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American Crucifixion


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About the Author

Alex Beam is a columnist for the Boston Globe and for the International Herald Tribune. He is the author of two works of nonfiction, Gracefully Insane and A Great Idea at the Time, both New York Times Notable Books. He has also written for the Atlantic Monthly, Slate and Forbes/FYI. He lives in Newton, Massachusetts with his wife and three sons.


Benjamin Moser, New York Times Book Review "The story Beam tells is full of dramatic detail: the precautions the Mormons took to prevent the Smiths' bodies from being snatched; Emma Smith's dogged, pathetic delusion that she was Joseph's only wife; the capers of the kangaroo court that acquitted the murderers; the Mormon fantasies about divine punishments meted out." Wall Street Journal "A remarkably fair account of the origins and trajectory of Mormonism itself...Mr. Beam displays a fine sense of narrative pacing...American Crucifixion is an excellent book about the life and death of this utterly uncategorizable man." Chicago Tribune "Fascinating...While "American Crucifixion" masters its setting and era, the book's greatest contribution is its dramatic account of the events, as acted out by many memorable characters... "American Crucifixion" paints a brilliant picture of religious experimentation, public intolerance and the making of a martyr." Christian Century "An engrossing read that makes the final months of Joseph Smith's life a relevant story for American history and for a general audience. Beam reminds us that religious intolerance is neither a new problem in the United States nor an easy one to solve." Library Journal, Starred review "The murder of Mormon religious leader Joseph Smith is compelling on its own terms and is made all the more so here by Beam's thorough research and riveting storytelling... Beam's page-turner will appeal to history (not just religious history) buffs, as well as find a place on specialists' shelves owing to its examination of primary sources." Booklist, starred review "Beam offers a captivating saga of Smith's rise and fall and of a colorful cast of characters who contributed to the internal politics and rivalries that led to Smith's death and drove the Mormons forward to their destiny. Anyone interested in the formation and transformation of Mormonism as well as the intersection of religion, politics, and U.S. history will enjoy this fascinating book." Kirkus Reviews "Beam is the consummate journalist, precise about his research and offering judgment only where there is ample proof of wrongdoing. He treats Smith with journalistic objectivity but doesn't hesitate to point out that 'Joseph received so many revelations that they inevitably conflicted.' With so much history to tackle, from the roots of Mormonism to the economic, political and moral climate in which hatred of the new religion developed, it is impressive that Beam maintains narrative tension and excitement while injecting personality...A fascinating history that, while particularly appealing to those interested in religion, is sure to inform a far wider audience." Publishers Weekly "Beam's tale brings alive a cast of early 1840s characters as strange, flawed, and significant as any in American history...[R]eveals how the fight over Mormonism, one built both on its distinctive claims and its enemies' intolerance, extends into our day. Better, Beam implies in this lively telling, to try to understand its sad and violent origins than to condemn or praise it outright." Los Angeles Times "It's a brutal yet absorbing slice of history that Alex Beam captures well in his new book, "American Crucifixion: The Murder of Joseph Smith and the Fate of the Mormon Church." While Beam wraps in some essential early church history, this is at heart a journalistic account of a murder that tells us as much about religious intolerance and the low flash point of mob violence as it does about Mormonism." Daily Beast "An evenhanded and fast-paced history... Focusing on the days surrounding the perversion of justice that took place in Carthage, Beam makes every effort to contextualize Joseph Smith in American history." Cleveland Plain Dealer "[A] colorful account of the amazing rise and untimely demise of this fascinating figure... [Smith] was one-of-a-kind, to be sure, but Beam insightfully analyzes him in the broader context of Jacksonian America's raucously democratic and frequently violent frontier...A compulsively readable tale of Smith's life and times, 'American Crucifixion' also serves as an intriguing study of why people are moved to abandon themselves, both to devout religious belief and unreasoning fear and hatred of 'the other.'" Maclean's "In his nuanced and engrossing tale of the first Mormons' alternating periods of triumph and despair along the original American frontier--on both sides of Huck Finn's antebellum Mississippi River--Beam illuminates not just their history but their nation's." Lincoln Journal Star "Beam gives the reader a full and unbiased account of Smith's strengths and limitations, including, if it can be called a limitation, a rather severe case of megalomania... It would be easy to ridicule Joseph Smith, but Beam neither praises nor condemns him. Instead he wants the reader to understand what the church's beginnings were like. He succeeds in this endeavor and has written a fine book." Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars "High drama as one of America's greatest--and most mystifying--characters, Joseph Smith, meets one our most incisive writers, Alex Beam, at a crossroads of our history." T.J. Stiles, Pulitzer Prize--winning author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt "If Mormonism is the most American of religions--and it is--then the story of its founding is an American epic. In this gripping book, Alex Beam tells the story of the fate of Joseph Smith amid the Mormons' rising tensions with 'gentile' neighbors--and among themselves. With an acute eye for character, he depicts Smith, Brigham Young, and their enemies as vivid, complicated human beings, immersed in struggles over money, power, survival, and the controversial doctrine of polygamy. With its dramatic and consequential ending, this book throws new light on the trek to Great Salt Lake and the birth of the LDS Church we know today." Gary Krist, bestselling author of City of Scoundrels "American Crucifixion is an engrossing, powerful account of the rise and fall of one of the most remarkable figures in American history. Alex Beam's portrait of Joseph Smith--equal parts P. T. Barnum, Huey Long, and the prophet Jeremiah--captures the man in all of his contradictions and complexities."

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