As the 3rd feature of our Mormon Stories Book Club series (organized by Heather Olson Beal), we feature Jane Barnes and her new book Falling in Love with Joseph Smith,accompanied by the following readers:  Rob Lauer, Erin Hill, Cheryl Bruno, John Dehlin, and Dayna Patterson.  Please click on the link to purchase your book through Amazon.  A small amount of the proceeds go to help support Mormon Stories.


Title: Falling in Love with Joseph Smith Author: Jane Barnes Publisher: Tarcher Genre: Non-fiction Year: 2012 Pages: 304 Binding: Hardcover ISBN-13: 1585429252 Price: $16.85

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Book Description from

When award-winning documentary film writer Jane Barnes was working on the PBS Frontline/American Experience special series The Mormons, she was surprised to find herself passionately drawn to Joseph Smith. The product of an Episcopalian, “WASPy” family, she couldn’t remember ever having met a Mormon before her work on the series—much less having dallied with the idea of converting to a religion shrouded in controversy. But so it was: She was smitten with a man who claimed to have translated the word of God by peering into the dark of his hat.

In this brilliantly written book, Barnes describes her experiences working on the PBS series as she moved from secular curiosity to the brink of conversion to Mormonism. It all began when she came across Joseph Smith’s early writings. She was delighted to discover how funny and utterly unique he was—and how widely divergent his wild yet profound visions of God were from the Church of Latter-day Saints as we know it today. Her fascination deepened when, much to her surprise, she learned that her eighth cousin Anna Barnes converted to Mormonism in 1833. Through Anna, Barnes follows her family’s close involvement with Smith and the crises caused by his controversial practice of polygamy. Barnes’ unlikely path helps her gain a newfound respect for the innovative American spirit that lies at the heart of Mormonism—and for a religion that is, in many ways, still coming into its own.

An intimate portrait of the man behind one of America’s fastest growing religions, Falling in Love with Joseph Smith offers a surprising and provocative window into the Mormon experience.

Book Club Resources:

  1. Click here to listen to the Mormon Stories Podcast with author Jane Barnes, John Dehlin, Erin Hill, Dayna Patterson, and Cheryl Bruno
  1. Reviews of Falling in Love with Joseph Smith,,9781101597170,00.html?Falling_in_Love_with_Joseph_Smith_Jane_Barnes

  1. Podcasts re: the book: 

  1. Other Mormon-themed resources/writings by and about Barnes 


  1. matt November 16, 2012 at 9:18 am - Reply

    A very interesting podcast.

    Did one of the panel actually say “I would have slept with Joseph….”? HA! I laughed out loud! Fantastic! JSJ wouldn’t have passed up that deal. You’d have had to marry him first though.

    Also, what specifically do you find inspiring about the book of mormon? How is it anything but a constant unimaginative drumbeat of “believe in your own inadequacy, so that the atonement (a solution in search of a problem) can save you”? Where does it EVER teach “trust yourself!”?

    In the end for us in industrialized lands of opportunity, doesn’t it all come down to how well we use our resources? Peep stones and sexy JSJ are fun to talk about, but we can make a difference in the lives of the less fortunate. When I can I attempt to push the institution to fulfill it’s “true religion” promise. Otherwise the institution isn’t worthy of my attention.

    Not your regular sunday school fair. Well done guys!


  2. CanuckAussie November 18, 2012 at 12:33 am - Reply

    I had to quit listening when Jane started talking about how she might have considered the fundamental life and polygamy. Clearly she knows absolutely nothing about the horrors of modern day polygamy and the spousal and child abuse that is endemic in those communities.

    • Lilli December 21, 2012 at 9:52 am - Reply

      I agree. The author appears to believe that Joseph Smith was an abusive liar his whole life, abusing Emma in the worst ways with polygamy.

      When actually, Joseph constantly told the truth about polygamy, preaching that it was always the evil whoredom that Christ and the Book of Mormon Prophets said it was. He testified over and over that he never lived it or believed in it. And he warned the Saints to not fall for the rumors that he did.

      But sadly it seems most people would rather believe perverse hearsay, even about prophets, than the righteous truth.

      Joseph warned that all those who fall for polygamy will be damned. But few listened to him, then or now. Most leaders of the Church back then fell for polygamy and threatened the women to go along with it, saying that if they didn’t they wouldn’t make it to heaven. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

      Even today most everyone in the Church, including all leaders, appear to easily be deceived to believe in polygamy and the vile rumors and hearsay that Joseph Smith lived it, when there is no proof of it, only solid proof that Joseph valiantly preached & fought against it continually.

  3. Mike Conder December 2, 2012 at 11:13 am - Reply

    This is why the Church seems to be stagnant, if not in decline. It’s because they run from the core identity and uniqueness of all things Mormon, and what we have to day is a Mormonism 2.0, corporate and sterile. Modern Mormonism is not very inspiring. I think Mormonism could get a restart if they came out with a few “thus sayeth the Lord” prophecies, and worked their way back to the fundamentals.

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