Four Things You Didn’t Know About Joseph Smith
Despite its presence in popular culture—from TV’s Big Love to Broadway’s The Book of Mormon—Americans still don’t know what to make of Mormons and the Mormon religion. According to a 2011 Pew Forum, “half say they know little or nothing about Mormonism”! If you feel in the dark about Mormonism yourself, then PBS documentary writer Jane Barnes’ fascinating memoir FALLING IN LOVE WITH JOSEPH SMITH: My Search for the Real Prophet (Tarcher/Penguin hardcover; on-sale Aug 16) will shed some light on this very timely subject. (READ AN EXCERPT!)
In anticipation of FALLING IN LOVE WITH JOSEPH SMITH’s publication on August 16, 2012, author Jane Barnes has compiled a list of four things that you didn’t know about Joseph Smith and the Mormon religion:
1.) Contrary to popular opinion, Joseph Smith’s religious genius was not triggered by the excesses of the Second Great Awakening that took place close to his home in the Burnt Over District. Joseph was more influenced by the culture of his family’s passionate love of Christ, The Bible, prophecies, visions, folk magic and longing for a church where they would fit in.
2.) Joseph Smith had essentially three years of education, yet he wrote The Book of Mormon—a work that essentially amounts to the Declaration of Independence for scripture. It is a wildly radical work. Not only does it break Christ out of the Bible and the closed Christian canon, but it also understands the consequences. If the Bible needs to be supported by further scripture, then all sorts of prophets, all sorts of individuals will claim their scripture is the holy one. Joseph’s scripture sees to the bottom of this crisis.
3.) Contrary to popular belief, and to what many critical works have argued, polygamy was not simply a way for Joseph Smith to sleep with more women or impose his own wantonness on the church. Polygamy was a serious experiment to alter the relationship between sexes, increase the bonds between his people, and project the Mormon religion and its devotees into eternity.
4.) Joseph’s marriage to Emma, a strong, passionate, intelligent woman, was painfully tested by plural marriage. She fought it from the start, and he was affected by her objection. After she threw his written revelation telling her to cooperate into the fire, he took no new plural wife in the last eight months of his life. We’ll never know what that meant for his marriage because he was murdered by people who felt he was a menace to a society of law.