|Fawn Brodie's father was LDS Prophet David O. McKay's brother. She was known nationally for her historical works on Thomas Jefferson and Richard Nixon, but among the Mormons was best known as author of "No Man Knows My History", a biography of Joseph Smith, Jr. This interview is adapted from an audio taped interview by California State University at Fullerton's Center for Oral and Public History http://coph.fullerton.edu/. Fawn McKay Brodie was born in 1915 and died in 1981. Click on book covers below for reviews, more details or to purchase.|
Q: What was your mother's reaction to your disbelief in Joseph Smith's divine calling as a prophet?
A: Mother was a kind of quiet heretic which made it much easier for me. Her father had been nominally devout but as president of the Brigham Young University he had brought in people like G. Stanley Hall and John Dewey as lecturers, and philosophers and psychologists who were fascinated by the Mormon scene. He was a very open minded man and a fine educator. Some of this rubbed off on my mother and so I say, "My grandfather was not a heretic, but his children were," or rather some of them were.
Q: What about your brother and sisters?
A: Well, my brother is still a devout Mormon but my sisters are all, what we call, "Jack Mormons," since they are still technically in the church but they are not active and they don't go along with the Mormon dogma. They still count themselves Mormons.
Q: Do you?
A: Oh, no. I am an excommunicated Mormon. I was officially excommunicated when the biography of Joseph Smith was written and published. About six months after publication, there was a formal excommunication.
Q: Would you care to explain more about that?
A: I was excommunicated for heresy--and I was a heretic-- and specifically for writing the book. My husband was teaching at Yale at the time and we were living in New Haven, CT. Two Mormon missionaries came to the door and presented me with a letter asking me to appear before the bishop's court in Cambridge, MA to defend myself against heresy. I simply told them, or wrote a letter telling them, that I would not go because, after all, I was a heretic. So then I was officially excommunicated and got a letter to that effect.
Q: This was because of writing the book "No Man Knows My History?"
A: That is right.
Q: Were you allowed ample access to records and manuscripts when you were writing the book?
A: Almost all of the material in the book came from three great libraries. At the University of Chicago, where I was working after I married Bernard, there was really a great collection of western New York State history so by going through the material I was able to find out something about the sources of Joseph Smith's ideas, particularly the ideas which went into the writing of the Book of Mormon. I finally ended up going to Albany, NY, where all the newspapers were kept which were published in Joseph Smith's own hometown in Palmyra, NY. So I was able to read the newspapers he had read as a young man. This turned out to be an absolute gold mine!
A lot of the theories about the American Indians being descendants of the Lost Ten Tribes and the descriptions of what were being found in the Indian mounds were in the newspapers. The speculation was there. That was extremely important as was the anti-Masonic material. The anti-Masonic excitement was very strong at that time. Then I went to the Library of Congress and the New York Public Library. The New York Public Library has the best Mormon collection in the country outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.
I did go to the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at Independence, MO, and I did go to the library of Salt Lake City for some periodicals, early Mormon periodicals that I couldn't get anywhere else. I was permitted to see those, but I was not permitted to see any manuscript material.
Q: Are those church archives open now? I read a comment indicating that it was believed that your book would open archival material.
A: It had the reverse effect. The archives were largely closed to scholars after my book came out. But in recent years they have become open again. The new man who is head of the church historian's office, Leonard Arrington, a fine historian, is much more liberal in his attitude than the older historians. The younger scholars are now being given access to the archives in a way they were not before. I think this was long overdue but a very good trend.
Q: Was there a fear that someone else would do the same thing you did?
A: That's right. I think I should be very exact in my statement. It is not quite true to say the manuscript sources were denied to me. I had been told that there was a "diary of Joseph Smith" (click image to left) in his own handwriting, written when he was in his early twenties. I knew one man at the Brigham Young University, who is now dead, who had seen it and read it. But when I asked to see it, I was told I could not see it. Then I had a very long, and very difficult interview with my uncle, David O. McKay.
Afterward, he told me I could see the manuscript but by this time the family situation had become so delicate that I felt that I would rather not take advantage of my uncle's name to use this material. I wrote to him saying I would not ask for any more material and I never went back to the church library. So, technically, I was given access, but I didn't use it. It was made very clear to me that it was an extremely difficult family situation, so that is the way I handled it.
Q: Was this after you began a career in writing? Had you thought about this long before your days at the university?
A: Oh, I had always wanted to write fiction. I discovered after writing numerous short stories that this was not my forte. Then after I was married, my husband, who is Jewish and totally new to the Mormon scene, was very fascinated by it. In answering his questions, this stimulated the desire in myself to find out the roots and sources of what Joseph Smith's ideas were. In any case, I started out not to write a biography of Joseph Smith, but to write a short article on the sources of the Book of Mormon.
In my research in the University of Chicago library, I thought I had found some answers. But, having done that, I had by that time done enough research to realize first of all there was no good biography of Joseph Smith and also I had to answer the questions myself. If the Book of Mormon came out of his own background in western New York, which he insisted came from golden plates, then what kind of man was this? The whole problem of his credibility, I thought, was crying out for some explanation.
So then I moved into the much more difficult task of writing a biography. It was a piece of detective work that I found absolutely compelling. It was fantastic! I was gripped by it. I spent seven years doing the research and writing and I was fascinated the whole time.
I was baffled by the complexities of this man and remained somewhat baffled even after the book was finished. It wasn't until fifteen or twenty years later when I had done a lot of reading in psychiatric literature that I felt I had some more explanations.
I have tried to put a little bit of this in the supplement which came out in the second edition, which came out in 1971. Probably, if I were to write it all over again, knowing what I know now about human behavior, I think I would do a better job: but on the whole, it holds up quite well. I am really proud of the book and stand by everything in it.
Q: What did you include in your supplement that you didn't have in the original edition? A: Mostly, it was a matter of trying to let the reader know what had happened in the Mormon research in the twenty to twenty five years since the first edition. Some very important material had come out of the church library about the so-called "first vision" of Joseph Smith. It turned out there are three versions of the first vision, each one quite different from the other. This bore out my theory of the evolutionary character of the first vision.
Then there were some important new data about the holy book called the Book of Abraham. I had been told, and everybody thought that the papyri which Joseph Smith is supposed to have translated of the Book of Abraham had been burned in the Chicago fire. It turned out that it had not been, that Emma Smith had sold it and it had ended up in the New York Metropolitan Museum. When that was discovered, it was given back to the church and when the material was translated, it turned out to be just ordinary funeral documents, which is what most scholars had believed from the beginning. This was extremely important and I put that in.
But also, I felt that I had made some speculations about the nature of Joseph Smith's relations, and with his brothers in particular, and with his father and how that got into the Book of Mormon. That was something I had not realized before. I had not paid enough attention to his childhood, to his relations with his five brothers, because the Book of Mormon is a story of fratricide.
It is brother killing brother all the way through. I felt this was an important idea which I had not sufficiently thought out before. I had skirted on it; that kind of thing. I felt too, that there was more material on his mother and father that I had not used. So as I said, if I had it to do over again, the earlier portion would be more thoughtfully done. And, I think, too, I would discuss the nature of his identity problems, which I think was severe, in psychiatric terms. I could not have done it then because I did not know anything about it.
Q: Would you care to comment a little more in depth on that? A: Well, it is just that I think he falls into a pattern which has been written about with very great skill--I mean, a psychological pattern-- which had been written by Phyllis Greenacre, a psychoanalyst, who did a wonderfully perceptive article called "The Imposter." She defines the "imposter," clinically, in a way that one doesn't normally think of an imposter. She discusses the identity problem the imposter has, the degree to which he needs an audience, and the degree to which the audience, you might say, connives in the impostership; they want to believe his claims. In this case, I think the audience wanted to believe that he was truly a prophet. So the two work together.
But it is not fair to describe him as a simple imposter. This was a very special, complicated story. I don't like to use models but I would have used some of her material, I think, because it is extremely illuminating. I may go back and do a serious article on it someday.
Q: When did she come out with this article?
A: That was in the forties or fifties, I have forgotten. The fifties, I guess. I refer to the article in the supplement.
Q: I was interested in finding out where you had noticed differences. I had read, too, that the question has been asked by several of your reviewers. Do you feel that you answered, or rather, that you really did write his history in contrast to this statement, "that no man knows my history"?
A: Well, I think I did much better than anybody else had. I assumed that there would be a better biography come along. It is astonishing to me that there has not been. But the book has stood up very well and perhaps one of the reasons that there hasn't been another biography is that not enough new material has come along to make it worthwhile. The new material that has come along has tended to verify my thesis rather than to destroy it. This has been very gratifying.
Q: In the new material that you have been able to obtain, or get access to, has... A: It all verifies the original thesis, that his was an evolutionary process from the very beginning, that the visions probably began in some kind of childhood dream and, at any rate, were very, very different from the way he described them when he began writing his history.
The fraudulent nature of the Book of Mormon is, I think, unmistakable; that has not changed. The devout Mormons still believe it to be the work of God. The "Jack Mormons" are pretty certain it is not, but still respect the organization of the church and feel that it does a great deal of good, so they stay with it. I can see that there are many things about the brotherhood that are very rewarding. But, I think there is no question that the Book of Mormon was fraudulently conceived. This will always be a stumbling block to people who are trying to make converts.
Q: Was this part of your change? Did this contribute to your getting away...
A: I was convinced before I ever began writing the book that Joseph Smith was not a true prophet-- to use an old Mormon phrase. Once I learned about the scientific evidence, which is overwhelming, that the American Indians are Mongoloid, I was no longer a good Mormon. That was relatively easy. It seemed to me that it was decisive.
Q: What really prompted you to write about him at that time instead of someone else?
A: Well, as I say, looking back, it was a rather compulsive thing. I had to. It was partly that I wanted to answer a lot of questions for myself. There were many questions that no one had answered for me. I certainly did not get any of the answers in Utah. Having discovered the answers and being excited about them, I felt that I wanted to give other young doubting Mormons a chance to see the evidence. That, plus the fact that I had always wanted to write, made it possible--not made it possible--made it imperative that I do a serious piece of history. I found the detective work exciting, but there was always anxiety along with it because I knew it would be difficult for my family.
Q: Were you still at the University of Utah at that time?
A: No, when I was writing the book, I had a job at the University of Chicago library.
Q: As a librarian?
A: I was never a trained librarian but I was handing out books in the circulation Department. I loved it; the women for whom I worked were very sweet, and I had a certain time for reading, especially when I was on the night shift. My husband was getting his doctoral degree at the university, so I had about two and one half to three years working in the library where I was deeply involved in this major research.
Q: How long, totally, did it take you to do research?
A: Seven years. But I had a job and was working most of that time. And then the last two years I had a baby, therefore, I never had full time to work on it.
Q: Did you have your master's degree at that point?
Q: In what?
A: English literature. As an historian, I am completely self-taught. At that time, at the University of Chicago, the emphasis in English literature was on the historical method so I got very good training. Later, it changed and the emphasis was on criticism rather than on history. I received excellent training in the historical method.
Q: Did you restrict yourself to biographies, exclusively?
A: Yes, except for an occasional thing like the speeches here and there which are on more general historical topics. But I find biography is what I love and I am more comfortable with it. I am happier with the narrative technique that I am with the topical method. Essentially, I am a story teller.
Q: And in this way you kind of manipulated your heroes...
A: All historians manipulate by virtue of the selection of the material. "Manipulate" is a nasty word. The good historian tries not to manipulate deliberately but to let the material shape itself. I found, especially with the Joseph Smith book, something fascinating. I was working with non-Mormon, anti-Mormon and Mormon material and I would get three different versions of the same episode--always two, sometimes three--and when I put them together a picture emerged that I believe had nothing to do with me, nothing to do with my selection.
I was just putting all the versions together and then, as I say, it was a little like building a mosaic, it was a combination. It was not totally jigsaw either, but a picture emerged so often as I wrote these chapters that I thought this must be the way it happened. It was different from both the anti-Mormon and the Mormon version, but so often the materials fitted nicely.
But what I wrote, of course, has been hotly contested by the Mormons, the devout Mormon historians, who have questioned every single line and who have gone back and read everything I wrote and found every small error and checked every footnote. But, this is the fate of anyone who writes controversial history.
The same thing is happening with the Jefferson book. I feel as if I am living my life over twice because it, too, is very controversial and the Jefferson establishment is very hostile. The book is not sold at Monticello just as the other book was not originally sold at the church bookstore in Salt Lake City--I mean the Joseph Smith biography. But I think in time, the Jefferson establishment is more likely to come around to my point of view than the Mormon authorities in Salt Lake City.
Q: Do you get a lot of "anti" mail from devout Mormons?
A: No, I have had surprisingly little over the years. I have had a great deal of mail--some of it very touching--but mostly from the young people who are on their way out of the church, are doubting, are unhappy, and are running into trouble with their families, and are writing for a little moral support. I have had many letters like that.
Q: Are they using this as a basis for their own beliefs?
A: The young people who are moving out of the church find the book sometimes very traumatic and sometimes very valuable. Many of them write asking me about specific material in it. They want to go back and read what I have read. They don't "buy" it totally; they are influenced by it, but they want to go back and redo my research and this is very healthy.
Q: It is interesting that the Mormon congregation has grown so tremendous.
A: Oh, the birthrate is very high and they have this fantastic missionary system and, as I said, the church is a brotherhood which offers wonderful things especially to young people. It has a young people's program which is very impressive. The work ethic is one which I greatly admire. Unfortunately, the brotherhood excludes blacks which I think is sad, and which I have written about. I think the roots have to do with Mormon history and the exclusion is unnecessary, but I think it is going to continue.
Q: What do you think is the reason for it?
A: In my Joseph Smith book, I describe in detail, and other Mormon historians, too, have gone into it and written about it in much greater detail than I have. The church was not anti-black until they went to Missouri, which was a slave state. The big block of non-slaveholding people ran into great difficulty, were persecuted and driven out of the state.
During that period, Joseph Smith made some statements which seem to be proslavery and anti-black, but later, when he went on to Illinois, he reversed himself and became almost an abolitionist. When he was running for president, he made some very strong abolitionist statements. But the anti-black ones were accepted; the pro-black were not.
That, plus some unfortunate things is one of the holy books--the Book of Abraham. Some of his unfortunate anti-black statements crystallized in Utah--Brigham Young is more responsible for this than Joseph Smith whose ideas were volatile. And the Mormons decided that no black should be permitted to go into the temples to take part in the secret ceremonies. The proscription was really quite stringent and shockingly racist.
I have read Fawn Brodie's book, "No Man Knows My History." I have also read the book, "No Ma'am That's Not History" by Hugh Nibley, Ph.D. I would recommend Doctor Nibley's book to everyone. It's very interesting to me that it took Fawn Brodie 7 years to complete her infantile work while Joseph Smith dictated The Book of Mormon in about 65 days with no going back over the manuscript to make changes or revisions. If Fawn Brodie really believed Joseph Smith wrote The Book of Mormon she should be praising him as the greatest mind to every inhabit planet earth. For anyone looking for an excuse to leave the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormon) have at it. For anyone really looking for the truth, you won't find it in Fawn Brodie's book. 12/21/2012 - Dawn
My experience concerning the LDS religion is this. There has always been a winnowing out among the membership of the church and there probably always will be. In ancient times people would put some freshly thrashed wheat into into the center of a blanket. The leaves that covered the wheat intact. With someone on each side of the blanket they would throw it into the air. The agitation that took place in this process along with the wind would blow the leaves that had become detached from the wheat away and the kernels would fall safely back into the blanket. After doing this several times they would have only the wheat. The wheat sustains spiritual life. The chaff does not. - 11/28/2010 - by Jerry Winnowing
In the late 1970's, I had the pleasure to be a short-term house guest of Oliver and Barbara McKay Smith (Fawn's sister). Until today, I had no idea that my friends' (Dorothy and Rick Smith) mother was Fawn Brodie's sister. I met Debby Smith then, too. I look back at this time as one of my most enjoyable memories of Provo, Utah. I was welcomed as family for the two or three weeks I stayed there until finding my own apartment. I still remember a dinner with a side dish of small red potatoes, butter, and parsley prepared by Debby.
This short intro is to explain how I arrived at this web site and may explain something that I found interesting at the time and which I may now have a better understanding of Barbara. I found Barbara's obituary on the web and noticed that Fawn Brodie was listed as a sister. While sad to hear of Barbara's death, I smiled as I remembered her and her family and the kindness shown to me. A short web search brought me to this web site and to a comment left by Debby just yesterday.
While not in a position to agree or disagree with anything said in support of or against Fawn Brodie, I can say that having met Barbara and her family, I do not doubt the sincerity of any of the Smiths I had the pleasure of meeting many years ago. I seem to remember that Barbara did not regularly attend church with the family though she was invited every week to attend. If the narrative I just read is acccurate, it seems likely that Barbara may have been echoing some of the "Jack Mormon" tendencies referred to by Fawn in the above interview.
I will say that while I no longer consider myself LDS, I hold no animosity toward the church or those who continue to practice the faith they were raised in. - 04/13/2008 - Rick Ames
Not quite sure how I stumbled onto your site - very nice, wish I'd know it existed years ago, what fun! Oh, I remember, I was searching for information on my aunt, Fawn Brodie, and found her interview here. One of the comments really disturbed me. anon posted below:
"It was fairly wide knowledge at the time her book was published that Fawn Brodie only wrote and 'anti' book for the money. According to several family members Brodie was barely making it on a librarian salary. That compounded with the fact that she was to be denied any inheritance from her father cause her to strike back the best way she could think of - by attacking Joseph Smith. The money poured in and she promptly told her father where he could go.
Not bad for a book that simply re-hashes earlier anti-Joseph books. - 08/21/2005 - anon"
Granted this written a few years ago, but I feel I need to set the record straight. First of all, all of her immediate family supported her research and writing of this book, including her father and mother. Inheritance? Oh, please! Granted, many of the David McKay (my great-grandfather) siblings were well off, but certainly not my Grandfather. There was nothing to be cut off from.
I'd really love to know where "anon" got his/her information from. Fawn always had a wonderful relationship with her family, parents included! I don't know of one family member that did not admire and respect her, even those that are "faithful" members.
I do feel sad for "anon" - may they someday be able to understand that spreading rumors and untruths will bite them in the ass eventually. - 04/11/2008 - Debby Smith - sistercatty
I have one of the many exhaustive stories about being born and raised Mormon and then due to circumstances gradually turned away from a controlling neurotic religion to a life where freedom and scientific understanding are the norm rather than something that should be shunned. I know that the Mormon religion is false (panantimormon?) and has grown out of pricking the conscience of those with emotional appeal, pageantry, plagiarism, and supporting the unnatural with stories akin to todays alien abductions.
My awakening was as a result of a terrible incident in Salt Lake City with the Salamander Letter and Mark Hoffman. I knew the family intimately, I visited Mark's family each month as a home teacher and was shocked when we all found out he was making forgeries and bombs in his basement. The Church held a Solemn Assembly for all the Elders in the SL Valley it essentially boiled down to Hinckley telling us that times to come would be tough and that our testimonies would be tested. They knew (church leadership) that what was to come was a revelation that Hoffman's white salamander letter was fake and that they had already made statements of it's authenticity and support of the testimony on Joseph Smith's claim of the visions he had of God/Jesus and Moroni. Essentially they (church leadership) were doing damage control.
After the bombs went off and people were killed (too bad Hoffman was not one of them) the information came slowly that what had transpired was an elaborate hoax by Hoffman, the Mormon Church and Church Leadership. I was crushed, I had just gone through a bitter divorce and was being slowly ostracized by family, friends (some friends) and this was the straw that broke the camels back. I took off my garments never to look back. What is interesting in my case was that I never felt hatred or anger, I just felt that I needed to find a way of living without the drama, smoke and mirrors and rely on more of what can be proved rather than what is an emotional appeal. I don't want this to happen again and give another group footing to appeal to the gullible, my best strategy was to ignore them.
For years afterwards, I've lived very happy, I've been reading Christopher Hitchins and Richard Dawkins on religion and DNA, respectively, on evolution, scientific discovery and it made sense. We could use a dose of reality and give up superstitions and magic shows that to our ancestors 2,000 years from now will look as alien to them as we look at evolved cavemen. We are still a crude race and have many generations to go before we finally see truth as it should be viewed.
In conclusion, I'm glad I had my awakening, it was good for me and I encourage all to read more about religion and how it all came to be the massive marketing scam it has become. Now I will add Fawn Brodie's book "No Man..." to my repertoire. - 02/16/2008 - Thanks for the Site. - HappyAtheist
Being raised/born into the Baptist religion, and having a beautiful mother who taught me Jesus is my best friend and the bible is the word of God. My youth and young adult years take with it these beliefs. Life as it suppose to has its trials and tribulations, and what I was given and taught thus for lack some answers. So we seek truth, in prayer, reading the scripture, talking with those who are educated in faith, we visit and explore other beliefs. What I found in reading the Book of Mormon was the Plan of Salvation, Chirst teachings in plan and simple truth. If you know Christ and read the Book of Mormon you will see another testament of him. I you don't yet know Christ you will see his plan and your part in Salvation. Every Prophet who has walked and will walked is HUMAN. They will and do live a life as we all. Moses didn't go into the promise land because he was human. David never built the temple because he was HUMAN. Human make mistakes, have trials, tribulations, it is a part of the plan. If you seek truth you will find it. Spiritual matters are not matters we can explain away by scientific explanation, if we could they would not be spiritual. A testimony is truth, it is not a belief. If you want to have a testimony you have to done your part, and do as Father ask you. If you want to know if the principle of tithing are real, pay your tithing. If you want to know if keeping the commandments of God are true live them. If you want to know if the BOM is true read it, and ask. Joseph Smith was a man, human as any of the rest of us. Making Mistakes, however, what sets him apart as that of the other Prophets called and will be called is God the Father. They are his mouth piece and when they speak in his name, HE is speaking. My cause for reading her work is to see how a child so closely related to a Prophet of God could get off the mark. She went for her own glory to make her own mark. She missed out on the best parts, because she looked to explain spiritual things, by logic and reasoning, not seeking the barrier of all truth the Holy Ghost. It would not surprise me that while writing this book, she had experiences that she ignored, because of her selfishness to be a noted someone, therefore she remained in her personal ignorance. If you want truth, and seek to find it, asking him who knows all, he will manifested to you by his way through the HOLY GHOST. Never take someone else word for it, seek to know for yourself. You know what you know, and then doubt, which is Satan's favorite tool, which he will use to creep in your thoughts and until you choose to stand on that which you know, trying to destroy you and your relationship with Father. Put your faith in HIM, and know his SON, reading his word, and doing his word, and your eyes will always be open. The Holy Ghost will lead and guide you, its our gift from Him who died for us, and who will come again. Wonder how she would have protrayed Paul? - 01/12/2008 - carolc-79
Top Ten Priorities of Fawn Brodie If She Were Alive Today by Beyonce - 03/13/2007
10. Dismiss Gordon B Hinckley as "litte fleck of history."
9. Become the first female to become the official Church Historian.
8. Go out to lunch with Sandra Tanner, Maxine Hanks and all the female board members of the Exmormon Foundation.
7. Go through the temple to experience the "politcally corrected" post 1990 endowment changes which will be her first endowment session not being groped at the veil.
6. Drive her Hummer through the Main Street Plaza in protest of the Mormon Church stealing it from Salt Lake City.
5. Publish her own autobiography: "Why Boyd K Packer Does Not Care To Know My History."
4. Start posting at the FARMS - FAIR bulletin boards.
3. Publish her long awaited tome: "The Thomas Jefferson Wannabees - Josesph Smith, George Romney, Orrin Hatch and Mitt Romney - Delusions of Grandeur and the Kolob Complex."
2. Take Gladys Knight out to lunch at the Cougareat for a real "woman to woman" talk about living in a man's world.
1. Accept the invitation to be the keynote speaker at the next Exmormon Conference in Salt Lake City.
I am a steadfast "Gentile", but quite fascinated with LDS history. (having grown up in Idaho certainly does take it's toll, and the fact I discovered Emma Hale Smith is a distant cousin of mine through both of her parents.)
I first read " No Man Knows My History." ten years ago, and have read much on Mormon history since. I still believe it is THE definitive biography of Joseph Smith. I found it to be an excellent book, showing Smith as neither Devil nor Angel, but HUMAN. I, personally, think she was quite fair in her portrayal of Smith. Mormon's cannot live with the thought that their prophet was a mortal man, with mortal thoughts, actions, and mistakes. To say so in their opinion is heresy.
For the devout, it is all or nothing, their way or no way regarding their first prophet. Somewhere in between, though, lies the truth. Reading this important book is a window into the world of a man influenced by his families history, and the volatile New England environment of the 1820's. Who was blessed with charisma, ambition, imagination, and the ability to draw people into a fantastic world of his creation, holding them in the palm of his outstretched hand.
As other leaders of society, religion, and politics, he was a unique soul who came along at the right time and right place in history. I commend Ms. Brodie for her body of work, and think it quite humerous that the church ex-communicated her out of anger, and a fear of the truth. - 03/12/2007 - from Boudica1977
Brodie's book was and eye-opener for me. I was born and raised in the mormon faith and stayed in it for 39 yrs. After reading her book I realized that I couldn't call myself a mormon any more. Praise God that He directed me in reading her book. I am now a non-demonational christian and loving the freedom that it brings. - 03/11/2007 - Gayla
It was fairly wide knowledge at the time her book was published that Fawn Brodie only wrote and 'anti' book for the money. According to several family members Brodie was barely making it on a librarian salary. That compounded with the fact that she was to be denied any inheritance from her father cause her to strike back the best way she could think of - by attacking Joseph Smith. The money poured in and she promptly told her father where he could go.
Not bad for a book that simply re-hashes earlier anti-Joseph books. - 08/21/2005 - anon
It's been said that Satan will tell you 10 truths to get you to believe 1 lie. If you're looking for crap - you'll always find it. No matter how true the religion, how just the cause. If you want to find fault - you will.
It's unbelievable that so many people would waste so much of their time and energy trying to discredit and destroy an others religion. These arguments aren't about truth - they're about choice. Yes -Fawn Brodie did her research. And then twisted it ever so slightly by putting her own ideas into it. Is that what you call "eye opening"? Or was it perhaps you were looking for an excuse? Sadly, it is true "You can leave the Church but you can't leave the Church alone." AM I right? - you ex-Mormons? (You might consider getting a hobby.)
It sickens me that there are so many using this 'No Man Knows..' book as an easy out. Your "Eat drink and be merry" attitude - I'm sure -is quite a welcome relief to being accountable for your own actions. I'm sure reading her book was exactly the excuse you needed to leave Mormonism behind so you'd be free to serve yourself... How sad. How convenient. Obviously, you never understood the Book of Mormon, you never understood the Bible, and, therefore, how could you ever understand Joseph Smith. Having said that, how could you ever have had a testimony?
Fawn Brodie knows the truth now and who was truly deceived. Forgive me but I'm going to go on in my apparently 'deluded beliefs', honouring the leaders of my LDS Church, trying to live the commandments, and teaching my children to stand for something and to think for themselves. To do their own research from credible resources....you know, like the Bible for instance..
Satan has desired you for his own and now he has you. You chose to let him in. You invited him. Perhaps you might try opening your eyes a little wider. But, again, the choice IS yours. And choices you make now echo throughout eternity. If you choose unwisely, you'll have no one to blame but you. - 07/12/2005 - from Still Believe in Joseph
I just finished Martha Beck's Leaving the Saints. It mentioned the Brodie book and her father's apology. Will you have an interview with her? PS Fawn Brodie's book saved me from being baptized by the Mormons (about 30 years ago) and it was found in a Thrift Shop by the husband of my Jehovah Witness friend. I always loved the irony! Today I purchased another copy at Borders!
I will check this sight for any response.
Thanks! - 04/19/2005 - Mrs. T. Blocker
Editor's note: The Salamander Society will not be seeking an interview with Martha Nibley-Beck.
Loved the book, it answered so many questions my heart already knew the answers to. I can't tell you how enlightening the whole experience was. I grew up mormon and have been inactive for 14 years. My family is still very mormon, and the insight to the beleif system is valuable to me. The masonic connection is a connection most people do not make. I am fascinated by the mormon culture and ex ormons alike. Thank you all. - 03/25/2005 - anon
I am a doctor and LDS for all my 50 years.I found the comments of some of the readers
strange. How they felt so "empowered by the book. I have studied mormonism
all my life and I feel in a scholarly way. I find it full of truth and light that
guides me in a very mixed up world. For all who think they are so wise I would ask
a simple question which Fawn Brodies in no way shape or form answers. Could you
have written the book of mormon. Filled with ancient writing styles such as chiasmas
found in the old testament or using the lunar calendaring references made in 3rd
nephi chapter 8 verse 5 dating the crusifiction of the Savior. These don't touch
the number of verifiable witnesses of the validitiy of that book. Well I with 8
years of post graduate training could not so ask your self how did a uneducated
farm boy do it. So I will add my testimony to the others who believe Joseph was
what he said he was a true prophet of God and some day you also will know and acknowlege
that Joseph Smith had a vision and saw our heavenly Father and his Son. Until then
I wish you all the best of luck walking without the light in a very dark world. - 01/21/2005 - Syd
Syd, please click here and respond to this section: DNA And The Book of Mormon People
I first used Fawn Brodie's book for a research report at Ricks College (now BYU-Idaho) on Joseph Smith's plural wives. Yes, the book was in the Ricks College library in the late 1970s-early 1980s, at least. I own two copies of the book, which I got for $1 a piece at Deseret Industries. So, I have to disbelieve those people who think there was some sort of book-burning manifesto in regards to Fawn's work. "No Man Knows My History" is not a good piece of historical fact; it is full of spurious information. Fawn talks of wanting to write fiction, but couldn't. I find her book to be quite fictional. The fictional series "The Work and the Glory" has a lot more facts and truth in it than Fawn's. Still, though, it makes for curious reading, even if it is not based on true history. - 01/17/2005 - from Gary
This is an interesting glimse into the life of a not so quiet heretic. She was certainly trying to gain noteriety from her books. To some degree she was successful.
Most scholars worth their salt don't rely on her as a main source. It really is a shame though that several of the writers to this post used her as a crutch to leave the church. - 12/09/2004 - anon
fawen brodie burns in hell - 11/20/2004 - anon
I grew up in Salt Lake City. Baptized in the church but never could swallow their party line. Even as a child. After reading Ms. Brodie's book, I felt much more empowered to be the iconoclastic ex-Mormon that I am. - 10/03/2004 - George Nebeker
This is probably the seminal book in Mormon studies today. Without Brodie's pioneering research, I doubt as if the Mormon church would have begun to produce serious historians like Leonard Arrington and D. Michael Quinn.
It will soon have been almost 60 years since this book was first published. It still generated controversy and praise.
I left Mormonism almost 12 years ago. I'm glad to be out of Mormonism and I enjoy my life as an outsider. I owe Brodie and the Tanners a debt of gratitude. This book played a crucial role in my decision to leave the Church.
It is interesting to note how ongoing Mormon research has confirmed many of her early theories. Her research doesn't lie! - 07/27/2004 - from robertus
I read Brodie's book several years ago. It is well researched and well written. It and other similar books such as "Mormon Polygamy," convinced me Mormonism is bogus. Too bad I had to wait until my mid-50's to find the truth. Read the book. If you're honest with yourself you'll see Mormonism is a fraud. - 07/18/2004 - from Grandpa
I was told by a friend to read this book. Mysteriously this book disappeared from the library. The library had to borrow it from another library. I thought the book was very fair. Some of the other Joseph Smith documents at the library had pages torn out and had been defaced. - 06/25/2004 - anon
I read her book in the 70's and it helped me get the courage to leave the church and have my name removed. I had been forced to join as a young child. My father was a bishop who sexually abused me and believe me there was NO one to even tell in the 1946 area of time. I did marry and was married in the temple but chose to leave after that. Many thanks to this author who spoke out at a very important time for so many. I am grateful.
Peace and may the truth bring each reader freedom they did not ever know. - 06/11/2004 - Maralyn1@san.rr.com for comments.
Did you catch Brodie's statement?
"I was convinced before I ever began writing the book that Joseph Smith was not a true prophet."
Thanks Brodie for the SLANTED research on Joseph Smith. Say, do you hang out with Judas? Maybe you can interview him to get the skinny on Jesus, because you obviously wouldn't believe Peter. - 05/09/2004 - Slanted Born Again Mormon
Thanks be to the great spirit for people like Brodie. After being a mormon for 45 years I finally had had enough and left the church. I've never felt better. - 03/31/2004 - Mike
I am a BYU graduate, a RM, served in two bishoprics, on the High Council and as an FBI Agent for 20 years. I happened to be in the BYU bookstore in 2001 and saw Fawn Brodie's book. I bought it, read it, studied it, verified some of her sources and cried to realize how much truth I hadn't known for 60 years. Fawn Brodie, THANK YOU! - 12/22/2003 - from OKGMAN
Thank you for this great discussion platform. Reading your books gives me great joy, very similar to Ayn Rand & R.G. Ingersoll.
I also heard about the your book while atending the U of Utah, in trying to check out a copy from the library, I heard the same apalling stories of defaced copies add finally stolen copies. The only time I was able to read it (prior to my purchasing copies from the Alfred A. Knophf Publishing Co,)was sitting in with the Shakespeare Library Collection, which was under lock & key, with a librarian in attendence.
When I purchased my copies, I had the same misfortune as dillydell. The odd thing is, that my copies were only loaned to 'friends' who claimed to have loaned them to their 'friends'. Alas,Now I will attempt to purchase additional copies for my personal use.
Thanks for the interview & public forum opportunity. Agent.
p.s. I attended BYU for two years and have a host of LDS friends, I being once upon a time Catholic, was always a prised prospect for 'conversion' & also was privy to many very negative anecdotes concerning the Catholic religion. Thanks to both experiences and my graduate years at the U.of Utah. I now reside firmly in the arms of the non-believers. Is'nt life great without the burden? - 11/17/2003 - from vincentrice
it is truly amazing that people would rather continue in a false faith than admit that the founder of their religion was most politely referred to as a likeable ne'er do well. Knowing his preference to lying to avoid the truth should prove to sufficient to send anyone of sound mind out of the mormon church. thank you Fawn Brodie for your work
04/18/2003 - Rebecca
Thanks for this interview. I respect the scholarship of Ms. Brodie and the integrity of her use of primary sources. So sad that there is so little moral honesty of the current church historians of the LDS Church - 12/13/2002 - from dillydell
I am 73 years old...and when I was in my 20's,living in Salt Lake City, UT. I bought a copy of Fawn Brodie's book. Unfortunately, before I had a chance to finish reading it, a "friend" asked to "borrow" it.....I NEVER saw it again! Later I heard that Good Mormon's were instructed to get hold of every copy they could find,,,, to be DESTROYED!
I'm sure that is what happened to MY copy of her book!
I'm so glad to finally find this site, and realize that I have not been 'dreaming' this stuff all these years! :)
Addendum in response to editor's request for more information from dillydell - This has been something that has bothered me for all these 50 plus years!!!! I have never gotten over the fact that a legitimate copy of a book that I purchased was probably 'confiscated' for nefarious purposes!
To answer your questions:....I was born and raised in SLC,UT, but NOT a Mormon. However, I had no problem with that :) The only time it became an 'issue' with me was when THAT book was suddenly "gone missing".......and I didn't even realize that for about a year.......until it came to my attention that there was a concentrated program within the "Church" to acquire and DESTROY every available copy in existence! - 11/26/2002 - foxfire
OK. So what difference will it make to men. Have you read the "Bible"? It has been around for a very long time, men change and edit it, try to correct errors and re-translate it. People still call it the "Word Of God"! Why bother? 11/25/2002 - from patNhu2@Juno.Com
I enjoyed reading and am grateful for the hard work and years of truth revealing research done by ms Brodie. A must read for all, especially church members. - 11/25/2002 - from patNhu2@Juno.Com
I don't see Brodie as an opportunist. There is nothing hateful in her research. I thought it was quite objective. Politicians and prophets are bound to come under scrutiny. - 11/03/2002 - from mrc@dhostpro
Thanks for posting this interview. I have studied Mormon history intensely for many years and Fawn Brodie truly is one of the best (as is Leonard Arrington). Her use of primary source materials goes a long way to prove her theses regarding JS's psyche. The Hugh Nibley rebuttal to her work is based fully on hearsay and serves no other purpose than to be "faith promoting." Let's get away from this and examine Mormon history in the open, not by hiding from it. My grandfather told me that when he first requested a copy of Brodie's book from the Salt Lake Public Library, it was kept behind the counter (at least they had a copy!) and on the pocket in the back (where they kept the old "due date" card) was typed the warning: "This book is not to be loaned to anyone under the age of 21 years." - 09/15/2002 - from Doug "Dog Driver"
Just finished reading Fawn Brodie--last read it years ago when I was in college. So it was interesting timing to stumble across your post-mortem "interview." Geez, that was fascinating--it had too much of a ring of truth about it. Anyway, I found it entertaining. - 09/14/2001 - Dave
What an interesting educated individual Fawn Brodie was. I met her in Fullerton in the 1970's. She wrote the truth, and sometimes the truth hurts, exposing those it comes in contact with. Blind faith can be extremely detrimental to spiritual growth. Numerous religious leaders come along in progressing generations. Society must use common sense to pick the good from the bad. The list goes continues from decade to decade. - 04/18/2001 - mylonnie
OK, so now I'm fascinated by her description of JS's diary. So, has anyone _ever_ wrote or produced a transcript of this diary? Since JS's early 20s would have been the period leading up to the Book of Mormon's publication and establishing the church, it would be most interesting to get his own writings on that. -
05/10/2000 - Letting Go
Signature published them in the late 80s. That is not to say that there aren't still some Joseph Smith diaries that are hidden away. The fact that the church and/or Deseret Books wouldn't publish them tell you about the non-faith promoting contents within. - 05/11/2000 - rpcman
The first journal was actually a history of the church and was written in 1832. That was when Joseph Smith was 27. There next one was written in 1834-35. He was 29. Brodie is talking about a journal written in his "early 20's." This leads me to believe that there is another journal in the Church Historian's office that we don't know about. It's too bad Brodie didn't take advantage of her opportunity to see it. We may never get another chance. Thanks for the link, rpcman. - 05/11/2000 - Makurosu
Sounded like a very nice person and a good, dedicated researcher. - 05/11/2000 - anon
I find the Nibley response to Brodie "No Ma'm, that's not History" far more truthful and enlightening. Nibley is a scholar, whereas Brodie is an opportunist. -
05/10/2000 - Richlander@aol.com
Nibley is a fraud, that has hidden his entire career behind the guise of the church!! Who is the opportunist? - 05/13/2000 - anon
An opportunist for what? She already didn't believe he was a prophet before she wrote the book and she didn't get rich off the sale of her book. Her book is well researched on actual factual documents and the times when she sets forth a thesis, this too has now been proved through more hard, tangible evidence that has come to light since the book was published. Nibley is just perpetuating the "faith promoting" lie and white-wash that they mormon church is so good at doing. - 05/13/2000 - Woke up out of the morg trance
Brodie's recollection is from a second hand source some BYU professor in the 40's. Remembering he read a diary of Joseph Smith while he was in his 20's is correct but not his early twenties.
The Diaries are the ones published by Signature books An American Prophets Record ed. Scott Faulring and Personal Writings of Joseph Smith and Papers of J. S. vol. 1 . Also by the Tanners edited by H. Michael Marquardt. The Diary when Joseph was in his twenties is the first Joseph Smith Diary 1832- 34 . He would have been 27 in 1832 and 30 in 1835. So that fits his 20's. These dairies have been published in Personal Writing of Joseph Smith and papers of Joseph Smith vol. 1 ed. by Dean Jessee and An American Prophets record ed. by Scott Faulring and also by the Tanners by Michael Marquardt.
The Brodie interview is very interesting. Thanks for posting it. - 05/16/2000 - A Historian who has seen and studied the sources
The book "An American Prophet's Record : The Diaries and Journals of Joseph Smith" (2nd Ed), by Scott H. Faulring. It sells with amazon for $7.96. I myself owe a 1st edition. It's a must for history buffs. But (!): Don't expect too much. No big secrets really, nothing really sensational. Most of it (in parts) had been published before, Faulring just brings it all together.
Background: Some of Joe Smith's autobiographical writings had appeared before in various publications, but no attempt had been made before to bring them together. Faulring finally accomplished this in 1989 with his first edition. The first to get it started were (who else?) the Tanners in 1979. They published H. Michael Marquardt's (for TBM apologists an "anti-mormon") "Joseph Smith's 1832-34 Diary (Smith's 1832 autobiographical sketch, the 32-34 diary and journal)." Also: "Joseph Smith's 1835-36 Diary (diary and journal), " and finally in 1982 "Joseph Smith's 1838-39 Diaries" (the s.c. "Scriptory book" and "Minute Book" of James Mulholland). In 1984 BYU History Prof. Dean Jessee published "The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith." These include Smith's years 1832-36. In 1980 LDS Andrew Ehat and Lyndon Cook published their "The Words of Joseph Smith." It covers excerpts mainly from journals of the Nauvoo period (39-44).
When done with that lot you will surely come up with at least one final conclusion and tons of evidence for it: Mormon "historians" are experts in "editing" their own church history. Others call it forging, tampering with, and falsification." - 5/15/2000 - James
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