Joseph Smith, the Prophet

Books about Joseph Smith abound. Some attempt a full-scale life. Many select an aspect of the Prophet’s spiritual career—his teachings, writings, revelations, or prophecies—or significant events, such as the 1820 vision or the 1844 martyrdom. A few focus on his ancestry, his family, or reminiscences of his associates. The Prophet appears in many other books and articles not directly about him but about Latter-day Saints individually and collectively. Thus when another volume about Joseph Smith appears, we need to ask where the volume fits on the shelf of studies of the Prophet and, then, what it contributes to an understanding of the young man whose brief earthly career now impacts the lives of more than seven million people.

Truman Madsen’s book is not biography, though it touches upon aspects of Joseph Smith’s character and personality. Nor is it primarily a collection of the Prophet’s ideas, despite numerous quotations from his discourses and writings. It is not history, although cast into a loosely chronological set of thematic chapters. Simply put, this latest look at Joseph Smith the Prophet is a compendium of faith-promoting reminiscences, combined with snippets of Joseph’s own words, all laced into an informed and informal commentary reflecting the insights of one who admires Joseph Smith’s humanity and affirms his prophetic calling. The book is a tribute as well as an attempt to profile the personality of Joseph Smith as a religious leader.

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