John Brooke – The Refiner�s Fire – a book on early Mormonism
The book is somewhat boring and fairly difficult to read for the first hundred pages or so, but it picks up after that and does a good job in showing that Joseph Smith was a product of his environment rather than a restorer of truth via revelation from a supernatural power. The Refiner’s Fire is better in not creating ideas of what Joseph Smith was thinking out of thin air like No Man Knows My History sometimes does. This is an important work on earlier Mormonism, but it is probably not as necessary for a Mormon historian’s library as the similar works done by Quinn such as Early Mormonism and the Magic World View or The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power.
A link was previously here to the FARMS review of this book, but they now charge for access to that review.
from the publisher:
Mormon religious belief has long been a mystery to outsiders, either dismissed as anomalous to the American religious tradition or extolled as the most genuine creation of the American imagination. The Refiner’s Fire presents a new and comprehensive understanding of the roots of Mormon religion, whose theology promises the faithful that they will become “gods” through the restoration of ancient mysteries and regain the divine powers of Adam lost in the fall from Paradise.
Professor Brooke contends that the origins of Mormonism lie in the fusion of radical religion with occult ideas, and organizes his book around the two problems of demonstrating the survival of these ideas into the nineteenth century and explaining how they were manifested in Mormon doctrine. In the concluding chapter, the author provides an outline of how Mormonism since the 1850s gradually moved toward traditional Protestant Christianity. As well as religion, the book explores magic, witchcraft, alchemy, Freemasonry, counterfeiting, and state-formation.
John L. Brooke is professor of history at Tufts University and the acclaimed author of The Heart of the Commonwealth: Society and Political Culture in Worcester County, Massachusetts, 1713-1861 (CUP, 1989), which has won, among other prizes, the Organization of American Historians’ Merle Curti Award for Intellectual History and the National Historical Society Book Prize for American History.