The assassination of the first Mormon presidential nominee
The first Mormon presidential nominee was Joseph Smith Jr. who founded Mormonism in the nineteenth century, long before Mitt Romney or his father ran for president. He was assassinate shortly after he ordered the new press of some Mormon dissidents to be destroyed; however it wasn’t the dissidents that assassinated him; it was a mob in a nearby town that heard about it and latched onto the circumstances as an excuse to persecute the Mormons and attempt to run them out of town.
This was partially based on the prejudices of the time; and there was clear bigotry on both sides of the conflict. This was at a time when there was much more religious persecution than there is today, contrary to the impression that many of us have been given about history in the early United States. When I was young I was taught in school that the United States was a refugee where many people could practice there religion without fear of persecution unlike in Europe. There were some exceptions like the Salem witch trial but for the most part I was taught that the US went a long way to protecting religious freedom. It wasn’t until I did more research into history as an adult that I realized that there has been much more religious persecution in the US than I was previously led to believe. This hasn’t been limited to religious persecution; I didn’t learn about the Palmer raids until long after I graduated from school. The version of history, as well as current events that is taught to many people by the main stream media and the traditional education system has proven to be very selective and it has left many people without the knowledge they need about many subjects. With the potential election of a Mormon president who is running partially on his faith it is worth considering the history of that religion further, and how it could potentially impact society if he is elected. This doesn’t mean that we should believe that he will adopt the same beliefs that his predecessors did but in order to know for sure what might be different it would help to take a closer look.
I have covered some of this in previous posts about A Brief History of the Mormon Church , Mitt Romney’s Mormon Prophets, and Excuse me Mitt do you believe Jesus Christ was a polygamist? so I’m going to try to minimize the redundancy; however there are some things that had an impact on the circumstances that are worth mentioning at least briefly as well as some circumstances that followed it to consider how things have changed since then.
The events that surrounded Joseph Smiths assassination was at least the third time that the Mormons were run out of a state by the activities of a mob and the first two also involved the destruction of presses, on these occasions it was the opponents that destroyed the presses and were never held accountable. The first one was in Ohio which was recounted in Mormon Enigma and the second was in Missouri which was recounted by Richard Bushman in Rough Stone Rolling. It was partially in response to these events and the fact that Joseph Smith didn’t feel, with some justification, that the Mormons received adequate protection from the government including the federal government that he decided to run for president. He was nominated by the Mormons who tended to vote almost unanimously with little or no support outside of the Mormons so it was virtually out of the question that he would have been elected had he survived.
In addition to the conflict that they had with those that opposed Mormonism they also had conflicts from within; in fact there were constant disputes at times from people that claimed to have revelations from God that were perceived by Joseph Smith as a challenge to his authority. The final one which led to his assassination was over the subject of polygamy or spiritual wives as they sometimes called it. William Law and his followers started their own paper and published a first edition which exposed the practice of spiritual wives to those that didn’t know about it and had access to the paper before it was destroyed and the papers that Joseph Smith and his followers could get their hands on as well. The following are excerpts from the copies that survived. They may be out of context so it is advisable for those of you who are interested to read the full paper at Solomon Spalding.com or a larger abridgement at Utah Light House Ministry both of which also have extensively more coverage of Mormonism.
After this paper was published Joseph Smith called for the destruction of the press as indicated in the following excerpts from “Rough Stone Rolling.”
Joseph’s justification was published in the Deseret News thirteen years later after they began openly practicing polygamy in the following excerpt.
By the time they published this article they were openly practicing polygamy, so it was difficult to deny part of what they wrote in the Expositor instead they tried to justify it according to their beliefs without putting too much emphasis on the fact that they had previously kept this secret and that they didn’t tell the woman that they were being lured into a religion that practiced this until they already separated them from their families and this practice was even more extreme when they used in in Utah which was even farther awy from their families than Nauvoo. Any details about the claim that they misled these woman have been overwhelmingly refuted by many sources including “Wife No. 19, or The Story of a Live in Bondage” by Ann Eliza Young, Brigham Young's Apostate Wife (also free) and some more recent reviews that have involved studying many different sources and fact checking them. What they’re doing now is down playing the coverage of the more coercive aspects of Mormonism and pretending they never existed; if they actually go to the trouble to deny or justify it then someone will almost certainly come up with a rebuttal with much stronger evidence. Those that know what to look for and where can find it but those that rely on the corporate media for coverage about how this religion affected people then and now will not get much if any information.
Joseph Smith responded to the Newspaper and the threat of mob violence by inciting his own followers to destroy the press and potentially escalating the violence himself. If things had turned his way then he might have become the inciter of mob violence against his enemies and at times the leaders of the Mormons did just this including the Mountain Meadows Massacre after he died. As it turned out his destruction of the press didn’t stop the mob; instead it provided them with a justification to act. This has been typical of many religions throughout history. One religion in power would maintain their power with the help of mob violence and the repressed religion would incorporate martyrdom into the religion; then on numerous occasions when the repressed religion rose to power they often used the same tactics that were used against them. This led to a situation that Richard Bushman described in the following excerpt.
This mentality is almost certainly the result of an authoritarian upbringing and it has been very common in many religions as I have discussed in several posts including Dobson’s Indoctrination Machine. This has led to a situation where people don’t sort through the details and find out the facts before passing judgment and pursuing solutions they just follow their leaders based on the version of truth that is maintained by the group.
In both incidents involving the destruction of a press in Ohio and in Missouri the mob acted out of anger and the people involved were never brought to justice or if they were they were acquitted by people that adopted the same beliefs. After the destruction of the press in Nauvoo when there was a cry for a trial against Joseph for destroying it he initially responded by arranging a trial in Nauvoo which led to an acquittal due to the fact that it was held by Mormons. Then when that wasn’t satisfactory they eventually agreed to another trial which resulted in his being held in Carthage where he wound up at the mercy of the mob and was assassinated. After an outcry for justice for the assassination there was another trial under the control of the anti-Mormons which led to acquittals. None of these trials made a sincere effort to sort through the details or find an impartial jury or judge.
This was actually quite common in the nineteenth century; the most widely cases known now are those that involve slavery where the same mentality was applied and they continued to hold trials in this manner until the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s at least. There are still some signs that this is still going on like the Trayvon Martin case.
Mormon reliance on censorship, or attempted censorship, to preserve their beliefs without scrutiny didn’t end with the death of Joseph Smith; in fact a closer look at the history of Mormonism in Utah in their early days will almost certainly indicate that it increased when they were isolated from the rest of society. President Brigham Young, under the plea that it was a false history and would do mischief, ordered the suppression of “Biographical sketches of Joseph Smith” by Lucy Mack Smith, his mother and he underwent several attempts to challenge their beliefs one way or another including an effort by William Godbe who raised doubts about the legitimacy of the Book of Mormon. Some of these doubts could have been established through critical thinking but that isn’t the way it was presented. William Godbe and E.L.T. Harrison were visited they asserted by “a band of spirits”…[and] they received “a constant stream of communication by means of audible voices from a number of most distinguished historical personages.” Once again there was a conflict by different people that claimed to receive revelations and it was resolved by coercion and the use of political power. This was described by Leonard Arrington in “Brigham Young: American Moses.” 1985 p.355-62 Additional descriptions of this story are available free on line at ebooksread “The Rocky Mountain saints” by T.B.H. Stenhouse and Sacred Texts “History of Utah, 1540-1886,” by Hubert Howe Bancroft 1889.
Neither the Mormon Church nor the opponents of the Mormon Church are as authoritarian today as they were then, otherwise it is much less likely that they would even consider supporting the same Mormon nominee as they are now even if it is reluctantly on the part of many evangelicals; however they still are much more inclined to rely on the beliefs that are presented to them by their leaders as fact without scrutiny and they’re much more likely to vote as a block without checking the facts. This has been demonstrated in the town hall meetings of many of the Republican candidates and the questions they have received from their constituency and the focus on the trivial discussion about Barack Obama’s birth certificate as well as their focus on the preservation of life of fetuses without being concerned about the quality of life after babies are born or the threat to life by wars and environmental destruction.
The most devout Mormons have been much slower to moderate their beliefs due to the fact that for most of their history after they moved to Utah they have been isolated from the rest of society and when they went out on recruiting missions they did so in groups or usually pairs that were supposed to keep to themselves and attempt to recruit others to their religion without listening to others or straying from their beliefs. The more moderate Mormons have, on the other hand, done some of the best research into Mormonism that is available and attempted to sort out the truth, whether they left the Church entirely or not. Unfortunately Mitt Romney and many of the politicians with the most authority aren’t among these moderate Mormons. It often appears that many of the followers of Mormonism follow their leaders without much if any scrutiny so that those that get elected tend to reflect the beliefs of the Mormon leaders not the more moderate ones that sort through the details. I have cited several examples of that in previous blogs about A Brief History of the Mormon Church and Mitt Romney’s Mormon Prophets, including when they reversed their support for the MX missile after being told by their leaders to do so; when they opposed the Equal Rights Amendment; and when Ann Eliza Young was initially reluctant to vote because she didn’t understand the issues and was told how to vote by their leaders without any attempt to understand what she was voting for. One of the most important incidents, in light of the current legislation threatening the rights of woman may be the opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment; this was stopped by a small margine largely as a result of the opposition from the Mormons and many women voted against it without understanding it even though it wasn’t in their best interests. Sonia Johnson was one of the few Mormon women who supported the ERA and she was excommunicated from the church for her support of it.
In a Brief History of the Mormon Church I mentioned a large number of high profile Mormons that have made the headline for one reason or another including murder or polygamy; one of the most famous was Mark Hoffman who was closely tied to the Mormon church when he sold them many documents which later turned out to be forgeries. Since then there have been several other high profile Mormon cases involving violence including Josh Powell and perhaps a couple of people that set booby traps in Utah that could have done serious damage if they had been triggered by someone. It is highly unlikely that Mitt Romney would be directly involved in any thing like these stories however the policies that he supports may make them much more likely indirectly and a couple other stories may be more important due to the fact that they may involve people that are some what close to Romney and support his campaign. These are the stories that have recently come out about JT Ready and an older one about Scouts Honor that has been reported again due to the connection that one of Romney’s leading donors has to the suppression or attempted suppression of this story.
Frank VanderSloot, a billionaire was exposed recently on the Rachel Maddow show for his attempts to cover up a sex abuse case that happened at the Boy Scouts and appears to involve abuse by Mormons of children which was followed up by a large attempted cover-up. This was reported by Jody May-Chang and LDS sex child abuse blogspot. This hasn’t been unprecedented in the Mormon religion; their have been many other stories similar to that including an attempt to suppress a study about child abuse in the Mormon Church and two professors had to leave the Church to publish their findings. Jason Todd Ready has also had close ties to Russell Pearce as indicated in a story at the Daily Beast and Russell Pearce is a supporter of Mitt Romney who has a hand in the immigration laws that Romney has supported in return. Russell Pearce: I 'Absolutely' Believe Romney Called SB 1070 A 'Model’ As far as I know Mitt Romney isn’t as close to Russell Pierce as he is to Frank VanderSloot but this is the type of cover up that the public should expect if he is elected president.
Fortunately I think that it is extremely unlikely that he can be elected; in fact I think that the bigger potential threat is actually another Barack Obama term. The Romney campaign appears to be so clownish that it is hard to imagine that he could possibly win this. This should raise even more questions; why is the political establishment running such an absurd candidate? This may seem far fetched to many people but regardless of why this is happening this is a good opportunity for academic researchers to study how obedient people are in various religions and who they’re inclined to vote for. This would as I have stated before in Human Research Subjects be a field research project which would mean that academic scholars study the behavior and voting patterns of the public under certain circumstances. This isn’t a conspiracy, by the strictest definition, and it is routine; however it is rarely well reported in the Mass Media. People that know where to look for this material can find it and the ones that are often the most likely to do so are those that want to use it to better understand how best to manipulate the public with political advertisements. If this was taught to the majority of the public then it would go a long way to enable them to learn how to avoid being manipulated.
The researchers could study how many Mormons blindly obey their leaders when casting their votes and whether or not they attempt to scrutinize the issues; and at the same time they could study the way the evangelicals follow their leaders and there luke warm endorsements of Mitt Romney. They could also study how inclined many people are to accept the lie given to everyone, by the Mass Media, that they should only choose between the candidates that they cover, which are the same candidates that take an enormous amount of donations from the corporations and do the bidding of the corporations while giving the majority of the public lip service.
The acceptance of this lie is one of the greatest threats to democracy that is facing this country.
Fortunately there are many people waking up and realizing that it doesn’t have to be that way judging by the Occupy Wall Street protests and many other organizations at the grass roots that are also conducting major protests. These people may finally wake up and realize that they can look at the candidates eligible for president and listed at Project Vote Smart and choose someone that actually represents their interests. Previously I took a closer look at Jill Stein and came to the conclusion that there is much more reason to believe that she will do much more to represent the best interest of the public than either of the two candidates authorized and purchased by the corporations; furthermore she may have much more support than the corporate media is attempting to imply. That doesn’t mean that she is the only one that should be considered but we shouldn’t accept the lie that we have to choose from the candidates chosen for us by the mass Media even thought there is an overwhelming amount of evidence to indicate that they don’t have any interest of doing what is in the best interest of the American people.
Contrary to the claim that you would be throwing away your vote if you don’t vote for someone that they say doesn’t have a chance, you would actually be throwing away your vote if you do. Voting for these corrupt politicians would mean that you are approving them on some level and fulfilling the role that the corporate media is asking you to fill. This claim that sincere candidates don’t have a chance is only true if people believe it.
Mitt Romney may not be a trustworthy candidate but every time the public votes for the lesser of two evils the choice gets even worse the next time around.
If people wake up and realize how corrupt these people are then, on the other had we can actually elect someone sincere for a change and we can get real reform.