Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Rough Stone Rolling: The Beginning of a Journey


I'm very excited to start reading this biography of Joseph Smith written by active Mormon historian, Richard Bushman. I imagine the 561 pages of Smith's life will take me quite some time to get through- especially considering online classes in the near future, but I definitely intend to get through them. In fact in my eyes reading this book is the beginning of a journey for me.

Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints which you may recognize by the name the LDS church or the Mormon church- they all refer to the same organization of which I have been a part since my birth. In my 21 years I have attended thousands of 3 hour Sunday services, I have not only participated in, but have lead child and youth programs, I graduated from seminary, and I currently attend BYUI a Mormon university. 

What I'm getting at with that abridged list of my involvement in this church is how much it has influenced my life. Influenced is actually too weak of a word for the role it's played- the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints has been the foundation of my existence since I was born. That may sound dramatic, but it's my reality. In the course of my life I estimate I've missed an average of less than 10 Sundays of church attendance a year. I have quite literally been raised in this church.

Which by extension means that just as the LDS church has deeply effected my life, so has Joseph Smith who is inextricably entwined with the church. And yet, until recently I never gave him much thought. I mean certainly I've thought about him often over the years. I've heard his name so many times in services it's like a mantra. I've watched movies about him, I've read about him, I've even testified of him. What I never did was think critically about Joseph Smith. I've never researched him. I never looked beyond his 'life' story which I was taught repeatedly in Sunday school.

It took me 21 years to realize I knew almost nothing about Joseph Smith. I knew the story of his childhood surgery. I knew one version of the first vision account. I knew he translated the Book of Mormon. I knew the stories of his persecution. I knew he married Emma. I knew how he died. And somehow for such a long time that seemed a complete picture to me. I always thought I knew him, but the truth is I was content with very little knowledge about Smith.

Recently I was quite surprised when my limited idea of Joseph Smith was challenged. It really was an eye opening experience and while I will go into the specifics of it later, it isn't relevant to this post. What is relevant, is the action it has elicited in me. It made me realize that there are so many things about Joseph that I never knew, I never knew and I think it's high time I found out. 

Further, I really want to share what I learn. I know there are members of the church who are experts in church history and have researched the life of Joseph Smith beyond the lessons in church manuals. But I also know there are so many more like me who have simply been oblivious to the fact that there are chunks missing from their idea of Joseph Smith's life- or pieces so rarely touched on they're simply a blurry memory. For those people I want to draw attention to the gaps. I suspect that most of the gaps that I've discovered up to this point are missing or blurry for a reason, which is they're controversial. My intention is not to be negative about Joesph Smith or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. My intention is to educate myself and those who are interested with the truth- corroborated through trustworthy sources, which will include but not be limited to the Rough Stone Rolling biography. My goal is to shine light upon facts which for whatever reason have been forgotten in the dark corners of our history.

My plan here is to make a series of posts about things you never knew you never knew about Joseph Smith, as I learn them. And also a post or two about why we should try to look at everything with a critical thinking mindset. I'll provide you with facts from trusty and clearly listed sources and then you can use them to form your own opinions.

I wanted to write this post before I started the book as kind of a preface. At this point no conclusions have been formed, I am simply beginning a journey of discovery and I wanted to invite any and all to join me. Or at least encourage others to take a journey of their own. I think we should all take the time to look more closely at the things, people, and organizations we believe in because our discoveries may take us by surprise.


Jody Rogers said...

That's so funny Hailey that you're deciding to do this right now. Just because I had the same desire to know more about Joseph Smith when I was there at BYUI (Ricks back then ;) I had some great & influential friends & leaders who sparked the idea & made me come to the same conclusion that I needed & wanted to know more about this man. While I didn't read specific books about him, I did tear apart the scriptures, listen to countless apostle's talks, prayed & developed a strong testimony of this prophet of God. While everyone has their own ways & meathods of researching things they want to know, it always comes down to prayer & a strong desire to know of what you've read is true. I've always admired your maturity, your wanting to further yourself in everything you do & it shows. :) I truly hope you, not only learn more in depth about his life & teachings, but build an even greater testimony of Joseph Smith. (and let me know if the book is a good one ;)

Hailey Cox said...

Thanks Jody, that's really nice of you to say. I will let you know if it's a worth while read :)

Julz said...

I decide that my children were going to know WAY more about Joseph Smith than I did when I left home. So good for you. Someone I love very much started this journey of finding more out about Joseph Smith 2 years ago and she left the church she loved over it. The thing is that Joseph Smith, was told that his name would be had for good and evil, he could never had predicted that on his own but it is the one thing that even people who have devoted their lives to destroying Joseph Smith can not deny. She went to the sources bent on spreading evil about Joseph Smith. So as you research him you must be careful to go to the only true source which is God for answers. If someone researched you wouldn't you want them to ask your friends not your enemies? I know I would. His name has been had for evil EXTENSIVLEY. They take a bit of the truth and spin it in the most negative way. The bottom line is that if we go off so called "history" which neither side can completely prove or disprove we get no where. If God wanted to prove that Joseph Smith was a prophet he could do it in 1 second. He doesn't want to prove it He wants us to have faith. If Joseph Smith wasn't who he said he was than there would not be such a huge effort of opposition against him. If he was not who he said he was then people would not fight against him so hard. Joseph Smith was not perfect. He made mistakes. I don't understand all of what I know about him but I have a hard fought for and a hard won testimony that He was and is a prophet. I am satisfied that when ALL truth is revealed and all questions are answered the world will know it also. Love you Hailey!! You better call me next time your in Gilbert!

Hailey Cox said...

I understand that it's necessary to find knowledge through trustworthy sources, which is absolutely my intention.

I understand that things can be controversial or strange, but still true. What I think is wrong is to brush those things under the rug because they are controversial or strange. Truth must be owned. If you don't teach something, if you try to ignore it- then it makes that "truth" suspicious. I do find some of the information I've learned recently to be both strange and controversial and other parts of it just interesting, but each time I learned something new about Joesph Smith I asked myself- why was I never taught this in 21 years of church attendance.

It's time I knew the whole story and I am embarrassed that I've relied on other people for so long to inform me.

The reason I feel inclined to share is exactly BECAUSE so much of what's on the internet is biased negativity. I know how to research. I know how to be honest. I know how to write clearly. I want to be a source full of trustworthy sources. If people have questions I don't think they should be afraid to consult literature or the internet- they simply must know how to gauge credibility.

And I will call you next time I'm in Gilbert, although it might not be till November or December! (I hope not!)