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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 27 July 2010
Joseph Smith: Cultural Biography of Mormonism's Founder

Rough Stone Rolling, a cultural biography of Mormonism's founder Joseph Smith is a good read. Prof Richard L Bushman has produced a 'warts and all' biography of the man whose 'visions' resulted in The Book of Mormon and those clean-cut young men who knock on our doors. Bushman although a practising Mormon, does not side-step the controversial issue of polygamy,which involved Smith taking up to 30 or more wives,the youngest, Fanny Algers being only 16 when Smith married her.

For those contemplating converting to the Mormon or Latter-Day Saint faith, this should be your first step in learning more about the uneducated farm boy who millions regard as a Prophet.For ex-Mormons like myself this book puts 'bones' on to the hazy issues that are not taught in the LDS church.
Dr.Bushman should be read by anyone contemplating reading the Book of Mormon or joining The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,preferably before you join!
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on 5 April 2009
I do like it and it's a challenging book for LDS members who want some meat with their historical milk. Very eye opening in places if you've never been exposed to anything more than standard LDS manuals. Easy to read and gives a very good overall coverage of the history and the man. Joseph is more fascinating when we see him having arguments, coming to blows, managing crisis after crisis (many of his own doing) and struggling to build a church in a very turbulent time. Joseph is portrayed much more realistically than you'll get in standard pro Joseph books and he comes out so much the better for it - a flawed genius rather than a demi-god. 2 stars missing because he skirted around some areas (presumably to maintain his membership!) and due to a lack of maps and pictures with the text.

Definately get it if you want a good solid church history focused on Joseph and to understand why some of the doctrines appeared when they did (Ok that was controversial - to re-phrase - the context of those revelations.) Depending on where your beliefs are you'll find both justification and challenge to your feelings regarding Joseph.
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on 11 January 2012
While this is a book with a bias (there's no such thing as unbiased opinions when it comes to religion or politics) and while Mr. Bushman, dubbed 'the Mormon explainer' is a believer, he examines the religious sect and its cultural influences with an unflinching eye. Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, there's a lot to learn from this book. Fully entrenched members will be forced to look at a history that is largely untaught, and perhaps ask themselves some tough questions, while skeptics should (at least I hope) come to a better understanding of a people and a culture steeped in folklore and misunderstanding. It's an interesting look at the forces that what went into the shaping of this country and the challenges placed upon the constitution during our nation's, and particularly the West's, formative years. At 740 pages, it took me a while to get through, and though I went into it with many questions, I came out with a broader understanding, but with many questions still remaining. For the curious, this is an intriguing read.
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on 14 January 2015
Still reading, but so far, so good. I am enjoying the portrait of the times more than the one of the central character! This is a proper bit of scholarship, with references etc, worth taking time over.
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on 5 April 2013
I've not only read this book through but use it as a reference time and again. This is with out doubt the best biography of Joseph Smith I have read. I am a believer and Mormon enthusiast and also a history graduate and enthusiast. I don't accept this book is a 'warts and all' biography - it's just a biography. All biographies give an account of a person's life and no person, save Christ himself, has lived an unblemished life. Bushman brings Joseph Smith to life as a man of terrific energy and courage. I think I can distinguish a proper history book from a hagiography and Bushman's book is the former. Having said that, I declare this volume has deepened my love for Joseph Smith. Bushman recognises that few people are neutral about Smith. People tend to love him or hate him. Rough Stone Rolling has deepened my love for him.

Bushman's particular expertise is in American cultural history and Rough Stone Rolling certainly places Joseph Smith, his family, friends and enemies in the context of their cultural surroundings better than anything else I've ever read. If prospective readers are put off by the notion of religion and religious leaders I would urge them to try Rough Stone Rolling as a valuable history book about nineteenth century America.
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on 30 December 2013
Quite excellent though the author did shy away from certain 8negative) conclusions. . In the end, though objectiveness was attempted, the author did not quite suceed.
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on 10 May 2015
Very good book. Can't stop reading it at every opportunity. A portrait of a man determined to do what he felt God wanted him to do despite all opposition.
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on 19 June 2016
Author aims to be objective on a subject that bitterly divides people.
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on 14 June 2011
It's refreshing to read an academic biography of the man Joseph Smith. As inspired and amazing as he was, he was still a man, and he had his faults and his weaknesses. But I like how the author never betrays the prophet and stays true to his belief that despite the humanity of this great man, he was still called of God and is still one of the greatest men of our time.
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