"SCHOOL OF THE PROPHET: Joseph Smith Learns the First Principles, 1820-1830," by Richard E. Bennett, Deseret Book, $21.99, 163 pages (nf)

Richard E. Bennett anticipated the question and addressed it in the introduction.

“So much of a biographical nature has been written in recent years on the life of the Prophet Joseph Smith that one may well wonder if there is anything new or important left to say about him,” Bennett wrote.

He found something.

Last August, Bennett published “School of the Prophet: Joseph Smith Learns the First Principles, 1820-1830,” a book that examines what was taught to the first Latter-day prophet during the decade between the first vision and the organization of the church.

“My present purpose is not to attempt a full-length biography of Joseph Smith but to explore the pages of both church history and holy writ to show how Joseph Smith was carefully and thoroughly taught the first principles and ordinances of the gospel between 1820 and 1830,” Bennett wrote.

During that 10-year period, the prophet learned three important lessons, Bennett said.

First, Joseph learned principles he would later be called to teach others.

Second, the Lord used visions, heavenly messengers and common, everyday experiences to teach the future prophet.

Third, this era in church history provides a divine pattern of instruction in essential, life-changing principles.

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“Nothing else is as important to the core teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as are the saving doctrines,” Bennett writes. “These principles were so carefully impressed upon Joseph’s mind.”

Bennett is a professor of church history and doctrine at BYU. He is also the church history editor for “BYU Studies,” a university publication. Bennett was born in Ontario, Canada, and earned a doctorate in American history from Wayne State University. Before coming to BYU in 1997, he was head of the department of archives and special collections at the University of Manitoba for 20 years.

"School of the Prophet" is available wherever Deseret Book products are sold.

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