Biographical Reflections on the American Joseph Smith
Remini believes that the proper approach for biographers of religious figures, noting that complete impartiality is essential and concluding that historians must leave theological speculation aside and instead uncover rational explanations for controversial features in the historical figure's life and character. A biographer should be neither a critic nor an apologist. He discusses Joseph's American setting in the Second Great Awakening and in responding to "Joseph Smith's Many Histories," rejects Richard Bushman's claim that Joseph fits into a larger setting than simply an American one. Mormonism was persecuted not because Joseph claimed a place within a larger historical perspective, but rather because American culture has always attacked whatever is not the approved norm. American religion thrives in foreign lands because other nations embrace all things American--Joseph started a strictly American religion in an era when Manifest Destiny extended American culture worldwide. Remini also places the Book of Mormon in an American context. Rather than appealing to a broader historical context in which to view Joseph, he suggests that historians seek a deeper understanding of the prophet himself. He has long thought that Joseph Smith's importance in American religious history has been muted by the LDS Church. Remini concludes that a full understanding of the Prophet's character will come only through discovering the events and influences of his youth.