Thursday, September 18, 2014

Association for Mormon Letters Reviews Men of Destiny: Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith

Staheli, "Men of Destiny Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith" (reviewed by Elizabeth W. Roach)


Title: Men of Destiny Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith
Author: Lu Ann Brobst Staheli
Publisher: Walnut Springs Press
Genre: LDS History, US Historical Figures, Lincoln, Abraham, Joseph Smith
Year Published: 2014
Number of Pages: 183
Binding: softcover
ISBN10: n/a
ISBN13: 978-1-59992-908-8
Price: $16.99

Reviewed by Elizabeth W. Roach for the Association for Mormon Letters

Two of the greatest leaders of the mid 19th century, the US President Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith, each had thousands of devoted supporters as well as those moved to violence against them, and they shared other parallels in their lives as well. These men’s lives have both been meticulously researched and analyzed separately to evaluate their roles in United States and world history. Here is a book that superimposes one man’s biographical sketch over the other to discover new similarities in their lives and legacies as well as to catalog the familiar connections.

Lu Ann Staheli does not claim to be an expert on either of these men, and this book is not intended to be exhaustive in its scope, but rather a starting place on an outline map to indicate places of interest as people engage in further study. In this volume, which is far from her first book, she shows the effects of similar life experiences on the lives of the President Abraham Lincoln and the Prophet Joseph Smith and how their experiences shaped the history of our country and continue to shape it.

The book is divided into thematic sections. Each one begins with a quote, mostly from Lincoln. Quotes are used liberally throughout the text, giving a sense of time and place to the subject. My two favorite quotes were both from Abraham Lincoln. One that keeps coming to mind indicates a very humble acceptance of God’s will, along the lines of “not my will, but Thine be done.” After several months of war, Lincoln said, “If I had my way, this war would never had been commenced; if I had been allowed my way, this war would have ended before this, but we find it still continues; and we must believe that He permits it for some wise purpose of [H]is own, mysterious and unknown to us; and though with our limited understandings we may not be able to comprehend it, yet we cannot but believe that He who made the world still governs it.”

That seems applicable to so many of life’s challenges and struggles that we do not seek out or even want to experience, but we need to pass through on our way to self-improvement. Other quotes highlight Lincoln’s remarkable wry wit, such as: “The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.” Each section is full of familiar stories as well as little known anecdotes and daily incidents that I found helped humanize these two larger-than-life legends so they became more approachable and relatable. Possible meetings between Lincoln and Smith are examined as well as other ways their two lives overlapped.

Staheli weaves many different elements together to create this record which shows both Lincoln and Smith as warm, family loving, inspired men who struggled with human weaknesses and also had special gifts to understand people and had the vision to complete their individual destinies. She documents and shares this information with a minimum of personal interpretation.

I was very interested to read this book because I live near Illinois and have visited historic sites associated with both Lincoln and Smith. If it were possible, it would have been nice to have some illustrations or pictures of main topics. Who knows but a photograph showing the view from the front door of each of their homes may have had similar landscapes?

This is a well crafted book, well-documented, the author certainly is passionate about her subjects and portrays them very sympathetically. This book would be a good one to read as an introduction to further research and study of the similarities between these two phenomenal men.