. The Bible promotes faith and Joseph Smith. Bushman on the other hand . . . .” There’s a lot to unpack here. Parts of the Bible certainly promote faith. But there are parts that cause people to question, like Tamar dressing up as a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law, or Israel wiping out the Canaanites, or God countenancing slavery in the Law of Moses, or the erotic nature of the Song of Solomon. You don’t have to be unbelieving to find these stories; you run into them soon enough just by reading the Bible.

                  “Generally people don’t discover anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, they have them pointed out by some antagonistic third party.” Like B. H. Roberts, who wrote a book to defend against accusations of anachronisms in the Book of Mormon? Or maybe a history class, where you learn that things like horses and steel have no discernible presence in the New World before Columbus? That doesn’t mean the Book of Mormon is wrong, but it doesn’t take an antagonist to lead someone to have questions about it.

                  “Bushman in this case is a good comparison as he is antagonistic to the character of Joseph Smith.” No, he’s not. Have you read his book?

              • “what about the many people who have read Rough Stone Rolling and found it incredibly inspiring and faith-strengthening?” If people feel their faith is strengthened after Rough Stone Rolling, after moving to a character effaced Joseph Smith, one has to wonder what their faith was previous and what they believe faith to be in the first place. The ingredients for faith were defined by Joseph Smith to be:

                “First, the idea that he [God] actually exists;

                “Secondly, a correct idea of his [God’s] character, perfections, and attributes;

                “Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which one is pursuing is according to His [God’s] will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive.” (Lectures on Faith, Lecture 3)

                You would need to explain how Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling contributes to any of these rather than detracting.

                • As I mentioned above, you’ll have to explain how Rough Stone Rolling detracts. Bushman makes no claim to comment on the existence of God, “a correct idea of [God’s] character, perfections, and attributes,” or whether the reader’s life is in accordance with God’s will. So when Bushman addresses none of “the ingredients for faith,” how can his book be destructive to it? We don’t have faith in anything mortal or fallible. The only thing I can see the book destroying is assumptions about how the Prophet should have acted, but Joseph himself was pretty good at destroying those assumptions in his everyday life.

                  Personally, I found Bushman’s account of how the Lord worked with Joseph Smith to establish the Church and restore the gospel to be invigorating and powerful. I felt my testimony of the Prophet renewed and my appreciation for his abilities greatly enhanced. And seeing Joseph struggle to perfect himself with the Lord’s help encourages me in my struggle to perfection as well.

                  • Shouldn’t then the contrast be true? When Bushman addresses none of “the ingredients for faith,” how can his book be constructive to it? The point I have gleaned from the discussion on this page is that evidently there is a new definition of what faith actually is compared with the explanation found in the Lectures and like material.

                    • “The point I have gleaned from the discussion on this page is that evidently there is a new definition of what faith actually is compared with the explanation found in the Lectures and like material.” Agreed. As I mentioned, reading Rough Stone Rolling strengthened my testimony, but I’m not sure it addressed my faith; that is centered in God and Christ. Or maybe I shouldn’t have used the word testimony and instead stuck with describing my reaction as being inspired. Being sloppy with words can create and maintain those false expectations I was talking about, so thank you for pointing this out.

                    • “The point I have gleaned from the discussion on this page is that evidently there is a new definition of what faith actually is compared with the explanation found in the Lectures and like material.” An excellent point; thank you for bringing it up. I probably should have used different language from “my testimony of the Prophet [was] renewed” to describe my experience with RSR because you are right: either we talk of subjects being “faith-promoting” or “faith-destroying” far too cavalierly or we need to articulate a new definition of how faith works in these contexts.

              • “because the good fruits have been ignored” Again, what exactly are these good fruits of Rough Stone Rolling? How can belittling and demeaning Joseph Smith have good fruit.

                • Please see my above comment for at least one of the good fruits of Rough Stone Rolling. And again, according to the definition of faith you quoted, “belittling and demeaning Joseph Smith” (even if that were what Bushman does) should have no bearing on one’s faith.

                  • Did you miss the third aspect of faith? “thirdly, that the course which we pursue is according to his mind and will.”

                    For a man to lay down his all, his character and reputation, his honor, and applause, his good name among men, his houses, his lands, his brothers and sisters, his wife and children, and even his own life also- counting all things but filth and dross for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ-requires more than mere belief or supposition that he is doing the will of God; but actual knowledge, realizing that, when these sufferings are ended, he will enter into eternal rest, and be a partaker of the glory of God. (Lecture 6:5)

                    The entire premise of down to the title of “Rough Stone Rolling” attempts to separate the character and attributes of Joseph Smith from his role as a Prophet. How can the two be mutually exclusive? That God was working through this flawed man, foul-tempered, so ignorant of doctrine he mingled gospel with occult, a “strangely gifted yet thoroughly believable product of his time and place.” (see Grant Wacker’s review of RSR featured on the back sleeve) If Joseph Smith, a Prophet of the Lord, was still trying to figure God out and had not that actual knowledge that his life (in terms of his character not merely his role) was in accordance with the mind and will of God, only that the Lord had chosen to work through him, did he have real faith? Faith is not a dormant, stated belief, it is action and power. Joseph Smith stands next to Jesus Christ in authority, it must follow by the Lectures definition of faith that he, in his attributes, resembles the Savior more than any other man. (See Lecture 7)

                    • I think a man can struggle to receive that knowledge, receive it, and then struggle to remember that he has received it, much as when the Lord told Oliver Cowdrey to remember when He has spoken to him previously. Being assured that one’s life is aligned with the will of the Lord is an iterative process; we don’t believe in Calvin-esque election.

  3. I get the feeling LDSanswers doesn’t know who Richard Bushman is. He was a Stake President, is a Stake Patriarch, a Temple Sealer, has a PhD (in history) from Harvard, and is on faculty at Columbia University. Those are some pretty high bars to meddle with. Also, “Rough Stone Rolling” is sold at LDS-owned bookstore Deseret Book, so it has cleared the highest governing bodies of the church for sales and distribution. By all accounts, the brethren in SLC seem to regard Richard Bushman quite highly.

    May I ask what credentials (religious, academic, or otherwise) LDSanswers has to presume to match wits with someone like Richard Bushman?

    • Liz, in regard to your “high bars to meddle with”, I am fairly sure LDS Answers knows who Richard Bushman is. You may be interested in why it is not a good idea to use Church position to justify position. It was Isaac C. Haight and William Dame two stake presidents that were responsible for the Mountain Meadows Massacre. John C. Bennett and William Law, former members of the Presidency of the Church both had a major part leading to the death of the Prophet Joseph Smith the and persecution of the Saints. Judas Iscariot was one of the Lord’s 12 Apostles. I am sure we all know his part in history. Position in the Church means nothing in respect to justifying teachings. You may also be interested to know that Richard Bushman’s writings and teachings in respect to Joseph Smith’s character contradict several of the positions of the Presidents of the Church including Joseph Smith himself. As far as Deseret Book goes, they carry all kinds of “interesting” materials including Harry Potter books and even Twilight (considered by good Christians to be “Mormon porn”). Contact Deseret Book yourself and they will tell you they carry pretty much anything that will sell and make a buck. It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about this “new” history that contradicts the “old” history, all that matters in what is true.

  4. This podcast comes across as really unknowlageable and dishonest. You deride people like Bushman for “rewriting the narrative” and rewriting history. But, THE CHURCH ITSELF is “rewriting” its history, according to your definition. Look at the gospel topic essays. Publishing and teaching those exact concepts got people excommunicated just 20 years ago. There was virtually NO references to Joseph’s Polygamy or Fanny Alger or the angel with a flaming sword in official curriculum. You call it “rewriting”, Bushman and the authors of the gospel topic essays would call it getting to the truth of the issue.

    • You may want to be more careful with your history. Joseph Smith’s Polygamy is not a new subject that the Church is now coming out with. Essentials in Church History, written and republished through the years by President Joseph Fielding Smith and a key history book used in the Church discusses Polygamy multiple times. The Life of Joseph F. Smith by Joseph Fielding Smith is largely devoted to Polygamy. Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage was written for the obvious intent as indicated in the title. There are many more books that have taught a far more accurate history and perspective of the Church for many years. This new perspective by Bushman, et al that attempts to transform Joseph Smith into a greedy, money digging, lying, adulterous, vengeful, arrogant product of his time is all that is new. The history hasn’t changed. If anything, it has only been dumbed-down more recently than in the past. If this is what you think “getting to the truth of the issue” is, please be upfront and admit you are merely trying to dismantle the character of a prophet of God.

  5. Some of what Brodie wrote ended up being correct. Documents relating to the 1826 trial were found. The Egyptian papyri were found in 1967 and presented a challenge to the historicity of the Book of Abraham. Polygamy has been discussed more, the large number of women sealed to him.

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