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Joseph Smith, Jr.Reappraisals After Two Centuries$
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Reid L. Neilson and Terryl L. Givens

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195369786

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195369786.001.0001

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Tracking the Sincere Believer: “Authentic” Religion and the Enduring Legacy of Joseph Smith Jr.

Tracking the Sincere Believer: “Authentic” Religion and the Enduring Legacy of Joseph Smith Jr.

Chapter:
(p.175) 11 Tracking the Sincere Believer: “Authentic” Religion and the Enduring Legacy of Joseph Smith Jr.
Source:
Joseph Smith, Jr.
Author(s):

Laurie F. Maffly-Kipp

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195369786.003.011

This chapter furthers the project of an intellectually richer account of Mormonism by offering a critique of the centrality of sympathy in the polemics that have engulfed Mormon historical studies from their inception, and proposing an alternative. The critique is situated in a largely postmodern, anti-essentialist conception of identity as a malleable and fluid concept. At the same time, it notes in Smith's own turn to ritual a validation of appearances over essence, doing over being. A focus on the epic of Mormonism's narrative rather than its characters, on popular rather than elite Mormon history, and on the geographical varieties with their correspondingly different accounts of Mormonism—all are presented here as powerful antidotes to the snares of an approach that links, and therefore reduces Joseph Smith and the religion he founded to an irresolvable debate over human motives.

Keywords:   Mormonism, authentic, fraud, legacy, polemics, postmodernism, sincerity, belief, Book of Mormon

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