Criticism of Mormonism/Books/No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith

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No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith

A FairMormon Analysis of: No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith, a work by author: Fawn Brodie

Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith by Fawn Brodie

Summary: Louis Midgley: "Though Fawn McKay Brodie forged a reputation as a controversial psychohistorian, it is her 1945 biography of Joseph Smith for which she has always been known among Latter-day Saints. She thought of herself, and has been portrayed by cultural Mormons, as an "objective" historian who had taken the measure of "the Mormon prophet." Her death on 10 January 1981 was followed by tributes in which she was depicted as a heroic figure who had courageously liberated herself from bondage to the mind-numbing religious orthodoxy of her parochial childhood and who had thereby set in place among Latter-day Saints what one of her admirers called "a new climate of liberation." Fawn McKay Brodie: A Biographer's Life—the latest and most comprehensive of these tributes to Brodie—constitutes a substantial addition to the tiny academic specialty that might be called 'Brodie studies'."[1]

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Claim Evaluation
No Man Knows My History
Chart.brodie.summary.jpg
Summary chart breakdown to claims tag.jpg

Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 2: Treasure in the Earth"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 3: Red Sons of Israel"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 4: A Marvelous Work and a Wonder"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 5: Witnesses for God"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 6: The Prophet of Palmyra"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 7: The Perfect Society and the Promised Land"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 8: Temple Builder"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 9: Expulsion from Eden"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 10: The Army of the Lord"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 11: Patronage and Punishment"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 12: Master of Languages"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 13: My Kingdom is of this World"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 14: Disaster in Kirtland"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 15: The Valley of God"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 16: The Alcoran or the Sword"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 17: Ordeal in Liberty Jail"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 18: Nauvoo"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 19: Mysteries of the Kingdom"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 20: In the Quiver of the Almighty"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 21: If a Man Entice a Maid"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 22: The Bennett Explosion"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 23: Into Hiding"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 24: The Wives of the Prophet"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 25: Candidate for President"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 26: Prelude to Destruction"

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Response to claims made in No Man Knows My History, "Chapter 27: Carthage"

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Reviews of this work

Hugh W. Nibley, "No, Ma'am, That's Not History"

Hugh W. Nibley,  Tinkling Cymbals and Sounding Brass, (1991)
Brodie's Joseph Smith is a more plausible character than the consummate fiend of the earlier school in that his type is much more likely to be met with on the street any Tuesday afternoon. But he is actually much less plausible as the man who accomplished what Joseph Smith did. Some kind of an inspired super-devil might have gotten away with some of the things he did, but no blundering, dreaming, undisciplined, shallow and opportunistic fakir could have left behind what Joseph Smith did, both in men's hearts and on paper.

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Louis Midgley, "F. M. Brodie--"The Fasting Hermit and Very Saint of Ignorance": A Biographer and Her Legend"

Louis Midgley,  FARMS Review of Books, (1996)
Fawn McKay Brodie's adroitly fashioned biography of Joseph Smith was released to the public on 22 November 1945--over fifty years ago. No Man Knows My History6 was republished as a paperback in 1995. This most recent appearance of Brodie's book provides an occasion for a close look at the history of the controversy her work engendered. There are, I believe, important lessons to be learned from the debate, scholarly and otherwise, that has subsequently taken place over the soundness of her book. I will not examine in detail criticisms made by faithful Latter-day Saints, but will focus on the commentary about and subsequent debate over Brodie's biography.

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Louis Midgley, "The Legend and Legacy of Fawn Brodie"

Louis Midgley,  FARMS Review of Books, (2001)
Though Fawn McKay Brodie2 forged a reputation as a controversial psychohistorian, it is her 1945 biography of Joseph Smith3 for which she has always been known among Latter-day Saints. She thought of herself, and has been portrayed by cultural Mormons, as an "objective" historian4 who had taken the measure of "the Mormon prophet." Her death on 10 January 1981 was followed by tributes in which she was depicted as a heroic figure who had courageously liberated herself from bondage to the mind-numbing religious orthodoxy of her parochial childhood and who had thereby set in place among Latter-day Saints what one of her admirers called "a new climate of liberation."5 Fawn McKay Brodie: A Biographer's Life—the latest and most comprehensive of these tributes to Brodie—constitutes a substantial addition to the tiny academic specialty that might be called "Brodie studies."

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Louis Midgley, "Comments on Critical Exchanges"

Louis Midgley,  FARMS Review of Books, (2001)
To see what Glen Hettinger is attempting to accomplish by publishing his critique of me, I believe that an awareness of the larger context of the conversation about Joseph Smith's prophetic truth claims, in which Hettinger's essay plays a polemical role, is needed. Since he is attacking me, this must include an indication of why I have given any attention at all to Fawn Brodie and what that attention has actually consisted of.

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Gary F. Novak, ""The Most Convenient Form of Error": Dale Morgan on Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon"

Gary F. Novak,  FARMS Review of Books, (1996)
I first heard of Dale Lowell Morgan in the spring of 1980. The previous fall, Louis Midgley had published "The Brodie Connection: Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Smith,"3 in which he reported what many of the Jefferson experts had to say in the seventies about Fawn M. Brodie's Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate Biography and then noted that many of their criticisms were very similar to what Mormons, especially Hugh Nibley, had been saying in the forties about her No Man Knows My History.4 Kent L. Walgren5 had written to Louis Midgley to complain that "The Brodie Connection" "should be required reading for students of the non sequitur: If scholars can find problems with Thomas Jefferson, there must also be serious problems with No Man."6 Walgren indicated that he thought "No Man has remained impenetrable all these years not so much because of Ms. Brodie's genius as because she had available to her a resource more valuable than any library in the world: Dale Morgan."7 Although Walgren claimed that Morgan helped Brodie by providing source material and by reading her manuscript, he did not demonstrate how that sort of help made her book "impenetrable."

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BYU Studies, "Exploding the Myth About Joseph Smith, the Mormon Prophet"

Richard L. Anderson,  BYU Studies 8/2 (Winter 1968)
F. L. Stewart (Lori Donegan) has educated herself in the sources of Mormon history simply through making a hobby of carefully checking Brodie’s documentation. Such a project is less a question of ideology than a fairly objective determination of whether the footnote citations of No Man Knows My History really support its thesis. Because this double-checking may be done on a broader scale, Stewart’s work is a valuable pilot study of the validity of Brodie’s generalizations.

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BYU Studies, "The Brodie Connection: Thomas Jefferson and Joseph Smith"

Louis C. Midgley,  BYU Studies 20/1 (Fall 1979)
Those outside the Church often think they have the objective explanation for Joseph Smith in Fawn McKay Brodie's No Man Knows My History. Mormons' complaints about her treatment of the Joseph Smith story are either unknown or brushed aside as biased special pleading. But recently something has happened that has called into question - Ms. Brodie's previously towering reputation as a scholar: she has written another book which has turned into an academic scandal.

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Notes

  1. Louis Midgley, "The Legend and Legacy of Fawn Brodie," FARMS Review of Books 13:1 (2001).