From Joseph Smith to Mitt Romney, Latter-day Saints have had a long history with presidential races. But did you know there have been eight Latter-day Saints who have made a bid to be the leader of their country? Read on to learn more about these fascinating Church members!
1. Joseph Smith (1844, Independent)
In January of 1844, after concluding that none of the major presidential candidates would protect the Saints or redress their grievances, Joseph Smith held a meeting in Nauvoo with the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and others. The brethren unanimously decided that Joseph Smith would run for president on an independent platform. But he entered the presidential race somewhat reluctantly. He wrote:
“I would not have suffered my name to have been used by my friends on anywise as President of the United States, or candidate for that office, if I and my friends could have had the privilege of enjoying our religious and civil rights as American citizens, even those rights which the Constitution guarantees unto all her citizens alike. But this as a people we have been denied from the beginning. Persecution has rolled upon our heads from time to time, from portions of the United States, like peals of thunder, because of our religion; and no portion of the Government as yet has stepped forward for our relief. And in view of these things, I feel it to be my right and privilege to obtain what influence and power I can, lawfully, in the United States, for the protection of injured innocence” (History of the Church, 6:210–11).
The Prophet’s campaign started in Nauvoo in February of 1844, and soon news spread to neighboring states that the Latter-day Saint prophet was running for president. At the time, he was serving as mayor of Nauvoo—a city that was larger and growing faster than most U.S. cities, including nearby Chicago. He was also serving as lieutenant-general of the Nauvoo Legion, which had more than 3,000 men and was second in size only to the U.S. Army.
His bid for president included a pamphlet outlining his views on government and policy. He proposed several progressive ideas on prison reform, the annexation of Texas and Oregon, and even a plan on how to end slavery by 1850. His pamphlet stated:
“I ever feel a double anxiety for the happiness of all men, both in time and in eternity, where the Declaration of Independence which states that we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; but at the same time some two or three million of our people are held as slaves for life, because the spirit in them is covered with a darker skin than ours. Government officers, who are nothing more nor less than the servants of the people, ought to be directed to ameliorate the condition of all, black or white, bond or free; for ‘God hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on the face of the earth.’
“‘We, the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice . . . and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity’ meant just what it said without reference to color or condition. Petition, also, ye goodly inhabitants of the slave states, your legislators to abolish slavery by the year 1850, or now, and save the abolitionist from reproach and ruin, infamy and shame. Pray Congress to pay every man a reasonable price for his slaves out of the surplus revenue arising from the sale of public lands, and from the deduction of pay from the members of Congress” (History of the Church, 6:189, 197).
The Prophet’s presidential campaign was cut tragically short on June 27, 1844, when he was killed at Carthage Jail just four months after his campaign began.