While the Prophet Joseph Smith worked to restore Jesus Christ’s original church to the earth, he was not the only “restorationist” of the 19th century. RoseAnn Benson approaches this topic in her stunning overview of restorationist religious leaders in her book “Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith: 19th-Century Restorationists.”
Alexander Campbell was an Irish-American religious leader of the eventual Disciples of Christ, who came from a Presbyterian background. He felt that a restoration of Christ’s original ancient church was in order and set about to do just that. In “Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith,” Benson has done a remarkable job in chronicling and analyzing the two restoration movements side by side in a way not quite done before.
Parallels exist across many lines in the lives of the two church founders, and Benson illuminates the comparisons in a compelling and satisfactory way. The two movements even crossed paths in history — Sidney Rigdon was at different times members of each church, for instance.
Conflict between the two religions occurred in 1830 in northeastern Ohio, and Benson covers all this in chapters such as: “Joseph Smith’s Revelatory Restoration,” “Alexander Campbell’s Foundational Beliefs” and “Conversions and Defections.”
The work is very scholarly and historical, and readers unfamiliar with such a format may find the book too analytical.
Painstakingly researched, cited and prepared, “Alexander Campbell and Joseph Smith” is both fascinating and surprising. As Benson sheds light on a previously unexamined topic, the concepts laid out in the book are irresistibly interesting. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will find the chapters about Joseph Smith compelling as Benson relays some little-known facts about the prophet and uses a breadth of excellent sources.