Monthly Archives: October 2012

A Mormon Running for Office?!

My last post began, “It has been almost a week since I last posted.” That was the longest I had gone. Well, it has now been over a month since my last post. Life got busy. Actually, let’s face it – life is always busy. Life got busier, I guess. And with each day that passed without a post, the burden became bigger…more things to post about, more to share, where would I begin? Well, now it’s been a month, and I don’t remember any of them.

So, I’m going to try again. Ideally, I would post every day. Ok, maybe every other day. I’ll be happy if I can get one post a week. But I’ll try for something short every day. Yeah, we’ll see how it goes. For now, I want to post because I just finished one of my readings for my Mormonism class, and I am inspired.

The reading is about a Mormon presidential candidate’s run for election. Here’s the catch… Mitt Romney is NOT the candidate. Did you know that Romney is not the first Mormon to run for the office of President of the United States? I think, somehow, I did know that…but I had forgotten (and I never knew the specifics). Well, the first Mormon to run for this office was Joseph Smith – yes, the same Joseph Smith who had revelations directly from God that led him to dig up the gold plates, which he translated into the Book of Mormon. The same Joseph Smith who founded The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Joseph Smith ran for office because of the unfair, unjust, and, I would argue, unconstitutional way that the Mormons were treated in Missouri in 1839. Well, it wasn’t just that particular event; the Mormons were treated unfairly in many events – this religious group was often persecuted for their faith here in the United States – a country that claims to support religious freedom.

I have family who feel strongly that a person should never break the law. If someone has suffered an injustice, the person should use the law to make things just. Well, this is just what Joseph Smith tried to do. He took his grievances to the authorities, and no one responded. Eventually, he even took them to the president, President Martin Van Buren. (Did you know we had a president named Martin Van Buren? He was our 8th President for one term; previously Vice-President, and Secretary of State before that.) After two meetings with the president, President Van Buren is said to have told Joseph Smith, “Your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you; if I take up for you I shall lose the vote of Missouri.”

With the election coming, Joseph Smith insisted that the Mormons determine which candidate would support them in their efforts to find justice through the courts. To that end, he wrote each candidate a letter, asking them, if they were to be the next President, what would they do to ensure justice for the Mormons? Some didn’t respond, and the ones who did basically said they wouldn’t do anything. You know… it is at this point that I think I would have looked for other ways of bringing attention to the injustices occurring – maybe protests, sit-ins, or something. Of course, this was the 19th century, and those kinds of protests were not yet happening. Perhaps, I would have done something that was <gasp> illegal. Instead, Joseph Smith ran for office as an Independent. (Although… it is true that eventually, the Mormons DID take matters into their own hands, which did NOT end well.)

Smith wrote a pamphlet to circulate regarding his positions, which surprisingly did not speak directly about the issue of justice for the Mormons. Instead, his stated views included slavery (he thought it should be abolished), congressional pay (he wanted to reduce it by 75%!), prison reform, and US westward expansion (he wanted to keep expanding, but only if Native Americans agreed).  Hmmm, based on these positions, he might have had my vote… but his campaign ended when he was killed in June of 1844.

I wonder what the rhetoric was like in that election. Were the candidates throwing moral accusations at each other? I would not be surprised if the non-Mormon candidates made fun of Joseph’s beliefs. I wonder what Joseph said. Did he call anyone a liar? A flip-flopper? A terrorist? Were catchy and derogatory names thrown about like Nobama or Romnesia? Maybe, when I finish my reading, I’ll do a little research and find out. (That will be one more post I never get around to posting.)

I am betting accusations were thrown AT Joseph Smith; I would be surprised to see accusations thrown FROM Joseph Smith. Many people accuse those “wacky” Mormons of having some pretty crazy beliefs, but from what I have read… Joseph Smith and his followers were far more respectful and supportive than what I have seen from either of our current presidential candidates. Perhaps, though, this is more a reflection of us (voters) than it is of them (candidates).

If anyone would like to learn more about Joseph Smith’s run for election, I would start with the official Mormon retelling: http://www.lds.org/ensign/2009/02/joseph-smith-campaign-for-president-of-the-united-states

Here are some other links:

http://adventures-in-mormonism.com/2007/12/19/joseph-smiths-presidential-platform/

http://bycommonconsent.com/2007/12/19/joseph-smiths-views/

The actual pamphlet: http://olivercowdery.com/smithhome/1840s/1844Smit.htm#pg01

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