A thought-provoking, sometimes surprising account of a female intellectual's passion for Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and her near-conversion to the faith.
Since her childhood, author and documentarian Barnes (Double Lives, 1981, etc.) has nursed “a persistent religious drive.” Born into a family where religion was more ritual than the expression of true faith, she eventually began a “slow mosey” through Unitarianism, ecstatic Protestantism, Zen Buddhism and spiritual practices that verged on worship of the supernatural. By 2003, Barnes had developed an especially profound fascination with Smith. Her interest manifested first as a treatment for a PBS documentary about Smith's life, then evolved into a full-blown love for the man and his work. “His exuberant arc from boy conjurer into frontier prophet with gold plates gave me the most intense delight of which I was capable,” she writes. Smith's many contradictions showed Barnes that God and irony could coexist, but more importantly, that God had “a touchingly, meltingly, divinely irreverent sense of humor.” As she continued to explore the Mormon faith, she discovered that she was not the first in her family to have been touched by Smith's teachings. Both maternal and paternal relatives had converted to Mormonism, and one had even become one of Brigham Young’s many wives. Ultimately, though, Barnes could not make the commitment to becoming a Mormon. While the author clearly idolizes Smith, she is not an apologist for him.
A searching, intelligent spiritual memoir.