Remini's vital portrait contextualizes Smith's enduring contribution to American life and culture within the distinctive characteristics of an extraordinary age.
©2002 Robert V. Remini; (P)2002 Books on Tape, Inc.
"Impressive scholarship with a riveting narrative." (The New York Review of Books)
Love him or hate him, you'll find yourself bored. He presents information more or less neutrally, but this presentation also lacks any of the personalization needed to suceed. Perhaps the narrator might share some of the blame, but it's hard to imagine making an intensely debated historical figure intensely, painfully boring.
Whether or not you like Joseph Smith, I think you'll find this book somewhat lacking. If you are LDS and believe Joseph Smith is a true Prophet of God, you'll be disappointed in how skeptical the author is; given his knowledge, background, and the wealth of information he was given for his book. Conversely, if you think Joseph Smith was a pretender and liar; you'll be disappointed in the author's care of Joseph's history and the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. The author misses the point that the works of Joseph Smith comprise the keystone of one of the fastest growing Churchs in the world; thus you cannot ride the fence on Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon; he was either a Prophet or a liar and the Book of Mormon is either a book of God or a book of satan. If you are seeking a definitive characterization of Joseph Smith because you want to know the truth about Joseph, you'll not find it in this book. The author is all over the playing field trying to cover both sides of his issue.
Mr. Remini tries hard to objective, but his unstated thesis comes through clearly: Joseph Smith and his works are simply a product of the times. He honestly tries to be fair, but cannot get beyond his own preconceived notions-- he does not try to present a Latter-day Saint explanation for significant events (e.g., that the Book of Mormon addresses modern concerns not because it was written in 1830 but because it was written anciently with an eye toward modern times). As a scholar of the Jacksonian era of American history, Mr. Remini reads into nearly every aspect of the Mormon Prophet's life something reflective of this thesis. An example: the "Word of Wisdom" (the Mormon "health code") was a product of the temperance movement. Another example: the priesthood government of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was (and presumably still is) a reflection of populist democratic sentiments. I had hoped this book would help place Joseph Smith more clearly into the context of his times. Instead, I heard the times placed into Joseph Smith's life. On the technical side, the reader might have done well to talk to a Latter-day Saint or at least check the pronunciation guide in the Book of Mormon. Nearly every Book of Mormon name is mispronounced and is jarring to the Latter-day Saint ear.
The author takes great measures to tell a compelling, truthful story. You can tell there was a lot of research done with this book. It is missing a lot of details, which I feel, would help the reader/listener have a better understanding of who Joseph Smith was, and a better understanding as to WHY he did things. The author tells the story as an observant outsider simply telling what he sees. I find this method slightly flawed, because theology played a role in almost everything Joseph did. Theology is not explained as in-depth as I would like. The author doesn't go into detail about theology - and I understand why, because this was, what I gathered, a historical look at Joseph Smith and his impact on a changing American frontier. The Mormon reader should hardly blame the author, nor should he condemn him. This is book portrays how the world views Joseph Smith. The Mormon reader would do well to remember this as they are reading / listening. I gave this 3/5 stars because I truly feel like there should have been more doctrine / theology explained in the book. As I see it, the life of Joseph Smith, from a historical, worldly perspective, is not enough for someone to take interest in what he taught and believed - the restored church and gospel of Jesus Christ. This book is worth your time if you are interested in a cliff-notes timeline of Mormon history, but not so if you're interested in theology and doctrine.
I give Robert Remini an A for trying to understand Joseph Smith. He did his research & asked great questions but if treated as a secular object study, Joseph Smith simply can not be understood. As a member of the LDS Faith, I'm not upset about the Prophet Joseph being accused of being a treasure seeker or a pervert for having plural wives...I understand how critics might think that way. What is so difficult is for people to understand just what Joseph Smith seeing God the Father & His Son Jesus Christ in a spiritual visitation means to mankind. Remini treats the event as if it were an ordinary happening for Smith & other spiritualists of that era...I.e No Big Deal. That's where this book, while interesting looses the spark that could have made it great. For us who have accepted the visitation as being true...it's the biggest deal save Christ's atonement and resurrection or His Second Coming. So, in the end the book is like drinking a can of Soda Pop that has lost its carbonation.
The author's a historian who typically writes about 19th Century American Presidents. This book describes Smith's life and its influences, such as the Second Great Awakening, Manifest Destiny, books that had speculated about Native American origins, political paranoia, vigilante mobs, etc.
I would recommend it based on that the entire book isn't "common knowledge".
The narrator seemed quite unprofessional. Mispronouncing several names that were repeatedly used, and reading without break until his strong voice at the beginning of the chapter turned into a raspy old voice by the end of the chapter.
The book was written well enough, that I wouldn't mind a follow up book on the successor of Joseph Smith; Brigham Young and learning more about the 2nd prophet.
This history is pretty much the history that everyone hated in High School. It competently covers dates and events. It misses the profound, on occasion mumbles a sentence or two about the controversy. Whether one likes or dislikes Joseph Smith, he is not a boring historical figure. Everything that he did had a profound effect on everyone around him. I am not sure how a history of such a person become a jumble of dates and events.
No, but I am suspect about this author.
I don't think the reading of the history was the problem. However, the narrator completely missed the pronounciation of key Book of Mormon Characters. But this summarizes the entire book, not even motivated enough about this history to even get the names correct. Someone who was really interested in this history would have nailed such detail.
Not even sure what this means
This is a non emotional, a disinterested history on Joseph Smith. Was the motivation of writing this book to get benefit of the Mitt Romney effect?
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