Guide Lesson Plans No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith

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Rough Stone Rolling , perhaps the most significant and well-researched biographical treatment of the Prophet to date. The two biographies present the historical interpretations of a dissenter and of a believer—one whose research and analysis of the life of Joseph Smith led her away from the faith, and one whose research and thought confirmed it. Though he began a history several times, and though he had scribes to keep record of many of the important events in the beginning of the Church, Joseph never wrote a full autobiography.

As a result, he left many events and issues unexplained—hence his enigmatic statement near the end of his life: No man knows my history.

Full text of "No Man Knows My History"

I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself. The list has become longer since the article and greatly expands when one includes lesser biographical treatment. Moreover, Bushman is the first to admit that his long-awaited biography,. Only in a plentitude of historical endeavors can we plumb the depths of any subject. But is there something soft-minded about this—every man their own historian; everyone has their own view. In a sense, everything goes. Is there a danger of incoherence here? Are we to foresee a future of multiple studies, multiple perspectives—many Joseph Smiths—.

Most historians have rejected the idea that pure objectivity is possible in historical interpretation or any interpretation, for that matter. Though there are many significant biographers who could be identified, in this paper I will focus on the two published by Knopf: McKay then an Apostle, who eventually become President of the Church. Her own father served as a mission president, a stake president, and an assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve. I felt very quickly that I could never go back to the old life, and I never did. Bushman entered Harvard in About this time, Bushman received a mission call to New England.

During his first interview, his mission president asked him if he had a testimony, to which he replied no. Without it, I do not know where I would be. Non-Mormon religious historian Charles L. Brodie paints a picture of a Joseph who, after being mentored by a local folk magician named Walters, developed his own seeing powers and led gullible locals on bogus treasure hunts searching for lost Indian treasure.

She, in a sense, awoke a slumbering giant. As a believing Latter-day Saint, Bushman can lay no more claim to objectivity than can Brodie as a disbeliever. I will address each of the above issues from the viewpoints of both Brodie and Bushman. I will identify these issues as 1 evolution of seership, 2 development of the First Vision narrative, 3 Book of Mormon authorship, and 4 the revelation on plural marriage. His constant prayer to his Heavenly Father was to manifest His will concerning this marvelous power.

The True Joseph? Bushman, Brodie, and the Multiplicity of Historical Joseph Smiths

Development of the First Vision narrative. Brodie believes that Joseph fabricated his First Vision experience years after the organization of the Church. Or it may have been sheer invention, created some time after when the need arose for a magnificent tradition to cancel out the stories of his fortune-telling and money-digging. And he was writing for his own people. Memories are always distorted by wishes, thoughts, and, above all, the obligations of the moment.


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Bushman points out that at the time of the vision, Joseph, knowing nothing of the future, could not have known that this was what would become known as the First Vision, nor could he foresee its great significance to an as-yet-nonexistent church. He explained the vision as he must have first understood it, as a personal conversion. Book of Mormon authorship. She also points out that it was a common theory at the time that Native Americans are a remnant of the lost ten tribes of Israel.

Revelation on plural marriage. On the issue of plural marriage, Brodie and Bushman are divided primarily on the issue of motivation. To Brodie, the motivation is purely sexual. But he also points out that it is probable that such relations were absent from many of the marriages—a point Brodie and Bushman both concur upon. They told him no church was correct, and that he should join none. From that day until his death, Joseph was constantly and consistently persecuted. Unfavorable stories were circulated about him, his family continued to struggle against false accusations, and lost their land and home.

Later, Joseph saw an angel who tasked Joseph with the responsibility of retrieving a portion of records, which contained a history of a people who had come to the Americas before the time of Christ, translate them, and share them with the world.

From the time that locals discovered that Joseph had been allowed to take the plates from the ground, he was forced to create ingenious locations and unusual spots to hide this precious record. It took some time for Joseph to learn how to comprehend and decipher the meanings of the symbols on the plates.

The True Joseph? Bushman, Brodie, and the Multiplicity of Historical Joseph Smiths

As Joseph was then illiterate, he required scribes to write his translation. Oliver Cowdery was his third scribe.


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  • Within six months after Oliver joined him, the whole of the book was translated and ready for publication as The Book of Mormon. Joseph claimed that The Book of Mormon is the most accurate book written, and that one can get nearer to God through the reading of this book than any other written.

    On April 6, Joseph organized the Lord's church with six members. Joseph preached the gospel as he had learned it in the Book of Mormon, soon gathering a large following. Their baptisms were often disrupted by armed mobs. Regardless, the baptisms continued, and the church grew. Men were sent out among the people around the country to preach the gospel. In Kirtland, Joseph began to find that the greatest enemies of the church were those who had left the church as apostates.

    In each of the cities they developed, apostates joined mobs and led them in persecution of the Saints. Each city also had a temple built or planned.

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    Kirtland and Nauvoo's temples were completed, and sacred ordinances were given to the worthy members of the church. The Kirtland Temple was desecrated, and the Nauvoo Temple was totally destroyed after being left by members of the church. Political power, along with a sense of clannishness and pride among the Mormons, led to a hatred and consistent persecution of the members of the church.

    Three times they were forced from their homes with nothing but the clothing on the backs in the middle of the winter. They lost homes, food, and everything of value to the mobs each time. Joseph was charged with tyranny and breaking the peace many times. The last time, he knew that his life would be forfeit if he turned himself in.

    However, he gave himself up to Governor Ford, governor of Illinois, who had promised him safety. Before evening, the mob, dressed as Indians, stormed the cell in which Joseph was held with his brother and friends. There, Joseph and his brother, Hyrum, were murdered, martyrs to the cause of the church and the Lord. Many thought that the death of the Prophet, Joseph Smith, would bring an end to the church he founded. After some trials in which some of the leaders left the church and started their own churches, Brigham Young was voted President, Prophet, Seer and Revelator for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    The Mormons moved to the mountains of the Great Salt Lake, where they were able to finally establish their church in peace. It is now over a million strong, with over active temples. Brodie, and many like her, tried to defame the honor of Joseph Smith, claiming that he was a fraud, a charlatan, and a trickster. No matter the lies, the calumny or defamation, Joseph Smith is held in honor by millions of members of the church he restored to the earth, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

    His memory is held with respect as the first modern prophet of these days. Read more from the Study Guide.