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The Joseph Smith Foundation will be releasing a thorough review and debunking of Rough Stone Rolling in the near future. In the meantime, here are resources that may be helpful:

Rough Stone Rolling by Richard L. Bushman

Rough Stone Rolling is one of the most influential factors leading members into a personal faith crisis. Richard Bushman is now the chief Latter-day Saint evangelist in the development of a new progressive interpretation of Joseph Smith, particularly through his work, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling. In Rough Stone Rolling, Bushman presents a ‘Joseph Smith’ who was:

  • involved in ritual magic
  • who used peep stones to find treasure
  • who suffered from “treasure-seeking greed,”1 “anger,”2 and “easily-bruised pride,”3
  • who possessed “outrageous confidence,”4 
  • “[f]rom time to time drank too much,”5 and 
  • grew up with an “oft-defeated, unmoored father”6—a father who “partially abdicated family leadership.”7

Today, despite his unfavorable view of Joseph Smith, Bushman serves on the National Advisory Board of the Joseph Smith Papers—and his book, Rough Stone Rolling, has sold over 100,000 copies. Bushman would later reflect, when commenting on Rough Stone Rolling, that his “shocking” new narrative was “a strain for a lot of people, older people especially.”8

Bushman admitted during a 2005 FAIR Mormon conference, “. . . I do not feel that we have to protect Joseph Smith. . . . I take great pleasure in his flaws and in his weaknesses—they make him more appealing.”9 Nevertheless, as one honest reviewer of Rough Stone Rolling warned, “Those looking for a faith-promoting view of the prophet’s life may want to look elsewhere . . . .”10 Excommunicated member John Dehlin promotes Rough Stone Rolling as one of his “must have” resources for members transitioning away from the Church. 

Responses from readers of Rough Stone Rolling reveal fruits that are destructive of faith: 

Taken from Pedestal

“In this book’s pages we see Joseph stepping down from the pedestal”11

“Bushman’s prophet is not the virtual superman depicted by Truman G. Madsen”12

Scripture is NOT from God

“Scripture does not come by facsimile from heaven. It comes through imperfect mortals who, just like any of us, have a head full of biases and personal motives and love and virtue, all mixed together . . .”13

“The most significant and challenging notion for me, which is implicitly raised again and again in the book, is the blurring of the line between the words of God and the words of Joseph Smith. I, like most Mormons, tend to think of Joseph Smith’s revelations as being dictated from God and written down verbatim by Joseph. . . . [Rough Stone Rolling] presents the ideas and revelations Joseph had as at least partly his own. This will likely make Mormon readers uncomfortable and force them to reevaluate their original notions of how revelation and divine direction work . . . “14

Joseph Smith is NOT a good example

“Jos. Smith was most decidedly not perfect. If this Joseph is saveable, then the rest of us have a chance.”15

“if the membership is prepared to believe that folk magic is a ‘preparatory gospel,’ then they no longer have to worry their ‘pretty little heads’ about Joseph’s money digging, or the use of peep stones.”16

Again, the Joseph Smith Foundation will be releasing a thorough review and debunking of Rough Stone Rolling in the near future. In the meantime, here are resources that may be helpful:

Debunking Rough Stone Rolling’s Treasure Digging Sources with REAL Data

Seer Stone v. Urim & Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial (Book)

Over the last decade, the dark seer stone scholars claim Joseph Smith used to translate the Book of Mormon has become an icon for progressive history—a symbol that presumably justifies the claim of hidden history, the ‘uncovering’ of which has been responsible for fracturing the faith of many faithful members of the Church. Richard Bushman promotes this narrative in Rough Stone Rolling. A thorough investigation and debunking of the claim that Joseph Smith used an occultic seer stone to translate the Book of Mormon can be found in Seer Stone v. Urim & Thummim: Book of Mormon Translation on Trial.

“The dominant [Church history] narrative is not true . . .” LDS scholars encourage new history, new policy, new Church (Article)

Article by LDSAnswers: “The dominant [Church history] narrative is not true . . .” LDS scholars encourage new history, new policy, new Church

Many are unaware that there is a growing movement among members and scholars in the Church to change our history.  Though this progressive effort has been proceeding for decades, in the last few years we have seen an ever increasing number of prominent LDS historians and scholars calling for a “reconstructed narrative.”

Was Joseph Smith Sr. a weak and failed father? A “Rough Stone Rolling” response (Article)

Was Joseph Smith Sr. an “unmoored” and “oft-defeated” father who lived a life, “blighted by shame?” This is the picture Richard L. Bushman paints in his recent biography on the Prophet Joseph titled Rough Stone Rolling—but is it accurate?

Was Joseph Smith involved in witchcraft, magic and the occult? (Article)

Was Joseph Smith involved in witchcraft, magic and the occult?

Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, the popular biography of Joseph Smith by Richard L. Bushman, claims that the Prophet was “involved in magic,” while simultaneously receiving revelation from Heaven and restoring the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Magic prepared Joseph Smith to serve the Lord? Magic was a forerunner of the Restoration? Did Joseph Smith dabble with occultic language, rudimentary astrology or magic rituals during his early and even later life? Does it matter?

Faith Crisis, Volume 1: We Were NOT Betrayed! & Volume 2: Behind Closed Doors (Books)

Faith Crisis, Volume 1: We Were NOT Betrayed! & Volume 2: Behind Closed Doors documents the organized objective to rewrite Latter-day Saint history from within, unbeknownst to the general Church membership, during the 20th and 21st centuries. It details how Richard Bushman was a close friend of Leonard Arrington and his work is an outgrowth of Leonard Arrington and the New Mormon History undertaking to rewrite the Prophet Joseph Smith and remove him from ‘off his pedestal.’  

  1. Richard L. Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling (New York: Vintage Books, 2007), 51.
  2. Ibid., 249-250, 295
  3. Ibid., 295.
  4. Ibid., 132
  5. Ibid., 43.
  6. Ibid., 27.
  7. Ibid., 42.
  8. Blake Bishop, “Richard and Claudia Bushman,” YouTube video, 00:45:16, June 12, 2016,
  9. Richard Bushman, “A Joseph Smith Miscellany,” FairMormon, August 2005,
  10. “Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling,” reviews,
  11. Learner, “Mormon history without an agenda,” reviews,
  12. Jimmybox, “A biography par excellence,” reviews,
  13. SCOTT T STOKES, “One of the Most Important Books I Have Ever Read,” reviews,
  14. Learner, “Mormon history without an agenda,” reviews,
  15. Puzzled, “Beautiful Treatment – Staggering,” reviews,
  16. Missing in Action, “Inoculation of the Saints,” reviews,

7 thoughts to “Rough Stone Rolling Debunked

  • samuel Coleman

    My search on this guy who wrote this book “Rough Stones Rolling” ended up landing smack dab on this site again! hahaha, all of you are incredible awesome!

  • Anthony Rippa

    What is wrong with being flawed???

    Why do so many people want to see perfection (superman syndrome) running through church leaders’ lives, almost from birth, as though they were chosen Jedi’s in training? Look at Paul before he converted!

    • Jeanne

      What is ‘wrong’ is that the ‘flawed’ story is just not historically true. If it was true, then yes, we should be upfront. But if/since Bushman’s history is nonsense and Joseph Smith truly was a great man of character, we should tell the TRUTH.

      • Jeremy V

        What about Rough Stone Rolling is not “historically true”? The examples brought up in this post, e.g. use of seer stones, is openly acknowledged on

        >”The other instrument, which Joseph Smith discovered in the ground years before he retrieved the gold plates, was a small oval stone, or “seer stone.”18 As a young man during the 1820s, Joseph Smith, like others in his day, used a seer stone to look for lost objects and buried treasure.19 As Joseph grew to understand his prophetic calling, he learned that he could use this stone for the higher purpose of translating scripture.20

        >Apparently for convenience, Joseph often translated with the single seer stone rather than the two stones bound together to form the interpreters.”

        Gospel Topics Essay – “Book of Mormon Translation” –

        • Jeanne

          Do you realize the quote you just posted is merely a statement referencing Richard Bushman (like, check the footnotes)? So we are using Richard Bushman to footnote and validate Richard Bushman? Wow. That’s great scholarship. How about any primary sources? What primary sources have you got—if we are going to start talking about “historically true”?

          • Mark

            And *you* realize the church asked for his permission to use that quote? What Jeremy is trying to say is that it’s significant that the church has given a tacit stamp of approval to the quote by using it on their official website and having asked Bushman specifically for permission to use it. The church isn’t in the habit of using quotes from wanton apostates to verify doctrine.

          • Adam

            I’ve been trying to understand this particular question about the seer stone. There are statements from David Whitmer, Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, and Emma Smith all talking about Joseph using the seer stone to translate the BoM. Some also talked about him using it to receive revelation. It is owned by the Church. They have acknowledged it in their materials. I am trying to understand what is historically inaccurate / how you are denying that all of their statements are true? Not only that, but it seems you are implying the president of the church and the apostles have all been led astray by accepting the “progressive narrative” and allowing its publication in church materials. Is that the case?

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