Title: Joseph Smith, The Prophet (Illustrated Edition)
Author: Truman G. Madsen
Publisher: Deseret Book
Year Published: 2010
Number of Pages: 248
Reviewed by Trevor Holyoak
As a youth, I got to know Joseph Smith a little through reading things such as Joseph Smith History in The Pearl of Great Price, Truth Restored, and parts of the Documentary History of the Church. I then got to know the prophet better as a missionary by listening to bootleg tapes of Joseph Smith the Prophet by Truman Madsen that were passed around the mission. I enjoyed them so much that when I returned home, I bought a legitimate set of the tapes.
The lecture tapes (there is now a CD set available) were recordings of lectures given by Madsen at BYU Education Week. In the introduction to the book, he says that he was able to express things through the medium of the tape recording in ways that are not possible through the written word. However, his conversational style does remain largely intact in the book. As I read it, I can hear his voice in my mind, although it is not quite a verbatim transcript of the recorded lectures. A definite advantage of the written word is that there are footnotes and sources given.
The book version of the lectures was originally published in 1989 and is still in print. This new illustrated version contains the same text, but it is done in a nice eight inch by ten inch cloth hardcover with embossed lettering and a color portrait of Joseph Smith on the front, with a dust jacket that has a cutout so the portrait shows through. There is also a ribbon included for use as a bookmark. It appears to have been made for display, perhaps on a stand, although it might also look good on a coffee table, in spite of its smaller size than would be typical for that purpose.
The illustrations are by well known artists such as Del Parson, Greg Olson, Al Rounds, Liz Lemon Swindle, and others. Some of them help you get a better feel for the scene they represent, while others tend to idealize Joseph more than he probably would have been comfortable with. One of them is likely downright inaccurate, with Joseph reading the gold plates with his fingers tracing the characters as one might read a regular book.
Those that are not familiar with the lectures should know that this is not a comprehensive biography of Joseph Smith. It leaves out many things, but is a good introduction to the life and personality of the prophet from which an interest may be cultivated for a more complete analysis, such as Richard Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling. It contains eight chapters that explore different aspects of the prophet’s life. These are The First Vision and Its Aftermath; Joseph’s Personality and Character; Joseph Smith and Spiritual Gifts; Joseph Smith and Trials; Joseph Smith and the Kirtland Temple; Joseph Smith as Teacher, Speaker, and Counselor; Doctrinal Development and the Nauvoo Era; and The Last Months and Martyrdom.
This would be a good book for LDS families to have in their homes. Smaller children can look at the pictures (although some explanation may be necessary, as previously mentioned), and the text will be easily understood by older children, yet still hold the interest of adults. If you have not yet experienced Joseph Smith through the eyes of Truman Madsen, I highly recommend it, either with this edition or with the less expensive book or CD set available. And if you have already enjoyed the lectures – whether through audio or the previously available book, or both – this edition makes a very nice tribute to Truman Madsen and could make an excellent addition to your library.