New Books in History
In Heaven as it is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death by Samuel Morris Brown
OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, 2012
Every person must confront death; the only question is how that person will do it. In our culture (I speak as an American here), we don’t really do a very good job of it. We face death by fighting it by any and every means at our disposal. Why we do this is hard to figure, as the struggle against death is often terribly painful (not to mention costly) and always futile. In his new book In Heaven as it is on Earth: Joseph Smith and the Early Mormon Conquest of Death (Oxford University Press, 2012), Samuel Morris Brown tells us how Joseph Smith, the founder of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, told his followers to prepare for and confront death. It didn’t come to him all at once. A certain amont of what would become Mormon dogma was revealed to him; a certain amount was borrowed from other creeds; and a certain amount was Smith’s own invention. The doctrine he evolved was profoundly humane. He rejected the idea that we would meet our maker alone. God gave us families and he would never, ever take them away. In heaven, God would re-unite us with our kin and we would enjoy, effectively, eternal life in the bosom of our loved ones. There was, therefore, nothing to fear in death, for it was but a continuation of life, albeit more perfect for being in the proximity of God. I don’t know if it is easier for Mormons to die than for the rest of us, but I can easily imagine that it is.