Unraveling the complexities of Joseph Smith’s character and motives is difficult, but before the puzzle can be solved, all the pieces must be gathered and correctly interpreted. Parts of the picture are still missing only because they have been overlooked, ignored, or mishandled—pieces which reveal previously hidden features of Smith’s complex, conflicted, and gifted personality.
Some of the contributors to this anthology look at the religious side of the prophet and explore his inner, spiritual world. Others look at secular issues. Some view the relevance of his activity as a treasure seer since this is one part of the puzzle that has not been fully investigated by Mormons generally.
In pursuing the prophet puzzle, contributors seek to understand Joseph Smith, not to judge him, knowing that he is an enigma for believer and skeptic alike. As non-Mormon historian Jan Shipps, a contributor to this collection, observes, “The mystery of Mormonism cannot be solved until we solve the mystery of Joseph Smith.”
Contributors include Thomas G. Alexander, Robert D. Anderson, Gary James Bergera, Newell G. Bringhurst, Richard L. Bushman, Eugene England, Lawrence Foster, Ronald V. Huggins, Lance S. Owens, Karl C. Sandberg, Jan Shipps, Joseph Smith, Susan Staker, Alan Taylor, Richard S. Van Wagoner, Dan Vogel, and Steven C. Walker.
Bryan Waterman, a Ph.D. candidate in American studies at Boston University, is the former editor of the BYU Student Review, former associate editor of Sunstone, guest editor for a special student issue of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, and co-author of The Lord’s University: Freedom and Authority at BYU. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with his wife and children.