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Publisher's Summary

Founder of the largest indigenous Christian church in American history, Joseph Smith published the 584-page Book of Mormon when he was 23 and went on to organize a church, found cities, and attract thousands of followers before his violent death at age 38. Richard Bushman, an esteemed cultural historian and a practicing Mormon, moves beyond the popular stereotype of Smith as a colorful fraud to explore his personality, his relationships with others, and how he received revelations.

An arresting narrative of the birth of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling also brilliantly evaluates the prophet's bold contributions to Christian theology and his cultural place in the modern world.

©2005 Richard Lyman Bushman (P)2018 Tantor

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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Polarizing...in a great way

What did you love best about Joseph Smith?

A few months after this book was originally published in print in 2005, it was recommended to me by 2 people independently of each other. I was struck by the polar opposite point-of-view these 2 people came from. One of these recommenders was a firm believer in Mormonism and in the divine origin of Joseph Smith's calling, while the other was an ex-mormon seeking to use it to tear down the church. While the one was recommending Rough Stone Rolling in order to promote and bolster Joseph Smith's claims, the other was recommending it as evidence that, in his eyes, Joseph was a charlatan. My attention is piqued by any book that can make contenders for both sides of a controversial topic believe it supports their respective claims, particularly when that topic is one I care passionately about.

31 of 32 people found this review helpful

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An Excellent Biography

What made the experience of listening to Joseph Smith the most enjoyable?

I read this book a couple times about ten years ago. I looked forward to an audio version - so I'm happy it's finally here. It's well narrated.
More important, I've never found a more even-handed treatment of Joseph Smith. Bushman hides nothing and presents Smith in all his complexity. Five stars for sure.

12 of 12 people found this review helpful

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A reasonable history and a excellent audio performance

Some now dated material such as concerning polyandry.

LDS will find the constant and seemingly unnecessary downplaying of treasured miraculous events more than a little vexing. On the other hand, while those who, a priori, consider Joseph’s claims impossible will not be swayed regardless of the way the story is told, to consistently undercut and hide from the miraculous when discussing the life of one who claimed to be a prophet is to inadequately inform. Readers may well wonder why the Joseph portrayed in these pages continues to be a source of fascination, much less inspiration.

One may also wonder what the purpose of this book is, if it is not to irritate believers and mystify the rest!

Audio recording: on the whole, superb. One gets the sense that the reader felt more passionately about the material than the author. Of minor importance, mispronunciation of a variety of specifically Mormon words will make it more difficult for listeners to recognize them in other contexts.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Great Biography

So hard to review this and do it any justice. It truly captures Joseph Smith and the history of Mormonism in a way that gets anyone member or nonmember alike to delve into and seriously consider the story. The author gives a very fair angle with an inside advantage but an outside perspective. The Mormon history is displayed in a way that examines the critics and the traditions. I’m a Mormon and find it very faith promoting, but I’m not convinced my wife would feel the same way. So well done. Read or listened to it twice.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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enjoying it.

more than half way through. I am enjoying it. however, would have thought audio reader would have done his home work on proper pronunciation of names and places. prevented me from hearing Richard's voice and recognizing his authorship in the book because of the pronunciation highjacking...

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Joseph Smith a Rough stone rolling

The story was great I’m sorry But I don’t believe the narrator was familiar With many words within this religion. His pronunciation of many words I found to be quite odd

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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very detailed and objective

good detailed and objective information a little hard to stay interested at times due to poor pacing and mundane information, but in the end a thorough and shocking depiction of the horrors of Mormon persecution and the ability of a people to play and win the long game.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Very detailed and appeared to be unbiased

I highly recommend this book if you want lots of details about Joseph Smith's life. I enjoyed hearing what Joseph's friends said about him and what his enemies said about him. There were many details I have not read before from various minutes and journal entries.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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incredible and thorough. Bushman gives the facts.

Bushman takes the facts and lays them out before the reader allowing them to make their own call and connect some dots on their own. she does not skip over the unpleasant portions of the history but gives as much of an objective view as I've read.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A remarkable work.

A fascinating book that showed Joseph Smith for who he was; a man, and the great work which he started. Out of small things comes that which is great. Clearly shows the struggles he faced and the Divine help you must have had through the way.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful