Reading about the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints feels like I'm reading about my own personal history. Its history became my own when I was born since I was born and raised in a Mormon family, but it has become my history by choice as I have embraced the Church's teachings and membership. Joseph Smith's life and experiences are inextricably connected with the rise and nascent progress of the Church. Therefore, reading about Joseph Smith's history feels as if I'm reading my own expanded family history.
Rough Stone Rolling has thus far provided wonderful insight into Joseph's life, more so than other books or articles I have previously read. Bushman's method of writing, even though he's a Latter-day Saint, is detached and clinical. You won't find him describing odd elements (from a modern reader's standpoint) of Joseph's life and family and then hurry to say: "But he was a prophet because . . ." Not having read all of the historical documents myself, the book seems honest and fair. By virtue of what Joseph Smith not only claimed to have seen, heard, and eventually taught, what he accomplished begs investigation and discussion. Joseph was and still is a personality to be reckoned with. Even if one believes he was a charlatan, a pretender, delusional, or whatever else, one still has to try and make sense of what he did and the religious organization he began, which is now global in its reach and growing rapidly.
The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which subtitle was added much, much later, is used by Latter-day Saints, their missionaries, including myself when I served a mission, to prove that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. Often Latter-day Saints will read Matthew 7:15 - 20 and contest that since The Book of Mormon is "good fruit" it must have come from a good source, even a prophet. Rough Stone Rolling provides an exceptionally interesting perspective on The Book of Mormon and the various explanations for its existence. I was unaware of many of the secular explanations extant and was truly surprised by some of them. Granted, many are surprised by the theological and orthodox explanation of The Book of Mormon's existence. I recognize my incredulity toward secular explanations are mirrored and re-doubled by those not claiming my faith as they try and make sense of The Book of Mormon. Richard Bushman truly gave me a greater appreciation for how miraculous the book is, and how to understand others' doubt regarding it.
Thus far, I have thoroughly enjoyed Rough Stone Rolling. The tone of the book is academic but respectful. With each developing episode in Joseph's life, I have become increasingly eager to read the book. I'm looking forward to continuing my association with Joseph and the Latter-day Saints in the forthcoming chapters of Rough Stone Rolling.
Other Topics of Interest:
Rolling with the Rough Stone, Part 1
Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt