As Bushman wrapped up his biography of Joseph Smith during the summer of 2005, Glen Nelson, who publishes a variety of Mormon Cultural projects, asked him to keep a diary of the events surrounding the roll-out of the book for publication. The fruit of those diaries was an unbound limited edition that sports a handmade cherry-wood slip case. Kofford Books received permission to publish a paperback edition which is available as of this week on Amazon. I picked up a copy at MHA a month ago.
Richard Lyman Bushman, On the Road with Joseph Smith, (Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2007), 141 pages. $14.95
The story of Mormon Studies is, on occasion, interrupted by an event or series of events so dramatic that the subsequent narrative unfolds in a new chapter. The future will show that the publication of Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling is one such demarcation. In On the Road, Bushman notes his thoughts about the event. He writes about the preparation for and reaction to the various conferences, papers, and firesides he gave in the year of commemoration. He discusses correspondence with scholars, media, and Church authorities. We see Bushman face reviewers and readers. He even waxes doctrinally on occasion.
As someone immersed in the Mormon Studies zeitgeist, I relived many experiences as I read Bushman’s diary. This volume will definitely mean something quite different to those who listened to the various conferences first hand or read the original reviews fresh off the press. One might say that much of On the Road is for the connoisseur, but such a categorization betrays the book’s accessibility. Even those who have not read Rough Stone Rolling will find meaningful reflection in Bushman’s self evaluation. What Mormon doesn’t struggle with finding the best voice to explain their beliefs?
I was personally moved by Bushman’s experience. I am a relative newcomer to Mormon Studies. I presented my first MHA paper with my co-author this year and don’t have the baggage of witnessing the mighty pendulum during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s first hand. Still, I have struggled with finding peace in a research project that defies correlated convention. Witnessing Bushman navigate the treacherous topography, seeing his interaction with leaders like Elder Holland, and feeling the chapter end and new one begin filled me with great optimism and confidence.
Here is to Richard Bushman. Well done.