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No Man Knows My History : The Life of Joseph…

No Man Knows My History : The Life of Joseph Smith (1945)

by Fawn M. Brodie

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No Man Knows My History is well written and well documented. It is a scholarly work but readable by the average educated adult. Fawn M. Brodie was raised in an LDS family, but the work is not a hagiography. It is honest and realistic about the truth behind Joseph Smith. She does not believe that he had the visions or any golden plates, and she says as much. She gives rational explanations behind the devotion of his followers. For example, regarding the testimony of the three witnesses she says, "According to the local press of the time, the three witnesses all told different versions of their experience, a fact that makes it all the more likely that the men were not conspirators but victims of Joseph's unconscious but positive talent at hypnosis."

At times her own personal crises of faith show through. I believe this is what keeps her honest. On the one hand, she has an attitude of respect towards Joseph Smith and treats him as a victim of his own celebrity, whereas on the other hand she does not treat him as a prophet but a man embroiled in lies and scandal throughout his whole life. Truly, lies and deceit seem to follow Smith, what he does, and what others do to him. Testimonies and affidavits constantly contradict one another, and Smith and his supporters would lie to protect themselves when necessary. For example, when the issue of spiritual and plural wives became a problem with the non-Mormon community, she writes, "this and other public denials of spiritual wifism put a peculiar burden on his own wives and also on the leading Mormon men who were beginning to practice polygamy."

This book has caused controversy in the LDS church, and will continue to do so. Non-Mormons will come away believing that the early followers of Smith were both victims of outside oppression and their own foolishness, whereas Mormons today will not like it and many will reject it. It is definitely a book that needs to be addressed by believers. ( )
2 vote Texsain | Oct 22, 2012 |
An exhaustive look at the life of the founder of the LDS church by a former Mormon. Ms. Brodie was excommunicated for her efforts, but all in all, the book wasn't a hatchet job. She shows a certain affection for her subject, and isn't willing to assume that all the wild stories about him were automatically correct, but as a professional historian, she wasn't afraid to go where the evidence led. All in all, a balanced, well written book, neither hagiography nor hatchet job. ( )
2 vote Devil_llama | Apr 11, 2011 |
1504 No Man Knows my History: The Life of Joseph Smith The Mormon Prophet Second Edition Revised and Enlarged, by Fawn M. Brodie (read 10 Feb 1979) With all the reading I want to do, I am a little amazed I have read a biography of such a person as Joseph Smith, whom I consider a sheer fraud. But of course my joyous trip to Salt Lake City last summer is both the explanation and the justification for reading it. Since Mormons are so deep in genealogy, it is good to know something about them. This book is written by a Mormon, though I don't know if she still qualifies as such. I presume the book is not found in any devout Mormon home. It is clear to me that Joseph Smith is a fake, though she--the author--suggests psychological explanation of his character. He was killed in the jail at Carthage, Illinois, on June 24, 1844. In 1846 Brigham Young led the Mormons toward Utah. Very good book and worthwhile, I do believe. ( )
  Schmerguls | Jan 12, 2009 |
The definitive biography of Mormon founder/prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. Nothing else in the field comes close, although recent biographies by Richard Bushman and Dan Vogel are noteworthy additions. However, Mormon scholars, historians and apologists continue to plow the field, very much on Brodie's terms.
A superb biography, it put Mormonism on the defensive from the get go. No Mormon apologist has successfully refuted it. No Mormon critic or supporter can do without this book. Essential! ( )
3 vote Pianojazz | Aug 8, 2008 |
In this well written biography, Smith comes across as a kook and a fraud. He begins his "career" as a seer who claims to possess a seer stone that will permit him to discover buried treasure on farms. He later claims to discover the gold tablets that will become the Book of Mormon and reinvents himself as an evangelist. His charisma soon attracts a following, including young women who throw themselves at him, leading to the not surprising revelation from God that it is ok for him to have more than one wife. This is an unflatterring and unflinching look at the origins of Mormonism. Although not Mormon myself, the faith has qualities that I admire. Unfortunately, Mormonism is at a comparative disadvantage with Christianity in that it is a relatively new faith which beginnings can be subjected to rigorous historical examination. The events in the Bible that are absolutely unbelievable (except of course to some) are so lost in time as to be explained away as allegory and myths. If I were a Mormon, this book would be troublesome, except I expect for the faithful it may be regarded as a pack of lies. Yet as an objective outsider the book has the ring of truth to me. Of course it might be that as flawed a man as Smith was, his faith was the one true thing about him. I also enjoyed Brodie's biography of Jefferson. As an interesting historical and cultural aside, the dustcover of my edition describes Brodie as being the "wife" of the famous ------- writer. The unsexist truth, of course is that her husband is relatively unknown as a writer, and might be better described himself as " husband" of the famous writer------. ( )
3 vote nemoman | Feb 18, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0679730540, Paperback)

The first paperback edition of the classic biography of the founder of the Mormon church, this book attempts to answer the questions that continue to surround Joseph Smith. Was he a genuine prophet, or a gifted fabulist who became enthralled by the products of his imagination and ended up being martyred for them? 24 pages of photos. Map.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:14 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

In 1823 a young man named Joseph Smith had an encounter with an angel who led him to a cache of golden plates purporting to be the history of the lost tribes of Israel. Out of these new gospels and out of Smith's own charismatic personality and sense of mission- arose an authentically American religion, the Mormon faith.… (more)

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