cover of book

Joseph Smith: History, Methods, and Memory
by Ronald O. Barney
University of Utah Press, 2020
eISBN: 978-1-60781-756-7 | Cloth: 978-1-60781-770-3 | Paper: 978-1-60781-755-0
Library of Congress Classification BX8695.S6
Dewey Decimal Classification 289.3092

The study of Joseph Smith and his writings have long been shaped by the polemical atmosphere that surrounds Smith’s claims to divine authorship. Even after a half-century of serious scholarship devoted to Smith, fundamental questions remain about how to best interpret features of his life and writing. Smith’s own History of Joseph Smith (edited and revised at the beginning of the twentieth century by B. H. Roberts) created an enduring image that influenced Mormon theology, doctrine, and polity for generations. With new historical documents now available, however, a reappraisal of Smith and the origins of Mormonism is necessary.

Ronald O. Barney, a former editor of the Joseph Smith Papers, applies new interpretations to Smith in history and memory, re-examining both his writings and contemporary accounts of him. The book explores the best methodologies for appraising the historical record, including a review of Smith’s world and its contextual background, an analysis of his foundational experiences, and a characterization of Smith as a man and prophet. Though the premise of re-evaluation may be unsettling to traditionalists, a modern reconsideration of the historical record’s entire range of sources is necessary to fashion a strategy for evaluating Smith and his enduring but complex legacy.
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