At Slate, Christopher Hitchens, an avowed atheist to be sure, provides a narrative of what Mitt Romney holds to be true. The tone of the piece is, to be sure, not what one would call “pro-Mormon,” as this excerpt demonstrates:
In March 1826 a court in Bainbridge, New York, convicted a twenty-one-year-old man of being “a disorderly person and an impostor.” That ought to have been all we ever heard of Joseph Smith, who at trial admitted to defrauding citizens by organizing mad gold-digging expeditions and also to claiming to possess dark or “necromantic” powers. However, within four years he was back in the local newspapers (all of which one may still read) as the discoverer of the “Book of Mormon.” He had two huge local advantages which most mountebanks and charlatans do not possess. First, he was operating in the same hectically pious district that gave us the Shakers and several other self-proclaimed American prophets. So notorious did this local tendency become that the region became known as the “Burned-Over District,” in honor of the way in which it had surrendered to one religious craze after another. Second, he was operating in an area which, unlike large tracts of the newly opening North America, did possess the signs of an ancient history.
One of the interesting comments made by Hitchens is that for historians, the actual story of Joseph Smith’s shenanagins ”is almost embarrassing to read, and almost embarrassingly easy to uncover.” The records for the most part are all there, in court documents and newspaper reports.