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Most reviews of my recent biography, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, mention that I am a practicing Mormon. The Sunday New York Times titled its review, "Latter-Day Saint: A practicing Mormon delivers a balanced biography of the church’s founder, Joseph Smith." Perhaps a little oversensitive, I wondered why this was news. Was a Mormon telling the story of the church’s founding prophet with a degree of objectivity something like man bites dog? Did the editor mean that a mind capable of embracing Mormonism would surely be incapable of a balanced portrayal? Or that Mormonism evokes loyalties so deep that a dispassionate approach to Joseph Smith would be impossible for a church member? One reviewer spoke of my walking a high wire between the demands of church conformity and the necessary openness of scholarly investigation. Another, surprised by the balance of the book but unwilling to trust me entirely, said it achieved a "veneer of credibility."
© 2006 American Antiquarian Society
Bushman, Richard. “The Balancing Act: A Mormon Historian Reflects on His Biography of Joseph Smith,” Common-Place 7, no. 1 (October 2006).