Periodicals; Mormons; Religious thought; Philosophy and religion
Independent national quarterly established to express Mormon culture and examine the relevance of religion to secular life. It is edited by Mormons who wish to bring their faith into dialogue with human experience as a whole and to foster artistic and scholarly achievement based on their cultural heritage. The journal encourages a variety of viewpoints; although every effort is made to insure accurate scholarship and responsible judgment, the views expressed are those of the individual authors and are not necessarily those of the Mormon Church or of the editors.
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Rees, Robert A.
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Brodie Revisited: A Reappraisal: No Man Knows My History by Faun Brodie
REVIEWS Edited by Davis Bitton Brodie Revisited: A Reappraisal Marvin S. Hill No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet. By Fawn M. Brodie. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1971. 2nd edition, revised and enlarged, xvi + 499 + xxii pp. For more than a quarter century Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History has been recognized by most professional American historians as the standard work on the life of Joseph Smith and perhaps the most important single work on early Mormonism. At the same time the work has had tremendous influence upon informed Mormon thinking, as shown by the fact that whole issues of B.Y.U. Studies and Dialogue have been devoted to considering questions on the life of the Mormon prophet raised by Brodie. There is evidence that her book has had strong negative impact on popular Mormon thought as well, since to this day in certain circles in Utah to acknowledge that one has "read Fawn Brodie" is to create doubts as to one's loyalty to the Church. A book which continues to have this much influence warrants the second edition which Alfred A. Knopf published in 1971. But how good a biography is No Man Knows My History? That, of course, is the central issue between those who praise and those who condemn the work. Both Mormon and non-Mormon scholars seem to agree that that substantially depends upon another question—is what Fawn Brodie said about Joseph Smith true? On that I should like to venture some "informed" opinions based upon heavy reading of the scholarly works in the field and also what Herbert O. Brayer in an early review of Brodie said would be a prerequisite for any "definitive" life of Joseph Smith — intensive study of the sources, especially those in the historian's archives in Salt Lake City. Let me emphasize before doing this that I wish to consider Brodie's interpretation of Joseph Smith and early Mormonism on her own secular terms. Nothing which I suggest below is intended to render any final resolution to the question which I think she mistakenly tries to answer — is Joseph Smith a prophet of God in the sense that the Church he founded maintains, in an ultimate or cosmic sense? I do not believe that question can be finally answered by historians who deal with human artifacts left from a hundred and forty years ago. The historian has no sources written with the finger of God to prove that Joseph Smith was called to his divine mission, nor does he have any human sources to prove conclusively that he was not. One's answers to this cosmic question depend entirely upon the assumptions he brings to it — assumptions about the nature of the world and man's place in it; these rest in the last analysis upon personal predilection, not historical evidence. Leaving 72