Bloom calls Smith â€śmost eminent intellectual in Mormon historyâ€ťBy: Mormon Heretic
In 1969 Leonard Arrington asked 50 prominent Mormons to identify the â€śfive most eminent intellectuals in Mormon history.â€ť The list was published in Dialogue. Â Twenty-four years later, DialogueÂ decided to run the survey again. Â It was re-published a few month ago in theÂ Deseret News, and it has been a favorite bloggernacle topic for the past few months. Â BH Roberts was #1 in both surveys. Â In the 1969 survey, Joseph Smith was #3, but fell to #5 in 1993.
Concerning these surveys, Yale University Professor Harold Bloom said,
I can understand the two surveys you cite only if the Mormon Ph.D.â€™sÂ employed an absurdly narrow definition of an â€śintellectual.â€ť JosephÂ Smith, even to a Jewish non-Mormon like myself, is the only American creative enough to be called a prophet, seer, and revelator, that is, a religiousÂ genius. There was Emerson, of course, but ultimately his was more a literary mind than a religious one. I greatly admire McMurrin, and RobertsÂ also, but if â€śintellectualâ€ť means what it should mean, then Smith clearly isÂ the most eminent intellectual in Mormon history. He was an authentic visionary, and totally original in mind and spiritâ€”really a kind of mortal god. Â I cannot understand why he is not honored by more Americans.
The above letter was written in response to a query by Henry Miles. Â Miles developed a correspondence with Bloom over the past 2 decades, and published theÂ series of letters in Dialogue. Â Bloom is one of the most high-profile non-Mormons that has extensively studied Smith, and has written or spoken about Smith on many occasions. Â What do you think of Bloom’s characterization of Smith? Â Do you think Smith was undervalued in the 2 surveys?