"In this groundbreaking and important volume, Brown... delves deeply into the many streams of thought that informed Smith's formulation of the life hereafter... Emerging at a time of intense religious competition, Smith and his closest associates developed a wonderfully complex belief system that mapped out the next life with clarity and consistency. Brown offers us a masterful look at this intriguing aspect of the Mormon worldview. This is must reading for students of the American religious tradition."Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"This is a book purportedly about the dead and the conquest of death in early Mormonism. It is actually much more than that. It traces the development of a large number of Joseph Smith's most fundamental teachings from the beginning to his death. Brown weaves the most exotic elements of Mormonism-seerstones, new names, hieroglyphs, angels, the Adamic tongue, Masonic catechisms, seals, ritual adoptions-into an illuminating and compelling explication of Joseph Smith's beliefs about the temple, family, and human salvation."
-Richard Bushman, Gouverneur Morris Professor Emeritus of History, Columbia University
"Scholars have looked long and hard at the Puritan way of death as well as the development of the funeral industry's way of death. Working in between those historical domains on early Mormon views and practices of holy dying, Samuel Brown has produced an imaginative, yet gravely serious book-one of obvious consequence for Mormon studies, but also one of broad resonance in American studies."
-Leigh E. Schmidt, Edward Mallinckrodt University Professor, Washington University in St. Louis
"This is a brilliant work of intellectual and cultural history, in which Brown finds compelling continuities between Joseph Smith's early supernatural quests and his later ministry. All the while, Brown charts Smith's death-defying project as one that is both intensely personal and steeped in a rich and wondrous culture of death. Superbly executed."
-Terryl L. Givens, co-author of Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism
"Brown ably tackles Mormon beliefs about death in a highly readable series of connected essays . . . He has covered the primary sources in depth and unearthed little-used materials to support his argument. Students of American religious history will be interested in this readable book as will a more general readership." Library Journal
"[T]his book is one of the most significant Mormon titles to come out in a while . . . an interesting and well-researched version of Mormon history . . . Brown's work is a major accomplishment and an example of where Mormon historiography is headed."
Association of Mormon Letters
"...Brown offers fresh insights into a whole host of flashpoints within the study of early Mormonism:treasure hunting...Brown's book makes much about early Mormonism make sense."Religion in American History
"[G]roundbreaking . . . Brown offers a riveting reinterpretation of Smith's religious vision, brings his readers into the cultural world Smith inhabited, and also reflects on the need for contemporary Americans to 'walk toward, andearnestly, anxiouslythrough death with each other.' In Heaven merits a broad readership that stretches beyond the confines of both Mormonism and academia." Books & Culture
"Samuel Morris Brown's groundbreaking study of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith's theological and ritual responses to the Protestant culture of 'holy death,' is far more than it appears at first glance. Brown, a critical care pulmonologist and autodidactic historian, offers a riveting reinterpretation of Smith's religious vision, brings his readers into the cultural world Smith inhabited, and also reflects on the need for contemporary Americans to 'walk toward, andearnestly, anxiouslythrough death with each other.' In Heaven merits a broad readership that stretches beyond the confines of both Mormonism and academia."Books & Culture
As a discipline, Mormon studies has advanced to the point where development of Mormon doctrine has become a significant topic of research, exemplified by Douglas J. Davies's The Mormon Culture of Salvation and Devery S. Anderson's mesmerizing The Development of LDS Temple Worship, 1846–2000. Brown (pulmonary & critical care medicine, Univ. of Utah Sch. of Medicine) ably tackles Mormon beliefs about death in a highly readable series of connected essays. Most important to Brown's work is the relationship between Joseph Smith's confrontation with death and illness in his own family and the larger culture of death in the early 19th-century United States, the context that was the basis of Smith's evolving thought on death and the interconnecting Mormon doctrines of the preexistence of souls, Mother in Heaven, angels, and the embodiment of God. VERDICT Readers should not be put off because Brown is not a professional historian. He has covered the primary sources in depth and unearthed little-used materials to support his argument. Students of American religious history will be interested in this readable book as will a more general readership.—David Azzolina, Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib., Philadelphia