So far this book is amazing. It's a history and biography but it reads like a novel. I'm like deeply involved and dying to find out what happens next, even though I already know what happens next.
Now that I'm finished, I want there to be more! The ending is so sad, of course, but I'm grateful for the chance to know Joseph Smith more as a person. I see his simplicity and grace, and his earnest love of his fellow man. As a prophet, he was very human. He made mistakes, was sometimes at a loss. If any of us expect perfection from the officers and general authorities of our church, perhaps fostered by the relentlessly positive and faith-promoting materials used in Sunday School and conference talks, this biography calls us to think again. They are human as are we, humans who live by the light God has given us, as best we can discern it.
When Joseph was taken from us, we lost a treasure. I echo Bob Marley in asking how long shall they kill our prophets? Why do we humans have to destroy every person through whom God speaks to us? When will we begin to embrace them instead?
What qualities did Joseph have that allowed him to become the perfect conduit for the knowledge he brought us? He was brilliant, of course, though uneducated. He was sincere and humble, willing to be chastised by the Lord and to learn from it. But most of all, he was simply honest. When it would have been oh so convenient to deny the visions and revelations he received, when he was being persecuted relentlessly, as he was from the very first time he told anyone outside his family, he could have simply kept his mouth shut and led so much less complicated and more peaceful a life. But he knew it had happened, and God knew it, and which matters more, what our fellow men think of us or what God thinks of us? Joseph chose to be true to the latter, and in so doing, he transformed my life and the lives of millions who've learned from the body of knowledge he was instrumental in bringing into the world.
My gratitude for and love of the prophet Joseph Smith was magnified immensely by this volume. Its scrupulous honesty and meticulous scholarship make it so much greater than any number of prettified faith-promoting histories (or works biased toward destroying faith, either, for that matter). In beholding the man himself, with all his flaws and magnificent qualities wrapped together, we see what sort of person it is to whom God may find it useful to speak. May we Mormons and our brothers and sisters of all persuasions strive to be such persons, for we sorely need more light in the world.