Posted by: rusch | January 23, 2006

Rough Stone Rolling

Last week I completed the monumental task of reading Richard Bushman’s “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling”. I had heard about this book while it was being written from Truman G. Madsen when he came to BYU-Hawaii. Madsen endorsed the book and said that this would be “the” biography of the prophet.

Reader beware, this is not the correlated, seminary, institute, Church history that many of us have grown up with. Several reviewers with Amazon said that this book shows it all, warts and all. I agree with that statement. In the book there is nothing to be ashamed of, and Bushman makes this evidently clear.

While some revisionist biographers try to emphasize the weaknesses of their subjects, while ignoring or downplaying their achievements; Bushman does not fall into this trap but even handedly presents Joseph Smith, the Prophet and spiritual leader, and Joseph Smith the man.

One thing that this made clear to me is the importance of being merciful and forgiving of our fellow man. We should do more to support and assist instead of engaging in activities that tear down and detract. If anything, Joseph, Emma, and the early Saints who stayed true, are more deserving of our mercy then ridicule. They were presented with the monumental and what probably seemed like the impossible task of building the kingdom of God, and based upon their circumstances, they did a good job.

Bushman makes it clear that it is impossible to understand Church history, unless we understand the country and time in which the events took place. In some ways, men are the products of the culture and times in which they live. They may do certain things, which to us seem strange, but when viewed through the cultural lens of the past, their actions make sense though not appropriate today.

In conclusion, you should go out, buy, and read this book. This is essential reading for anyone who is serious about Church history, especially the life of Joseph Smith the American Prophet.


  1. If it wasn’t for my “education” at school getting in the way of my education, I’d have the time to read it. Sounds good. I’ve read some books of the like in the past, some were good, but many ended up boring me.–>

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