Mormon studies, Joseph Smith, prophet, biography
Since Henry Caswall published The Prophet of the Nineteenth Century in 1843, a year before Joseph Smith's death, nineteen book-length biographies of the Prophet have appeared in print, more than half of them since 1940. They differ wildly in tone and perspective, as might be imagined. Several are still worth considering by serious students of Joseph Smith's life. Among the more notable, I. Woodbridge Riley's The Founder of Mormonism is severely critical but ingenious and original, the first biography to attempt a scientific explanation of Joseph Smith's revelations. Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History is a magnificent piece of journalism that oscillates between snide skepticism and genuine admiration and is always interesting. John Henry Evans's enthusiastic presentation of the Prophet's achievements in Joseph Smith, an American Prophet is credited by former Church Historian Leonard Arrington with having attracted him to Church history. Donna Hill's balanced but noncommittal Joseph Smith, the First Mormon tells a good tale with the benefit of her brother Marvin Hill's extensive knowledge of Joseph Smith's life. Hill's is the biography Latter-day Saints are most likely to recommend to interested friends. Each of these studies deserves attention from anyone seriously interested in Joseph Smith. After more than half a century, No Man Knows My History is still considered by most American historians as the best account of Joseph's life. To the surprise of Mormons, many non-Mormon readers think that Brodie presents a sympathetic as well as a revealing picture of Joseph Smith.
Bushman, Richard Lyman
"A Joseph Smith for the Twenty-First Century,"
BYU Studies Quarterly: Vol. 40:
3, Article 5.
Available at: https://scholarsarchive.byu.edu/byusq/vol40/iss3/5