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The Joseph Smith bicentennial brings several books, recordings and films aimed at the mainstream LDS market. "There's so much happening," said Cory Maxwell, director of publishing at LDS Church-owned Deseret Book. "There's just so much to research and write about." Three volumes due out this fall headline Deseret Book's releases:
* Artwork of the boy prophet, such as the portraits by Michael Malm, at left, and by Walter Rane, above, is only one way people can learn more about LDS Church founder Joseph Smith. Books, essays and movies also are flourishing this year during the Smith bicentennial.
Painter Glen S. Hopkinson's A Faithful Life: The Story of Joseph Smith in Pictures contains more than 60 color illustrations depicting the Smith family's journey to upstate New York, the First Vision, the organization of the LDS Church, Smith's imprisonment at Liberty Jail and other milestones. Maxwell noted it is aimed at a family audience.
* Joseph Smith's America: A Celebration of His Life and Times, by church archivists William W. Slaughter and Chad M. Orton, takes a look at the religious, social and political environment that shaped Smith. It includes more than 150 archival images and many little-known facts about Smith and early 19th century America. "If somebody likes the History Channel, this is fun, interesting material," Maxwell said.
* Joseph: Leading Church Scholars Explore the Life and Ministry of the Prophet, edited by Susan Easton Black and Andrew C. Skinner, includes essays on various Smith-related topics by 33 LDS scholars. There is a companion DVD; the six-episode documentary will air on BYU-TV in September. "It's written by scholars, but it's very accessible," said Maxwell, who noted the essays are a fairly easily digestible 10 to 12 pages long.
Another book, Joseph Smith: Praise to the Man, published by Millennium Press, offers a biographical sketch by Black and photographs of historically significant locations by John Telford.
Recordings that celebrate the Smith bicentennial include "My Servant Joseph," a digitally remastered reissue of singer-songwriter Kenneth Cope's 1993 biographical album, and "Joseph: A Nashville Tribute."
The Nashville album, due out in June, is the brainchild of Dan Truman, pianist in the country band Diamond Rio, and Jason Deere, who has written songs for Reba McEntire, Martina McBride and SHeDAISY. It features LDS performers singing from various perspectives, including Joseph and wife Emma Smith and bodyguard Porter Rockwell. Krista Maurer of Shadow Mountain Music Group, which is releasing the Nashville album and the more reverent "My Servant Joseph," said "Nashville Tribute" includes a mix of danceable tunes and ballads.
Richard Dutcher's "The Prophet" will not be ready for release this year, but The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is producing its official film biography. It will be released in December, to coincide with the anniversary of Smith's birth, and will play in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in downtown Salt Lake City.
Browsing through Deseret Book's online catalog also yields a variety of statues, stickers, plates, Christmas tree ornaments, men's and women's "Joseph Smith rings" (similar to the one Smith wore at his death, the rings feature an eternal circle on the face and his signature on the inside), and a wall calendar by painter Liz Lemon Swindle, known for her warm depictions of Smith's life.
- Catherine Reese Newton