Event #5: Reading _Rough Stone Rolling_

By the fall of 2005, I had a clear idea of what I did and did not believe, but I hadn’t figured out the details. God could not possibly exist, and emotions are easily mislabeled as spiritual promptings, but how could I make sense of, for example, how little time it took Joseph Smith to write the Book of Mormon? For helping me resolve those kinds of questions, I thank Richard Lyman Bushman, who is not a skeptic, but a careful and honest historian, an active Latter-day Saint and a biographer of Joseph Smith. When you look carefully at the historical record, Joseph Smith’s tales remain interesting but not especially remarkable. Smith was born rather smart and exceptionally charismatic in the right place at the right time. If you gloss over some of the details (and accept the LDS church’s revisionism), the early history of the church seems amazing and divinely directed. But when you look at the facts (as Bushman does so admirably in his book), Smith’s life and works appear (to me) to suggest that he was just a lucky guy with gifts of leadership and storytelling.

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