I've read some mammoth books, brow bruising as I have referred to them before. Some books are just flat out long and others are difficult, sometimes they're both. Recently I have decided to take on Richard L. Bushman's Rough Stone Rolling, which weighs in at 561 pages, not including the notes and bibliography, and has a quite few words on every page. From the onset, the book appears detailed, thorough, and wholly fascinating.
I'm a Latter-day Saint; therefore, my interest in Joseph Smith is natural since my theology and faith is supported a great deal on what he did during his lifetime. The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ, which Joseph Smith claims to have translated by the gift and power of God, is the keystone of the denomination I belong to. Joseph's "First Vision" signaled the ushering in of "the dispensation of the fulness of times" (Ephesians 1:10) and is akin to the celestial visions experienced by the great patriarchs and prophets chronicled in the Bible. Above all, Joseph's first-hand witness of the Savior Jesus Christ provides clarity to biblical truths and assures a modern world that God isn't too far away after all. In short, Joseph Smith has had and does have a profound impact on me as a human being. So who was he?
I wanted to get a greater insight into Joseph when I read The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother. Alas, I found little I didn't already know and very little in terms of genuine insight into Joseph's character and personality. Furthermore, Lucy Mack Smith's history more often than not was a chronicle of her own life instead of Joseph's. I longed for an intellectual and spiritual experience reminiscent of when I read James E. Talmage's masterful Jesus the Christ. Jesus, who I knew and worshiped as my Savior, was never actually a person who walked, talked, ached, wept, and rejoiced until I read Jesus the Christ. I'd like to have a similar experience reading Rough Stone Rolling.
Although Latter-day Saints don't worship Joseph Smith, and are quite sensitive toward accusations that we do, we do have a certain reverence for him and the role he played in God's restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That reverence, albeit appropriate, can make Joseph Smith feel distant, perhaps even untouchable. I'd like to break down some of the barriers between myself and Joseph as a human being and get to know him as I would if he visited my home and shared dinner with my family. It's a high expectation, and I have no idea if Rough Stone Rolling will be able to deliver on my hope, but I'm willing to spend the next several weeks, probably months, in pursuit of that hope.
Considering how long the book is and how little time I have to read, I may post a few thoughts here on the Thousander Club blog to act as a public journal during my reading journey. Again, I may have to spend a few months to get through Rough Stone Rolling, and I really, really hope it's worth the time.
Other Topics of Interest:
Reflections: The History of Joseph Smith by His Mother
Reflections: People of Paradox: A History of Mormon Culture
Brow Bruising Reads: The Hardest Book I have Ever Read