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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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What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars
  • William
  • Farmington, UT, United States
  • 01-16-15

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 of 6 people found this review helpful

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

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.

17 of 19 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

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 of 6 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Keeps you wanting more

If you could sum up American Crucifixion in three words, what would they be?

very well done and it leaves the listener feeling as though they were there and more informed.

What other book might you compare American Crucifixion to and why?

I would need to say the crucifixion of any great man and his cause is a tragedy, but the closest book that comes close is the crucifixion of Christ

Which scene was your favorite?

my favorite scene would need to be at the very beginning when the author describes the mob that killed the prophet in cold blood

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

How Joseph Smith Legacy Lives and Lives would be in red ink as it drips down the page as blood would.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    1 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.

11 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Clearly one sided

This book is an attack on the lds church. The writer did not try to be fair.

8 of 20 people found this review helpful