I have been reading Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman. I can tell that it is going to take a while to get through it. I love to read and so far I love both the content and the style of the book. The story is, of course familiar and as yet I have found nothing surprising or unexpected. I am comparing it to other Joseph Smith biographies in my library. It was my mother who got me started on collecting and reading them so many years ago.
I hope you won’t be shocked to learn that among the dozen or more Joseph Smith Biographies that I have read I include No Man Knows my History: The Life of Joseph Smith by Fawn Brodie. I’m sure you can probably guess that I didn’t like it. Although the research was excellent, I did not agree with her assumptions, interpretations and conclusions. I am no scholar but I know that she did not include material that would have cast doubt on her theories.
Differing viewpoints of history
That’s why it is so important to get different viewpoints on something of historical importance. For example, did you know that there are at least nine early accounts of Joseph Smith’s First Vision? Some people have a problem with that. They contend that the accounts differ and demonstrate a revisionist history that is deceitful. A close inspection and comparison of the accounts reveals otherwise. Yet, critics continue to claim that the official version is inaccurate.
There is no way I can do justice to the subject of the First Vision or the multiple versions that have come down to us through history. Others have extensively investigated, researched and reported on the various versions. As always, I bow to Jeff Lindsay and the marvelous work he has done over the years on the oft-linked and quoted LDS FAQ on the First Vision. Historian Milton Backman published an excellent summary in the Ensign of the first-hand accounts.
Please forgive me for wading into an area on which I am not an authority. I claim no expertise in either LDS history or scholarly research. I am just a simple computer guy who loves the Church and the gospel of Jesus Christ as taught in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have often read the term revisionist history used by critics of the church who claim that there seems to be a massive cover-up of our history. They also refer to the hidden history.
I’m sorry, but I just don’t see it. Perhaps you could point me to some authoritative sources. I am just your typical California Mormon who grew up in the Church attending Seminary classes in High School and Institute classes in College. I served a mission and taught in Seminary for several years. I have also taught in Sunday School, Primary and Priesthood for many years. My callings include serving in Bishoprics, as a High Counselor and a High Priest Group Leader.
What am I missing?
Am I just naive? Every time I chance upon something on the Internet claiming to have the inside scoop on the real Mormon history I am disappointed to find nothing that I didn’t already know. Some sites point out that I should be questioning my faith and that they can help me with my recovery from Mormonism. I didn’t know that being a Mormon was a sickness or disease. Other than bad grammar, the things they claim should shock me, don’t. What’s wrong with me?
I have studied the life and teachings of Joseph Smith all my life. I have taught what he taught. I have studied the works that he brought forth by the gift and power of God. I have embraced the Church that he restored and all that it teaches. Of course I was not there when Joseph received his First Vision. Neither were you. But I do know this: what Joseph said happened, really did happen just as he said it did. This I know from personal revelation obtained through prayer.