Winner of the Knopf Literary Fellowship, Dawn Brodie has here told the story of Joseph Smith, Mormon leader, with an objective fairness, an appreciation of his magnetism, his potentialities, a recognition of his great gifts and great weaknesses and a full recognition of his achievement in establishing, not just another sect, but a way of life that has held his followers for over a century, much of the time against hate, misunderstanding, violent persecution. In presenting his early years, the biographer weighs the evidence, putting-in final analysis no credence in the actuality of divine vision, but showing how Joseph Smith, little by little, let his imagination, his gift of hypnotism, his innate brilliance build, from local superstition and legends of his times, a system that was bigger than he knew. The tragic pattern of his leadership -- tragic in its recurrent catastrophes -- was offset by the fulfillment of his dream of leadership, which ended in martyrdom, leaving behind him a foundation on which Brigham Young built soberly. Six migrations -- precipitated in many cases by physical violence; the gradual growth of an authoritarian system with elements of communistic living; the most problem of plural marriage unsolved -- and the way opened for the building of a new Zion -- such is the story. Fully documented.