Most Mormons know that Joseph Smith ran for the presidency of the United States. Was it a serious run? Did Joseph really think he was going to win? Dr. Derek Sainsbury will answer those questions, and we’ll talk about Joseph Smith’s Presidential platform. I was surprised to learn that General Joseph Smith was pushing his military expertise!
Derek: On January 29, 1844, they nominate him. And he immediately starts writing a political pamphlet called “The Views of General Joseph Smith,” on the powers and policy of the United States government. And it’s mailed to all the leaders of government in the United States, and to all the major newspapers.
GT: General Joseph Smith! He is emphasizing his military background.
Derek: Right, because obviously he can’t win our election or even affect an election as Prophet Joseph Smith. Right? Because it’s got to appeal to a wider group and he is a general in the Navajo Legion by state commission. In fact, he’s a Lieutenant General. He’s the only Lieutenant General between George Washington and Ulysses S. Grant in the history of the United States.
GT: So who mentioned Lieutenant General?
Derek: Governor Carlin.
GT: Oh really?
Derek: Yeah, not necessarily because he thinks he deserves it, but that’s the commission when they do the Nauvoo Legion. That’s the commission that Joseph Smith requests. Both parties when in those early days, are [courting the Mormon vote.] It’s so evenly split [between] Democrat and Whig in Illinois. They’re stumbling over each other.
Now for those of you on YouTube, you’ll notice a 3-D reproduction of Joseph Smith in his military dress uniform. It was done by a fantastic artist named Adam Worthington. He has kindly allowed me to use it in this video, and if you would like a copy of it yourself, please go to Adam’s website, knowbrotherjoseph.com and you can not only see this amazing reproduction, but other 3-D renderings of Joseph Smith and Emma. These are available for purchase, so please support Adam’s amazing artwork!
The 1890 Manifesto was issued saying the LDS Church no longer practiced polygamy. However, it was practiced secretly. LDS Apostle Reed Smoot was elected as a US Senator from Utah in 1902, causing Congress to investigate whether the LDS Church had continued to practice polygamy. Lindsay Hansen Park, host of the Year of Polygamy podcast, will give us more details into early 20th century practices and we will talk more about the apostle/senator Reed Smoot.
Lindsay: Reed Smoot was a Mormon senator, of course, because he was the representative from Utah.
GT: He was an apostle also.
Lindsay: He was an apostle, and he was basically the scapegoat. He took a lot of heat for Mormon polygamy, because he’s over in Washington D.C., just trying to do what he does.
GT: Reed Smoot was elected as Utah senator. Even though Reed was an apostle, he was also a monogamist. But Congress refused to seat him. So we have these Reed Smoot hearings that lasted for like two years.
Lindsay: Yeah, In the Reed Smoot hearings–so basically, he is brought in front of the government. They ask him all kinds of questions. They ask him all kinds of questions about Mormonism, Mormon theology. Actually, if you read the transcripts, it’s fascinating look at Mormon theology.
GT: They go through the temple ceremony as well. It’s in the Congressional Record.
Lindsay: They do and they asked him all kinds of questions about polygamy. He is forced to answer. I think he answers dishonestly, sometimes, but again, you’re looking at this idea of, we have…
GT: But it’s not just Reed because they pulled in the prophet who by then I’m not sure. Was that…
Lindsay: So Joseph F. Smith was forced to [testify.]
Lindsay: This is still at the time when we’re not sure if Mormons are allowed to vote, or if they are even considered citizens of the United States, or if they have the rights of United States citizens. So when Reed Smoot is elected, it’s about a four year struggle where people are saying, “Does he even get to do this? Is he even legitimate? Does he need to be here?”
One of the things that they focused on in his hearings were Mormon oaths. We talked about the temple ceremony earlier, but there were oaths in the temple, [such as] the oath of vengeance that fundamentalists still adhere to. Basically [they] have to promise that they would avenge the murder of Joseph Smith, until the third and fourth generation. After Joseph Smith was killed, this was added into the temple, where there was this oath that you would take where you would avenge the deaths of the Prophet from those who had murdered him. [This] is you know why Mountain Meadows Massacre and all these other things are justified under these oaths that ends justify the means and we can do anything outsiders. So the federal government was like, “Why are we going to let Mormons in when we’ve heard for years about these oaths. You want to kill us.” What should we do? Polygamy becomes the battering ram for that. So they’re in this conflict.
Joseph F. Smith is the prophet now at the time. He encourages Reed Smoot in these hearings. This is why I brought up Joseph F. Smith because the important thing that you have to understand is Joseph Smith, III is Joseph Smith, Jr.’s son. Emma Smith rejects polygamy. Her church stays in Nauvoo, the RLDS [Church]. She believes her son, Joseph, III, has the most credentials to take on the church. There’s a good argument for that case. So she backs him. All the saints come West who are practicing polygamy in the Brighamite tradition. You have Joseph F. Smith and his cousin, Joseph Smith, III. Hyrum’s son [leads the LDS Church], Joseph’s son [leads the RLDS Church.] They have about a 20-year battle and I have an episode where we talk about this because I think it’s fascinating. We call it Dueling Cousins, where Joseph III is really trying to understand why people would call his father a polygamist. His mother is denying it. He doesn’t understand. He just wants to know the truth. By most accounts, all accounts, he’s a good guy. He’s an honest guy. He’s just trying to understand.
Were you aware of the Reed Smoot Hearings? Did you know the temple ceremonies are in the Congressional Record? Check out our conversation….
Don’t miss our previous conversations with Lindsay!
Following the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the federal government tried to put pressure on the LDS Church to quit discriminating against blacks with regards to the ban on priesthood. A Civil Rights investigation was opened to see if BYU was in compliance with the Civil Rights Act. Dr. Matt Harris describes the results of that investigation.
Matt: The timeline is important. So April of 1968 is when they mail the civil rights letter, the letter to [BYU] President Wilkinson. This is the Office of Civil Rights in Denver, Colorado. They’re an arm of the Justice Department. Just a little context here, the Lyndon Johnson administration, in the 60s, decides that they’re going to go after private high schools and universities that discriminate against African Americans. So that’s a priority for the Justice Department in the Lyndon Johnson administration.
[Wilkinson] knows that if it ever went to court that if BYU were to sue the federal government for violation of their religious rights, they would lose. He knows this because it’s going on during that time. Some Christian universities are suing and losing. So there’s case law that’s been built up in favor of the Justice department.
So he knows what’s going on, and he knows if he goes to court, he’s going to lose. But he has the board, and the board of trustees is comprised of the apostles, most of them are apostles. These guys are, most of them are conservative, and they don’t like being told what to do.
Oh, my goodness! So, the federal government telling them how to run their school, that is just way too much for them. Harold Lee is another one. “How dare they tell us what faculty to hire?” He says that.”We’ll shut this place down if we ever have a negro student,” he says. I mean, they’re defiant. They’re belligerent, and so poor Wilkinson is caught right in the middle of the Civil Rights investigation and this recalcitrant board that doesn’t want to be told what to do.