Latter-day Saint Life

What JFK, Abraham Lincoln + 9 other US presidents had to say about Latter-day Saints


Latter-day Saints have left a profound mark on history, and their influence has been felt around the world. Here is a list of what U.S. presidents have said about members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:

President Ronald Reagan

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President Ronald Reagan held Latter-day Saints in very high regard. In fact, he was the U.S. president with the best relationship with Latter-day Saints and surrounded himself with Latter-day Saints in his administration.

“The Mormon contribution to American life is beyond measure,” he said in a video.

“They are the contributions of love and joy, of faith and family, of work and community. They are a dedication to values that are at the heart of free nations and good ones. And they are a faith of the promise of tomorrow.”

In 1982 President Reagan toured the Church's welfare services, praising the Church for its incredible resources.

“You know that I’ve talked for a long time about Americans doing for themselves, about the private initiative, about citizens’ groups doing so many things that government thinks only it can do,“ said Reagan. “And I have just toured a cannery—part of the program of the Latter-day Saints for meeting the needs of their people when they have to have help.”

President Abraham Lincoln

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“When I was a boy on the farm in Illinois there was a great deal of timber on the farm which we had to clear away. Occasionally we would come to a log which had fallen down. It was too hard to split, too wet to burn and too heavy to move, so we plowed around it. That’s what I intend to do with the Mormons. You go back and tell Brigham Young that if he will let me alone I will let him alone.”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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In a letter to Winston Churchill, President Franklin Roosevelt commented on a Deseret News article noting that Churchill was related to Latter-day Saints. He wrote:

“Hitherto I had not observed any outstanding Mormon characteristics in either of you—but I shall be looking for them from now on. I have a very high opinion of the Mormons—for they are excellent citizens.”

President Barack Obama

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While visiting a mosque before the National Day of Prayer, President Obama told the Islamic Society of Baltimore: “Mormon communities have been attacked throughout our history …. When any religious group is targeted, we all have a responsibility to speak up, and we have to reject politics that seeks to manipulate prejudice or bias and targets people because of religion.”

President Donald Trump

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When he toured Welfare Square in December 2017, President Donald Trump was full of praise. "You're helping people,“ he said. “I know so many people that are in your Church. The job you’ve done is beyond anything you could think of—180 countries, taking care of people . . . and the respect that you have all over the world.”

His visit also included a meeting with President Henry B. Eyring, President Russell M. Nelson, Presiding Bishop Gerald Causse, General Relief Society President Jean B. Bingham, and Utah Senator Orrin Hatch. During the meeting, Trump praised President Nelson's work as a heart surgeon, saying he was a “great heart surgeon; one of the best in the world” but “he decided to help even more people” by becoming a religious leader.

President James K. Polk

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During a time when Latter-day Saints were migrating West due to severe persecution, President James K. Polk showed a kind attitude toward Latter-day Saints and later became known as the first president to be called a friend to the Saints.

After meeting with a representative of the Church, Elder Little, President Polk wrote the following in his diary: “I told Mr. Little that, in accordance with our constitution, the Mormons would be treated as all other American citizens were, without regard to the sect to which they belonged or the religious creed which they professed.”

President Theodore Roosevelt 

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When division arose within the U.S. Senate over whether or not Apostle Reed Smoot should be seated as a Utah senator, President Theodore Roosevelt helped Smoot secure his political office. 

He also visited Salt Lake City during his presidency and spoke highly of the work the Saints had done to settle Utah. 

“You took a state which at the outset was called after the desert, and you literally—not figuratively—you literally made the wilderness blossom as the rose,” Roosevelt said. “The fundamental element in building up Utah has been the work of the men in Utah, the work of the citizens of Utah.”

President Warren G. Harding

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During his presidency, President Warren G. Harding was a friend to Elder Smoot as well.

And as president, Harding became impressed with Utah's children, noting, “I do not know when I have seen so many happy, smiling, sturdy children in so short a period of travel.”

President Herbert Hoover

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President Herbert Hoover developed a very positive attitude toward the Church during his presidency, which was marked by the Great Depression.

In regards to how he felt about Latter-day Saints, President Hoover remarked, “I have witnessed their devotion to public service and their support of charitable efforts over our country and in foreign lands during all these years. I have witnessed the growth of the church’s communities over the world where self-reliance, devotion, resolution, and integrity are a light to all mankind. Surely a great message of Christian faith has been given by the church—and it must continue.”

President John F. Kennedy

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President John F. Kennedy not only visited Salt Lake City during his presidency but he also spoke at the Tabernacle and quoted part of the 11th Article of Faith. 

During his tabernacle address, he even expressed his gratitude toward Latter-day Saints and their pioneer ancestry. 

“Tonight I speak for all Americans in expressing our gratitude to the Mormon people—for their pioneer spirit, their devotion to culture and learning, their example of industry and self-reliance. But I am particularly in their debt tonight for their successful battle to make religious liberty a living reality—for having proven to the world that different faiths of different views could flourish harmoniously in our midst,” he said

President Lyndon B. Johnson

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President Lyndon B. Johnson had a strong friendship with Church President David O. McKay, perhaps the strongest friendship ever between a prophet and U.S. president. 

While flying to Sacramento, President Johnson even made an unscheduled stop to visit the prophet in Salt Lake City.

“I could not fly over Utah without stopping to see President McKay,” he said. “I always feel better after I have been in his presence.”

Editor's note: These quotes and references have been adapted from Much Ado About Mormons by Rick Walton. This article was first published on in February 2018.

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