"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 this 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." (Smith, History of the Church, 6:210-211)Edmund Burke said: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." President Ezra Taft Bension added: "It is not enough that we wring our hands moan about conditions in America. We must become . . . "anxiously engaged" in good causes and leave the world a better place for having lived in it. (Arnold Garr, Ph.D, Joseph Smith: Presidential Candidate, Millennial Press, 2008 74)
Joseph Smith was a good man, and after seeking redress from every possible source he determined there was only one course of action left to take.
Dr. Arnold K. Garr has pulled together all the historical documents involving the events leading up to and including the declaration of Joseph Smith, Jr. to run for the Presidency of the United State of America. A member of the Reformed Jeffersonian Democracy, Free Trade and Sailors Rights party, Joseph only sought the presidency after failing to find justice in the local, state and federal legislative bodies, including the current President of the United State, Martin Van Buren.
Governor Lilburn W. Boggs' treachery and infamous Extermination Order was brought against the Mormons in Missouri. He ordered the outright murder of every man, woman and child of the Mormon faith to protect his own interests. (Look into Missouri being admitted as the last "slave state" in the Union, Boggs' personal interests as the largest landowner and slaveholder in the state, the Saints pro-Abolutionst stance, etc.)
Governor Thomas Carlin's, governor of Illinois, unwillingness to step up and defend the citizens of his state.
Governor Thomas Ford's, subsequent governor of Illinois, unwilling to defend the citizens of his state AND his culpability in the assassinations of Joseph Smith, Jr. and his brother, Hyrum.
President Martin Van Buren's cold, unfeeling and derogatory, "Gentlemen, your cause is just, but I can do nothing for you. . . . If I take up for you I shall lose the vote of Missouri." (Ah the heinous beauty of power and greed.)
Joseph Smith, Jr. had sought redress from every possible source, including working with his legislators to get resolutions in the Senate to force the equal protection of all American citizens. None of these efforts by the Prophet came to fruition. In the end, he declared his intention to run for the Presidency of the United States of America.
"Joseph advocated giving power to the president to suppress mobs. He also favored abolishing slavery, reducing both the number and pay of the House of Representatives, reforming the prison system, eliminating courts-martial for desertion, forming a national bank, and annexing Oregon and Texas." (Arnold Garr, Ph.D, Joseph Smith: Presidential Candidate, Millennial Press, 2008 8)Garr has done a fantastic job, although not deeply enough at times (i.e. explaining that with the failure of the Kirtland Safety Bank every other bank in the nation also failed), in laying out the reasons, plans and seriousness of Joseph's intention to be President of the United States of America. On the downside, Garr used the same quotes several times, on the upside he presents a clear and fascinating picture of Joseph's foray into politics, which Joseph kept clearly delineated from his religious authority, "I have received no revelation from the Lord on politics. I do not intend to ask for one."
Joseph also said on January 29, 1844, a scant five months before his assassination:
"If I ever get into the presidential chair, I will protect the people in their rights and liberties. . . . There is oratory enough in the Church to carry me into the presidential chair the first slide." On February 7th he added, "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." Joseph then went on to speculate that he might be killed because of the campaign. (Arnold Garr, Ph.D, Joseph Smith: Presidential Candidate, Millennial Press, 2008 11)This book is a must buy! I couldn't put it down. Suddenly I understand why the entire Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was gone when Joseph and Hyrum were assassinated. They were out stumping for Joseph Smith in all 26 states. Garr includes a snapshot to the reactions of the Twelve when news reached them of Joseph's martyrdom. Imagine if you can, these men who were devoted to God and His Prophet, giving their all to further the cause of the Kingdom of God as well as the candidacy of their beloved Prophet only to find that at last the murderous bastards had finally taken his life. They were overcome with grief and sorrow until they came to the realization they must return to Nauvoo and take up the reigns of the Church. For Joseph had prepared them for this very eventuality.
Now at this opportune time, when Mitt Romney's recent candidacy, albeit suspended candidacy, has galvanized Mormons (not the Church, but the members) into politics again, Dr. Garr has stated:
"Many people are surprised when they find out that Mitt Romney is not the first Mormon to run for president of the United States. That distinction belonged to Joseph Smith, the founder of the faith. He decided to run for president after the Church pleaded in vain for the government to compensate the Latter-day Saints for the property lost and afflictions suffered when they were expelled from the state of Missouri as a result of the extermination order in 1838.
"Even though the campaigns of Joseph Smith and Mitt Romney are over 160 years apart in time, comparing the two yields interesting insights. While both men were involved in the same process, there are very few similarities between the two campaigns. Following are some distinctions."
These distinctions and more can be found within the pages of the book which may be purchased clicking on the image to the left or at your local bookstore.
And so, I think it only appropriate to close this review of Joseph Smith: Presidential Candidacy with his own words. From the pamphlet issued upon his formal declaration we read:
"Born in a land of liberty, and breathing an air uncorrupted with the sirocco of barbarous climes, I ever feel a double anxiety for the happiness of all men, both in time and in eternity.Yes, Joseph Smith was a candidate I would gotten behind. Without question, just as I did Mitt Romney.
"My cogitations, like Daniel's, have for a long time troubled me, when I viewed the condition of men throughout the world, and more especially in this boasted realm, where the Declaration of Independence "holds these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among there are the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness;" but at the same time some two or three millions of people are held as slaves for life, because the spirit in them is covered with a darker skin than ours; and hundreds of our kindred for an infraction, or supposed infraction, of some over-wise statute, have to be incarcerated in dungeon gloom, or penitentiaries, while the duelist, the debauchee, and the defaulter for millions, and other criminals, take the uppermost rooms at feasts, or, like the bird of passage, find a more congenial clime by flight." (Appendix B: General Smith's Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States, Arnold K. Garr, Ph.D., Joseph Smith: Presidential Candidate, Millennial Press, 2008 83)
Dr. Garr is currently Department Chair and Professor of Church History and Doctrine at Brigham Young University. Before teaching at BYU he was employed by the Church Educational System. He is editor of Encyclopedia of Latter-day Saint History and author of Christopher Columbus: A Latter-day Saint Perspective. He has also published numerous articles pertaining to LDS Church History, including six on the political activities of Joseph Smith.