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Richard Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling


caesarmoridon

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Let me start by stating that any book that takes a critical view of the prophet Joseph Smith is troubling to me. I find this especially troubling when the author is a member of the Church. With that said, I do understand where brother Bushman was and what his thoughts were when he wrote the book. This understanding comes from reading his personal reasons and in his answering questions of critics of the book. If I read correctly as well, he feels that his book was in effect a failure. The reasoning behind his perceived failure was that it has not been a source of strength and enlightenment to the people he thought he new outside of the Church. This is based on the review by a friend and fellow scholar found at FARMS is very friendly towards brother Bushman and only real point of criticism is related to how he did the layout of his bibliography.

I will further state that, and I know many will at this point call me a hypocrite and uninformed, have not read the book in question. I do not claim any knowledge on the book other than quotes, and information out of context. This is in part why I request your assistance in understanding the work and discussing the details of questionable material contained with in the book.

One of the discussions in the book that I find troubling is the area regarding the polygamist practices of Joseph Smith. I do not have a problem with polygamy, not that I pretend to understand the practice nor do I desire for the practice to be re-instituted. Where, if I understand it correctly have issue with what is contained in the book is the practice of polygamy, with already married women who remain married to their husbands. In my entire life in the Church I have never heard this particular for of polygamy condoned or endorsed. I have read many anti-Mormon accounts of Joseph Smith stealing girls and other ridiculous theories, but never from a reputed scholar and member of the Church.

Therefore, here is my challenge, please any of you scholars who know of this book and its supposed history, please tell me what is based on solid verifiable sources and what is speculation. In addition to this please clarify the information that I brought forth and other information that is questionable in the book. I have a need of purchasing or borrowing the book to do research on my own, but having reviewed many of the comments of the forum, I trust some of you already know the answers I seek.

Thank you all for your efforts to help me understand the perspectives of the author and his book.

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First, I suggest reading the book. You can get a paperback copy for about 15 bucks.

Second, I suggest reading On The Road With Joseph Smith, which Bushman wrote during his book tour, etc.

Third, some members have been concerned that perhaps Bushman was "adding fuel to the fire" against the prophet, but as he succinctly pointed out, the fuel is already there.

Last, for what it's worth, Elder Holland said he enjoyed the book.

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First, I suggest reading the book. You can get a paperback copy for about 15 bucks.

Second, I suggest reading On The Road With Joseph Smith, which Bushman wrote during his book tour, etc.

Third, some members have been concerned that perhaps Bushman was "adding fuel to the fire" against the prophet, but as he succinctly pointed out, the fuel is already there.

Last, for what it's worth, Elder Holland said he enjoyed the book.

I appreciate your perspective, but have a question as well. What did you think of "The Last Temptation of Christ" or Christopher Hitchens "God Is Not Great." I personally found both interesting and intriguing, but they were also offensive and inaccurate. Elder Holland may enjoy the book, but this is not necessarily an endorsement for the book either. Did Elder Holland suggest that every member should get a copy? Why was the book not published by Deseret Book or Bookcraft? I have read, as I have stated many of the comments on the forum regarding the book, but I have also found many false teachings contained within these forums. The unfortunate thing about this book is that there seems to be no disputation of its merits, except by anti-Mormon Extremists that are not happy unless you say Joseph Smith was a mass-murdering rapist and adulterer.

I do appreciate your comments and hope mine are not offensive, even if they are somewhat reactive.

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Why was the book not published by Deseret Book or Bookcraft?

Because Bushman wanted people to read it? :P

Put in a less snarky way, why do you think it should have been? He wanted it to reach a much larger audience than DB reaches. I happen to know it's been used in at least one large and well-known University in a graduate course on American religious history. DB doesn't have that kind of reach or reputation.

I'm curious as to what you think "a criticial view" means.

As to polyandry, see the FAIR papers here.

http://www.fairlds.org/apol/ai228.html

Edit: BTW, I find any comparison to the Last temptation of Christ or "God is not great" completely off-base, and it demonstrates to me, at least, that you are completely misunderstanding Bushman, his commitment to MOrmonism, and his book. It's a completely inaccurate comparison, and it makes you look silly to even suggest it.

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I appreciate your perspective, but have a question as well. What did you think of "The Last Temptation of Christ" or Christopher Hitchens "God Is Not Great." I personally found both interesting and intriguing, but they were also offensive and inaccurate. Elder Holland may enjoy the book, but this is not necessarily an endorsement for the book either. Did Elder Holland suggest that every member should get a copy? Why was the book not published by Deseret Book or Bookcraft? I have read, as I have stated many of the comments on the forum regarding the book, but I have also found many false teachings contained within these forums. The unfortunate thing about this book is that there seems to be no disputation of its merits, except by anti-Mormon Extremists that are not happy unless you say Joseph Smith was a mass-murdering rapist and adulterer.

I do appreciate your comments and hope mine are not offensive, even if they are somewhat reactive.

Somewhat like you, RSR caused me to learn many new things about JS and Church history that I had not known. Yes, the fact that he has been a Stake President, Patriarch and Temple Sealer and is currently an active and faithful member of the Church does make it difficult to simply discount what he says when it seems "critical" of JS. However, Bushman has actually been criticized for being too pro-Jospeh Smith in his writing, so don't take your concerns out on Bushman. Joseph Smith did what he did and it is up to you to determine what that means for you. If you want people to say Bushman was wrong about this or that fact, you are not going to hear it. Bushman was right about just about everything (there may have been a rare person here or there who quibbled with a fact or two and certainly people that thought he spun things a bit to favor the Church and JS).

Caesar, you might want to check out the FAIR Wiki if you have not already. http://www.fairwiki.org/FAIRwiki:Table_of_contents

Also, you can read articles about the very subject that concerns you, polyandry-marrying other living men's wives, at fairlds.org .

Good luck.

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Joseph Smith's polyandry is verifiable. What is i think open to debate is whether these were platonic arrangements, or that involved a genuine relationship. The idea being with a platonic polyandrous sealing would be to form future plural marriages for the eternity. The couple then could start having physical children together. Joseph Smith never taught the spirit children idea. An article by Van Hale at his Mormon Miscellaneous website documents this. But another purpose would be to have other men's kids to adopt as your own for the eternity. This would have saved Joseph Smith from the scandal of having children born out of a legally un-recognized marriage.

The women appear to have continued to live with the legal husband after the sealing's took place.

Some of this polygamy research regarding Joseph Smith is speculation and has not been confirmed. The claim that Josephine Fisher was Joseph Smith's daughter has not been verified true. Her mother was Sylvia Session's one of the 11 women on the polyandry list.

I have this guy's book. But i use more my copy In Sacred Lonliness by Todd Compton in these discussion's.

I can look up any off the detail's regarding any of the 11 if you have any question's. But without you providing me with a name i don't what your concern is other than polyandry. I have not found any detail relating to these 11 cases that convinced me Joseph Smith behaved badly toward's other men's wive's.

This polyandry issue is one of those i can only partially resolve to my satisfaction. Being Community of Christ/RLDS i have a testimony of some of Joseph Smith's teachings. But of polygamy i don't have a testimony of it. But i doubt he had relationship's with 33 women. I find quite unsatisfactory the modern day rumor mongering of Joseph Smith's supposed children via plural wive's. Nobody could have 33 mortal wive's without having no kid's at all. I think any number of them could have been sealed to him for time and eternity in name only without ever being involved with the man.

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I learned some new things through reading the book, and the fact that it took a look at Joseph Smith including pretty much all the evidence was a plus to me, and made it easier for me to take to heart the good things he had to say.

I especially liked how Joseph Smith was pictured as "saving" his father and giving him a purpose and status in life as the first Church Patriarch.

I also liked the quote from Joseph Smith dealing with his personal difficulties in writing the revelations from God, finding as he did the English language to be too restrictive to give it full meaning.

All the Best!

--Consiglieri

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I appreciate your perspective, but have a question as well. What did you think of "The Last Temptation of Christ" or Christopher Hitchens "God Is Not Great." I personally found both interesting and intriguing, but they were also offensive and inaccurate. Elder Holland may enjoy the book, but this is not necessarily an endorsement for the book either. Did Elder Holland suggest that every member should get a copy? Why was the book not published by Deseret Book or Bookcraft? I have read, as I have stated many of the comments on the forum regarding the book, but I have also found many false teachings contained within these forums. The unfortunate thing about this book is that there seems to be no disputation of its merits, except by anti-Mormon Extremists that are not happy unless you say Joseph Smith was a mass-murdering rapist and adulterer.

I do appreciate your comments and hope mine are not offensive, even if they are somewhat reactive.

With all due respect, you must read the book and judge it for yourself. Bushman is one of Mormonism's finest scholars. If the book contains information that you find offensive because it puts cracks in your iconic understanding of Joseph Smith and who he was, it just means you haven't studied. Bushman presents nothing by way of facts that is controversial. And his interpretation of some of those fact is quite generous and forgiving. -- I believe in the divine calling of Joseph Smith, by the way.

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I appreciate your perspective, but have a question as well. What did you think of "The Last Temptation of Christ" or Christopher Hitchens "God Is Not Great." I personally found both interesting and intriguing, but they were also offensive and inaccurate.

Bushman's work, in my opinion, should not be compared to these works unless it is the form of why it is so much better.

Elder Holland may enjoy the book, but this is not necessarily an endorsement for the book either. Did Elder Holland suggest that every member should get a copy? Why was the book not published by Deseret Book or Bookcraft?

Because the press who did publish it carries a lot more weight, for one thing. DB and Bookcraft, while filling a niche, are not the best publishers, imo.

I have read, as I have stated many of the comments on the forum regarding the book, but I have also found many false teachings contained within these forums. The unfortunate thing about this book is that there seems to be no disputation of its merits, except by anti-Mormon Extremists that are not happy unless you say Joseph Smith was a mass-murdering rapist and adulterer.

Bushman's work is well-documented. He didn't pull a bunch of things out of thin air. I understand some of the information can be troubling to you, and I didn't always agree with Bushman's assessment of the data, but it was a very good read that made me think. I liked it a lot.

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If you got a hold of an article with some quote's from it you should go to other's for help. Provide a link to what you ran into, and let us look it over for you. That way i can look up the quote's in my book, and tell you if i think the article abuses his book or not. Anti-Mormon's can use these type of book's to write articles that can abuse this research. I know of example's where In Sacred Lonliness by Todd Compton got abused.

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I learned some new things through reading the book, and the fact that it took a look at Joseph Smith including pretty much all the evidence was a plus to me, and made it easier for me to take to heart the good things he had to say.

I especially liked how Joseph Smith was pictured as "saving" his father and giving him a purpose and status in life as the first Church Patriarch.

I also liked the quote from Joseph Smith dealing with his personal difficulties in writing the revelations from God, finding as he did the English language to be too restrictive to give it full meaning.

On that same not the book paints Joseph, in many stages of his life, as simply one of the saints. Doing his best to keep the commandments and obey the revelations and often having the same frustrations the other men and women felt. This is a different portrayal than the power hungry dictator some like to paint Joseph. On a number of occasions Joseph is brought into disciplinary council to face allegations against him. This is a council he created!

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I loved RSR.

One of the important questions it answered for me had to do with the pacing of Joseph's revelations. Some 80% of the revelations in the D&C were received before 1835. Bushman spends some time exploring how Joseph set up councils to govern the Church, and he expected these councils to receive revelation. At one point, Joseph believed that his Church structure was complete, and that his role in the restoration was done, and that the councils then in place were sufficient to govern the Church.

Below is the review I posted on Desertbook.com:

The Man behind the Myths

Bushman paints a realistic portrait of Joseph Smith. There is so much folklore that has been built up around The Prophet over the last 150 years. Bushman strips the folklore away and gives us an honest view of the man, the mortal, the vulnerable person that Joseph really was.

Some people will prefer the folklore and will find some uncomfortable truths in these pages. However, just as bad news is best received from a good and loving friend rather than a stranger, many people's first exposure to some of the controversies surrounding Joseph is best received from a faithful source rather than one antagonistic to Joseph's life and mission.

Here is a man whose love of Christ and His gospel motivated his every action, even those which proved to be unwise or unsuccessful. Here is a man who frequently lost his temper with those who disagreed with him, but from whom forgiveness flowed so freely and so fully that none could doubt that his love was stronger than the cords of death. Here is a man whose greatest goal was to share his visions of eternity with all those around him, who desired unity even as his friends betrayed him, who longed to finish the task of restoration and step back out of the limelight and let the Church stand on its own.

Joseph Smith was not a perfect man, just as none of us are perfect, and yet in his unceasing dedication is a lesson for all of us. It is often difficult to find an emotional connection with the Joseph Smith of folklore--the nigh-perfect seer, the gallant hero, the epic champion. The Joseph that Bushman reveals is human, is my brother, and is someone that I can know and love and follow.

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I appreciate your perspective, but have a question as well. What did you think of "The Last Temptation of Christ" or Christopher Hitchens "God Is Not Great." I personally found both interesting and intriguing, but they were also offensive and inaccurate.

I've been busy (though not for the past few weeks, when I've been travelling) co-writing a book-length response to Christopher Hitchens's god is Not Great, so (I hope) you'll eventually be able to read my opinion of his book at considerable length.

As for The Last Temptation of Christ, by Nikos Kazantzakis, this may surprise some: I like the book very, very much. I first read it as a teenager, and it had an enormous impact on me. I think it raises profound issues for reflection. I didn't see the movie though, and felt not the slightest urge to do so. An apparently crude and clueless Hollywoodization of the novel held no interest for me.

But Richard Bushman's biography of Joseph Smith is not in any serious way comparable to either book.

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One of the discussions in the book that I find troubling is the area regarding the polygamist practices of Joseph Smith. I do not have a problem with polygamy, not that I pretend to understand the practice nor do I desire for the practice to be re-instituted. Where, if I understand it correctly have issue with what is contained in the book is the practice of polygamy, with already married women who remain married to their husbands. In my entire life in the Church I have never heard this particular for of polygamy condoned or endorsed. I have read many anti-Mormon accounts of Joseph Smith stealing girls and other ridiculous theories, but never from a reputed scholar and member of the Church.

Bushman explains how he personally addresses the moral implication of JS marriages to other women here:

Q: How can we come to morally accept or explain Joseph's proposing to and being sealed to married women as per Todd Compton?

BUSHMAN: It's a fact he was married to ten women who were married to someone else. I don't know of anyone who has any answer or explanation of that that is founded in evidence. We have to create explanations for ourselves. Probably the best one is that he was very much concerned with bonding. He wanted to unite people. I concur heartily in everything Blake [Ostler]2 said earlier about blending people, unifying them in a bond of love is the essence of the gospel of Christ and of the Mormon gospel. That by working together we can do more than we can alone and Joseph Smith was obsessed with sealing--sealing everybody and this happened in his life to sealing himself to married women. It was not a practice that was carried on except as we know in various compensatory ways after husbands died, after his death, but he thought it was right and I don't think there's going to be- right now, I don't see any explanation that will be satisfying to us on the horizon. We're just going to have to swallow it, live with it, digest it and do or die.

http://www.fairlds.org/FAIR_Conferences/20...Miscellany.html

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Let me start by stating that any book that takes a critical view of the prophet Joseph Smith is troubling to me. I find this especially troubling when the author is a member of the Church. With that said, I do understand where brother Bushman was and what his thoughts were when he wrote the book. This understanding comes from reading his personal reasons and in his answering questions of critics of the book. If I read correctly as well, he feels that his book was in effect a failure. The reasoning behind his perceived failure was that it has not been a source of strength and enlightenment to the people he thought he new outside of the Church. This is based on the review by a friend and fellow scholar found at FARMS is very friendly towards brother Bushman and only real point of criticism is related to how he did the layout of his bibliography.

I will further state that, and I know many will at this point call me a hypocrite and uninformed, have not read the book in question. I do not claim any knowledge on the book other than quotes, and information out of context. This is in part why I request your assistance in understanding the work and discussing the details of questionable material contained with in the book.

One of the discussions in the book that I find troubling is the area regarding the polygamist practices of Joseph Smith. I do not have a problem with polygamy, not that I pretend to understand the practice nor do I desire for the practice to be re-instituted. Where, if I understand it correctly have issue with what is contained in the book is the practice of polygamy, with already married women who remain married to their husbands. In my entire life in the Church I have never heard this particular for of polygamy condoned or endorsed. I have read many anti-Mormon accounts of Joseph Smith stealing girls and other ridiculous theories, but never from a reputed scholar and member of the Church.

Therefore, here is my challenge, please any of you scholars who know of this book and its supposed history, please tell me what is based on solid verifiable sources and what is speculation. In addition to this please clarify the information that I brought forth and other information that is questionable in the book. I have a need of purchasing or borrowing the book to do research on my own, but having reviewed many of the comments of the forum, I trust some of you already know the answers I seek.

Thank you all for your efforts to help me understand the perspectives of the author and his book.

Something about this poster tells me s/he is a troll. Can't put my finger on it. Maybe it's the fact that the person who wrote this post later claimed to have read The Last Temptation and God Is Not Great. That 2 plus this 2 doesn't add up, at least to my ear.

Just thinkin' out loud.

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I'll take the poster a little more seriously after he/she has read Rough Stone.

Agreed.

Which begs the question. Quite often on this board TBM's will be critical of the Tanners. Are they basing their criticism on their own reading of the Tanners' book(s) or are they relying on a review written by somebody at FARMS?

Critics should also be careful to not base their opinions on the opinions of another critic who read X or Y or Z.

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Which begs the question.

It raises the question.

(Pet peeve.)

Quite often on this board TBM's [sic -- another pet peeve] will be critical of the Tanners. Are they basing their criticism on their own reading of the Tanners' book(s) or are they relying on a review written by somebody at FARMS?

In my case, I'm basing my criticism on the reading of Tanner materials -- sometimes done in the process of writing something for FARMS.

Critics should also be careful to not base their opinions on the opinions of another critic who read X or Y or Z.

In point of fact, though, since we cannot read all books, attend all plays, see all movies, or buy all CDs, we often base our decisions on reviews. It's prudent to do so. And, even when we've read the book, attended the play, seen the movie, or listened to the CD, we often find solidly done and perceptive criticism useful, particularly when it involves expertise that we ourselves don't possess.

So, yes, ideally we should have first-hand experience. But, speaking realistically, we often can't and don't.

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Agreed.

Which begs the question. Quite often on this board TBM's will be critical of the Tanners. Are they basing their criticism on their own reading of the Tanners' book(s) or are they relying on a review written by somebody at FARMS?

Critics should also be careful to not base their opinions on the opinions of another critic who read X or Y or Z.

I've never read a whole Tanner book; I just couldn't stomach it after a while. Also, I feel it is a great disservice to reality to compare Bushman's work with the Tanner's.

I realize I say that without having read an entire Tanner work, but hey, I tried.

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I read Rough Stone Rolling shortly after its publication. I donâ??t recall a single â??revelationâ? among its pages. That is, there was nothing there that I didnâ??t already know about Joseph Smith.

With some significant exceptions, I agree with Bushmanâ??s interpretations. On occasion, I think he pandered to the expectations of the critics, rather than making a stand for an interpretation of events that would have been more difficult to defend, but which remains plausible all the same.

As for the issue of Nauvoo-era polygamy and polyandry, I donâ??t find what occurred that difficult to comprehend considering the context of the times. As I commented a few weeks back on another thread:

â?¦with the introduction of the sealing powers and the understanding that came with it, all the marriages previously performed were considered, in the minds of these early Saints, as being invalid. Therefore, they all felt justified in "reordering" things based on their current understanding.

A careful reading of the contemporary sources will bear out this interpretation. These people didnâ??t set out to revel in some bacchanalian orgy. But they had come to understand that all prior contracts were null and void â?? thatâ??s exactly what is written in D&C 132! And in the face of that understanding, they felt justified in making adjustments to their earthly and heavenly contracts in light of their new knowledge. That they sometimes did so clumsily is to be expected. But underlying all of this very unique period in Church history is the revolution in perspective caused by the principles revealed in D&C 132 pertaining to the sealing powers.

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I've never read a whole Tanner book; I just couldn't stomach it after a while.

But since you at least tried I will respect your opinion of the book.

Also, I feel it is a great disservice to reality to compare Bushman's work with the Tanner's.

I made no comparison between the two books. I believe I said that we (critics and apologists) should not base our opinions of any book (X or Y or Z) on the opinion of somebody else if we ourselves have not read it. I used the Tanners' book(s) as an example because they are frequently criticized by TBM's. If you have read a book, then you have a right to criticize it. I do know that some TBM's base their opinions on the reviews published by FARMS.

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It raises the question.

(Pet peeve.)

I'm afraid that Merriam-Webster recognizes the newer sense of beg the question as well:

1: to pass over or ignore a question by assuming it to be established or settled

2: to elicit a question logically as a reaction or response <the quarterback's injury begs the question of who will start in his place>

But I'm with you: I have no use for the second sense and find that it dilutes a useful idiom. Unfortunately, when it comes to matters other than questions, beg means something very close to "ask," so to "beg the question" sounds, to the unidiomatic ear, a lot like raising the question. And if you leave a language in the hands of the unwashed masses long enough, they tend to make a lot of silly choices without due regard for the sensitivities of delicate souls like ourselves.

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