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Bradley K. Young

Was Joseph Smith Sr. an “unmoored” and “oft-defeated” father who lived a life, “blighted by shame?” This is the picture Richard L. Bushman paints in his recent biography on the Prophet Joseph titled Rough Stone Rolling—but is it accurate?

Joseph Smith Sr. as Patriarch

Bushman states:

Richard Bushman addressing the John Whitmer Historical Association in 2011
Richard Bushman addressing the John Whitmer Historical Association in 2011, photo by John Hamer

Alvin may have taken the lead because his discouraged father could not.  Alvin had cosigned the articles for the land purchase in 1821, suggesting he was serving as auxiliary family head.  Joseph Sr., worn down by setbacks, may have partially abdicated [or failed to undertake] family leadership. 1

Only after Alvin’s death when Joseph was seventeen did responsibility for family leadership fall on Joseph, under the tacit family agreement that Joseph Sr. was not fully adequate. He was a gentle, disappointed man with an inclination to compensate for his failures with magic and drink. 2

Joseph Smith Sr., father of the Prophet Joseph Smith
Joseph Smith Sr., father of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

These critical and belittling comments by Bushman about a weak and failed father who lost his family’s respect are starkly contrasted by the voice of the Lord.

In a revelation given January 19, 1841, four months following the death of the Patriarch, the Lord revealed that His “aged servant Joseph Smith, Sen., . . . sitteth with Abraham at his right hand, and blessed and holy is he, for he is mine.” (D&C 124:19) This becomes more significant when we understand that “Abraham . . . Isaac also and Jacob . . . have entered into their exaltation, according to the promises, and sit upon thrones, and are not angels but are gods.” (D&C 132:37)

Deserving a place among the great patriarchs of old is hardly a blessing reserved for a failed father.

The feelings of the Lord are, if possible, even more evident in these words from a blessing given by Joseph Jr. to his father in 1835:

Blessing to Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, 1835
Blessing to Joseph Smith Sr. & Lucy Mack Smith, 1835 (View original document)

Blessed of the Lord is my father [Joseph Sr.], for he shall stand in the midst of his posterity and shall be comforted by their blessings when he is old and bowed down with years, and shall be called a prince  over them, and shall be numbered among those who hold the right of patriarchal priesthood, even the  keys of that ministry: for he shall assemble together his posterity like unto Adam; and the assembly which  he called shall be an ensample for my father, for this it is written of him: . . .

So shall it be with my father: he shall be called a prince over his posterity, holding the keys of the patriarchal priesthood over the kingdom of God on earth, even the Church of the Latter Day Saints; and he shall sit in the  general assembly of patriarchs, even in council with the Ancient of Days when he shall sit and all the patriarchs with him— and shall enjoy his right and authority under the direction of the Ancient of Days. . . .

And again, blessed is my father, for the hand of the Lord shall be over him, and he shall be full of the Holy  Ghost; for he shall predict whatsoever shall befal[l] his posterity unto the latest generation, and shall see the affliction of his children pass away, and their enemies under their feet: and when his head is fully ripe he shall  behold himself as an olive tree whose branches are bowed down with much fruit.

Behold the blessings of Joseph by the hand of his progenitor, shall come upon him <the> head of my father and his seed after him, to the uttermost;  even he shall be a fruitful bough: he shall be as a fruitful bough, even a fruitful bough by a well whose  branches run over the wall, and his seed shall abide in strength, and the arms of their hands shall be  made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob, and the God of his fathers: Even <the God> of Abraham, Isaac and  Jacob, shall help him and his seed after him:

even the Almighty shall bless him with blessings of heaven above  and his seed after him, and the blessings of the deep that lieth under: and his seed shall rise up and call him blessed. He shall be as the vine of the choice grape when her clusters are fully ripe: and he shall also  possess a mansion on high, even in the Celestial Kingdom. 3

In the very least, this prophesies Joseph Smith Sr.’s role as sitting in the very counsel with Adam, the priesthood leader over this earth, 4 and others including Abel, Seth, Melchizedek, Enoch, Noah and so forth.  Because the Lord is, “no respecter of persons” (D&C 38:16), this blessed position must be a direct reflection of Father Smith’s personal character.

Adam and Eve

The Lord’s Trust in Him as a Father

Angel Moroni commands Joseph Jr. to tell Joseph Smith Sr.The Lord’s evident trust in Joseph Smith Sr. as a father is made clear by the Angel Moroni’s command:

He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received. (Joseph Smith—History 1:49)

Joseph Smith Sr. was in tune enough with the spirit to immediately recognize the truth of Joseph’s words and give the following counsel:

He replied to me that it was of God, and told me to go and do as commanded by the messenger. (Joseph Smith—History 1:50)

Elder M. Russell Ballard stated in the 1991 October General Conference:

The Lord foreordained his [Joseph Smith Jr.’s] father, Joseph Smith, Sr., who is spoken of in the holy scriptures, to be one of the earthly parents of the Prophet. . . . Joseph Smith, Sr., was in tune with the Spirit of the Lord. He knew that his young son spoke the truth. He not only believed the boy’s words but encouraged him in the work he had been called to do.

Joseph, Sr., endured ridicule and persecution because of his prophet son’s experiences and claims. Yet, he was unwavering in his loving support and defended his son.

He saw and handled the plates of gold from which the Book of Mormon was translated and testified throughout his life to the truthfulness of that sacred book. His name remains firmly affixed, with those of the other witnesses to the Book of Mormon, in the front pages of that second witness of Jesus Christ. On one occasion he was imprisoned and told he would be released if he would deny the Book of Mormon. Not only did he not deny it, but he converted two persons during his thirty-day confinement. 5

President Ezra Taft Benson also added his own witness of the Patriarch’s greatness:

In this dispensation, I think of Joseph Smith, Sr., the first person to give credence to his prophet-son’s testimony. . . . I revere these noble men, not just because they were great prophets, but because they were great fathers who realized what the Lord required of them, and they lived up to that expectation. 6

These scriptural and prophetic statements again starkly contrast with Bushman’s unflattering portrayal of Father Smith.

The Prophet Joseph: More than we know DVD

Foreordained By The Lord

Those who understand the bloodline of the Prophet Joseph as both the heir of Judah and Ephraim, as laid out in D&C 113, will recognize the significance of this statement by Brigham Young as it relates to the chosen and foreordained position of Father Smith.

The Lord had his eye [on Joseph Smith], and upon his father, and upon his father’s father, and upon their progenitors clear back to Abraham, and from Abraham to the flood, from the flood to Enoch, and from Enoch to Adam. He has watched that family and that blood as it has circulated from its foundation to the birth of that man. 7

As Seen By Those Nearest to Him

In addition to challenging Joseph Smith Sr.’s role as patriarch and his standing in the eyes of the Lord, Bushman also speaks negatively of how the Smith children viewed their father.

. . . [Joseph Smith Sr.] feared his sons’ scornful laughter. . . . All the boys loved and honored their father, Joseph Jr. particularly, but their affection may have included sympathy for a life blighted by shame. 8

View original document

In contrast to Bushman’s claim, Joseph Smith himself recorded the admiration, respect and deep honor he held for his father. His personal diary records:

Sunday 11th [October 1835] visited my Father who was very sick. In secret prayer in the morning the Lord said, “My servant thy father shall live.” I waited on him all this day with my heart raised to God in the name of Jesus Christ that He would restore him to health again, that I might be blessed with his company and advice esteeming it one of the greatest earthly blessings, to be blessed with the society of Parents, whose mature years and experience renders them capable of administering the most wholsom advice. 9

Certainly, being blessed with the company and advice of so great a man as Joseph Smith Sr. would truly be one of the “greatest earthly blessings”.

Another first-hand witness of Joseph Smith Sr.’s character was President Lorenzo Snow who said:

I do not know that any man among the Saints was more loved than Father Smith; and when any one was seriously sick Father Smith would be called for, whether it was night or day. He was as noble and generous a man as I have ever known. 10

At the time of his death, Joseph Smith, Sr., was described as “a man faithful to his God and to the Church in every situation and under all circumstances through which he was called to pass.” 11

Attacks on the Prophet

Bushman’s statements about the character of Joseph Smith Sr. subsequently call into question the reasons and motivation for Joseph Jr.’s prophetic work; this is perhaps because it is hard to call the tree bad and the fruit good. Consider these three examples taken directly from Rough Stone Rolling.

If there was a personal motive for Joseph Smith Jr.’s revelations, it was to satisfy his family’s religious want and, above all, to meet the need of his oft-defeated, unmoored father. 12

Joseph Jr. eventually restored his father’s dignity by giving him an honored place in the church. If there was any childhood dynamic at work in Joseph Jr.’s life, it was the desire to redeem his flawed, loving father, but was this enough to make him a prophet? 13

The Smiths have been diagnosed as a dysfunctional family that produced a psychologically crippled son. 14

These statements strike at the core of Joseph’s prophetic calling and are, consequently, also an attack on the Book of Mormon, priesthood power and keys, and the very message of the Restoration.

Brigham Young, in simple defense of the Prophet Joseph, had this to say:

I rose up, and in a plain and forcible manner told them that Joseph was a Prophet, and I knew it, and that they might rail and slander him as much as they pleased, they could not destroy the appointment of the Prophet of God, they could only destroy their own authority, cut the thread that bound them to the Prophet and to God and sink themselves to hell. 15

Joseph Smith Jr. family cabin

In Conclusion

It is only fair that we let the Prophet Joseph have the concluding words:

I have remembered the scenes of my childhood. I have thought of my father who is dead; who died by disease which was brought upon him through suffering by the hands of ruthless mobs. He was a great and a good man. The envy of knaves and fools was heaped upon him [and still is], and this was his lot and portion all the days of his life.

He was of noble stature, and possessed a high, and holy, and exalted, and a virtuous mind, His soul soared above all those mean and groveling principles that are so subsequent to the human heart. I now say, that he never did a mean act that might be said was ungenerous, in his life, to my knowledge.

I love my father and his memory; and the memory of his noble deeds, rests with ponderous weight upon my mind; and many of his kind and parental words to me, are written on the tablet of my heart.

Sacred to me, are the thoughts which I cherish of the history of his life, that have rolled through my mind and has been implanted there, by my own observation since I was born.

Sacred to me is his dust, and the spot where he is laid. Sacred to me is the tomb I have made to encircle o’re his head. Let the memory of my father eternally live. 16

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Notes:

  1. Bushman, Richard L. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print. 42, emphasis added
  2. Ibid. 55, emphasis added
  3. “Blessing to Joseph Smith Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith, between circa 15 and 28 September 1835.” The Joseph Smith Papers. Web. 06 Jan. 2017. <http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/blessing-to-joseph-smith-sr-and-lucy-mack-smith-between-circa-15-and-28-september-1835/1>
  4. Doctrine and Covenants 78:16, 107:55; Joseph Smith: “This then is the nature of the priesthood, every man holding the presidency of his dispensation and one man holding the presidency of them all even Adam, and Adam receiving his presidency and authority from Christ, but cannot receive a fulness, untill Christ shall present. the kingdom to the Father which shall be at the end of the last dispensation. (Words of Joseph Smith, 5 Oct. 1840, p. 40-41); Joseph Fielding Smith: “he [Michael] was one of the greatest of the intelligences, and was sent here to this earth to stand at the head of his posterity, to rule over them through the ages of eternity.” (Doctrines of Salvation 1:90)
  5. Ballard, Russell M. “The Family of the Prophet Joseph Smith”. Ensign, October 1991, emphasis added
  6. Benson, Ezra Taft. “Great Things Required of Their Fathers”. Ensign, April 1981, emphasis added
  7. Young, Brigham. Journal of Discourses, Vol 7, 289-290
  8. Bushman, Richard L. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print. 42, emphasis added
  9. “History, 1838–1856, Volume B-1 [1 September 1834–2 November 1838].” The Joseph Smith Papers. Web. 06 Jan. 2017. <http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/history-1838-1856-volume-b-1-1-september-1834-2-november-1838/82> 628. see also Joseph Smith. The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith. 61-62, emphasis added
  10. Snow, Lorenzo. qtd in LeRoi C. Snow, “How Lorenzo Snow Found God,” Improvement Era, Feb. 1937, 84.
  11. History of the Church, 4:192.
  12. Bushman, Richard L. Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005. Print. 26-27, emphasis added
  13. Ibid.
  14. Ibid.
  15. History of Brigham Young, DNW, 10 Feb. 1858, 386
  16. “Journal, December 1841–December 1842.” The Joseph Smith Papers. Web. 06 Jan. 2017. <http://www.josephsmithpapers.org/paper-summary/journal-december-1841-december-1842/57> 57.
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43 COMMENTS

  1. I agree with Bradley Young. The Smith family was not a dysfunctional family. They endured a great deal of persecution because of the visions of Joseph who they trusted and helped in fulfilling his divine calling. His family struggled to make a living as most did in those times. Faith and Christian teachings were strong in their home because of the influence of Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack Smith. Joseph Smith, Jr. was not a psychologically crippled son, manifested by the complexity and success of the gospel restoration.

  2. Bushman is hardly qualified to claim that J.S. Sr. was a failed father. Heck, almost nobody is qualified to claim that anybody is a failed father.

  3. Thanks to Bradley for this great article! I believe it is important to recognize not just the truthfulness of the work that Joseph Smith Jr. and his family did, but also their personal cleanliness and preparedness to hear and follow the word of the Lord. Doing so allows us to have better vision of what God wants us to be doing to prepare to do His work. Contradicting the false information and interpretations being spread about the Prophet Joseph and his family is important because it dispels any possible excuses on our part, conscious or unconscious, and also shows us role models and heroes to emulate.

    Saying that Joseph Smith Jr. and his family were an unrighteous wreck of a family attacks the principle of cleanliness by minimizing the importance of being clean in order to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands. Seriously, if Joseph Smith was a little occult boy and Joseph Smith Sr. a weak drunkard, who needs to worry about being any better?

    • “Seriously, if Joseph Smith was a little occult boy and Joseph Smith Sr. a weak drunkard, who needs to worry about being any better?” Um, everyone. After all, that’s one of the primary messages of Christ’s ministry, no? He repeatedly teaches that He is the way, that we should emulate Him, and He commands us to be perfect. No one’s getting off the hook because His servants have weaknesses (weaknesses which, it should be noted, Bushman never characterizes using your exaggerated language).

      • Jack of Hearts,

        I definitely agree that we are supposed to worry about being better; as you say “that’s one of the primary messages of Christ’s ministry”. Only problem for Bushman’s theory is, that applies to everyone. Making up, exaggerating, and pointing out flaws or sins in those the Lord has chosen undermines our need to choose right. If Joseph Jr. was an occult pervert (I don’t think he was or is) and could still be a prophet, then why not ‘follow his example’?

        It appears that the Lord was “well pleased with [Joseph Smith’s] offering“. If Joseph Smith & family could do dirty things (like occult practices, drinking, and sexual immorality) and still be the Lord’s servants then God is no longer a God of justice and no longer holds His servants accountable for things they choose to do that are in opposition to His commandments.

        Now, I don’t think that the Smith family are guilty of the things they are accused of; so it’s a no-brainer for me to know I’m not “getting off the hook.” Some however, Bushman included, seem to think the Smith family were “a dysfunctional family that produced a psychologically crippled son.” to quote his book. You defend Bushman by saying that “Bushman never characterizes using [my] exaggerated language.” I mentioned accusations regarding the occult and drinking. Here’s just one line from Bushman that already contains everything I said in my comment: “[Joseph Smith Sr.] was a disappointed man with an inclination to compensate for his failures with magic and drink.”

        Perhaps it is time for us to stop attempting to smear their characters (and/or accept the mud) and instead start paying closer attention to what they taught us.

        • “Making up, exaggerating, and pointing out flaws or sins in those the Lord has chosen undermines our need to choose right.” It doesn’t though. For example, anti-Mormon propaganda has no bearing on my need to choose righteously; it’s simply false to say otherwise. Christ’s teachings directly contradict that, as do the teachings of the prophets and apostles, and the doctrine of agency.

          “Some however, Bushman included, seem to think the Smith family [was] ‘a dysfunctional family that produced a psychologically crippled son’ to quote his book.” Actually, that line is a reference to Fawn Brodie’s work; it’s her claim that the Smiths were dysfunctional and Joseph was psychologically crippled, not Bushman’s. His conclusions are far more tentative and oppose her on several accounts. To take that line and attribute it to Bushman is akin to quote Korihor and attributing it to Alma. Context matters. I suggest reading Rough Stone Rolling.

          • Jack of Hearts,

            You seem to not understand the principle Caleb, Elsie, Bradley, and others have said: Imagining up and/or accepting supposed sins in God’s servants undermines our need to be righteous; for if they were full of sin and were God’s servants, then we can be sinful too without worrying too much about the consequences of our actions. The only possible motivations I can see for those anxious to believe this slander are simply a desire to undermine the Prophet or a desire to ease one’s own conscience.

            “Christ’s teachings directly contradict that, as do the teachings of the prophets and apostles, and the doctrine of agency.” You’re RIGHT. That’s the point – the principle of justice and agency applies to the Prophet Joseph and his family as well. They could not and would not be righteous servants of God if they were occultists, drunkards, perverts, and failed fathers the way some would paint them.

            Bushman is wrong. There is no logical, gospel-based, fact-based, or truth-based way to defend his conclusions.

            “To take that line and attribute it to Bushman is akin to quote Korihor and attributing it to Alma.” Just one problem here. Bushman apparently agrees with the statement and others he quotes because he definitely doesn’t contradict it or even give another viewpoint. Alma, on the other hand, showed WHY Korihor was wrong.

            • “You seem to not understand the principle Caleb, Elsie, Bradley, and others have said.” It’s not that I don’t understand, but rather that the principle is incorrect. Only the commandments have any bearing on my need to be righteous, and they are unyielding. Again, nothing undermines our need to be righteous.

              “They could not and would not be righteous servants of God if they were occultists, drunkards, perverts, and failed fathers the way some would paint them.”
              1) Given the many accounts in the scriptures of God’s servants with questionable actions in the past, “could not” is not accurate and denies the gospel message.
              2) Hyperbolically characterizing Bushman’s statements is inaccurate. He doesn’t call the Prophet a pervert, he doesn’t call Joseph Sr a drunkard, and his references to Joseph Sr as a failed father refer to Joseph Sr’s being swindled out of the family’s savings, repeatedly losing the family’s property, and being unable to retire with property and give property to his sons when they married. According to the temporal standards of the time he was judged a failure, but thankfully “the Lord looketh upon the heart.”
              3) “Occultists” is a loaded and inaccurate description of Bushman’s discussion of folk magic. As I mentioned in my comment on that particular post, there is a critical methodological problem with LDS Answers’ critique of Bushman: namely, that LDS Answers fails to account for the academic definition of terms like “occult” and “magic.”

              “Bushman is wrong. There is no logical, gospel-based, fact-based, or truth-based way to defend his conclusions.” Flat assertion does not make this so.

              “Bushman apparently agrees with the statement and others he quotes because he definitely doesn’t contradict it or even give another viewpoint.” This is another example of genre misunderstanding. I also discuss this in my response to Caleb Young below. This is not a reasonable assumption to make based on the conventions of academic writing. Indeed, unless Bushman spends the rest of his book trying to prove Brodie’s statement is correct, it makes no sense to ascribe her opinion to him. And spoiler, Bushman does no such thing. His thesis is not Brodie’s. You should really read the book.

              • Jack of Hearts,

                “It’s not that I don’t understand, but rather that the principle is incorrect.” This only shows me more that you don’t understand it. God is just and the commandments you speak of apply to everyone; prophets, members, and Smith family alike. A God of justice “cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.” Saying that Joseph and the Smith family were so blatantly sinning DOES undermine God’s justice and our need for cleanliness – for it makes Him appear to be ok with their sin.

                “1) Given the many accounts in the scriptures of God’s servants with questionable actions in the past, “could not” is not accurate and denies the gospel message.” Yet again you give no examples. It “denies the gospel message” that the Lord’s servants must have “clean hands and pure hearts”??? I think not.

                “2) Hyperbolically characterizing Bushman’s statements is inaccurate.” You’ll notice I didn’t attribute those all to Bushman – I merely said that his trend of thinking and writing is agreeing with and even supporting some of those ideas. Plenty of examples have already been given in LDS Answers articles and by Caleb. (I note that you still haven’t given any)

                “According to the temporal standards of the time he was judged a failure, but thankfully “the Lord looketh upon the heart.”” Well, Bushman definitely doesn’t “[look] on the heart” with the message of his book. He criticizes and belittles the character of the Smiths. (Again, plenty of examples have been given)

                ““Occultists” is a loaded and inaccurate description of Bushman’s discussion of folk magic.” This is the subject of an entirely different article – but are you disagreeing with the Book of Mormon in linking magic and sorcery to Satan? There’s no middle ground. Also note that my use of the term “occultists” was general and not attributed to Bushman. With your ‘academic understanding’, you should know that.

                “Indeed, unless Bushman spends the rest of his book trying to prove Brodie’s statement is correct, it makes no sense to ascribe her opinion to him.” It doesn’t? When someone quotes someone, unless they put in a disclaimer about it not being their opinion or flat out saying ‘I don’t agree with this’, it is assumed it is their opinion as well.

                Again, Bushman is wrong. There is no logical, gospel-based, fact-based, or truth-based way to defend his conclusions. You say “Flat assertion does not make this so.” I know that. Plenty of examples have been given, not just by me but also by Elsie, Caleb, and LDS Answers. You have given none.

                • “Saying that Joseph and the Smith family were so blatantly sinning DOES undermine God’s justice and our need for cleanliness – for it makes Him appear to be ok with their sin.” Nope, it means that He forgives.

                  “Yet again you give no examples.” Alma the Younger. Corianton. Omni. Jonah. Alma the Elder. I’m not saying they didn’t repent, but that they needed to repent. As we all do. The beauty of the gospel is that you can have clean hands and a pure heart no matter your past when you sincerely repent.

                  “You’ll notice I didn’t attribute those all to Bushman.” Not directly, no. But you imply those are his. Strawmen don’t contribute to dialogue.

                  “Also note that my use of the term ‘occultists’ was general and not attributed to Bushman. With your ‘academic understanding’, you should know that.” I didn’t say that you attributed it to Bushman; rather, I said it was an inaccurate characterization of the discussion.

                  “It doesn’t? When someone quotes someone, unless they put in a disclaimer about it not being their opinion or flat out saying ‘I don’t agree with this,’ it is assumed it is their opinion as well.” Then it would seem the book is not aimed at the public audience you said it was. To read Bushman like that is to do violence to his intent and miss the thesis he advances over hundreds of pages.

                  “Plenty of examples have been given, not just by me but also by Elsie, Caleb, and LDS Answers. You have given none.” What would you like? I have already explained the large gap between Bushman’s discussion and the quoted revelations. It makes little sense to assume the two are incompatible unless there is an a prior assumption of Bushman’s malicious intent. I have answered the evidence put forth. What else would you like me to do?

                • As “Jack of Hearts” said:
                  Given the many accounts in the scriptures of God’s servants with questionable actions in the past, “could not” is not accurate and denies the gospel message.

                  indeed. Bruce Woodruff asked for examples of this. Take Saul/Paul for example. He went around killing professed Christians and destroying Christ’s church. But he changed and was one of the most influential disciples known to man. Or what about both the Alma’s in the BofM?
                  Who’s to say it wasn’t a similar situation with JS sr. and that he changed once he knew better? There’s nothing wrong with that.

  4. I don’t see how the revelations contradict anything Bushman has written. Bushman’s observations come from the 1810s-1820ish, while the earliest revelation quoted is from 1835, approximately 15 years later. We believe in the Atonement, repentance, and new beginnings, and there’s no reason to believe it wasn’t the case here.

    More immediately, Bushman’s conclusions are tentative. His writing (despite the bolding that seems to encourage us to think otherwise) consistently uses words and phrases such as if, may have, perhaps, suggests, and other qualifying statements. As an academic historian, Bushman could not simply ignore conclusions that other scholars had come to, even if he disagreed with them. His adherence to the conventions of his field (i.e., offering qualified possibilities as potential conclusions and reporting what earlier scholars have said) is a major reason he is so well-respected as a historian.

      • That this article is unhelpful in that it assumes the worst of Bushman’s book, makes no attempt to understand the genre he wrote in, and explains discrepancies by arguing that Bushman has set out to create and unfaithful portrait of the Prophet.

        • Jack of Hearts,

          “This article is unhelpful in that it assumes the worst of Bushman’s book.” With what Bushman says in his book, how can anything else be assumed? See Caleb’s comment below for some great examples of Bushman’s critical and accusatory tone towards the Smiths.

          “This article… makes no attempt to understand the genre he wrote in.” What genre would that be? Our modern genre of criticism, accusation, and unbelief? Bushman shouldn’t be ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ in the accusations some make against the Smith family.

          “This article… explains discrepancies by arguing that Bushman has set out to create and unfaithful portrait of the Prophet.” Anyone looking at the picture Bushman paints with his book vs. what the Lord paints in scripture and revelation can easily see the two don’t match up. Seeing that Bushman supports these ‘discrepancies’ can leave only one explanation: that Bushman (with all the knowledge he has of the Smiths) has accepted the falsehoods and attacks spread about the Smiths and now attempts to support that view – a view which LDS Answers is doing a great job of proving wrong.

          I love the scripture already shared:
          D&C 122:1–3

          1 The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;
          2 While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.
          3 And thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors.

          • “What genre would that be? Our modern genre of criticism, accusation, and unbelief?” No; academic biography. I have discussed this in another response to you further up and in my response to Caleb Young further down. I’m more than happy to continue answering questions on it if you have any.

            “Anyone looking at the picture Bushman paints with his book vs. what the Lord paints in scripture and revelation can easily see the two don’t match up.” But again, does that automatically mean that Bushman is inventing stuff? That he’s trying to destroy faith? That every scholar who studies this is involved in maintaining a facade of forged sources? Or could it mean, as I have mentioned elsewhere, that the sources come from two different times, separated by about 15 years? Claiming that the only explanation of this is that Bushman is attempting to destroy faith means that you’ve a priori concluded against Bushman. You should read the book first, at least.

            • Wow Bruce really did a great job on that comment below about Babylon and academia. Our world is growing more and more faithless and apparently so are some historians. Why would I come to that conclusion? Because Bushman and others have full agency and ability to paint the Prophet as the clean, pure, honest man that he was, or as a man full of sin – the option Bushman appears to have taken. Say what you will, what a person chooses to write (genre and style included) are a reflection of their opinion and belief. Who knows what Bushman’s motives are? No one. Who knows what he thinks? Easy. Just read what he’s written. No one can assume to know Bushman’s heart – but it’s pretty easy to discern his mind. The whole idea of the time separation doesn’t seem like it could work to me. The Prophet Joseph was 14 when he saw God the Father. Bushman says he and his family were involved in the occult about that time. Also, who are we gonna take more seriously about their worthiness? The Lord’s revelations or accounts and accusations of men? Should we start reasoning up ways to accept what Babylon tells us about them or can we just accept that Babylon is wrong?

              • “Also, who are we gonna take more seriously about their worthiness? The Lord’s revelations or accounts and accusations of men?” Once again, this is a forced dichotomy. It is an a priori conclusion to assume that this apparent conflict necessitates discarding one side.

    • “I don’t see how the revelations contradict anything Bushman has written.”

      The revelations DO DIRECTLY contradict those who would call Joseph Smith Sr. and the Smith family failures, occultists, etc. The picture painted by Bushman and others is the opposite of the picture the Lord paints of them. Which source is the one we should be trusting? (Read JST Mark 9 for other details on this.)

      “We believe in the Atonement, repentance, and new beginnings, and there’s no reason to believe it wasn’t the case here.”

      Bushman and others claim that the occult practices ‘stuck around until the end’ and that Joseph Smith Jr. called Joseph Smith Sr. as patriarch to “[restore] his father’s dignity.” Their accusations do not just have to do with before 1820 – in fact, that’s when the first accusations began.

      “His writing (despite the bolding that seems to encourage us to think otherwise) consistently uses words and phrases such as if, may have, perhaps, suggests, and other qualifying statements.”

      Bushman occasionally uses such words, but often does not. All but one quote in the article fail to include any such ‘qualifying statements’. Bushman tends to use very sweeping assumptions, stating something without good evidence (often twisting original sources) and also without showing the other side. Using such ‘qualifying statements’ is pointless unless the other side of the argument is shown (which Bushman DOES NOT). Even when he does use those words (such as if, may have, perhaps, suggests, and other qualifying statements) it generally precedes a mere guess or opinion of the author, rather than something rooted in truth, or the very Word of God.

      “As an academic historian, Bushman could not simply ignore conclusions that other scholars had come to, even if he disagreed with them.”

      He very much seems to agree with them, taking into consideration all that he’s said. As a church historian and having so much knowledge of Joseph and his family, he should be valiantly defending the Prophet rather than stabbing him in the back with his rash conclusions and falsehoods.

      Let us follow the example of Joseph Smith and as James directs- “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Follow the counsel humbly and with faith, and you can receive your own testimony of the prophet and his divine mission.

      • “The revelations DO DIRECTLY contradict those who would call Joseph Smith Sr. and the Smith family failures, occultists, etc.” As I mentioned above, they only do if you want them to; there are other explanations.

        “Bushman and others claim that . . . Joseph Smith Jr. called Joseph Smith Sr. as patriarch to ‘[restore] his father’s dignity.'” That’s not true, at least not in Bushman’s case. Bushman writes that the calling did restore Joseph Sr.’s dignity, but he doesn’t comment on Joseph Jr.’s motivation.

        “All but one quote in the article fail to include any such ‘qualifying statements’.” How are you counting? I count 4 out of 6 quotations with qualifying language, and 1 of the remaining 2 is not Bushman’s conclusion but his mention of what others have concluded.

        “Bushman tends to use very sweeping assumptions, stating something without good evidence (often twisting original sources) and also without showing the other side.” You’ll have to provide examples.

        “As a church historian and having so much knowledge of Joseph and his family, he should be valiantly defending the Prophet rather than stabbing him in the back with his rash conclusions and falsehoods.” What does this look like? Should he not have taken the offer to write an academic biography of the Prophet? Who would you have preferred had written such a biography? And as above, you’ll have to provide examples; flat assertions amount to nothing.

        • I wish that Bushman had the kind of moral integrity that would allow him to actively fight for the Prophet and his family. We know that all these attacks calling Joseph Sr. a drunkard, a failed father, etc, etc–they’re all false. The statements and revelations are clear on that. (I’m happy to include citations and examples if there are questions)
          Now compare Bushman with John Bernhisel who knew the prophet personally. This is a letter sent to Gov. Ford defending the prophet.

          ““Nauvoo, June 14th, 1844.
          “To His Excellency Gov. [Thomas] Ford,
          Sir;
          Though I have not the honor of a personal acquaintance with you, I  take the liberty of stating to you, that I arrived here from the city of New York about a year since, where I was engaged in the practice of Medicine for many years,  that Gen. Smith’s letter to you of this date has been read in my hearing, that the  statements contained therein, in relation to the proceedings of the Municipal Authorities  for the removal of the press whence issued a scandalous sheet entitled the ‘Nauvoo  Expositor’, are correct, having been an eye and ear witness of them. The whole affair  was conducted by the city Marshal and his posse in the most quiet and orderly manner,  without the least noise, riot, or turmult; and when the nuisance was abated they immediately retired and were dismissed. Having been a boarder in Gen. Smith’s family for  more than nine months, and having therefore had abundant opportunities of contemplating  his character, and observing his conduct, I have concluded to give you a few of my  ‘impressions’ of him. Gen. Joseph Smith is naturally a man of strong mental powers, and  is possessed of much energy and decision of character, great penetration, and a  profound knowledge of human nature. He is a man of calm judgement, enlarged  views, and is eminently distinguished by his love of justice. He is kind and obliging, generous and benevolent, sociable and cheerful, and is possessed of a mind of a contemplative  and reflective character; he is honest, frank, and fearless, and independent, and as free  from dissimulation as any man to be found. But it is in the gentle charities of domestic  life, as the tender and affectionate husband and parent, the warm and sympathizing friend,  that the prominent traits of his character are revealed, and his heart is felt to be keenly  alive to the kindest and softest emotions of which human nature is susceptible, and I  feel assured that his family and friends formed one of the greatest consolations to him,  while the vials of wrath were poured upon his head, while his footsteps were pursued by malice and envy, and reproach and slander were strewed in his path, as well as during numerous and cruel persecutions, and severe and protracted sufferings in chains and loath some prisons, for worshipping God according to the dictates of his own conscience. He is a  true lover of his country, and a bright and shining example of integrity and moral excellence  in all the relations of life. As a religious teacher as well as a man, he is greatly beloved  by this people. It is almost superfluous to add that the numerous ridiculous and scandalous  reports in circulation respecting him, have not the least foundation in truth.
          “In haste I have the honor to be your Excellency’s
          Most obedient & humble Servant,
          John M. Bernhisel

          I do feel the Bushman does stab the prophet in the back throughout his book but, laying that aside, even if we were to assume that he’s just acknowledging other’s opinions, where is Bushman’s strong rebuttal to the lies? John Bernhisel was clear that all of the stories and rumors were lies…Bushman, on the other hand, doesn’t follow up the lies with truth and, I feel, seems to have embraced the lies as reality. Who else would I have write the biography? I think that Jayson Kunzler would do a great job! Compare this BYU-I address with Bushman’s apologetic stand. https://video.byui.edu/media/Jayson+Kunzler+%E2%80%9CMillions+Shall+Know+Brother+Joseph+Again%E2%80%9D+/0_jun5hvww

          It would be wise to remember the command to not speak evil of the Lord’s anointed and perhaps ponder why God is so clear about that commandment.

          • “I wish that Bushman had the kind of moral integrity that would allow him to actively fight for the Prophet and his family.” Ouch. It’s rather presumptuous to judge the man’s moral integrity based on his work in an academic biography, where the purpose of the work is to be as objective as possible. If that’s not your cup of tea, fine, but judging a man’s testimony because of a book he wrote in a field with conventions you don’t agree with seems . . . well, presumptuous.

            “We know that all these attacks calling Joseph Sr. a drunkard, a failed father, etc, etc–they’re all false.” Laying aside the hyperbole here, which Bushman does not indulge in, this is an assertion. You’re right, you’ll need examples.

            “Now compare Bushman with John Bernhisel[,] who knew the prophet personally.” This isn’t an appropriate comparison, however. No one has any idea what Bushman would write in a letter designed to defend the Prophet from charges of treason; Bernhisel’s letter as an entirely separate genre from Bushman’s work. The conventions of an academic biography do not allow you to dismiss documents, particularly those you disagree with. It takes incontrovertible proof of falsity or forgery to allow you to ignore a source, and even then the proper response is not to ignore it but explain why you aren’t using it.

            “Compare this BYU-I address with Bushman’s apologetic stand.” This too is not an appropriate comparison. The two different works need to meet different conventions. Perhaps Kunzler would write a phenomenal academic biography of the Prophet and Bushman could give a powerful devotional on him. Until that happens though, comparing them accomplishes nothing.

            • Jack of Hearts,

              You keep talking about ‘academic’ ‘genres’ and things ‘not applying’. As I have given some thought to our modern genre, I see that the problems with Bushman’s book are contained in it because of the modern ‘genre’ he has adopted – a genre that is in direct opposition to truth because they try to remove truth for facts. Truth, however, applies to everything – it is “in all things, through all things, and round about all things.” Either Bushman’s ‘genre’ and style are truth-based, or they are not.

              There is a huge discrepancy between Bushman’s style and his audience. Rough Stone Rolling wasn’t written for academic scholars. It was written and marketed towards church members. As such, it should be written from a truth-filled, gospel-based perspective. Instead Bushman adopts the ‘genre’ of Babylon – the world – and spreads the accusations against the Smith family around so all can see.

              “It’s rather presumptuous to judge the man’s moral integrity based on his work in an academic biography, where the purpose of the work is to be as objective as possible.” Either Bushman’s writing reflects truth or it does not. There is no middle ground, especially not with Joseph Smith. Moral integrity is how a person’s morals or beliefs are honestly applied in their life. Bushman’s beliefs apparently didn’t make it into his book. That’s not the fault of his genre, because he chose his genre and style.

              “No one has any idea what Bushman would write in a letter designed to defend the Prophet from charges of treason;” Seeing the ‘academic viewpoint’ Bushman has adopted, I’m sure it would be nothing like Berhisel’s faith-filled response.

              “The two different works need to meet different conventions.” No, they don’t. Both are directed towards church members and should be truth-filled, gospel-based viewpoints towards the Prophet Joseph. Bushman is not excused for spreading slander about the Smiths just because he chose a terrible genre.

              Bushman was not limited by anyone – he chose to write a biography and he chose to do it with an ‘academic’, humanistic, Babylon ‘genre’ and viewpoint that is in opposition to the truth found in the Lord’s revelations.

              This makes me think of a man trying to pound a screw in with a hammer. Using a drill could easily give us the proper picture of the screw and its purpose. Using a hammer however, you only get a picture of bent and ruined screws.

              Attempting to apply a faithless, humanistic viewpoint to the greatest spiritual leader to dwell on the earth since the Savior might leave some lookers-on with a picture of a bent screw, because they do not understand that a hammer should never be used on a screw.

              • “Rough Stone Rolling wasn’t written for academic scholars. It was written and marketed towards church members.” I’ll grant that it wasn’t written exclusively for academic scholars (that’s usually the province of papers), but I have seen no evidence that it was written for Church members. It was published by an academic press and is part of scholarly conversation. Until your premise is established, criticism from that perspective is baseless.

                “Either Bushman’s writing reflects truth or it does not.” Indeed. But conventions for establishing truth are different in the Church than in academia; he followed the conventions of the body that hired him.

                “Bushman’s beliefs apparently didn’t make it into his book.” Not sure why you’re saying that. Have you read the book? Given that anti-Mormons decry it as propaganda for the Church, it’s questionable to argue that Bushman’s faith had no influence on his work.

                “Seeing the ‘academic viewpoint’ Bushman has adopted, I’m sure it would be nothing like Berhisel’s faith-filled response.” This is a willful misreading of my statement, and further proof of an a priori judgment of Bushman.

        • Jack of Hearts,

          You say “you’ll have to provide examples” and yet you provide none of your own. Interesting. Just because the examples are so easy to find, (thanks to LDS Answers and their articles) here’s a few.

          There are no ‘qualifying statements’ in the following quotes. These quotes are ALL ‘very sweeping assumptions’, as Elsie has said. This is a direct attack on the characters of the Prophet and his family – not just ‘acknowledging’ the opinions of others.

          “[Joseph Smith Sr.] feared his sons’ scornful laughter”.
          “[Joseph Smith Sr.] was a gentle, disappointed man with an inclination to compensate for his failures with magic and drink.”
          “All the boys loved and honored their father, Joseph Jr. particularly, but their affection may have included sympathy for a life blighted by shame.” (Note that the ‘qualifying’ word ‘may’ does not apply to Joseph Sr.’s shame, but to the boy’s affection)
          “The Smiths have been diagnosed as a dysfunctional family that produced a psychologically crippled son.” (Bushman does not contradict this statement, therefore, he agrees with it and also diagnoses them as such.)
          “Joseph Jr. eventually restored his father’s dignity by giving him an honored place in the church.”

          It is quite obvious to me to see the way Bushman views Joseph Smith and his family from what he writes. He thinks all of the above about the Prophet Joseph and his family. He doesn’t deny or contradict any of the charges, leaving only one option for interpretation of his opinion.

          You say “Bushman writes that the calling did restore Joseph Sr.’s dignity, but he doesn’t comment on Joseph Jr.’s motivation.” You couldn’t be more wrong. The following quote is the only one that has any real ‘qualifying statements’. Again, it is also the only option Bushman leaves the reader with as far as Joseph’s motives (and is therefore his opinion).

          “If there was a personal motive for Joseph Smith Jr.’s revelations, it was, above all, to meet the need of his oft-defeated, unmoored father. . . If there was any childhood dynamic at work in Joseph Jr.’s life, it was the desire to redeem his flawed, loving father”

          Bushman and those who support these views are wrong, as shown by multiple statements and revelations contained in this and other articles. Joseph Smith and his family were chosen by the Lord to do a great work, work which only clean, righteous servants of God could have done.

          D&C 122:1–3 says

          1 The ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;
          2 While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.
          3 And thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors.

          Are we the fools that have him in derision or the wise and virtuous that seek counsel under his hand?

          • “You say ‘you’ll have to provide examples’ and yet you provide none of your own.” What would you like?

            “(Bushman does not contradict this statement, therefore, he agrees with it and also diagnoses them as such.) . . . He doesn’t deny or contradict any of the charges, leaving only one option for interpretation of his opinion.” That’s simply not how academic writing works though. The opinion of the author is immaterial in an academic work, though it can be given with caveats and if clearly labelled as such. Professional history is based on a series of premises that precluded Bushman from saying, “Joseph Smith was a prophet and received revelation from God and this is true because the Spirit will answer your earnest prayer about it.” I assume that’s his opinion, since he is a practicing member of the Church, but again, the testimony of the Spirit isn’t admissible in an academic biography. Whether it should be is another question, but it seems foolish to fault Bushman for complying with the conventions of his field. You might say he should not have published an academic biography if it had to meet those standards, but faulting him for the decision to do so is a world of difference from accusing him of actively trying to destroy faith.

            “It is also the only option Bushman leaves the reader with as far as Joseph’s motives (and is therefore his opinion).” Again, this conclusion fails to grasp the conventions of academic writing. It may have been the only secular option that Bushman felt could be established from the sources; that doesn’t make it his opinion but rather the only option he felt could be published and defended according to the conventions of his field.

            “Bushman and those who support these views are wrong, as shown by multiple statements and revelations contained in this and other articles.” Flat assertion proves nothing. LDSAnswers has attempted to demonstrate this but has failed to do is in a definitive manner, hence the pushback in the comments.

            • The truth never changes. God does not conform to the ways of the world; no matter who else may be doing so. The genre or culture we live in does not justify Bushman or anyone else in the demeaning of the Prophet and others whom the Lord has pronounced clean before Him. I encourage all to seek out for their own answers from the Holy Word of God, with a humble heart, willing to conform to and obey the inspiration they receive.

              • “The truth never changes. God does not conform to the ways of the world; no matter who else may be doing so.” Indeed, but I don’t see what that has to do with the matter at hand. No one is changing God’s truth here.

                • Jack of Hearts,
                  In your previous comment, you justified Bushman’s demeaning of the Smith family by saying that it was an “academic biography” and thus he couldn’t write by the Spirit. I believe that it doesn’t matter what genre-or whatever- we should always go by what the Lord has declared and was thus reenforcing that principle in my last comment.

                  • “[I]t was an ‘academic biography’ and thus he couldn’t write by the Spirit.” Not quite. Bushman’s testimony of the Prophet given by the Spirit isn’t admissible evidence in academic biography, but I imagine if it were the will of the Lord Bushman could write by the Spirit.

                    “I believe that it doesn’t matter what genre-or whatever- we should always go by what the Lord has declared.” And it’s not clear that Bushman hasn’t. As I’ve written, malicious intent on Bushman’s part is not the only explanation for what he wrote.

                    • I certainly won’t be the one to accuse Bushman of purposely destroying faith by the image of the Smith family that he paints. All of his reasons I clearly don’t know. What I do know and see is that Bushman has painted a picture of the Prophet that doesn’t match the words of those who knew the prophet best and, most importantly, doesn’t match the voice of the Lord. Ya, there were lots of people who said terrible things about Joseph during his lifetime–even Christ had people lying about him–but why does Bushman include those lies?–and he doesn’t respond to them with the truth. We know from the Lord what kind of man Joseph Smith was. Consider not only the scriptures but also the statements of those who knew Joseph best and that of modern prophets. Bushman’s book has been an instrument in Satan’s hand for destroying the testimonies of people–people who trusted Bushman because of his membership in the church. Maybe Satan would like us to believe that under the guise of fairness and ‘academic rules’ we are obligated to give evil and lies from men just as much credibility as statements from God and living prophets…Sounds to me like focusing on the philosophies of men mingled with scripture. I feel like the fruit yielded by Bushman’s book gives us a good idea of what source it is tainted by. It would have been so easy for Bushman to respond like Bernhisel to all of the lies and yet he chose not to.

                    • “What I do know and see is that Bushman has painted a picture of the Prophet that doesn’t match the words of those who knew the prophet best and, most importantly, doesn’t match the voice of the Lord.” As I have explained elsewhere, the idea that they conflict and so one must be discarded is an a priori conclusion. It is not the only possible answer to the apparent conflict.

                      “Bushman’s book has been an instrument in Satan’s hand for destroying the testimonies of people.” And it has been an instrument in the Lord’s hand for strengthening my testimony and the testimony of members of my family and my fellow parishioners.

                      “I feel like the fruit yielded by Bushman’s book gives us a good idea of what source it is tainted by.” Except that, as I said, many have found Bushman’s book to be a great asset. What of that fruit?

                    • Do not interpret this as a personal attack, how you will feel meeting the Prophet Joseph, I don’t know; I simply have learned the following truth taught by President Benson, “It is not enough for us to be sincere in what we support. We must be right!” Has your testimony in truth been strengthened by Bushman?–I don’t know. I do know that the more I read the articles here on LDSAnswers and compare them with Bushman/similar ideas, one seems to fit the words of the Lord and living prophets. I am learning but continue to become more and more convinced which way leads to faith and truth.

                    • “how you will feel meeting the Prophet Joseph[?]” Just fine, thanks. I’m pretty excited to ask him about all kinds of things.

                      “Has your testimony in truth been strengthened by Bushman?” Uh, yes. How else is a testimony strengthened?

                    • Also, do we really want to invite all of the thousands of lies out there into our homes, place them on our bookshelves, and do all of this in the name of academic fairness or the modern ‘rules’ by which we know to define truth as whatever is most repeated? These are the words of Elder Holland in relation to bad thoughts and I think they apply.

                      “Like thieves in the night, unwelcome thoughts can and do seek entrance to our minds. But we don’t have to throw open the door, serve them tea and crumpets, and then tell them where the silverware is kept! (You shouldn’t be serving tea anyway.) Throw the rascals out!”

                      I personally don’t want Bushman’s book in my home anymore because I have no desire to leave the world’s opinion about the things of God on my bookshelf…we don’t have to question what the world thinks or the end goal of all the world’s lies.

            • “What would you like?” It’s not my job to tell you what I want you to share to ‘prove’ or uphold your point, that’s your job. I gave plenty of examples to support my point.

              “It may have been the only secular option that Bushman felt could be established from the sources.” I think that Bruce’s hammer-and-screw example is perfect. Bushman’s job (and the job of every church member) is to witness of Christ, His gospel, and His prophets in all things that we do. RSR portrays a degenerate, sinning Joseph and Smith family, not righteousness and faith. If academia prevents Bushman from sharing the truth about the Prophet Joseph then what is he doing being involved with it?

              “You might say he should not have published an academic biography if it had to meet those standards, but faulting him for the decision to do so is a world of difference from accusing him of actively trying to destroy faith.” If you haven’t noticed, no one has ‘[accused] him of actively trying to destroy faith’. We are disagreeing with his book because it appears Bushman is putting the ‘standards’ of his genre above the standards of God with regards to the Prophet Joseph and his family.

              “Flat assertion proves nothing.” Exactly. Thus why I asked for examples which you have been very slow to give.

              • “It’s not my job to tell you what I want you to share to ‘prove’ or uphold your point, that’s your job.” True, but I’m honestly not following here. I asked for examples of sweeping generalizations from Elsie, you gave some, and then . . . I’m not sure what you want, so I’m legitimately asking.

                “RSR portrays a degenerate, sinning Joseph and Smith family, not righteousness and faith.” I strongly contest this characterization, obviously. I’ve explained why elsewhere in these comments (in the root comment of this thread, in fact), so I’ll direct you there rather than rewrite it all (particularly given the odd narrowing of each comment as we progress).

                “If academia prevents Bushman from sharing the truth about the Prophet Joseph then what is he doing being involved with it?” Uh, making a living? Supporting a family? More importantly, I’d say, bringing the Restoration to the attention of more people. After all, if the Book of Mormon musical can result in baptisms, then a biography of the Prophet derided by anti-Mormons as whitewashing Church history certainly can. Perhaps he felt, given his training, that it was his duty to produce a biography of Joseph Smith that was as favorable as secular conventions would allow before someone else made a hatchet job of it. Ultimately, you’ll have to ask him.

                “[I]t appears Bushman is putting the ‘standards’ of his genre above the standards of God with regards to the Prophet Joseph and his family.” It could, but I’ll direct you again to my root comment. It appears this way, but we don’t have to accept that appearance uncritically. Nothing requires the two to be irreconcilable.

  5. I can’t get this article out of my mind. It saddens me that Deseret Book would sell a book like Rough Stone Rolling (which got it’s sources from ex-lds members) which is convincing a lot of members to leave the Church and doubt their once solid testimonies of Joseph Smith and his family. Those quotes alone about attacking Joseph’s character as a Prophet are so saddening to me that anyone would ever say that about Joseph Smith unless their sole intent on writing the book was to falsify his role as a Prophet, which makes me wonder again, why on earth is it in Deseret Book? People get books from there with the assumption that it isn’t antimormon literature.

    • “People get books from there with the assumption that it isn’t antimormon literature.” A safe assumption, and one not contradicted by Rough Stone Rolling. As you will see if you read some anti-Mormon discussion boards where the book comes up, most anti-Mormons see Bushman as an apologist for the Church who tried to paper over Joseph’s scandalous past. It saddens me that people have their testimonies weakened by Bushman’s book; for myself, my stake president, and others in my local congregation and family, the book has done nothing but strengthen our testimony of the divinity of the Restoration.

  6. I am just not sure why people turn to Bushman for the real story on Joseph Smith’s father or family in general. One can feel the love of his family and support and character in his own words, in his history, or in Lucy Mack Smith’s writings on her family. She shares beautiful stories of her husband and his personal life. It paints an entirely different picture than when one reads Rough Stone Rolling. No one can rightly deny that his family sought righteousness and the will of God and Joseph was nurtured in this environment. Through Joseph Smith, Jr., such a birthright has come to be a blessing far beyond his family.

    I love Eliza’s description of Joseph Smith Sr., “The idea of such a man as Father Smith-so patriarchal in appearance-so circumspect in deportment and dignified in his manners, being guilty of riot, was at once ludicrous and farcical to all sane-minded persons.”

    • “No one can rightly deny that his family sought righteousness and the will of God and Joseph was nurtured in this environment.” Bushman doesn’t do this, though. Have you read Rough Stone Rolling?

      • I loved Julie’s quote from Eliza. THAT is the way those who actually knew Joseph Sr. felt. We today are so willing to buy into that many false reports that are out there. Are there lies out there?–Joseph tells us that “Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil-disposed and designing persons, in relation to the rise and progress of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all of which have been designed by the authors thereof to militate against its character as a Church and its progress in the world—I have been induced to write this history, to disabuse the public mind, and put all inquirers after truth in possession of the facts, as they have transpired, in relation both to myself and the Church, so far as I have such facts in my possession.” Were there lies that lots of people believed when Joseph was alive? Yep! Don’t we all know that a story grows with each retelling?–that’s how rumor works. The firsthand accounts of those who can be trusted paints a very clear picture that I think LDSAnswers does a great job of presenting.

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