Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassins, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom

ISBN : 9780190909413

Spencer W. McBride
304 Pages
156 x 235 mm
Pub date
Jul 2021
Send mail

By the election year of 1844, Joseph Smith, the controversial founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, had amassed a national following of some 25,000 believers. Nearly half of them lived in the city of Nauvoo, Illinois, where Smith was not only their religious leader but also the mayor and the commander-in-chief of a militia of some 2,500 men. In less than twenty years, Smith had helped transform the American religious landscape and grown his own political power substantially. Yet the standing of the Mormon people in American society remained unstable. Unable to garner federal protection, and having failed to win the support of former president Martin Van Buren or any of the other candidates in the race, Smith decided to take matters into his own hands, launching his own bid for the presidency. While many scoffed at the notion that Smith could come anywhere close to the White House, others regarded his run-and his religion-as a threat to the stability of the young nation. Hounded by mobs throughout the campaign, Smith was ultimately killed by one-the first presidential candidate to be assassinated. Though Joseph Smith's run for president is now best remembered-when it is remembered at all-for its gruesome end, the renegade campaign was revolutionary. Smith called for the total abolition of slavery, the closure of the country's penitentiaries, and the reestablishment of a national bank to stabilize the economy. But Smith's most important proposal was for an expansion of protections for religious minorities. At a time when the Bill of Rights did not apply to individual states, Smith sought to empower the federal government to protect minorities when states failed to do so. Spencer W. McBride tells the story of Joseph Smith's quixotic but consequential run for the White House and shows how his calls for religious freedom helped to shape the American political system we know today.


Religious Intolerance in the Land of the Free
Chapter One
A Lesson in Political Negotiations
Chapter Two
Shattered American Idealism
Chapter Three
A City-State on a Hill
Chapter Four
The Specter of Missouri
Chapter Five
Chapter Six
Presidential Hopefuls
Chapter Seven
A Political Tract
Chapter Eight
The Political Kingdom of God
Chapter Nine
Electioneering Missionaries
Chapter Ten
Vice Presidents and Protest Candidates
Chapter Eleven
Convention Season
Chapter Twelve
American Royalty
Chapter Thirteen
More Conventions
Chapter Fourteen
Chapter Fifteen
Systemic Religious Inequality

About the author: 

Spencer W. McBride is an Associate Managing Historian of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and the author of Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America. He has written about the evolving role of religion in American politics for the Washington Post and the Deseret News. He is also the creator and host of The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast.

The price listed on this page is the recommended retail price for Japan. When a discount is applied, the discounted price is indicated as “Discount price”. Prices are subject to change without notice.