Defending the Faith: A shallow Joseph Smith wouldn't have been up to the task

Published: Thursday, Feb. 28 2013 5:00 a.m. MST

In a similar vein, early in the 20th century, the famous historian of antiquity Eduard Meyer took a year’s leave from the University of Berlin in order to study the Latter-day Saints in Utah. “Mormonism … is not just another of countless sects,” he concluded, “but a new revealed religion. What in the study of other revealed religions can only be surmised after painful research is here directly accessible in reliable witnesses. Hence the origin and history of Mormonism possess great and unusual value for the student of religious history.”

Whatever one thinks of Muhammad, for Joseph Smith to be ranked with that Arabian prophet — whom at least one survey has, rightly or wrongly, pronounced the most influential person in human history (see — surely suggests that Joseph is not to be lightly dismissed.

Extraordinary effects require extraordinary causes. The shallow, commonplace con-artist portrayed by Fawn Brodie and assumed by many critics isn’t up to the task. The Prophet Joseph Smith, however, most certainly was.

Daniel Peterson teaches Islamic studies and Arabic and edits the Middle Eastern Texts Initiative at BYU, founded, and chairs "Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture" ( His views are his own.

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