Smith, Jr., Joseph Criticism - Essay

Joseph Smith, Jr. (essay date 1838)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Extracts from the History of Joseph Smith, the Prophet," in The Pearl of Great Price, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, 1958, pp. 46-58.

[In the following excerpt, written in 1838, Smith recounts the circumstances surrounding the transcription and publication of the Book of Mormon.]

1. Owing to the many reports which have been put in circulation by evil-disposed and designing persons, in relation to the rise and progress of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all of which have been designed by the authors thereof to militate against its character as a Church and its progress in the world—I have been induced to write this history,...

(The entire section is 5686 words.)

The Nauvoo Expositor (essay date 1844)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An untitled article in The Nauvoo Expositor, Vol. 1, No. 1, June 7, 1844.

[The following excerpt is taken from the first and only issue of the Nauvoo Expositor, a paper published by Mormon opponents of Joseph Smith's leadership. In response to the Expositor's attacks on himself and Mormonism, on the evening of June 10, Smith and the Nauvoo city council ordered his Nauvoo Legion to destroy the newspaper. Smith's action against the Expositor spawned the series of events which led to the murder of Smith and his brother Hyrum on June 27. In the following excerpt, seceders from the Mormon Church at Nauvoo explain the reasons for their dissension.]


(The entire section is 4272 words.)

Francis M. Higbee (essay date 1844)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Citizens of Hancock County," in The Nauvoo Expositor, Vol. 1, No. 1, June 7, 1844.

[In the following excerpt, dated June 5, 1844, the author attempts to dissuade the citizens of Hancock County from voting for Joseph Smith's brother Hyrum in an upcoming election by portraying Joseph Smith as an enemy of the U.S. government.]


It is well known to all of you that the August election is fast approaching, and with it comes the great and terrible conflict. It is destined to be a day pregnant with big events; for it will be the index to the future.—Should we be defeated upon that occasion, our die is cast, and our...

(The entire section is 1011 words.)

I. Woodbridge Riley (essay date 1902)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Author's Mentality," in The Founder of Mormonism: A Psychological Study of Joseph Smith, Jr., Dodd, Mead & Company, 1902, pp. 141-73.

[In the following excerpt, Riley presents a psychological sketch of Joseph Smith based on his writings in the Book of Mormon, a work Riley suggests is more useful when regarded as biographical rather than historical or literary.]

Without further quotation or digression, it remains to get at a psychological estimate of the Book of Mormon. As literature it is not worth reading,—the educated Mormons fight shy of it; as history it merely casts a side light on a frontier settlement in the twenties; but...

(The entire section is 1918 words.)

Fawn M. Brodie (essay date 1945)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Witnesses for God," in No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet, second edition, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1971, pp. 67-82.

[Brodie, a distinguished biographer and historian and Senior Lecturer in the Department of History at UCLA, is considered a leading authority on Mormon history. In the following excerpt from her biography of Joseph Smith, originally published in 1945, Br odie discusses the content and style of the Book of Mormon and the events surrounding its publication.]

The Book of Mormon was a mutation in the evolution of American literature, a curious sport, at once sterile and potent. Although it...

(The entire section is 6104 words.)

Whitney R. Cross (essay date 1950

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)


SOURCE: "The Prophet," in The Burned-over District: The Social and Intellectual History of Enthusiastic Religion in Western New York, 1800-1850, Cornell, 1950, pp. 138-50.

[In the following excerpt, Cross suggests that the doctrines and organization of Mormonism were products not of the American frontier but of "that Yankee, rural, emotionalized, and rapidly maturing culture which characterized western New York so markedly in the second quarter of the nineteenth century. "]

The Mormon Church, having survived and grown in the last hundred years as did none of its companion novelties, interests the present generation far more than any other aspect of...

(The entire section is 3868 words.)

Francis W. Kirkham (essay date 1951)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Final Words, Summary, and Conclusion," in A New Witness for Christ in America: The Book of Mormon, Brigham Young University, 1959, pp. 315-26.

[In the following excerpt, originally published in 1951, Kirkham outlines five different investigations into the origin and teachings of the Book of Mormon.]

This strange book, the Book of Mormon, has been before the world for one hundred and twenty years. The person who dictated its contents and secured the copyright declared, "It is not a modern composition by any man in this generation." It came forth and was translated "by the gift and power of God, to convince all men that Jesus is the...

(The entire section is 2308 words.)

David E. Miller and Della S. Miller (essay date 1974)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Nauvoo: The City of Joseph, Peregrine Smith, Inc., 1974, pp. 5-10.

[In the following excerpt, the authors describe the historical significance of the Mormon experiences in Nauvoo, Illinois, and suggest that Joseph Smith's religious and political activity there facilitated the Mormon migration to Utah.]

During the spring and summer of 1839 thousands of Mormon refugees (recently expelled from the hostile state of Missouri under a harsh gubernatorial "extermination" order accompanied by military force) swarmed into a partially swampy, somewhat fever-infested Mississippi River peninsula in Hancock County, Illinois, to take over the small hamlet...

(The entire section is 2604 words.)

Donna Hill (essay date 1977)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Book of Mormon," in Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977, pp. 98-105.

[Hill, herself a Mormon, is an Assistant Professor and head of Teachers 'Central Laboratory at Hunter College Library in New York. In the following excerpt, Hill briefly describes the content of the Book of Mormon and the responses of contemporary and subsequent readers.]

The Book of Mormon, nearly six hundred pages of small print in the first edition, contains the chronicles of three groups of immigrants to the New World, most of it concerning a period from about 600 B.C. to A.D. 421. It is in fifteen main divisions, or books, each...

(The entire section is 3463 words.)

Richard L. Bushman (essay date 1984)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism, University of Illinois Press, 1984, pp. 3-8.

[In the excerpt below, Bushman describes the religious milieu from which Joseph Smith emerged, arguing that Smith can be "best understood as a person who outgrew his culture. "]

Mormonism, it must be remembered, began with one family, the family of Joseph Smith, Sr., and Lucy Mack Smith of Vermont and New York. Joseph Smith, Jr., the fourth child among nine, became the Prophet and First Elder of the Church of Christ when it was organized on April 6, 1830, but three of the six original organizers were Smiths, just as previously three of the eight...

(The entire section is 1993 words.)

Jan Shipps (essay date 1985)

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A prologue to Mormonism: The Story of a New Religious Tradition, University of Illinois Press, 1985, pp. 1-23.

[In the excerpt below, Shipps provides a comprehensive, chronological background of Joseph Smith's life prior to the publication of the Book of Mormon. Shipps maintains that examining the religious, psychic, social, and economical impact of the "Burnt-Over District" on the Smith family best contextualizes Mormonism's foundational claims and elucidates the integral relationship between magic and religious seership in Smith's early life.]

Historical chronologies of Mormonism ordinarily open by identifying Joseph Smith as the Mormon prophet and...

(The entire section is 9271 words.)

Richard S. Van Wagoner (essay date 1986

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)


SOURCE: "The Restoration of all Things," in his Mormon Polygamy: A History, second edition, Signature Books, 1989, pp. 1-16.

[In the following excerpt, first published in 1986, Van Wagoner describes the philosophical and theological influences on Joseph Smith's attempt at creating a Mormon utopia in the United States.]

Joseph Smith, Jr., the charismatic founder of Mormonism, emerged from the ferment of Jacksonian America during a time when religion was regaining its hold over American life, when abolitionist groups, temperance movements, and benevolent societies were thriving. Utopian experiments testified to the exuberance of a nation...

(The entire section is 5312 words.)