Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling ("RSR") was published and available for sale to the public on September 25, 2005. The first section of On the Road with Joseph Smith is titled "Preparations" and covers July and August of 2005, a period in which Bushman reviewed the RSR galleys from his publisher, spoke with journalists and book reviewers, and fretted more than a little over how the book was going to be received by its two primary audiences, Mormons and non-Mormons. Here are a few quotes (in italics) from this section of the book, with my comments following.
How the book will be received remains up in the air. I know a lot of Mormons are interested, but will they be surprised or put off? ... As for non-Mormons and especially the scholarly critics, I am ready for a mixed response (p. 9). Bushman didn't want to get tagged as an "apologist," but notes that critics ought to be acknowledged as "cynics" rather than granted some default status as more objective than believing historians writing about Joseph Smith.
Jed Woodworth sent me the first formal review of RSR. ... It was definitely friendly, laudatory in almost all respects (p. 10). The review was written by Jeffrey Needle for AML and is available online at the AML site.
[H]ow can a reasonable historian even pretend the events of the Book of Mormon are true? That is a fact of life for all Mormons all the time. They live with the realization that much of the world they believe to exist [i.e., Nephites as recounted in the Book of Mormon] is nonsense for everyone else (p. 14). This was from a letter sent to a Christian scholar who was puzzled by what she took to be Bushman's expressly believing perspective in RSR vis-a-vis Joseph's visions and the Book of Mormon account, but then she admitted surprise at her own puzzlement, given that many Christian scholars take a similar approach when writing about the Bible and she didn't see anything wrong with that. (I'd call it "Christian myopia," but I've never seen it given a label before.)
In his lengthy reply to the scholar, Bushman went on to note Mormon counter-puzzlement that Christians won't accept that "we believe in the book of Mormon on the basis of a spiritual witness" (p. 15). Surprisingly, Christians tend to take a different approach, "insisting their beliefs are based on reason and evidence" (p. 16). Which, if you think about it, helps explain why some Christians are so smug about attacking Mormon faith claims, naively thinking their own faith commitments are not vulnerable to the same type of criticism. I thought the Christian reliance on "reason and evidence" as a basis for faith went away in the 19th century — if that still describes how Christians define their faith, it explains why Evangelicals are so threatened by evolution and science. And by Mormons.