An exhaustive biography of the founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the winner of this year’s Evans Biography Award, the Mountain West Center for Regional Studies announced April 3. The award is administered by Utah State University’s Mountain West Center for Regional Studies.
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, by Richard L. Bushman (Alfred A. Knopf), is a monumental work reflecting Bushman’s decades of research into the subject and builds on his earlier publication, Joseph Smith and the Beginnings of Mormonism (University of Illinois Press, 1984).
Gregory A. Prince and William Robert Wright, authors of David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, are the recipients of the Evans Handcart Award.
The $10,000 Evans Biography Award, which was established in 1983, recognizes outstanding research and writing of a biography of a person who lived in or had significant influence on the Mormon West or who was part of Mormonism’s pre-Utah history. The $1,000 Handcart Award, established in 1996, is given each year to a biography of merit, often by an author who is not an academic historian, who contributes to an understanding of the Mormon-settled West. The subjects and authors of the winning biographies in both categories do not need to be affiliated with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Evans Awards were endowed by the family of David Woolley Evans and Beatrice Cannon Evans, both born in 1894.
Bushman is the Gouverneur Morris Professor of History, Emeritus, at Columbia University. He grew up in Portland, Oregon, and earned his undergraduate and graduate degrees from Harvard University. He also taught at Brigham Young University, Boston University and the University of Delaware. His From Puritan to Yankee: Character and Social Order in Connecticut, 1690-1765 won the Bancroft Prize in 1967.
Of Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, the Evans jury said: “Bushman provides a service to historians and scholars … showing in detail the genesis and development of Mormon doctrines, rituals and church organization in the context of their times and in Joseph Smith’s career. … It is an important book and the best kind of biography in that it will spur additional debate and study because of the richness of detail.”
“Bushman has attempted a task that I have always thought was impossible, a biography of Joseph Smith that could satisfy both LDS believers and non-believers,” one juror wrote. “… The book does what I most want to see done in a biography, in exploring the process of individuation, showing us how Joseph Smith became Joseph Smith, and his extensive understanding of American intellectual and cultural history enables him to place Joseph Smith in his historical context.”
Handcart winner Gregory A. Prince is president and CEO of Virion Systems, Inc., a Maryland medical research company. He has also worked as a visiting professor of pathology at the UCLA School of Medicine, and as a research professor of pediatrics at the Armed Forces University of Health Sciences. He is also the author of Power from on High: The Development of the Mormon Priesthood (Signature Books, 1995) and is a member of the board of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. His co-author, William Robert Wright, is a retired attorney with a J.D. from the University of Utah. He practiced law in Washington, D.C., and Salt Lake City. He served as chair of the Utah Board of Regents, of the Utah State Board of Education, and of the National Association of State Boards of Education. He was the 1980 Republican candidate for governor of Utah, chairman of the Utah Republican Party and LDS mission president in Washington, D.C.
The Mountain West Center for Regional Studies, which sponsors the Evans Biography Awards, was established at Utah State University in 1986 to advance the understanding of the Mountain West region through interdisciplinary studies and to link university expertise with regional needs and interests.
An awards ceremony will be held in September on the USU campus, along with book signings in various locations and classroom appearances by the authors. More information will be available on these events at a later date. For information, call the Mountain West Center at (435)797.3630 or visit the Web site