An Akward Book to Review

Falling in Love with Joseph Smith: Finding God in the Unlikeliest of Places by Jane Barnes

Again, a heads up that I am mormon.

Publishers Blurb:
Fabulist or visionary, fraud or God’s messenger—one woman’s quest to nail down America’s homegrown prophet.

When award-winning documentary film writer Jane Barnes was working on the PBS Frontline/American Experience special series “The Mormons,” she was surprised to find herself inexplicably drawn to Joseph Smith and the Mormon religion. The product of an Episcopalian, “Waspy” family, she had never even met a Mormon before she began work on the series. But so it was: She was smitten with a man who proclaimed to have translated the word of God by peering into the dark of his hat.

In this brilliantly written memoir, Barnes describes her experiences working on the PBS series as she teetered on the precipice of conversion to Mormonism. It all began when she came across Joseph Smith’s early writings. She was delighted to discover how funny and utterly unique Smith was: “We do not normally think of God tickling us until we break into helpless peals of laughter.” And her fascination only deepened when, much to her surprise, she learned that her third paternal grandmother was a Mormon convert who, in 1833, had followed Smith west and whose family’s pioneer life was consumed by the crises swirling around the prophet and his involvement in polygamy.

Falling in Love with Joseph Smith is a funny, poignant, philosophical book that anyone with a spiritual bone will relate to.


My Thoughts:

I find this book interesting.  The author tackles the idea of Joseph Smith and the pioneers and has the complete polar opposite reaction that most Americans do.  She likes Joseph but doesn’t really care for the gospel aspect of it.  While I find more commonly people like the gospel, the teachings, the culture and what it teaches people, but just can’t get over the whole founding principles and Joseph Smith.  While there are a few theories I tend to disagree with, or ideas she presents as fact, she has definitley done her research into stories about Joseph that I have never heard before. There are a few key quotes that I really appreciated her honesty, even if it went against her general consensus of the book.

I love her enthusiasm for Family History.  I have spent a lot of time researching mine and it is truly a hobby / interest for me.  I can’t believe she was shocked that a Mormon would have ties back to the Mayflower.  Hello, they are Americans too.

I am curious that she enjoys attending church services and feels a strong religious spririt there.

Quotes I liked:

“I loved Joseph, but I did not respect him in the way that the Apostle Pratt wanted me to.  He raised the same either/or challenge that many Mormon Presidents and leaders have raised since.  I would have to find a way to respect Joseph more than I did if I were really converting.  My love for his colorful story about Moroni and the plates wouldn’t be enough.”

“I knew what was in the Mormons scripture and that Joseph could not have written it… Joseph wasn’t capable of being that irreverent… nor could Joseph have come up with the intellectual structure of the book of Mormon.  It is inconceivable that he understood writing and narrative the way we do.  Yet his book is written as though he did.  I felt intellectual respect for the Book of Mormon and for Joseph Smith.”


Readalikes: The Mormonizing of America

Book provided via Edelweiss