Stephen C. TaysomJul 28, 2023
Like a Fiery Meteor
The Life of Joseph F. Smith
University of Utah Press 2023
Joseph F. Smith was born in 1838 to Hyrum Smith and Mary Fielding Smith. Six years later both his father and his uncle, Joseph Smith Jr., the founding prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, were murdered in Carthage, Illinois. The trauma of that event remained with Joseph F. for the rest of his life, affecting his personal behavior and public tenure in the highest tiers of the LDS Church, including the post of president from 1901 until his death in 1918. Joseph F. Smith laid the theological groundwork for modern Mormonism, especially the emphasis on temple work. This contribution was capped off by his "revelation on the redemption of the dead," a prophetic glimpse into the afterlife. Taysom's book traces the roots of this vision, which reach far more deeply into Joseph F. Smith's life than other scholars have previously identified.
In Like a Fiery Meteor: The Life of Joseph F. Smith (U of Utah Press, 2023), Stephen C. Taysom uses previously unavailable primary source materials to craft a deeply detailed, insightful story of a prominent member of a governing and influential Mormon family. Importantly, Taysom situates Smith within the historical currents of American westward expansion, rapid industrialization, settler colonialism, regional and national politics, changing ideas about family and masculinity, and more. Though some writers tend to view the LDS Church and its leaders through a lens of political and religious separatism, Taysom does the opposite, pushing Joseph F. Smith and the LDS Church closer to the centers of power in Washington, DC, and elsewhere.
Joseph Stuart is a scholar of African American history, particularly of the relationship between race, freedom rights, and religion in the twentieth century Black Freedom Movement.