The Maze of Mormonism

Review is called for mainly on the strength of Martin’s reputation as a specialist on the “cults,” with a record of lectures, books, and even editorship of something of a journal devoted to them. The preface claims for the book a reliance on source material: “the first attempt in over twenty-five years to present a thoroughly documented, historical, theological, and apologetic survey of the Mormon religion.” Although recognizing the outdated and unreliable nature of much literature on Mormonism, the book does not substantially alter the situation. For one thing, the author has not mastered his “vast and complex subject” (p. 34), since he redundantly insists that Mormon scholars have not treated issues that have actually been discussed many times. Failure to respond is taken regularly as supporting evidence, so a reviewer must protect himself against appearing to validate what is not discussed (for want of space) by paraphrasing the epilogue of John’s Gospel: “There are many other errors in this book, the which if they, were stated every one, the whole journal would not contain them.”

The initial chapters concern the “verdict of history.” Of all people, the star witness against Joseph Smith is his mother. By mentioning that Josiah Stoal had heard of Joseph Smith’s powers of spiritual discernment, Lucy Smith (in Martin’s view) confirms the Palmyra affidavits on “money digging.” But her narrative places Stoal’s appearance after the visitation of the angel, and there is no reason to suppose that he heard anything different from a garbled version of the visions, which (according to Joseph Smith’s story) were perverted in the bitter tirades against him. As for the affidavits, they merely prove the same thing—that stories were circulated about Joseph Smith. Martin seems to be unaware that many family members and close associates also left recollections of this period quite at variance with the gossiping residents of Palmyra.

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