American Crucifixion

The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church
By: Alex Beam
Narrated by: Michael Prichard
Length: 10 hrs and 13 mins
4 out of 5 stars (128 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

On June 27, 1844, a mob stormed the jail in the dusty frontier town of Carthage, Illinois. Clamorous and angry, they were hunting down a man they saw as a grave threat to their otherwise quiet lives: The founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. They wanted blood.

At thirty-nine years old, Smith had already lived an outsized life. In addition to starting the Church of Latter-Day Saints and creating his own "Golden Bible" - the Book of Mormon - he had worked as a water-dowser and treasure hunter. He'd led his people to Ohio, then Missouri, then Illinois, where he founded a city larger than fledgling Chicago. He was running for President. And, secretly, he had married more than thirty women.

In American Crucifixion, Alex Beam tells how Smith went from charismatic leader to public enemy: How his most seismic revelation-the doctrine of polygamy-created a rift among his people; how that schism turned to violence; and how, ultimately, Smith could not escape the consequences of his ambition and pride.

Mormonism is America's largest and most enduring native religion, and the "martyrdom" of Joseph Smith is one of its transformational events. Smith's brutal assassination propelled the Mormons to colonize the American West and claim their place in the mainstream of American history. American Crucifixion is a gripping story of scandal and violence, with deep roots in our national identity.

©2014 Alex Beam (P)2014 Tantor

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Weak beginning strong finish

Would you try another book from Alex Beam and/or Michael Prichard?

I don't know

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

This wasn't a novel so this question doesn't apply

What did you like about the performance? What did you dislike?

Performance was fine, it was the material

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

This is a history, not a novel, as such likely not the subject matter to be made into a movie

Any additional comments?

Beam does not do a very good job describing the development of Mormonism. He does even a weaker job in describing Smith's religious narrative, and religious narrative is what Smith did. Now as the date approached June of 1844, the month when Smith was killed, Beam's book gets much better as he leaves the religious narrative part and plunges into the history around Smith's death. Beam also does a good job in the history describing the aftermath of Smith's death. So the first third or the first half of the book is a one star. The second half is a 3 or 4 star. If you already understand the background to June of 1844 then from this point forward the book is good. If someone doesn't understand the information leading up to June 1844, this is not the book to start with.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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All religious histories are not created equal

I think that Mormonism has one of the most unique histories of any major religion and I am surprised that the story of Joseph Smith is not more widely known; his name is recognizable, his institution is still politically influential, and his history is fascinating. This book captures the emotion that surrounded Mormonism's first prophet. He was loved and hated arduously, and both camps had good reason. He was at once manipulative and loyal, pious and promiscuous, forthright and secretive, democrat and autocrat, and it is precisely all the contradiction that makes this book such an enjoyable read. That said, his story is more tragedy than comedy, for all his faults he did not seem to be violent and his death can only be described as murder. The return of his corpse to Nauvoo was a poignant scene that the author described beautifully and sympathetically. If you have not read anything about Joseph Smith this book is an excellent place to start.

20 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Great Book. A story which needs to become a film.

I really appreciate the history in this book. My only recommendation would be for the producer to do just a little bit more research so that the reader pronounces the Mormon words correctly.

2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Boring Reader and Lack of Primary Sources

There was a lot of great info in this book but I was disappointed when I learned Beam had relied mostly on secondary sources instead of primary sources. Still interesting but I think other Smith biographies have more promise.

5 people found this helpful

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Great Book, Great Narration!

Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as I am, may find this book disturbing. But I didn’t. I like it very much. That’s because my testimony is strong, and I can enjoy books by church members and non-members alike. This biography is by a non-member who meticulously mentions all the complaints, criticisms, rumors, and controversies there are about Joseph Smith and the Church he founded. But the author is very respectful in so doing and also presents the believers’ views. The story he presents tells both sides of the issues. It’s also a historical work, so the dated events are what they are, and are well-described. The fact that anti-Mormons exist in the world shouldn’t scare away any readers away from listening to this book. In fact, all the anti-Mormon fervor is what lead to The Prophet’s murder in the first place, so it’s really relevant! Thus, I felt the story told by this author was fair, as well as entertaining. It’s a real “page turner” for an audiobook!

The narrator is great, one of the best in the business, and I assume a non-member of the Church. I couldn’t help wondering what he must have thought as he narrated this story. From accounts of heavenly visions to polygamy, there’s a lot to digest, and never a dull moment!

I highly recommend this audiobook for people of all faiths who are interested in the amazing life and tragic death of Joseph Smith, Jr.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Excellent History of an Critical Event in Mormon History

Well constructed and moving retelling of the people and events leading up to the killing of the Mormon prophet, Joseph Smith, and the subsequent trial and release of those accused of the crime. The audio recording was a pleasure to listen to with a tone and tenor of the reader that made the recording extremely pleasant to listen to. I recommend this audio book very highly to anyone interested in American history and the LDS faith.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Fascinating and Fair

A friend once told me that the only people who care about Mormonism are Mormons. In general, I think he is right. Aside from being a punchline, most people could probably care less about Mormon history. So I was not expecting this book to be as fair and substantive as it turned out to be. I found it well-researched, balanced, and respectful.

1 person found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Some truth, some lies

The trouble with the book is like most books it just comes from one side. Sometimes I felt like he was willing to give the Mormons a fair shake but sometimes, like when he was describing the miracle of the saints hearing Brigham Young sound like Joseph Smith his account is just wrong as many personal journals attest. As long as you don't think his words are the gospel there are things you can learn. Take it with a grain of salt and don't put all your learning eggs into his basket.

13 people found this helpful

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Fascinating!

Great! As unbiased as a reasonable observer can be about a difficult subject. It for me was in the league of rough stone rolling or no man knows my history, but in a more digestable way.

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Great fiction disguised as history.

Too much use of the term "secret" is used to portray open and well understood concepts. Every negative notion about "Mormons" is rehashed citing no references as to lead the reader to believe the only real intent of the book was just another anti-Mormon yellow sheet devoid of any real historical facts other than those that suit already skeptical public. Waste of ink... even electronic ink.

1 person found this helpful