Can anybody tell me what they know about mormon history? —brew
im ex mormon only now digging into mormon history. particularly i am concerned with joseph smith i find him very interesting. you may find it interesting that only after losing interest in the church, do i find interest in its beginnings. let me tell you, there is great effort within the church to keep people ignorant of certain historical facts while emphasize certain others, and admonishing youth for exploring "the devils literature" ect .....
I agree that the church's history becomes more interesting once you take the blinders off. I don't think the typical church member or leader tries to keep people ignorant of its unfiltered history. They either believe Boyd K. Packer's idea that not all things that are true are useful, or in many cases they probably just don't know what they don't know. But the church institution itself certainly has developed a pattern of suppressing, cherry picking, or just plain rewriting its history. You'd have to have a pretty narrow definition of lying to say that the church is honest about its beginnings.
And maybe that's part of what makes Mormon history so interesting—the fact that for so long the church succeeded in controlling the message and marginalizing critics in the eyes of the faithful. I think what happens over a generation or two of faith-promoting storytelling is that the stories become entrenched, some people become heroic and legendary, while others become cautionary tales.
Then you get someone like Fawn Brodie who comes along and writes (pretty sympathetically actually) about Joseph Smith but without deference to the powers that be, and it's no wonder there was an uproar over her biography. Another biography that I think is of equal caliber is "Mormon Enigma" by Newell and Avery. That one's actually about Emma Smith, but at least the first half of the book up until Joseph's death is very relevant to your search I think.
Please add a comment if there are specific areas of church history you're interested in, and I'm sure I or others can make some good recommendations.