On June 27, 1844, a mob stormed the jail in the dusty frontier town of Carthage, Illinois. Clamorous and angry, they were hunting down a man they saw as a grave threat to their otherwise quiet lives: the founding prophet of Mormonism, Joseph Smith. They wanted blood.
At thirty-nine years old, Smith had already lived an outsized life. In addition to starting his own religion and creating his own “Golden Bible”—the Book of Mormon—he had worked as a water-dowser and treasure hunter. He’d led his people to Ohio, then Missouri, then Illinois, where he founded a city larger than fledgling Chicago. He was running for president. And, secretly, he had married more than thirty women.
In American Crucifixion, Alex Beam tells how Smith went from charismatic leader to public enemy: How his most seismic revelation—the doctrine of polygamy—created a rift among his people; how that schism turned to violence; and how, ultimately, Smith could not escape the consequences of his ambition and pride.
In the new book Brigham Young: A Concise Biography of the Mormon Moses, author Ed Breslin examines Young’s life using a scholarly focus with a sense of measured admiration, but he doesn’t gloss over the darker aspects such as Young’s role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
Breslin left his job as publisher and senior vice president of HarperCollins to be a full-time writer after more than two decades in publishing, and has co-written biographies of William Tecumseh Sherman and George S. Patton. In 2008, he collaborated on Sen. Mel Martinez’s memoir, A Sense of Belonging.
When award-winning documentary film writer, Jane Barnes, was working on the PBS special series The Mormons, she was surprised to find herself inexplicably drawn to Joseph Smith and the Mormon religion.
Today on Vox Pop, a new poll shows that voters in New York City are less likely to vote for an atheist or a 'born again' Christian than a Muslim or Mormon candidate. What do you think of these stats, and of the effect religion can have on personal and national politics? WAMC's Ray Graf hosts with guest WAMC's Alan Chartock.