Joseph Smith (Penguin Lives)

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9780670030835: Joseph Smith (Penguin Lives)

Robert Remini's work on the Jacksonian epoch has won him acclaim as well as the National Book Award. In Joseph Smith, he employs his keen insight and rich storytelling gift to explore one of the period's major figures. The most important reformer and innovator in American religious history, Joseph Smith has remained a fascinating enigma to many both inside and outside the Mormon Church he founded.

Born in 1805, Smith grew up during the "Second Great Awakening," when secular tumult had spawned radical religious fervor and countless new sects. His contemplative nature and soaring imagination—the first of his many visions occurred at the age of fourteen—were nurtured in the close, loving family created by his deeply devout parents. His need to lead and be recognized was met by his mission as God's vehicle for a new faith and by the hundreds who, magnetized by his charm and charismatic preaching, gave rise to the Mormon Church. Remini brings Smith into unprecedented focus and contextualizes his enduring contribution to American life and culture within the distinctive characteristics of an extraordinary age.

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Review:

In 1820, a tall New York teenager received a vision from two angels, warning him that all existing churches were corrupt abominations and that "he must join none of them." So Joseph Smith founded the Mormon church.

Robert Remini, the noted biographer of Andrew Jackson and historian of the Jacksonian era, locates Smith and the origins of the Mormon faith in the heady early-nineteenth-century epoch of religious evangelicalism. None of the many new sects and creeds that came out of that period has enjoyed the success of Smith's church, Remini notes. None has undergone the same intense degree of persecution, either, provoked by Smith's quest for secular political power and "such teachings as polygamy, eternal matter, baptism of the dead, a plurality of gods, men and women becoming gods themselves, [and] God the Father being once a man who passed through a stage of mortality before becoming God"--teachings that inspired charges of heresy, and that, in the end, cost Joseph Smith his life in what Remini calls an act of political assassination.

Remini delivers a nuanced, highly readable portrait of the controversial leader, one that sheds light on his time and beliefs and emphasizes his "striking human qualities." --Gregory McNamee

About the Author:

Robert V. Remini, whose three-volume biography, Andrew Jackson, won the National Book Award and was reissued in 1998 as a Main Selection of the History Book Club, is also the author of biographies of Henry Clay and Daniel Webster. He is professor emeritus of history and research professor emeritus of humanities at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and lives in Wilmette, Illinois.

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Remini, Robert V.
Published by Viking (2002)
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Remini, Robert V.
Published by Viking (2002)
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