So much of a biographical nature has been written lately on the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith that one may well wonder if there is anything new or important left to say about him. Dan Vogel and Richard Bushman, in their dramatically counterpoint interpretations of the Prophet--the former contending he was a "pious fraud" and the latter asserting he was a legitimate American prophet--have forced us to reconsider the earlier arguments and interpretations of Donna and Marvin Hill, Fawn Brodie, John Henry Evans, and George Q. Cannon. Yet the contrasting contributions of these latest two scholars, and the fervent, sometimes deeply emotional responses to them, have reinforced in my mind the conviction that the study of Joseph Smith's life and religious contributions is a fruitful field, a field already to harvest that continually beckons new generations to careful study and reflection. Too many devotional defenders in the past have denied the value of historical documentation, while too many critics have derided the place of scriptural authority. Both are necessary for the believing Latter-day Saint.

Original Publication Citation

Joseph Smith and the First Principles of the Gospel. Religious Educator, Vol. 11 #2 (21): 11-3.

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

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Religious Studies Center




Religious Education


Church History and Doctrine