"For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light..."

Fawn McKay Brodie

Fawn Brodie was born in Ogden, Utah and her uncle David O. McKay was to later become the 9th president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. To continue her post-graduate education, she went to the University of Chicago. Somewhere along her educational path she lost faith in the religion of her birth. Her families status in the church enhanced her access to documents and materials in the archives of the church. I believe that her husband, Dr. Bernard Brodie had a significant influence on the development of the book. She says, "His own special perspective on the Mormon society and his own enthusiastic interest in my research were of immeasurable value, . . . assistance which came from his qualities of judgment and perception and which has affected my whole approach to the book." (Acknowledgements in No Man Knows My History)

Robert Bruce Flanders writes about Fawn Brodie's work:

Fawn Brodie's No Man Knows My History, a biography of Joseph Smith, deserves special consideration. The latest of the serious "neonativist" histories of Mormonism just alluded to, it is in a sense the culmination, the ultimate, of the type, and represents both the best and the worst of the tendencies common to the group . . .

However, Mrs. Brodie was so anti-Mormon in her own intellectual orientation that she succumbed to the temptation to bring nineteenth century literature of Mormon countersubversion uncritically and in large doses into her own work. The seeming contradictory theses of No Man Knows My History are that Joseph Smith was a charlatan (and Mormonism a conscious, premediitated hoax) and that the main force perpetuation the mormon religion through the generations is the persistent magnetism of Smith's personality. Mrs. Bordie's zeal to create the grand and ultimate expose' of Mormonism knew no bounds, and she utilized all the techniques previously devised to advance that purpose, including those of Linn, Werner, Reley, et al.,.her neo-navtivist predecessors on whom her work relies heavily, if tacitly. For example, No Man Knows My History displays Linn's tendency to dismiss the complex or arresting in Mormon history as ludicrous or absurd. There is in both Brodie and Linn incredulity that anything connected with Mormonism (excepting it abominations) could ever be taken seriously. (Flanders 1966, 58).

Ray B. West, who also was born a Mormon but "lost my faith in the Mormon religion", comments on the thesis which formed the basis of Mrs. Brodie's book.
I do not say that Mrs. Brodies did not have a perfect right to hold such a belief herself, but it is an attitude which is destined to distort any religious figure--to reduce him to the level of comedy or of pathetic self-delusion. If the study is presented as a serious study of the Mormons, it results in bewilderment for anyone who knows anything about Mormon society. Was it no more than humbuggery or comic self-delusion which drove a whole society, numbering between fifteen and twenty-five thousand souls, from territory to territory, and eventually into the wasteland of the Far West? Was it for this that they suffered persecution and death? Was it upon such a foundation that they built a society and belief capable today of affecting amost a million and a half persons? (West 1957, xviii)



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