Friday, July 28, 2017

Friday Traditio: Richard Lyman Bushman

In September of this year, I will celebrate eight years of church membership. I had the opportunity last night to share my conversion story (albeit very briefly) with my stake president. As I look back on it, one of the main reasons for my conversion was the Prophet Joseph Smith. His story and teachings touched my heart and soul in a way that no one had at that time and no one else has since. I was shown by many non-Mormons all (or at least many) of his flaws. Through it all, I retained my testimony (and still do) that God and Jesus of Nazareth appeared to him in the Sacred Grove, that he organized the modern Church of Jesus Christ under their direction, and that the doctrines he taught (especially in his latter life) are true. This was not just a supernatural thing. As I think about his teachings as a philosopher, they still show themselves to be logically coherent and answer many of the traditional questions in the philosophy of religion (existence of God, problem of evil, fate of the -un-evangelized etc) in a way that not even someone like Thomas Aquinas could (a philosopher for whom I have the deepest respect). If no one else will say it (and there are millions who will) I will say it: For all the flaws that he had, and they were numerous, Joseph Smith was not only a prophet, but one of the greatest men who ever lived.

Joseph Smith, the Prophet of the Restoration

Having said that, I am painfully aware that many members of the Church are not aware of some of the activities that the Prophet was involved in (treasure seeking, multiple accounts of the First Vision, plural marriage, etc). When they hear about these things, they wonder how such a flawed man could be called of God, and sadly many members leave the Church after becoming aware of these things. John Dehlin recently wrote on his Facebook that some people had mentioned to him that they had a testimony of who Joseph Smith truly was (which is laughable, because if they did they would not have left the Church).

One of the best resources that the modern Church has is Richard Lyman Bushman, author of the landmark book Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling and a current patriarch. I am convinced that no one (or if any, very few) knows more about Joseph Smith than does Bro. Bushman, and yet he is one of the Prophet's staunchest advocates. I ask my friends who have left the Church over what they have learned of the Prophet the following questions: Is it possible that Bro. Bushman knows more than you do about Joseph Smith's activities, character, and life? If so, is it possible that there is something that you missed and that you are looking beyond the mark(to borrow a phrase from the Book of Mormon)?

In this weeks traditio, I invite my readers to watch as Bro. Bushman talks about his landmark book and some of the concerns people have about what he wrote. Member or non-member, you will enjoy this.


  1. Thank you Tarik. You are a treasure to the church.

  2. I feel exactly same way. As a convert I am most attracted by Joseph's amazing visions that solves nearly every riddle left hanging when I was Catholic and Evangelical. In fact I think the church doesn't sell enough the wonderful picture that makes perfect sense versus other Christian picture.