Joseph Smith Jr. : Reappraisals After Two Centuries
Joseph Smith continually worked to liberate himself and his followers from theological convention and to eliminate the confining contemporary notions of sacred distance taught by contemporary religions--indeed Joseph Smith viewed his own contribution as Prophet as primarily establishing the revelatory process, rather than in creating any particular work. By focusing on Joseph's thinking, which was largely shaped through the revelatory process, the historian and theologian begin to see how Joseph fused history with the divine to produce a unique pattern of religious and historical interpretation. Because Joseph slowly became aware of his greater calling as a Prophet, his theological contributions were not made in a systematic fashion. By placing established Christianity as the result of the Great Apostasy and by inserting new revelations, such as the Book of Moses, into this fragmentary Christian context, Joseph Smith challenged biblical sufficiency. Rather than dwelling on the revelations he had received, Joseph Smith continued to point his followers, through his revelations, toward a vast depth of gospel knowledge, only part of which existed in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and subsequent revelations. Joseph's primary mission was not to teach restored gospel truths but rather to widen the theological spectrum by creating a completely restructured process of encompassing and discovering divine truth. These patterns emerge from Joseph's recovering of past worlds such as the premortal existence, the Nephite civilization, and the Adamic dispensation. Givens therefore concludes that if Joseph's mission is to succeed, we must examine the records he produced "as the historical records they purport to be."