Translating Time: The Nature and Function of Joseph Smith’s Narrative Canon

Luther nailed his complaints to the door and the church fathers countered with decrees of anathema. In such exchanges of creedal statement and dogmatic restatement, most of modern Christianity has formed and reformed itself. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, wrote stories, however. Not surprisingly, then, it is a literary critic and not a theologian who labels Smith “an authentic religious genius . . . in the possession and expression of what could be called the religionmaking imagination.” Indeed, Harold Bloom credits Mormonism’s very survival to “an immense power of the myth-making imagination.” Of course, myth in the sense used here refers not to fiction as the opposite of fact but to highly symbolic narratives that attempt to account for existence by providing a history of divine and human interaction. This article seeks to illuminate the relationship between Smith’s mythmaking and the nature of Mormonism as a radical adaptation of traditional Christianity.

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Kathleen Flake, in Journal of Religion, 87, 4 (Oct. 2007): 497-527.