Book review: 'Joseph: A Stalwart Witness' is a realistic book

By Shelby Scoffield

For the Deseret News

Published: Saturday, May 18 2013 5:00 a.m. MDT

"JOSEPH: A Stalwart Witness," by Cecilia Jensen with Stanford A. Carmack, Covenant Communications, $18.99, 416 pages (f)

"Joseph: A Stalwart Witness" by Cecilia Jensen and Stanford A. Carmack is a historical novel based in New England during the Second Great Awakening. It is a book that captures the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith in an illuminating and powerful way.

The book begins by describing a story that is familiar to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The reader is first introduced to the teenage Joseph Smith. Because of all the different religions, Joseph Smith was led to a grove of trees where he asked God what church he should join. God responded in a glorious vision.

After Joseph learns of his divine mission, he starts the journey of forming a church. Notable events in LDS Church history are covered. Joseph's experience in Liberty Jail, the first missionaries to England and the building of Nauvoo, Ill., are all described in great detail.

"Joseph: A Stalwart Witness" has a Work and the Glory series feel to it. Jensen takes actual events and fills in the blanks in a respectful and realistic way. There is nothing out of the ordinary or hypocritical in the novel.

Jensen portrays Joseph and his family as actual human beings. The dialogue that is exchanged between notable Mormon figures is realistic and poignant. The people in the book literally come to life.

One of the most interesting parts of the book is the exchange Joseph Smith has with a Quaker preacher. When the preacher says that Joseph is surely going to prison, Joseph says, "Prison didn't make Paul deny what he had seen." During the encounter, Joseph draws on the experiences of Paul and continues to defend what he saw in the grove.

Granted, there is no way of knowing exactly what Joseph Smith said during the encounter. Despite this, the dialogue between the preacher and Joseph is memorable. One would like to believe that Joseph was just as fervent and genuine when he encountered people who didn't believe him.

All in all, "Joseph: A Stalwart Witness" is great for those who are hesitant to read thick biographies about former prophets and leaders. By writing the Joseph Smith story as a novel, readers are able to fully understand the remarkable events that occurred in the 1800s.

Shelby Scoffield has a bachelor's in English from Brigham Young University and a master's in rhetoric and composition from Stanislaus State University. She is currently working on her teaching credentials so she can teach high school English.

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