Falling in Love with Joseph Smith: My Search for the Real Prophet

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Overview


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 passionately drawn to Joseph Smith. The product of an Episcopalian, “WASPy” family, she couldn’t remember ever having met a Mormon before her work on the series—much less having dallied with the idea of converting to a religion shrouded in controversy. But so it was: She was smitten with a man who claimed to ...
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Falling in Love with Joseph Smith: My Search for the Real Prophet

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Overview


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 passionately drawn to Joseph Smith. The product of an Episcopalian, “WASPy” family, she couldn’t remember ever having met a Mormon before her work on the series—much less having dallied with the idea of converting to a religion shrouded in controversy. But so it was: She was smitten with a man who claimed to have translated the word of God by peering into the dark of his hat.
 
In this brilliantly written book, Barnes describes her experiences working on the PBS series as she moved from secular curiosity to the brink 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 he was—and how widely divergent his wild yet profound visions of God were from the Church of Latter-day Saints as we know it today. Her fascination deepened when, much to her surprise, she learned that her eighth cousin Anna Barnes converted to Mormonism in 1833. Through Anna, Barnes follows her family’s close involvement with Smith and the crises caused by his controversial practice of polygamy. Barnes’ unlikely path helps her gain a newfound respect for the innovative American spirit that lies at the heart of Mormonism—and for a religion that is, in many ways, still coming into its own.
 
An intimate portrait of the man behind one of America’s fastest growing religions, Falling in Love with Joseph Smith offers a surprising and provocative window into the Mormon experience.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This narrative of Barnes's fascination with Joseph Smith (1805–1844), whom she approaches with a mix of historical admiration, literary comparison, and spirituality, is neither a critique nor an exposition of Mormonism. Rather, it is the author's search for the man behind the legend, all of which is recounted with plenty of entertaining tales from Smith's life. Barnes's knowledge of the legends surrounding Smith (gained largely as a writer for the PBS series The Mormons) is abundant, though the most outrageous of those tales are offered without a VERDICT on their veracity. She sets out to investigate why her curious interest in Smith evolved into a near conversion experience, complete with imaginary dialog among Smith, Tom Sawyer, and Huck Finn, and in her search she may leave readers struggling to discover the purpose of the book. VERDICT This entertaining but often disjointed memoir will be of interest to those seeking a distinct personal perspective on a religion currently in the headlines. Richard Lyman Bushman's Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling remains a better option for those seeking a biography of Smith.—Paul W. Roberts, Oklahoma Baptist Univ. Lib., Shawnee
Kirkus Reviews
A thought-provoking, sometimes surprising account of a female intellectual's passion for Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and her near-conversion to the faith. Since her childhood, author and documentarian Barnes (Double Lives, 1981, etc.) has nursed "a persistent religious drive." Born into a family where religion was more ritual than the expression of true faith, she eventually began a "slow mosey" through Unitarianism, ecstatic Protestantism, Zen Buddhism and spiritual practices that verged on worship of the supernatural. By 2003, Barnes had developed an especially profound fascination with Smith. Her interest manifested first as a treatment for a PBS documentary about Smith's life, then evolved into a full-blown love for the man and his work. "His exuberant arc from boy conjurer into frontier prophet with gold plates gave me the most intense delight of which I was capable," she writes. Smith's many contradictions showed Barnes that God and irony could coexist, but more importantly, that God had "a touchingly, meltingly, divinely irreverent sense of humor." As she continued to explore the Mormon faith, she discovered that she was not the first in her family to have been touched by Smith's teachings. Both maternal and paternal relatives had converted to Mormonism, and one had even become one of Brigham Young's many wives. Ultimately, though, Barnes could not make the commitment to becoming a Mormon. While the author clearly idolizes Smith, she is not an apologist for him. A searching, intelligent spiritual memoir.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781585429257
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 8/16/2012
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 1,441,243
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author


JANE BARNES, who has received fellowships from the NEA, NEH, and the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities, has published two novels: I, Krupskaya: My Life with Lenin and Double Lives. Her essays and stories have appeared in MLLE, Mirabella, Prairie Schooner, Dialogue, and the Virginia Quarterly Review, among others. Barnes has written documentaries for American Experience, American Masters, and Frontline. She lives in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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Table of Contents

1 Joseph Smith: Lost and Found 1

2 The Return of the Repressed 19

3 The Angel, the Plates, and the Power of Joseph's Charms 39

4 La Vita Nuova 59

5 Joseph Smith Couldn't Have Written the Book of Mormon 79

6 Back to the Future 101

7 Past-Life Digression 121

8 Joseph Through the Particle Accelerator 141

9 Contradiction Is Not a Sign of Falsity 159

10 The Pure Products of America 177

11 Faith and Irony 195

12 Except Ye Be Converted, and Become as Little Children 215

13 Sanctified Flesh 235

14 A Dead Prophet, a Corpse, and a Woman Who Will Die 255

Acknowledgments 271

Notes 273

Bibliography 283

Index 287

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 20, 2013

    Too bad she wasn't born earlier. She could have been one of his

    Too bad she wasn't born earlier. She could have been one of his 38 wives. Along with the 14 year olds he threatened into marrying him.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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