Why did Joseph Smith run for president

The first Mormon to become a US president

On June 27, 1844, Joseph Smith became the only US presidential candidate to be killed during an election campaign. But he is known for something else: He is the founder of the Mormon religion and is venerated by them as a prophet.

When an American strives for the office of president, he cannot ignore God. At the latest with the oath of office he has to swear on the Bible, usually a "So help me God" is attached to the oath. Nevertheless, in the USA religion and state are formally strictly separated.

Joseph Smith Jr. wanted to change that. The 39-year-old, who ran as an independent candidate in the US presidential election in 1844, wanted to build a “theo-democracy” “in which God and the people have power.” He was and will be the founder of the Mormon religious community revered today as a prophet. Critical historians refer to him as a megalomaniac occultist.

Smith's campaign didn't last long. Five months after he announced his candidacy, he was murdered by angry citizens on June 27, 1844. As the first and so far only presidential candidate. However, this did not come as a complete surprise. The numerous followers who toured the United States for Smith in the spring of 1844 also encountered violence and angry crowds in many places. Because the Mormons wanted to spread not only the news of Smith's candidacy, but also his prophecies. Even then, the strange beliefs and customs of the Mormons, such as polygamy, met with displeasure. Smith was not to be the last Mormon to run for the presidency. Republican Mitt Romney, who ran - and lost - Barack Obama in the 2012 election, is also a prominent representative of the Church.

With a vision to the mission

It all began in 1820 when 14-year-old Joseph Smith went to pray in the woods near the small town of Manchester, New York. According to Mormon doctrine, both God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to the farm laborer's son. It was his first vision. In 1823 an angel named Moroni appeared to him. He told Smith about secret gold plates that were buried on a nearby hill.

Smith was only allowed to dig up the plates four years later. He discovered Egyptian characters, which he deciphered with the help of a seer stone and translated into English. This is how the "Book of Mormon," the Mormon Scriptures, came into being, which appeared in 1830 with an edition of 5,000 copies. In the same year Joseph Smith organized Latter-day Saints of Jesus Christ.

Always further west

Even at the time of its founding, the religious community met with a lot of skepticism and distrust. That's why Smith kept moving west with his followers. In Ohio it was tarred and feathered in 1832. Nevertheless, he built the first Mormon temple there - on credit - before he moved on to Missouri with his supporters, fleeing from creditors and banks. There were violent clashes with the local population. Mormon thugs fought a state militia. Smith was jailed for treason but managed to escape. It went on to Nauvoo, Illinois.

It was to be Smith's last stop. His practice of polygamy, plural marriage, caused displeasure not only among the people of different faiths, but also among his followers. Because the prophet may also have stalked the wives of his companions. With success: he is said to have married an estimated 40 women, as the Mormons themselves only made public in 2014.

In 1844, the year of his candidacy, opponents of Smith had a newspaper printed in Nauvoo in which they openly criticized his teachings. Smith sent his troops to destroy the printing press. This attack on freedom of the press was too much for the Americans. Smith was arrested. Before he could be tried, angry citizens stormed the prison. Smith tried to defend himself with a pistol but fell out the window and was killed.

Mormons around the world

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was founded in the United States in 1830 by Joseph Smith. The more than 16 million members of the Christian denomination worldwide (over 6 million of them in the US) are better known as Mormons. This refers to the "Book of Mormon" which, like the Bible, is one of the scriptures of the faith community. Scripture tells the story of a people who emigrated from Jerusalem to America 600 years before Christ. After his crucifixion, Jesus Christ himself appeared to the immigrants, it says in the book.

The Mormons see themselves as that Continuation of the early church, as it was founded by Jesus. "I would explain our religion in three simple sentences," says Signe Lassl, spokeswoman for the community. Lassl's first point is the living prophet who is also President of the Church. Like Moses or Abraham once upon a time, Mormons have a living prophet. Currently that is Russell M. Nelson. With his twelve apostles he travels the world and preaches. When one prophet dies, the next follows. Mostly this is the senior apostle. Only a priesthood holder can become President of the Church. Female prophets and apostles tend to be the exception. The family is very important to the members of the Church. Families get together for family home evening every Monday evening. “Finally, all men can become priests on a voluntary basis,” explains Lassl. Again, this is the sole right of male church members. In addition to their job, they look after their families and give their children a blessing for the sick.

The Mormons have long been criticized for Polygamy and racism. Smith alone had 40 wives. Community officials argue that polygamy has ceased to apply since 1890. The allegation of racism is based on the fact that blacks were banned from becoming priests until 1978.