The Campaign and the Kingdom

The Activities of the Electioneers in Joseph Smith’s Presidential Campaign



In 1844, Joseph Smith, President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ran for president of the United States. At the April 1844 LDS general conference, a call was made for volunteers to “electioneer for Joseph to be the next President,” as Heber C. Kimball put it.1 Immediately, 244 elders volunteered. By the time the list of names was recorded in the records of the Church a week later, the number approached 340. Even more elders eventually volunteered or were called to take up the cause.2 As part of the campaign, the Quorum of the Twelve scheduled public political conferences in each state. These conferences were to be attended by members of the Twelve and the electioneers during the campaign.3

The electioneers prepared to leave as soon as possible. Wilford Woodruff and Franklin D. Richards did all in their power to finish their red-brick homes before they left so they could, in good conscience, leave their families.4 Heber C. Kimball left for his mission worried about his wife, Vilate, who seemed to be getting ill; he later learned that she was pregnant.5 Abraham Smoot’s wife boarded the steamship Osprey with him, accompanied him to his berth, and then bid him a sad farewell.6 Moses Tracy asked if he could take his wife, Nancy. The Prophet told him that not only could Tracy take her but that she would “prove a blessing to him.” Indeed, it was she who wrote an account of their trip, without which we would know nothing of his mission.7 Some of the electioneers knew politics; others, such as Heber C. Kimball, had no interest in politics—he said politics gave him about as much pleasure as sectarian Christendom.8 These electioneers ranged from the most able and practiced spokesmen and leaders in the Church, such as the Twelve Apostles, to people like Henry Boyle, who had never spoken in public, and Alfred Boaz Lambson, who had been a member of the Church for five days when he volunteered to campaign for the prophet of his recently found faith.9

Much has been written concerning Joseph Smith’s candidacy, his intentions, and his expectations of winning. Several different schools of thought have emerged. Some historians have portrayed him as an imperialist who desired to take over the world10 or as a near madman who, as Fawn Brodie says, was “fully intoxicated with power and drunk with visions of empire and apocalyptic glory.”11 Many LDS historians, on the other hand, emphasize a different set of reasons for Joseph Smith’s candidacy: first, to give the Saints a candidate they felt they could support in good conscience; second, to avoid a political party fiasco in Illinois (the Mormons held the balance of power between Whigs and Democrats); third, to publicize the Mormon cause and thus help Church members obtain redress for their lost property in Missouri; and, fourth, to bring the tenets of the Church and the political ideas of its prophet to the attention of the nation.12 These historians rely on Joseph’s statements concerning his candidacy13 and believe or at least raise the possibility that he did not seriously expect to win. For instance, James B. Allen concludes that the Prophet “may not have seriously believed he could win a national election, but he was serious about putting his views before the nation as positively as possible.”14

Another interpretation views Joseph Smith’s candidacy as a serious attempt to establish the Kingdom of God in the United States. Often relying heavily on the statements of George Miller, a member of the Council of Fifty,15 these historians claim that Joseph Smith and his followers expected he could win the election. In the wake of his victory, the Prophet would lead God’s government on earth, the political Kingdom of God, in anticipation of Christ’s imminent return.16

Despite all that has been written on the Prophet’s candidacy, the electioneers themselves have been almost completely ignored.17 Some historians have seen the sheer number of electioneers as prima facie evidence that Joseph seriously believed he could become president. For example, Klaus Hansen asks, “If Smith had not believed his election in 1844 to be a possibility, why did he enlist the entire manpower of the church in a quixotic venture?”18 In this essay, I have not attempted to prove whether the electioneers deemed their prophet’s campaign viable. Rather, I have examined the available journals and autobiographies of the campaigners in an attempt to illuminate some of the possible reasons for and effects of the campaign. Furthermore, I will analyze some of the electioneer’s activities including their campaigning efforts, their proselytizing activities, the proceedings of the conferences they held, and their work among the branches of the Church. I will also discuss an inadvertent effect of the campaign: the Twelve were protected from the mob violence that took the lives of Joseph and Hyrum Smith. While many of the electioneers gave political addresses and distributed copies of Joseph Smith’s platform, in the main, their activities did more to strengthen the Church than to present the Prophet to the nation as a presidential candidate.

Campaigning Efforts

One of the purposes of the campaign made plain by the activities of the electioneers was to put forward their prophet as a candidate for the presidency of the United States.19 The electioneers held political conferences and made an effort to present and distribute Joseph’s platform, which was published in the pamphlet Views of the Power and Policy of the Government of the United States (hereafter called Views).20 This platform included such measures as abolition through the federal government purchasing slaves with the revenue from the sale of public lands;21 prison reform;22 unity as a nation;23 a national bank;24 the annexation of Texas, California, and Oregon;25 and the expansion of federal power.26

Many of the electioneers did a great deal to promote the candidacy of Joseph Smith. Lorenzo Snow claimed the honor of giving “the 1st political lecture that was ever delivered [to] the world in favor of Joseph for the Presidency,” a lecture he delivered on the steamer Osprey while en route to Ohio the day after the April 1844 conference.27 Ezra T. Benson and Norton Jacob reported that they appointed delegates to go to their respective state conventions in New Jersey and Michigan. On July 1, 1844, at the state convention in Boston, Brigham Young “appointed delegates to the Baltimore national convention.”28 John D. Lee and Franklin D. Richards both reported holding informal “elections” on a steamship as they left Nauvoo to electioneer. In both cases, Joseph Smith received the most votes, but since the boats were largely filled with elders leaving on missions, the results are neither surprising nor representative. Still this incident shows the electioneers’ excitement in campaigning for their prophet.29

The electioneers concentrated their political work on distributing and presenting Joseph Smith’s Views in public and private meetings. James Burgess recorded reading Views both to congregations of Saints and the general public. Wilford Woodruff, Edson Barney, George Miller, and Joseph Holbrook did likewise.30 Norton Jacob usually preceded his companion’s political speeches by reading Views aloud. On one occasion, Alfred Cordon discussed religion in general with a family, explained to them the principles and doctrine of Christ, and then read Views.31 David Pettegrew claimed “good success” as he read Views to the people, for “it was so far beyond anything they had heard before that it took with the people surprisingly.”32 W. R. R. Stowell told of reading Views to a very old gentleman who claimed to have served under George Washington in the Continental Army. When Stowell finished reading, the old man said it sounded like the views General Washington had held.33 William Watkins, though he served in the slave state of Kentucky, found that Smith’s solution to the slavery problem, as stated in Views, was well received.34 James Burgess and Alfred Cordon read Views to a Mr. Willows, who said that the ideas of Joseph Smith “were the best he had ever heard.”35 Joseph Holbrook similarly reported an acceptance of the ideas in Views but added that the people still had their reservations because they “didn’t know so much about ‘Your Mormon Prophet for president.’”36 Despite setbacks such as this, the electioneers recorded that Views was generally considered an impressive document.

Many electioneers published and distributed copies of Views. Jacob Hamblin “surculated the vews of Joseph th[e] p[r]ophet.”37 Before leaving for New Jersey, John Horner had one thousand copies of Views printed in Nauvoo. Other elders had the pamphlet printed after arriving in their assigned areas. For example, Lorenzo Snow had four thousand copies printed in Ohio; Charles C. Rich, who was assigned to campaign in Michigan, had five thousand printed; and Abraham Smoot ordered three thousand from a printer in Tennessee before a man insisted that it was illegal in that state to print a pamphlet that supported abolition. Smoot paid for the pamphlets but never mentioned receiving them. Also in Tennessee, James Holt contracted to have five hundred pamphlets printed, yet when he went to pick them up, the printer explained that he had lent Holt’s copy to various interested people in the community, one of whom, unfortunately, had lost it.38

Presenting the Mormon prophet’s Views sometimes caused conflict between the electioneers and some citizens. One conference in Tennessee and one in Boston were interrupted by mobs. Some historians have concluded almost exclusively on the basis of this evidence that Mormon campaigners were rather rowdy and specialized in picking fights.39 Historian George Gayler goes so far as to claim that Joseph Smith’s death saved the United States from the bloodiest campaign this nation had ever known.40 In reality, the two aforementioned conferences are the only two I discovered in the electioneers’ journals in which anything approaching a brawl took place, and in both cases outsiders stormed the meeting through no apparent fault of the Mormons. Of course, there were other times, not at conferences, when the campaigners got into trouble or faced persecution. George A. Smith apparently said something in a political meeting that upset some people. There “was some prospect of fighting,” Wilford Woodruff wrote, “but with soft words we turned away wrath & returned home in peace.”41 On the whole, the electioneers did not record a violent or rowdy campaign. The electioneers experienced some violent incidents, but these problems do not appear to come from the electioneers being rowdy or picking fights. Rather, they stemmed from the dedication and determination that the electioneers felt for the cause.

The electioneers faced additional physical challenges. William Lampard Watkins, at age seventeen the youngest electioneer, left Nauvoo for Kentucky to begin campaigning alone because his companion took too long preparing for the journey. Just outside nearby Warsaw, Watkins accepted a ride by a man in a wagon. In response to an inquiry, Watkins told the man he was campaigning for Joseph Smith. The man became very angry and declared that Smith would never become president and, if he did, he would be killed. Fortunately, the driver soon calmed down, and Watkins continued the ride to Warsaw. Soon thereafter, his leg brace, which enabled him to walk, broke, and he spent a week obtaining a suitable replacement. Watkins later became lost in the woods and traveled for some time in the wrong direction.42

James Burgess and Alfred Cordon faced similar difficulties. Caught in a rainstorm near McComb, Ohio, they came to a house where they were invited in. Upon explaining their business, Mr. Thompson, the man of the house, said he was opposed to the Mormons and “would not mind shooting Joe Smith.” He said he knew a man who lived nearby who would shoot Smith if he were elected. Burgess and Cordon left because, as Burgess wrote, “the conversation was not pleasing to us, no more than it gives us to see the wickedness of man.”43 After leaving Nauvoo on May 4, 1844, they walked almost the entire way to Vermont, often through “many sloughs and creeks which made it very uncomfortable.” They, like all the electioneers, went without purse or scrip, which meant they often went hungry, being denied food and shelter repeatedly because they were Mormon elders. Burgess became ill a few times from such conditions. Over two months after they began their journey, Cordon and Burgess reached Vermont on July 19, 1844, twenty-two days after their presidential candidate and prophet had been killed.44

In addition to hunger, fatigue, and illness, the electioneers often faced malacious hazards. When Elders Terry and Nixon tried to campaign, the people threw tobacco at them, took their copy of Views, and tore it up.45 Levi Jackman and Enoch Burns also had things thrown at them. They were even hit with a board and whipped with a black snake whip.46 Jacob Hamblin and his companion were told that if they did not leave they would be tarred and feathered; yet, said Hamblin, “we Still travaild about throu the diferant Townes preaching whare ever we could get the chance.”47 And in an unspecified “very wicked place,” the people did not merely threaten Elder McGin; they tarred and feathered him.48

In summary, the electioneers did campaign. They held political meetings, and some even had electors appointed for their respective states. The bulk of their campaigning effort involved presenting the Prophet’s Views to the citizenry of the United States, who on the whole seemed impressed and pleased with this platform. On the other hand, many of the elders did have difficulty campaigning and were sometimes severely opposed. Yet the electioneers went on in their cause, campaigned for Joseph Smith, and, as will be shown, did a great deal to strengthen the Church.

Proselytizing Activities

The electioneers did much more than merely campaign for Joseph Smith: one of the purposes of the candidacy, which becomes obvious from the journals of the campaigners, was to proselytize. By their own accounts, campaigning seemed secondary in comparison to the amount of time they devoted to preaching. For example, William Wommack Riley, who was called to Tennessee, kept a day-by-day account of his activities. Of the forty-two sermons he recorded preaching, only one, an address given on June 22, was “politickal”; it was followed by a debate the next day. The rest of his sermons were religious, twenty-five of them being on the first principles of the gospel. Riley also delivered sermons about the Book of Mormon, prophecy, the Resurrection, the kingdom of God, and the commandments. Other times he expounded on a chapter of Galatians, Luke, Jude, John, or Isaiah.49

Stephen Post, who was called to campaign in New York, also preached from the scriptures. He gave discourses on 1 Peter 1:2, Romans 11:25–27, Micah 4:1–2, Matthew 1:21, Mark 1:15, John 7:16–17, Revelation 14:16, and Hebrews 8.50 While presiding over the mission in Tennessee, Abraham O. Smoot frequently preached on topics such as the Resurrection, eternal judgment, and the authenticity of the Book of Mormon.51 Smoot also held and attended the conferences set up by the Twelve. Although at one conference he read Views and appointed an elector for the state,52 the majority of these meetings were spent preaching doctrine. At a conference on June 8, Smoot concluded the meeting by asking for baptismal candidates; one volunteered that day and five the next. In all, Smoot baptized thirteen people on his three-month mission.53

John D. Lee, who presided over the Kentucky mission, preached “boath in Public and private allmost incesantly.”54 He recorded preaching about fifty sermons between May 28 and August 20 on subjects such as the origin and authenticity of the Book of Mormon, the discerning of spirits, priesthood authority, faith and baptism, the apostasy, the power of God, the doctrine of Christ, the Restoration, Christ’s millennial reign, and spiritual gifts and charity. Though Lee did attempt to have Views printed at one point during his mission, he never mentioned delivering a political speech. While on his mission, he baptized six people.55

Charles C. Rich recorded holding ten political meetings on his mission, yet he still proselytized fifteen other times and visited branches on twelve occasions, baptizing twenty people on his mission.56 “I preached,” Orson Pratt wrote, “and baptized a few.”57 Similarly, Chapman Duncan summed up his political mission to Virginia as “I preached considerable that summer only baptized two ladies and two gentlemen.”58 Also, Franklin D. Richards preached and held sacrament meetings and prayer meetings regularly. On his mission, he baptized thirteen people, three of whom he had dreamt he would baptize.59 Even George Miller, who is often cited for his zeal for the political Kingdom of God, described his activities as preaching and campaigning alternately.60

Alfred Cordon and James Burgess preached steadily, seizing every opportunity to share the gospel. For example, one day during the haymaking season, it began to rain, and since one can make hay only while the sun shines, Cordon and Burgess went around the neighborhood inviting all of the unoccupied farmers to a meeting at three o’clock that afternoon. A large group assembled, and Cordon and Burgess preached “to some lenght on the first principls of the doctrine of Christ.”61 David Pettegrew and George P. Dykes, each in his own account, wrote of preaching “faith and repentance and baptism.”62 By preaching so much, the elders not only presented the gospel and baptized new members63 but in many areas also “seamd to remove a great deal of prejudice,” as Jacob Hamblin said of his mission.64

One method by which the elders proselytized was a result of their traveling without purse or scrip; they lodged with many people—Mormons, non-Mormons, and part-member families—who allowed the elders to discuss religion in their homes. Nearly every journal entry written by Burgess and Cordon begins or ends by naming the individual or family with whom they stayed. Burgess held lengthy conversations on the topic of Mormonism with almost all his of hosts, including a Methodist preacher and a German family that spoke only a little English.65 In one instance, Burgess “had much conversation on the principles of the gospel got them in great favor with our principles.”66 Alfred Cordon wrote of an anti-Mormon with whom they stayed: they talked with her until midnight “and removed conciderable prejudice from her mind.”67 Once when Levi Jackman and his companion were out in a heavy rain, a family invited them into their home after the elders had been turned down three times by others. The two electioneers talked to the family “freely about our faith.”68

Because the electioneers often served in their native states, many of them had the opportunity to visit their families and teach them about LDS beliefs; for some, this would be the last time they would see their families because of the forthcoming Mormon migration to the Great Basin. While staying with his family in Kentucky, Daniel D. Hunt baptized twenty-three people, most of whom were his relatives.69 When James Holt arrived at his father’s home, his father would not shake hands with Elder Holt’s companion. Holt told his father that if he could not treat his companion as a gentleman they would go elsewhere. His father tearfully called them back, and Holt visited with his relatives, “teaching them the principles of the Gospel, when they gave me an opportunity.”70 Before going to his assigned state of Maryland, Jacob Hamblin traveled to Wisconsin to see “if I could convince some of my Father’s folks of the gospel.” He found his family planning their move to Nauvoo to join the Saints; Hamblin’s brother-in-law had already been baptized and his father “was a believing.”71 Chapman Duncan went to see his “kinsfolks and warn them as I supposed for the last time.” Although he stayed with his family through 1845, he left them “unbelieving as to our doctrine.”72

When Henry G. Boyle joined the Church in 1843, his parents told him that he would have to give up Mormonism or leave their house. They fully expected he would renounce his religion, but Boyle surprised them by gathering a few articles of clothing, tying them in a kerchief, and leaving his “once beloved home.”73 While on his mission, Boyle returned to his hometown. Upon hearing that he was in town, his parents sent for him to come stay with them. They apologized for their harsh opposition and admitted they had been wrong. Though they did not join the Church, the breach between parents and son was substantially healed. Boyle and his companion, Seabert C. Shelton, stayed with Boyle’s parents the entire time they served in the area. Boyle and Shelton then traveled 150 miles to Tazewell County, where they visited Shelton’s relatives. While there, Boyle dreamt he was preaching to some of his relatives who lived about sixty miles away. He recounted his dream to Shelton, and they traveled to the home of Boyle’s great-uncle McClanahan, who had a family of six children. Boyle determined that he would preach the gospel to them, and if they believed and joined, he wrote, “they may be more happy and more inteligent or if they reject the testimony that I will bear to them, [they] will be left in their ignorance and be condem[n]ed.” Uncle McClanahan allowed them to use his house for preaching, which they did for a month, and though McClanahan, his children, and their cousin showed great interest in Mormonism, Shelton and Boyle had to leave for a conference before anyone was baptized.74

Other electioneers invited their wives to join them as they electioneered and visited family. Heber C. Kimball had planned to send for his wife, Vilate, primarily so they could be together but also so she could visit her sister and brother-in-law, Nathaniel, with whom Kimball stayed for a time.75 Because Moses Tracy’s wife, Nancy, had not seen any of her family for ten years, Moses took her with him to New York for the express purpose of visiting both of their families. While staying with each family, she and Moses taught them the gospel, but none of them were baptized. Nancy tried to convert her brother, Albert, who came from Canada to see her after learning she was home, “but he was satisfied with his religion and would not listen to the message we had to bear.” He returned to Canada, and though they corresponded, Nancy never saw him again.76

W. R. R. Stowell had success preaching to his family—not only were they baptized, but they also decided to move with him to Nauvoo. They even wrote “Nauvoo” on both sides of their wagon cover. When Stowell received news of the Martyrdom, he was saddened. But “the spirit of gathering with the Saints and sharing their fortunes whatever they might be,” he wrote, “was still upon me and I continued to labor diligently in preparing for the journey to Nauvoo.” Despite Joseph’s death, Stowell was happy to lead his family to the city of the Saints on the Mississippi. David Pettegrew visited not only his “relations in Vermont and New Hampshire” but also, as he later wrote, “the graves of my father and mother. I had grave stones put over their graves on the 8th day of July, 1844.”77 Similarly, Wilford Woodruff visited with his wife’s parents on his mission and during his return journey stopped at his father’s home (who was LDS), following a prompting of the Spirit. Woodruff recorded:

I lade my hands upon my Father Aphek[’s] head. . . . I ordained My father Aphek Woodruff unto the office of an high Priest and Patriarch after the order of Melchezedeck. I sealed him up unto eternal life. I placed upon his head the seals of the covenant.

When all was oer [over] it was right, my soul was satisfyed. I had accomplished what my soul longed after.

After his parents went to bed, Woodruff prayed for them and felt a marvelous spirit. The next day “a peculier Charm was thrown around my soul as I left the threshhold of my fathers house, having the confidence that if I never see my father in the flesh again I shall meet him in the first resurrection.”78

Another evidence that electioneering was a proselytizing opportunity as well as a political mission is that many elders did not end their mission upon Joseph Smith’s martyrdom. Had the mission been primarily or merely political, it would have died with the candidate. Before the Martyrdom, Alfred Cordon and James Burgess read Views to people and spoke of politics; afterward they continued to preach the principles of the gospel one to three times a day. They did not start home for Nauvoo until April 29, 1845, ten months after the Martyrdom.79 John M. Horner specifically noted that, while the Prophet’s death did end the campaign, it did not end the electioneers’ mission. He and other elders continued to hold branch meetings and preach in New Jersey and Pennsylvania until February 1846, at which time Horner sailed with other Saints to California aboard the ship Brooklyn.80 After mourning Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, Stephen Post wrote in his journal, “May the work of the Almighty roll on till the earth is filled with his knowledge. The Lord said he would move the cause of Zion for good & surely he has done it & thousands are rejoicing in the everlasting covenant. . . . Let the saints be filled with joy tho they mourn their loss for a little season.” Understanding that the work would continue, Post stayed on his mission to preach and in February 1845 joined with some elders who had also been sent on a mission.81

William W. Riley said nothing of the Martyrdom in his daily journal until recounting a sermon he delivered on July 7, 1844, in which he “spoke of the Percicution of Mo. and Illinois and the death of Joseph and Hiram Smith and the progress of the Kingdom of god.” Riley mentioned his leaders’ deaths almost casually, as if they did not affect his mission at all, and he continued regular preaching through September 15, 1844.82 Likewise, Henry G. Boyle stayed on his mission until April 1845, ten months after the Prophet’s death.83 When John D. Lee learned of the Martyrdom, he prayed and reported having a vision of Joseph’s martyrdom and receiving instruction from an angel.84 Starting the very next day, Lee continued his preaching until he received word that he was to return home.85 Charles C. Rich began his journey home immediately after hearing of the Martyrdom but preached along the way.86 David Pettegrew similarly decided to return to Nauvoo immediately but first visited all the people he could, “bearing testimony to what we verily knew and believed.” He and his companion then started for home, “lifting up our voices by the way.”87

Joseph Smith’s 1844 campaign for the presidency thus proved to be a great proselytizing movement. The electioneers preached nearly daily, mostly on the basic doctrines of the Church. Moreover, this emphasis was in accordance with the instructions given to them in the April conference, where they were told to preach the first principles of the gospel.88 The elders also preached to the families they stayed with and, significantly, proselytized among their own families—sometimes converting them and sometimes bidding them a final farewell. Most of the elders who kept journals recorded baptizing between four and twenty people during their summer missions. While the Martyrdom was devastating to elders such as Lorenzo Snow and Abraham Smoot,89 many of the electioneers continued their missions after the death of their candidate. The Twelve, of course, returned home immediately, and most of the elders were soon after called home to work on the temple and fill other duties.

Proceedings of the Conferences and Other Work among the Branches

The political conferences set up by the Twelve, like the fact that there were a large number of electioneers, have often been used by historians as evidence of the seriousness of Joseph Smith’s candidacy. However, these conferences, like the work of the electioneers, have not been examined sufficently. Because these conferences were the principal means by which the campaign was to be carried out, their proceedings are a valuable key to understanding the nature and purpose of the campaign. At each of the conferences, the branches of the Church in that area were accounted for, though some of these branches had very few members. At some conferences, up to ten branches were represented, and the numbers of elders, priests, teachers, and deacons in each were ascertained. Although the number of members attending from each of these small branches may seem insignificant, the combined number of members was significant. For instance, the number of members attending the three conferences recorded in George A. Smith’s journal totaled 350.90 At the conferences, some members were ordained to offices in the priesthood. Brigham Young recorded that he ordained “28 to the office of elder” at one conference alone.91 Conference attendees were instructed, usually by a member of the Twelve or by a presiding elder, to teach the first principles of the gospel rather than delve into mysteries. Also, presiding elders (branch presidents) were called and set apart over many of the branches. Thus the campaign provided a way to organize and account for the many branches of the Church scattered across the United States.

The minutes of the political conferences are largely indistinguishable from the minutes of contemporaneous area conferences in England and Canada. During the Sunday session of each of these conferences, the sacrament was administered to the Saints, and members of the Twelve or the electioneers spoke on such topics as the first principles of the gospel, the Atonement, revelation, living prophets, obedience to the laws and ordinances of the gospel, the Resurrection, the new and everlasting covenant, charity, and baptism for the dead. Interested nonmember citizens also attended these conferences. James Burgess and Alfred Cordon “placarded the city with some written handbills” to advertise the Chicago conference to the general public for the following Saturday and Sunday (May 25 and 26). This particular conference was opened on Saturday by the singing of “The Spirit of God.” Representation of the branches was then called for—only twenty-two members attended, including four elders, three priests, and one deacon. The electioneers then preached over the next two days on the first principles of the gospel, the latter-day work of the Lord, the Resurrection, and work for the dead as taught in Isaiah 61:1–3.92

To some extent, these were political conferences, and sometimes Views was read or other campaigning was done. For example, at the Chicago conference held by Burgess and Cordon, Cordon alluded to Smith’s candidacy in his talk on the Resurrection, and at a meeting separate from the conference, Elders Terry and Nixon presented Views to a group of citizens.93 James Harvey Glines reported that Brigham Young, Lyman Wight, and George B. Wallace spoke at the Boston conference “on the election of Joseph Smith the prophet to the Presidential chair of the Union and also upon the powers and policy of the government of the United States of America [Views]. Considerable excitement prevailed throughout the city, very many people were favorably inclined to vote for our candidate for President of the United States.”94

Yet most of the time in these conferences was dedicated to preaching to the members and proselytizing. It was at one of these conferences, in fact, that Abraham Smoot called for all who desired to be baptized to receive that ordinance. The day after the Pleasant Valley conference, Wilford Woodruff baptized two people,95and Alfred Cordon recorded eight baptized during another conference.96 Not only did this preaching by the elders and the Twelve bring new members into the Church, it also strengthened the testimonies of the members of these little branches.

The conferences were also used as a forum to curb apostasy. As mentioned, at the conferences the Twelve warned the Saints and electioneers against delving into or teaching mysteries, admonishing their audiences to focus on the first principles of the gospel. Relying on these basic principles would give the Saints a measuring rod to determine the truthfulness of any pronounced doctrine. Some Saints, however, did not heed the Twelve’s advice. George A. Smith announced at the Kalamazoo conference that Samuel Parker, one of the electioneers, had been teaching mysteries “that never entered into the mind of God, or the authorities of the church” and made plain Parker’s apostasy to all the members who might have believed him.97

More often, the electioneers themselves helped curb apostasy that had arisen, as some elders and members in these isolated branches were teaching false doctrine. James Burgess dealt with some apostate members during the Chicago conference. After discussing the local apostasy in an early session of the conference, elders were sent to talk with each of the members in question. When these members were unwilling to comply, they were disfellowshipped in the next session of the conference.98

Crandell Dunn wrote of a meeting at which three elders and one sister were “cut off” due to apostasy. At another meeting, Dunn made plain to the Saints the folly of an Elder Savage, who spoke in tongues and said that if Joseph Smith was dead then there “was no truth in Mormonism.” Dunn explained to the people that, while the gift of tongues was indeed a real gift when used correctly, Savage had spoken falsely; he had been overly anxious that Joseph and Hyrum Smith should still be alive. Dunn told the Saints it was an “unwise speech,” for which Elder Savage alone “was to blame.”99 Nancy Tracy wrote that her husband stayed on his mission after the Martyrdom, during which time as a seventy he “had authority to make some things right that were not altogether in order in the branch” of the Church at Ellisburg, New York, where his father’s family lived.100

On August 1, 1844, Norton Jacob dealt with greater apostasy. James J. Strang and Aaron Smith arrived at the conference in Florence, Michigan, and claimed that they had received a letter written by Joseph Smith and sent just before he died. The letter purportedly said they were to gather the Saints to Wisconsin. While some of the members might have believed Strang and Smith, Jacob was able to point out all the mistakes in the letter that proved it was a “base forgery.” He noted that it was written “throughout in PRINTED characters,” that the postmark was the wrong color, and the contents were “altogether bombastic, unlike the work of God and dishonorable to the name of Joseph Smith whose signature it bore in a hand he never wrote.” The conference sent Aaron Smith and James Strang to Nauvoo, “where was the proper authority to decide upon their pretentions.”101

While building up branches may seem less monumental than securing Smith’s candidacy for president, the elders seemed to consider this strengthening very important. Because they were traveling without purse or scrip, the electioneers were eager to find LDS members to take them in. The members equally needed to meet with leaders of the Church, especially after Joseph Smith’s martyrdom. On July 13, Brigham Young recorded that “the brethren were glad to see us.”102 Wilford Woodruff attended a meeting on July 11 with the Saints in Boston, explaining, “They felt to mourn their loss of the prophet and patriarch of the Church, yet they were strengthened in the faith.”103 At Joseph’s death, these outlying branches of the Church could have easily fallen away had the elders and the Twelve not been there testifying to them.

Fortunately, the elders spent a fair amount of time working with and strengthening branches. For example, Charles C. Rich visited branches on twelve occasions.104 Alfred Cordon and James Burgess visited a small branch of fifteen members in Chicago on May 21. In Canada three weeks later, the two discovered a branch with just six members. Cordon wrote, “The verry countenances of them did me good.” He preached to them, and “the saints rejoiced very much.” On July 11, Cordon located another branch of fifteen members at German Flatts, New York. They stayed with these members for several days, held five meetings and “had good seasons . . . [in which their] souls rejoiced.”105 Burgess then traveled through New Hampshire alone to look for scattered branches. He found one in Gillsom and one in Walpole, but Elders Adams and Twist were already among them.106 Finding a branch of six members, Levi Jackman stopped and preached to them for several days.107 Erastus Snow wrote of visiting the branches in New Hampshire and Vermont, including the Saints “in Woodstock, Northfield, Danville, St. Johnsbury . . . & Lyndon all the churches [branches] I could hear of in the state except some scatering members.”108 At the request of another elder, Jacob Hamblin visited the Thomas Town branch and a “small branch of the Church in Lightersburg.”109 David Pettegrew said they visited “churches [branches] by the way, exhorting them to diligence and faithfulness, baptizing many who desired to renew their covenants . . . through New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio.”110

Through personal love and care, the electioneers also strengthened individual members. Franklin D. Richards administered to several ill Saints, including a Sister Amey, who was immediately healed. He also blessed a man who had sore eyes and a woman who had a hurt ear. One member, named David Fox, who had a child that was near death asked Richards to stay with him. Even though Richards had planned to leave that area immediately, he stayed with the family and preached the funeral sermon.111

The electioneers also showed love by answering individuals’ concerns and traveling out of the way to visit with members. For example, one night Crandell Dunn stayed with a brother named Bartholomew, who asked some “hard questions.” 112 Once, after Elder Burgess preached to a large group of people, a member reported to him that a few Saints three miles away wanted someone to come teach them. Burgess complied with their request.113 While Enoch Burns claimed he did not accomplish much on his mission—he and his companion held only one meeting—they were able to visit “some scattering saints.”114 In visiting and helping these Saints, the electioneers did in fact do a great work, that of strengthening the Church and its branches by strengthening the members.

Members in outlying areas were also strengthened through their association with the Quorum of the Twelve. Because the conferences were usually attended by one or more of the Twelve, the electioneering elders and the Saints across the nation heard the Apostles testify concerning the gospel. Franklin D. Richards traveled with Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, learning much from them; Elder Crandell Dunn traveled and preached with George A. Smith and Wilford Woodruff. During the conferences, the Twelve ordained men to the priesthood and gave people blessings. James Glines, for example, attended the Boston conference, where seven members of the Twelve participated. Afterward, Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde ordained Glines an elder, and Brigham Young called him on a mission.115 Wilford Woodruff found a branch that an Elder Sarine had built up, but Sarine had recently been seriously injured when a horse kicked him in the face. Elder Woodruff not only administered to him but stayed with him through the night to comfort him.116 Such personal care would not be soon forgotten.

Due to isolation and shock over the Martyrdom, these Saints might have concluded that the Church had died with the prophet. However, at the political conferences set up by the Twelve, branches of the Church were organized and accounted for. The members of these branches, as well as interested citizens, were then instructed by the electioneering elders and members of the Twelve in the principles of the gospel. Members of the Church were often ordained to new offices, and nonmembers joined with the Saints through baptism. The elders’ work among the branches also included seeking out and preaching to small or isolated branches. They curbed apostasy in these far-off branches of the Church and cared for the individual needs of the Saints. Through the conferences, the Saints across the nation and the campaign missionaries heard the Twelve testify, learning much from them and coming to know them. Thus members of these branches had their testimonies rekindled by Apostles and missionaries just at the time of Joseph Smith’s death, which undoubtedly prevented many from drifting away from the Church.117

Protecting the Twelve

In the attempt to determine the purposes for and effects of the campaign, another result of the campaign has become apparent, one that seems unintentional and yet visionary. Wilford Woodruff later said that Joseph Smith told him before he left on his campaigning mission, “Brother Woodruff, I want you to go, and if you do not you will die.”118 Was there really that much danger in Nauvoo? At least two of the electioneers who traveled home to Nauvoo via Carthage ran into mobs who sought their lives. When W. R. R. Stowell stopped near Carthage to buy some hay, he was surrounded by several bystanders who recounted to him what had been done to Joseph and Hyrum Smith. They asked if he was afraid, and he said he was not, for he had as much right to travel the public roads as anyone. He then asked the mob if they would sell him some hay. His frankness apparently prevented them from doing anything dastardly.119

Lorenzo Snow had a similar experience while passing close to Carthage on his way home. Traveling up a hill in his buggy, he saw a dozen men waiting in the road with bowie knives and guns. His buggy hit a large rock, and he shouted “Boys! Why in hell don’t you repair this road!” “He is one of us,” one of the men said to another. “He is all right, let him pass.” Lorenzo Snow was carrying some money with him for some Saints in Nauvoo. He wrote of this experience, “How far my uncouth and undignified expression went as security for their money, must be left to conjecture.”120 While such incidents demonstrate the danger that the Saints in Nauvoo were in, the particular danger facing the Twelve emerges in a letter written on June 30, 1844, from Vilate Kimball to her husband, Heber C. After relating some of the events surrounding the Martyrdom, Vilate asked where the bloodshed would end, for Nauvoo was still being harassed by mobs. Her main concern was William Law, because, she wrote, he “says he wants nine more [Apostles], that was in his quorum. Sometimes I am afraid he will get them. I have no doubt but you are one.” Vilate believed that the mob wanted to kill specific members of the Twelve in addition to Joseph and Hyrum Smith, although they were the principal two. She wrote that she had “no doubt but [Heber’s] life will be sought.” She was sorry he had been called back to Nauvoo and prayed that “the Lord [would] give [him] wisdom, to escape their hands.”121

Vilate’s apprehensions seem even more valid in light of the circumstances of the Martyrdom. For who were at Carthage Jail with Joseph and Hyrum—all the members of the Twelve and First Presidency who were not on missions in the East. In another letter written a few days before the Martyrdom, Vilate told her husband of the Smiths being taken to Carthage. Though worried about them, she confided to her husband, “If you were here, you would be sure to be in their midst. Thiss would increase my anxiety of cors.”122 In faraway places such as Boston, the members of the Twelve were out of the reach of the Carthage mob. Whether the mob would have killed any of them or not, the Twelve’s Illinois enemies never had the opportunity because of the campaign. The keys of the kingdom, given to the Twelve by Joseph Smith, were not lost, and Brigham Young in particular was preserved to lead the Church for the next thirty years.

Conclusion: The Campaign and the Kingdom

The number of electioneers and the “political” conferences called by the Twelve in 1844 have been repeatedly used as evidence that Joseph Smith fully expected to obtain the presidential chair and that the electioneers’ purpose therefore was to ensure this outcome. But as has been demonstrated, the electioneers did not focus primarily on Joseph Smith’s candidacy, for most of their political rallies were not fundamentally political.

So the question remains: Was the campaign merely a stratagem or a ploy to proselytize and organize the branches of the Church, or was Joseph seriously seeking the presidential chair? To a certain extent, Joseph Smith must have been running for office; otherwise, he would not have made the effort to write Views. In addition, the electioneers did some legitimate campaigning, mainly through publishing and publicizing the Prophet’s platform, which gave serious and rational solutions to major problems of the nation in Joseph’s day.123 The electioneers presented these solutions to the people of the United States as the Views of a prophet and the only man they felt they could trust in politics. As William Hyde declared, “Our object was to vote for a man whom we knew to be our friend—As we had proven many and found them faith less, and untrue to their trust—and in all respects unworthy of our confidence and the confidence of all good men.”124 The electioneers knew Joseph to be a good and moral leader who would not betray them or other citizens of the United States. Presenting his Views and his name to the people of the United States is evidence neither that the Prophet was a megalomaniac nor that he was grasping for power or secretly planning to take over the government. It is evidence merely that he was running for president.

Yet the journals of the electioneers provide evidence that the campaign accomplished much more than presenting the Prophet to the nation. In fact, the campaign is more significant than historians have previously supposed, for they have overlooked the point that, while comparatively little was done by the electioneers to secure Joseph’s presidency or to set up the political Kingdom of God as the new United States government, the electioneers, in a very real sense, did build up the ecclesiastical kingdom of God. Rather than elect their beloved Prophet to the presidency, they built the kingdom by teaching the gospel in every state in the nation, by gathering and caring for the Saints and their own families, and by strengthening and organizing the scattered branches and keeping them from falling away at the death of their Prophet and candidate.

The Electioneers125

? = Called on a mission in 1844; could have electioneered or served in previously called mission.

Adams, Charles A.—New Hampshire

Allen, Daniel—Illinois

Allen, O. M.—Missouri

Anderson, Miles—Georgia

Anderson, Richard

Andrus, Milo—Ohio

Angus, John O.—Kentucky

Ashby, Nathaniel—Massachusetts

Babbitt, Loren—Ohio

Bacon, Samuel P.—New York

Barlow, Israel—New Hampshire

Barnes, H. W.—Illinois

Barney, Edson—Ohio

Barrus, Ethan—Mississippi

Bartlett, Milton F. —Massachusetts

Bates, Archibald—New York

Bates, Marcellus—New York

Bathrick, Almon—Illinois

Batson, William—Ohio

Beebe, Isaac—Georgia

Bell, Alfred—Tennessee

Bennett, Hiram—New York

Benson, Ezra T.—New Jersey

Bent, Samuel—Michigan

Bentley, Gregory—New York

Betts, John F.—Virginia

Bigler, Henry William

Blanchard, John R.—Massachusetts

Bosworth, J. B.—Louisiana

Boyle, Henry Green—Virginia

Boynton, A. D.—New Hampshire

Brady, L. A.

Brandon, G. W.—Alabama

Brandon, T. J.—Alabama

Briggs, S. H. —Wisconsin Territory

Brooks, L.—Ohio

Brothers, W.—Ohio

Brown, Alfred—Ohio

Burgess, James—Vermont

Burnham, Jacob L.—Illinois

Burns, Enoch

Burton, Issac—New Hampshire

Butler, L. D.—Alabama

Butterfield, J.—Maine

Buys, H. D.—Tennessee

Buzzard, P. H.—Illinois

Candland, David—Illinois

Carlin, Edward—Indiana

Carpenter, S. E.—Georgia

Carroll, J.—Ohio

Carter, Dominicus—Vermont

Carter, S.—Ohio

Casper, J. A.—Ohio

Castell, J. J.—Tennessee

Chamberlain, G.—Pennsylvania

Chase, Darwin—Arkansas

Chase, John D.—Vermont

Chase, Isaac—New York

Childs, Nathaniel—Ohio

Clapp, B. L.—Alabama

Clark, William O.—Illinois

Clough, David, Sr.—New Hampshire

Cole, J. M.—Pennsylvania

Coltrin, Graham—Michigan

Coltrin, Zebedee—Michigan

Condit, A. W.—Ohio

Cook, Henry L.—New York

Cooley, Alvin—New Hampshire

Coon, L. T.—Tennessee

Cooper, John—Ohio

Coray, Howard—Illinois

Coray, William—Missouri

Cordon, Alfred—Vermont

Cornish, Denman—Vermont

Couthouse, John

Crouse, G. W.—Pennsylvania

Curtis, Jeremiah—Michigan

Curtis, Joseph—Michigan

Cutler, William L.

Davis, Amos—Tennessee

Davis, E. H.—Connecticut

Dayton, Hiram—Ohio

Dayton, Lysander—Ohio

Dean, Henry—Pennsylvania

Dobson, Thomas—Illinois

Downing, James—Pennsylvania

Dryer, William W.—New York

Duel, O. M.—New York

Duke, Jonathan O.—Delaware

Duncan, Chapman—Virginia

Duncan, John—Pennsylvania

Duncan, W. A.—Illinois

Dunn, Crandell

Dunn, Simeon A.—New York

Dunn, Thomas—Michigan

Dykes, G. P.—Indiana

Eames, Ellis—New York

Edwards, F. M.—Indiana

Edwards, Thomas—Kentucky

Egan, Howard—New Hampshire

Eldredge, Horace S.—New York

Elliott, Bradford W.—New York

Elliott, Henry—Indiana

Ellsworth, Edmund—New York

Elsworth, B. C.—New York

Emell, John M.—South Carolina

Emmett, J. M.—Ohio

Evans, David—Virginia

Ewell, Pleasant—Virginia

Farlin, Orrin D.—Pennsylvania

Farnham, A. A.—New York

Farr, A. F.—Indiana

Felshaw, William—New York

Fife, Peter—Virginia

Fisher, Daniel—New York

?Fleming, Josiah

Folsom, W. H.—Ohio

Foote, Timothy B.—New York

Foster, J. H.—Ohio

Foster, L.

Foster, Solon—New York

Fowler, George W.—New York

Frost, Samuel B.—Kentucky

Fuller, Thomas—New York

Fulmer, David

Fulmer, John L.—Tennessee

Gardner, Daniel W.—Massachusetts

Gardner, Morgan L.—Georgia

Gillett, Truman—New York

Gillibrand, Robert

Glaefke, A. J.—Pennsylvania

Glines, James Harvey

Goldsmith, G. D.—New York

Gould, John—Illinois

Graham, James—Illinois

Grant, Jedediah M.

Green, Harvey—Michigan

Gribble, William—Michigan

Griffith, Richard—Pennsylvania

Groves, E. H.—Illinois

Gurley, Zenus H.—Illinois

Guyman, Thomas—North Carolina

Haight, William—Vermont

Hale, Jonathan H.—Maine

?Hall, Alfred

Hall, Lyman—New York

Hamblin, Jacob—Maryland

Hamilton, Robert—Virginia

Hammond, John—Illinois

Hampton, J.—Tennessee

Hancock, Levi W.—Vermont

Hanks, A.

Harding, A. M.—Vermont

Hardy, Zachariah—Illinois

Hatch, Jeremiah—Vermont

Hatwood, Elder—Connecticut

Heath, S.

Herriman, Henry—Maine

Hess, Thomas—Pennsylvania

Heywood, J. L.

Hickerson, G. W.—Illinois

Higginbottom, W. E.—Virginia

Hodges, Amos—Vermont

Hoit, Timothy S.—Illinois

Holbrook, Chandler—New York

Holbrook, Joseph—Kentucky

Holmes, M.

Holt, James—Tennessee

Holt, John—North Carolina

Hopkins, Charles—Indiana

Horner, John—New Jersey

Houston, Isaac—Vermont

Houston, John—North Carolina

Hovey, Orlando D.—Massachusetts

Hoyt, Homer C.—New York

Hoyt, Samuel P.—Massachusetts

Hubbard, C. W.—Michigan

Hunt, D. D.—Kentucky

Hunt, Jefferson—Illinois

Hutchins, S. P.—Ohio

Hyde, William—Vermont

Jackman, Levi—Illinois

Jacob, Norton—Michigan

Jacobs, H. B.—Tennessee

Johnson, Jesse—Ohio

Jones, David—Ohio

Jones, John—Delaware

Jones, John—Indiana

Jordan, William H.—Missouri

Judah, David—Illinois

Kelly, John—Louisiana

Kelting, J. A.—Tennessee

Kendall, L. N.—Michigan

Kershner, D. J.—Illinois

King, Joseph—Virginia

?Kinnamen, Elder

Lamb, Abel—Illinois

Lambson, Alfred B.—Virginia

Lamoreaux, A. L.—Indiana

Langley, G. W.—Tennessee

Laurence, John—Illinois

Leavitt, N.—Illinois

Leavitt, Nathaniel—Arkansas

LeBaron, Alonzo—South Carolina

?Lee, E.

Lee, John D.—Kentucky

Lemon, Washington—Indiana

Lewis, Clark—Ohio

Lewis, David—Illinois

Littlefield, L. O.—Ohio

Lloyd, George—Massachusetts

Lovelace [Loveless], John—Ohio

Loveland, Daniel—Massachusetts

Lowry, John—Missouri

Lyman, Amasa—Indiana

Lyman, William D.—South Carolina

Mack, Chilion—New Hampshire

Mackey, John—Indiana

?Mallory, Lemuel

Markham, Stephen—Illinois

Martindale, William—Indiana

McArthur, Duncan—Illinois

?McGin, Elder

McIntosh, J. A.—Arkansas

McIntyre, William P.—Pennsylvania

McKeown, Marcellus—New York

McRae A.—North Carolina

McTaggart, Thomas—Rhode Island

Mikesell, Garrett W.—Kentucky

Mikesell, Hiram W.—Kentucky

Miles, Elder

Miller, Bethuel—New Hampshire

Miller, George—Kentucky

Moffitt, Armstead—Tennessee

Moon, John—Maine

Moore, Lorenzo—Louisiana

Morley, Harley—New Hampshire

Morris, Jacob—Ohio

Morse, Justus—Delaware

Mott, Hiram—Illinois

Mouer, Henry—Pennsylvania

Mount, Joseph—Tennessee

Mulliner, S.—Illinois

Myers, John—Maryland

Nelson, James—Illinois

Nelson, William—Louisiana

Newberry, James—Indiana

Newland, William—New York

Newman, Elijah—Ohio

Nichols, John—Ohio

Nickerson, A. C.

Nickerson, F.

Nickerson, L. S.

Nikon [Nixon?], Elder—Illinois

Noble, Joseph P.—New York

Norris, Patrick—Maryland

Nyman, Hyrum—Pennsylvania

Olmstead, H.—Illinois

Ott, Frederick—Indiana

Owens, Horace B.—Kentucky

?Pace, James—Arkansas

Pack, John—New Jersey

Palmer, Abraham—Indiana

Park, James—Virginia

Parker, Samuel—Michigan

Parshall, William H.—New York

Penn, G.—Tennessee

Perkins, A. H.—Missouri

Perry, Josiah—Vermont

Pettigrew, David—New York

Pew, George—Louisiana

Phelps, J. R. G.—New York

Phelps, Morris—Illinois

Phippin, James W.—New York

Pierson, E. D.—Massachusetts

Porter, Jared—Ohio

Porter, Nathan—Ohio

Post, Stephen—New York

Powers, J. M.—Ohio

Pratt, William D.—New York

Rainey, D. P.—Tennessee

Razor, Aaron—North Carolina

Redfield, D. H.—New York

Reed, Calvin—New Hampshire

Reed, Elijah—New York

Reid, John H.—Kentucky

Rich, Charles C.—Michigan

Richards, Franklin D.—Indiana

Richards, S. W.—Indiana

Riley, W. W.—Tennessee

Riser, G. C.—Ohio

Riser, J. J.—Ohio

Roberts, John W.—Ohio

Rogers, D. H.—Kentucky

Rose, Joseph—Ohio

Rule, William G.—Missouri

Sanderson, James—North Carolina

Sasnett, J. J.—Tennessee

Savage, Bro.—Michigan

Savage, David—Michigan

Savage, William—Michigan

Seabury, William—Rhode Island

Shearer, Daniel—New York

Sheets, Elijah F.

Shelton, Seabert C.—Virginia

Shoemaker, Jacob—Pennsylvania

Simmons, A. A.—Arkansas

Smith, Jackson—Tennessee

Smith, John G.—Indiana

Smith, Moses

Smith, Warren—Tennessee

Smith, William—South Carolina

Smoot, Abraham O.—Tennessee

?Snider, George—Illinois

Snow, Charles—Vermont

Snow, Erastus—Vermont

Snow, James C.—Vermont

Snow, Lorenzo—Ohio

Snow, W.—New Hampshire

Snow, Warren—Delaware

Snow, Warren—Vermont

Snow, William—Indiana

Sparks, Quartus S.—Connecticut

Spencer, Daniel—Massachusetts

Sprague, R. C.—Michigan

Spry, Charles—Kentucky

Stewart, Levi—Illinois

Stewart, U. V.—Indiana

Stoddard, Lyman—Maryland

Stoddard, S. B.—Maine

Stow, Milton—Ohio

Stowell, William R. R.—New York

Strong, Ezra—Ohio

Strong, Reuben W.—Michigan

Tanner, John—New York

Tanner, Martin H.—New York

Tanner, Nathan—Indiana

Terry, Jacob E.—Illinois

Thayer, Ezra

Thompson, Charles—New York

Titus, Martin—Vermont

Toughs. See Tufts.

Tracy, Moses—New York

Tracy, Nancy Naomi—with husband, Moses

Truly, Ekells—South Carolina

Tufts [Toughs], Elbridge—Maine

Tulley, Allen—Ohio

Twiss, John S.—New Hampshire

Tyler, Daniel—Mississippi

Vance, John—Illinois

Vance, W. P.—Tennessee

?Van Deuzen, Increase—Michigan

Van Natta, J. H.—New York

?Venusthrom, James M.

Vincent, Ezra—Ohio

Wait, Allen—New York

Walker, J. B.—Mississippi

Wandell, C. W.—New York

Warner, Charles—Pennsylvania

Warner, Salmon—Indiana

Watkins, William—Kentucky

Watt, George—North Carolina

Watt, George D.—Virginia

Webb, E. M.

Webb, P.—Michigan

?Wells, Elder

Welton, M. B.—Kentucky

West, Nathan A.—Illinois

Wheelock, C. H.—New York

Whipple, Edson—Pennsylvania

White, Samuel—New York

Whitney, A. W.—Virginia

Wilbur, Melvin—Rhode Island

Willard, Stephen D.—Michigan

Wilkes, Ira—Michigan

Wilson, B. W.—Ohio

Wilson, H. H.—Louisiana

Wincester, B.—Virginia

Winchester, Stephen—Pennsylvania

Woodbury, Joseph J.—Massachusetts

Woodbury, W. H.—Massachusetts

Yearsley, David D.—Pennsylvania

Young, A. D.—Tennessee

Young, Alfonzo—Tennessee

?Young, Joseph

Young, L. D.—Indiana

Young, P. H.—Ohio

Younger, Joseph—Tennessee

Zundall, Jacob—Pennsylvania


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About the author(s)

Margaret C. Robertson is a second-year law student at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, Brigham Young University. She has accepted a position at Paul Weiss, a New York firm. She wrote this article as an undergraduate at BYU, from which she received her B.A. in history in 1999. She would like to thank Professors Don Norton and Brian Q. Cannon for their help and support with this article.


1. Joseph Smith Jr., History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2d ed., rev., 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1971), 6:325 (hereafter cited as History of the Church). Throughout this paper, I will be using the original spelling of the electioneers and authors.

2. The list was printed in “For President, Gen. Joseph Smith, Nauvoo, Illinois,” Times and Seasons 5 (April 15, 1844): 504–6. The journals of some people on this list, such as William McIntyre and Israel Barlow, suggest that they never filled their electioneer missions. However, the journals of other electioneers mention the names of at least fifty additional electioneers not named in the list published in the Times and Seasons. This raises the total number of electioneers to about four hundred. This number does not include the members of the Quorum of the Twelve who campaigned for the Prophet as they presided over conferences in the eastern states. Two Apostles remained in Nauvoo—Willard Richards to serve as Joseph Smith’s secretary and John Taylor to edit local newspapers. See the appendix below for the complete list.

3. For a list of these conferences, see History of the Church, 6:334–35.

4. Franklin D. Richards, Journal, April 17, 1844, typescript, Richards Family Collection, Church Archives, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City (hereafter cited as LDS Church Archives); Wilford Woodruff, Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, 1833–1898, typescript, ed. Scott G. Kenney, 9 vols. (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1983–85), 2:393 (April 29, 30; May 1, 2, 3, 1844).

5. In June 1844, Vilate wrote Heber, “My health is very poor, my stumach loaths almost everything. I am so sick and faint that I cannot set up a good deal of the time. There is a cause for this, which cause you will no doubt rejoice in. A hint to you is sufficient.” This letter was dated June 9 but contained information written as late as June 24. On January 29, 1845, seven and a half months after she wrote this letter, Vilate gave birth to their son Brigham Willard Kimball. Vilate Kimball to Heber C. Kimball, June 9, 1844, Heber C. Kimball Family Organization, LDS Church Archives; Susan Easton Black, Membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1848, 50 vols. (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 26:626.

6. Abraham O. Smoot, Journal, May 7, 1844, photocopy of holograph, Abraham O. Smoot Collection, L. Tom Perry Special Collections, Harold B. Lee Library, Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah (hereafter cited as Perry Special Collections).

7. Nancy Naomi Alexander Tracy, Reminiscences and Diary, typescript, 27, Heber C. Kimball Family Organization, LDS Church Archives.

8. Heber C. Kimball to Vilate Kimball, June 4, 1844, microfilm of holograph, Heber Chase Kimball Collection, LDS Church Archives. In the same letter, Heber C. Kimball also commented that politics “is like the seccttarian religeon part true and part not true but little more not true then true.”

9. Henry G. Boyle, Autobiography and Diary, typescript, 6, Perry Special Collections. Alfred Lambson was baptized on April 4, 1844. “Alfred Boaz Lambson,” Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine 6 (July 1915): 145–48. Most of the elders volunteered for missions on April 9. Lambson may have volunteered that week, but his name appears on the list of electioneers printed in the Times and Seasons on April 15, 1844.

10. See Thomas Ford, A History of Illinois from Its Commencement as a State in 1818 to 1847, 2 vols. (1854; reprint, Chicago: Lakeside, 1946), 2:157; Eduard Meyer, “The Origin and History of the Mormons: With Reflections on the Beginnings of Islam and Christianity,” trans. Heinz F. Rahde and Eugene Seaich, 123–25, typescript, BYU Special Collections; Bruce Kinney, Mormonism: The Islam of America (New York: Fleming H. Revell, 1912); T. B. H. Stenhouse, The Rocky Mountain Saints (New York: D. Appleton, 1873), 147; Henry Mayhew, History of the Mormons; or, Latter-day Saints. With Memoirs of the Life and Death of Joseph Smith, the “American Mahomet” (Auburn, N.Y.: Derby and Miller, 1852), 163–67.

11. Fawn M. Brodie, No Man Knows My History (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1945), 354. See also I. Woodbridge Riley, The Founder of Mormonism: A Psychological Study of Joseph Smith, Jr. (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1902).

12. See James B. Allen, Trials of Discipleship: The Story of William Clayton, a Mormon (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1987), 101–3; Truman G. Madsen, Joseph Smith the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1989), 121; John A. Widtsoe, Joseph Smith: Seeker after Truth, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1951), 217–19; George Q. Cannon, Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet (1888; reprint, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 468–76; Joseph Fielding Smith, Essentials in Church History (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1979), 293–94; Preston Nibley, Joseph Smith the Prophet (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1944), 494–97; B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Century One, 6 vols. (Provo, Utah: Corporation of the President, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1965); B. H. Roberts, The Rise and Fall of Nauvoo (Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1900), 250–54; Francis M. Gibbons, Joseph Smith, Martyr, Prophet of God (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1977), 315–18; Ivan J. Barrett, Joseph Smith and the Restoration, rev. ed. (Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1973), 572–79; E. Cecil McGavin, Nauvoo the Beautiful (Salt Lake City: Stevens and Wallis, 1946), 61–67; Carter Eldredge Grant, The Kingdom of God Restored (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1955), 299; and William E. Berrett, The Restored Church (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1958), 178–79. James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard in The Story of the Latter-day Saints and G. Homer Durham in Joseph Smith: Prophet-Statesman also discuss the Council of Fifty and Joseph Smith’s desire to build up the Kingdom of God. Durham points out that Joseph’s “constant effort [not just when he was running for president], in his own mind, was to influence the world of men towards an ideal of the kingdom of God,” which would “replace war and misery with peace and happiness.” Durham concludes that this approach offered something that “men of all faiths and party convictions” could learn from the Prophet. Allen and Leonard claim that Joseph “offered himself as a candidate on his personal merits as an involved citizen and not as a religious leader,” that his desire was “to unite factions under an inspired government ruled by good men,” and that the “elders of Israel” were campaigning “to win converts to the idea that the nation’s strength lay in unity.” G. Homer Durham, Joseph Smith: Prophet-Statesman (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1944), ix–x; James B. Allen and Glen M. Leonard, The Story of the Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 189–90.

13. G. Homer Durham’s Joseph Smith: Prophet-Statesman is one of the best studies on Joseph Smith’s candidacy and platform. Not only does Durham provide insightful commentary on the contemporary documents and statements concerning Joseph’s campaign, but he also reproduces, in their entirety, many of these documents, creating a collection of primary sources dealing with the candidacy. These documents include Views of the Power and Policy of the Government of the United States (hereafter cited as Views), lengthy quotes from the Times and Seasons and the History of the Church, Joseph Smith’s rationale for running, his understanding of the Texas and slavery questions, and the campaign resolutions made at the Illinois State Convention of May 1844. Importantly, Durham includes Joseph’s “Reply to Mr. Blair”—a defense of Views; as Durham points out, it “is the prophet’s own commentary on the ‘Views’” and “should be read and understood accordingly.” See Durham, Joseph Smith: Prophet-Statesman, 144–83, quote on 173.

14. For a brief, yet accurate, discussion of the evidence concerning whether Joseph Smith was serious in his campaign and expected to win, see James B. Allen, “Was Joseph Smith a Serious Candidate for the Presidency of the United States, or Was He Only Attempting to Publicize Gospel Views on Public Issues?” Ensign 3 (September 1973): 21–22.

15. Throughout the paper, I will use the phrase “Kingdom of God,” with an uppercase K to refer to the political entity that the Council of Fifty represented as God’s government on earth. When the k is lower case, “kingdom of God” will be used as it is in the scriptures, meaning the Church or work of God without political connotations. The Council of Fifty was a conglomerate of Church members, leaders, and nonmembers who served as the nucleus of the Kingdom. Many historians have written about the responsibilities and purposes of the Council of Fifty and of its relationship to the Kingdom of God. In this paper, I will not discuss the Council of Fifty or statements made concerning Joseph Smith’s candidacy outside of those pertaining to electioneering. My focus is on the activities of the electioneers, to see what they actually did and said. For an excellent treatise on the Kingdom of God, see Edward G. Thompson, “A Study of the Political Involvements in the Career of Joseph Smith” (master’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1966), 45–69. Other studies include D. Michael Quinn, “The Council of Fifty and Its Members, 1844 to 1945,” BYU Studies 20, no. 2 (1980): 163–97; and Andrew F. Ehat, “‘It Seems Like Heaven began on Earth’: Joseph Smith and the Constitution of the Kingdom of God,” BYU Studies 20, no. 3 (1980): 253–80.

16. For instance, Klaus Hansen argues, “Was it unreasonable for a man who knew that he was carrying out the will of the Lord to believe that God could establish the kingdom in Nauvoo, if He wished, by causing Joseph Smith to be elected President of the United States? . . . The vigor with which the prophet threw himself and the entire church into the campaign belies his own casual remarks disavowing any serious political intentions.” Klaus J. Hansen, Quest of Empire: The Political Kingdom of God and the Council of Fifty in Mormon History (Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 1967), 74–82, quotes on 77 and 79. For similar views, see Kenneth H. Winn, Exiles in a Land of Liberty: Mormons in America, 1830–1846 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1989), 196–207; Marvin S. Hill, Quest for Refuge: The Mormon Flight from American Pluralism (Salt Lake City: Signature, 1989), 137–41; Robert Flanders, Nauvoo: Kingdom on the Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965), 299–302; and Donna Hill, Joseph Smith: The First Mormon (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1977), 372–78. D. Michael Quinn’s interpretation differs slightly. While he argues that “all Mormons in the first half of 1844 took Smith’s presidential campaign very seriously,” he concludes that some, including John S. Fullmer, Heber C. Kimball, and Joseph Smith himself, “hoped to see the Prophet in the White House after another election.” D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994), 105–41, quote on 135–36. A comparison of Quinn’s conclusions in his 1980 BYU Studies article, cited in the previous endnote, and in his 1994 book, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, reveals a distinct interpretive shift. For example, Quinn moves from stating that the Council of Fifty was primarily symbolic and premillennial with some appropriate political functions to declaring Joseph intended a subversive polititcal realization of the Kingdom of God.

17. Other recent studies spend little time analyzing campaign activities and instead concentrate on Views to interpret Joseph Smith’s candidacy. Some historians and political scientists, such as Richard Poll, Martin Hickman, and J. Keith Melville relate Views to political theory and activity both in Joseph Smith’s time and in the present. Poll establishes a historical context for Views, briefly relating the document to American political culture in the 1840s. Hickman and Melville show what there is to learn from Joseph Smith’s political thought, which they generally portray as relevant to contemporary issues. They characterize Joseph Smith as a freedom-loving man who desired a more righteous government, free from corrupt policies and politicians. See Richard D. Poll, “Joseph Smith and the Presidency, 1844,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 3 (autumn 1968): 17–21; Martin B. Hickman, “The Political Legacy of Joseph Smith,” Dialogue 3 (autumn 1968): 22–36; J. Keith Melville, “Joseph Smith, the Constitution, and Individual Liberties,” BYU Studies 28, no. 2 (1988): 65–74. See also Arnold K. Garr, “Joseph Smith: Candidate for President of the United States,” in Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History, ed. H. Dean Garrett (Provo, Utah: Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, 1995), 151–68.

18. Hansen, Quest for Empire, 78–79.

19. The major candidates for president in 1844 were Henry Clay (Whig Party), dark-horse candidate James K. Polk (Democratic Party), and James G. Birney (Liberty Party). On November 4, 1843, Joseph Smith sent letters to several potential candidates in the 1844 election, namely John C. Calhoun, Lewis Cass, Richard M. Johnson, Henry Clay, and Martin Van Buren. He asked each of them what their course relating to the redress of the Latter-day Saints would be if elected. Cass, Clay, and Calhoun responded, but none offered the kind of response that Joseph Smith had hoped for. Cass’s reply is not in the History of the Church, and I have not found it, nor any reference to it except a brief mention that Joseph received a response from the politician. It would appear that Cass was not planning on helping the Latter-day Saints. Calhoun’s response argues for the states’ rights doctrines of the day (not considered helpful to the Latter-day Saints) and has a condescending tone as his “candor compels” him to reply to Joseph Smith. Clay replied that he would make no promises to anyone before ascending the presidential chair. “Correspondence of Gen. Joseph Smith and Hon. J. C. Calhoun,” Times and Seasons 5 (January 1, 1844): 393–96; “Correspondence between Gen. Joseph Smith and the Hon. Henry Clay,” Times and Seasons 5 (June 1, 1844): 544–48; reprinted in History of the Church, 6:64–65, 144, 155–60. Electioneer Henry William Bigler recorded using the Clay, Calhoun, and Smith correspondence in his electioneering and wrote that “there were those who read the Prophet’s Views and the correspondence between him and Clay who said they would vote for Joseph Smith [rather] than for Clay or for Polk.” Henry William Bigler, Journal, 32, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives.

20. Joseph Smith, General Smith’s Views of the Powers and Policy of the Government of the United States (Nauvoo, Ill.: John Taylor, 1844). The ideas and solutions offered in Joseph Smith’s platform were not new to politics. Richard Poll argues that Joseph’s platform was “an intriguing blend of ante-bellum political rhetoric, Whig economic doctrines, Democratic expansionism, abolitionism, and the original and wide-range constitutional and political ideas of Joseph Smith.” Poll, “Joseph Smith and the Presidency,” 21. However, Joseph Smith did not merely grasp at current winds of political doctrine floating around him to construct his platform; rather his platform represents the political ideals of a religious leader based on his own experience and beliefs. See notes 21–26 below.

21. The Prophet was not an abolitionist in the strictest sense. He felt slavery was not right and saw the need to abolish slavery to preserve the nation, but he also realized the need to save the economy of the South. He planned to resolve that tension by purchasing slaves with money raised through the sale of public lands and saved through the reduction in the pay and size of Congress. The Prophet’s idea of gradual emancipation resembled approaches advocated by most opponents to slavery prior to 1830. However, by 1844, when Joseph Smith promoted this view, leaders in the antislavery movement had endorsed immediate emancipation, rejecting gradualist schemes. But Joseph refused to take the extreme abolitionist point of view of his day. Unlike William Lloyd Garrison, Joseph did not see the South as a great evil empire but believed that “the southern people are hospitable and noble: they will help to rid so free a country of every vestige of slavery, when ever they are assured of an equivalent for their property.” See Joseph Smith, “Gen. Smith’s Views of the Government and Policy of the United States,” Times and Seasons 5 (May 15, 1844): 528–33, quote on 533; Ronald G. Walters, American Reformers, 1815–1860 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1978), 77–100.

22. Unlike many genteel reformers who worked to transform the American penal system, Joseph Smith spoke from firsthand experience. He had spent a fair amount of time in jail on false charges and knew of the deplorable conditions of prisons of his day. He suggested that for small crimes, “infraction[s] . . . of some overwise statute,” people not be incarcerated in dungeonlike prisons. As for those who committed more serious crimes, Joseph said in Views, “Advise your legislators when they make laws for larceny, burglary or any felony, to make the penalty applicable to work upon the roads, public works, or any place where the culprit can be taught more wisdom and more virtue; and become more enlightened.” He hoped that even those criminals charged with serious crimes would be treated with greater justice and charity. He wrote in Views, “Let the penitentiaries be turned into seminaries of learning, where intelligence, like the angels of heaven, would banish such fragments of barbarism.” Smith, Views, 3, 6, 7; see Walters, American Reformers, 194–206.

23. Joseph Smith states in Views, “Unity is power, and when I reflect on the importance of it to the stability of all governments, I am astounded at the silly moves of persons and parties, to foment discord in order to ride into power on the current of popular excitement.” Joseph Smith was not a fan of political parties. He felt and had seen that they inspired discord and caused people to vote for a particular party rather than for a good leader of the nation. He sought for unity as a nation and morality among politicians. In Views, Joseph quotes Washington, who hoped that “no separate views or party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye [so] . . . the foundations of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable . . . principles of private morality.” Smith, Views, 3. While many of Joseph’s contemporaries shared his (and Washington’s) distrust of political parties and considered “political partisanship as the antithesis of political morality,” Joseph Smith’s personal experience and religious beliefs again shed light on his resentment of party politics. First, he and his followers believed in building Zion, where all people were equal and united and were of one heart and one mind (Moses 7:18). Zion was in stark contrast to the animosities raised in people by political parties. Second, in Missouri and Illinois, the Mormons had several political conflicts with their non-LDS neighbors, which contributed to the eventual expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri (and later from Illinois). In Illinois, Joseph constantly sought political help in gaining redress for the Missouri expulsion but received none. Yet at the same time, disingenuous political suitors constantly courted him to win the vote of the Mormon people. In 1841, Joseph declared to these suitors that the Saints did not endorse a particular party: “We care not a fig for Whig or Democrat: they are both alike to us.” Both parties continued to court the Mormon vote, but neither party sought to help the Saints. This political game undoubtedly reinforced Joseph’s distrust of political parties. See Joseph Smith, “State Gubernatorial Convention, City of Nauvoo, Illinois, December 20th, a.d. 1841,” Times and Seasons 3 (January 1, 1842): 651; Watson, Liberty and Power, 6–7, 11–12, quote on 11.

24. A national bank was not a new idea in politics. Joseph Smith not only felt this was important but had firsthand experience in bank failures (with the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Banking Company) and so was familiar with the problems caused by the lack of a central banking system. See Watson, Liberty and Power, 132–71, 196–97.

25. Joseph Smith was clearly an expansionist in 1844. Interestingly, he was beginning at this same time to teach that the whole of America, North and South, is Zion. Again, he may have seen expansionism in a different light than most of the expansionists of his time, who merely saw expansionism as the fulfillment of the United States’ continental destiny. History of the Church, 6:318–19; Watson, Liberty and Power, 229–30; William R. Brock, Parties and Political Conscience: American Dilemmas, 1840–1850 (Millwood, N.Y.: KTO Press, 1979), 154–56.

26. This part of Joseph Smith’s platform stems from his inability to obtain any redress or help for the Saints who had been removed from their lands and homes by the state of Missouri. The federal government had not intervened, claiming that only the states had the power to get involved. Joseph’s proposal was largely fulfilled in 1868 with the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment, which promised, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law.”

27. Lorenzo Snow, Journal, 48, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives.

28. See Brigham Young, Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801–1844, ed. Elden J. Watson (Salt Lake City: Smith Secretarial Service, 1968), 170; Norton Jacob, Reminiscence and Journal, 7, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives; and [Ezra Taft Benson], “Ezra Taft Benson, I: An Autobiography,” Instructor 80 (May 1945): 214.

29. The voting breakdown in the Richards poll was Smith, sixty-three male and four female; Clay, twenty-seven male and six female; Van Buren, thirteen male and two female; Cass, one male; Birney, two male; Johnson and Calhoun, no votes. Richards, Journal, May 21, 1844. The results of the John D. Lee poll were Smith, sixty-four; Clay, forty-six; Van Buren, twenty-four. John D. Lee, Journal, May 28, 1844, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives.

30. See, for example, James Burgess, Journals, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives; Woodruff, Journal; [Edson Barney], “Biographical Sketch of Edson Barney,” typescript, Mormon Biographical Sketches Collection, LDS Church Archives; George Miller, “De Tal Palo Tal Astilla,” ed. H. W. Mills, Historical Society of Southern California 10, no. 3 (1917): 86–174; Joseph Holbrook, “The Life of Joseph Holbrook 1806–1871,” typescript, Perry Special Collections.

31. Alfred Cordon, Journal, June 4, 1844, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives.

32. David Pettegrew, “A History of David Pettegrew,” 117, typescript, Perry Special Collections.

33. James Little, “A Biographical Sketch of William Rufus Rogers Stowell,” 33, typescript, Perry Special Collections.

34. William Lampard Watkins, “History of William Lampard Watkins,” 3, typescript, Perry Special Collections.

35. Burgess, Journals, May 7, 1844; Cordon, Journal, May 7, 1844.

36. Holbrook, “Life of Joseph Holbrook,” 60.

37. Jacob Hamblin, Journals, 7, typescript, Perry Special Collections.

38. See John M. Horner, “Adventures of a Pioneer,” Improvement Era 7 (May 1904): 514; Eliza R. Snow Smith, Biography and Family Record of Lorenzo Snow (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1884), 79, quoting from Lorenzo Snow’s journal; Charles C. Rich, Journal, June 20, 1844, microfilm of holograph, Charles Coulson Rich Collection, LDS Church Archives; Smoot, Journal, May 29, June 4, 14, 1844; and James Holt, “The Reminiscences of James Holt: A Narrative of the Emmett Company,” ed. Dale Morgan, Utah Historical Quarterly 23 (January 1955): 18–19.

39. See William A. Linn, The Story of the Mormons (New York: Macmillan, 1923), 254–55. Kenneth Godfrey interprets the campaign as one of the factors that brought about Mormon and non-Mormon conflict. He cites the mobs’ interruption of conferences in Tennessee and Boston and relates a few stories from electioneers about the conflict from and lack of support for the campaign, yet these tend to be inaccurate. For example, he argues that the campaign was a cause of conflict soon after the candidacy was announced, “as early as March 3, 1844,” citing a story from James Burgess’s journal, which actually occurred in May 1844. Godfrey also tells of the lack of support or interest at the New York conference, citing George A. Smith’s journal on May 31, 1844, as saying that only seventy people attended and most of them left early. Godfrey concludes that “the elders reported that there was little interest in the Prophet’s candidacy in the nation’s largest city [New York City].” However, George A. Smith was not in New York City on May 31, 1844, but was at a conference in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Additionally, rather than a lack of interest in the campaign, Smith reported a very favorable reception, saying, “A good feeling prevailed among the congregation; they gave good attention and seemed much pleased.” As for the New York conference, it was scheduled for August 17 and 18, 1844. The Twelve, including George A. Smith, were back in Nauvoo, and if a conference was held, it would not have been an electioneering conference because Joseph Smith had been dead for two months. See Kenneth W. Godfrey, “Causes of Mormon Non-Mormon Conflict in Hancock County, Illinois, 1839–1846” (Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1967), 66–69; Burgess, Journals, May 7, 1844; George A. Smith, “My Journal,” ed. Alice Merrill Horne, Instructor 83 (June 1948): 280; and History of the Church, 6:334.

40. George R. Gayler, “The Mormons and Politics in Illinois, 1839–1844,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 49 (spring 1956): 65.

41. Woodruff, Journal, 2:400 (May 20, 1844).

42. Watkins, “History of William Lampard Watkins,” 2–3.

43. Burgess, Journals, May 7, 1844.

44. Burgess, Journals, May 12, 1844; Cordon, Journal, July 19, 1844.

45. Burgess, Journals, May 26, 1844.

46. Levi Jackman, “A Short Sketch of the Life of Levi Jackman, 1797–1876,” 21, typescript, Perry Special Collections.

47. Hamblin, Journals, 7.

48. Elder McGin may or may not have been an electioneer; Burgess, who records this event, did not expound. See Burgess, Journals, June 17, 1844.

49. William W. Riley, Journal, entries for 1844, LDS Church Archives.

50. See, for example, Stephen Post, Journal, May 7, June 23, 25–26, October 27, 1844, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives.

51. See, for example, Smoot, Journal, May 26, June 9, 15, 20, 23, 28, 1844. These discourses covered a great range of doctrinal subjects far removed from political concerns. One night at Thompson Creek, Tennessee, Smoot preached at “Sister Murphys” on “making our calling & election shure through faith on Jesus name.” Smoot, Journal, May 16, 1844.

52. A. O. Smoot, “Minutes of a General Conference of the Elders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, held in Dresden, Weakly County, Tennessee, May 25th, 1844,” Times and Seasons 5 (July 1, 1844): 574. Smoot presided over the Dresden Tennessee Conference.

53. Smoot, Journal, June 8–9, 1844.

54. Lee, Journal, July 12, 1844.

55. Lee, Journal, May 28–August 20, 1844.

56. Rich, Journal, entries for May 11–June 28, 1844.

57. Orson Pratt, “History of Orson Pratt,” Millennial Star 27 (February 11, 1865): 88.

58. Chapman Duncan, “Biography of Chapman Duncan, 1812–1900,” 10, typescript, Perry Special Collections.

59. Richards, Journal, July 4–October 1, 1844.

60. George Miller’s statements concerning the candidacy have been used, particularly by revisionist Mormon historians, as evidence that Joseph Smith secretly expected to win the election and then planned to establish the Kingdom of God in the United States in anticipation of Christ’s Second Coming (see n. 16 for historiographical discussion). Although Miller interpreted Joseph’s campaign that way, there is little evidence that the Prophet shared that belief, and subsequent events strongly suggest that Miller’s enthusiasm for a Kingdom of God was at variance with that of the rest of the Church leadership. After Joseph Smith’s death, George Miller left the Church in 1847 to join Lyman Wight in the building of Wight’s Texas empire. In 1850, Miller moved to Beaver Island, Michigan, to join James J. Strang, who had anointed himself king and claimed to have set up the Kingdom of God on earth. However, this kingdom was short-lived; Strang died in 1856. The course that George Miller followed after Joseph Smith’s death, in contrast to that followed by Brigham Young and the Twelve, evidences that Miller probably left the Church, at least partially, over the very issue of the political Kingdom of God. But even more surprising is that George Miller’s journal exists only through 1843. What historians have quoted as evidence of Joseph Smith’s “secret” intentions was not written by Miller at the time of Joseph’s campaign. It was written in 1855 in a letter from Miller in St. James, Michigan, to his brother, partially to justify Miller and Strang’s position. Miller attempted to substantiate that Joseph tried to do what he and Strang were then doing and so portrayed the Prophet as trying to set up the Kingdom of God with a king in the United States. It seems clear that Miller justified his own position, rather than objectively reflecting on what Joseph had said to him ten years earlier. See George Miller, “De Tal Palo Tal Astilla,” 133–34; and Church History in the Fullness of Times (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989), 294–95, 306.

61. Burgess, Journals, July 25, 1844.

62. David Pettegrew said they lifted “up our voices in every place where we had opportunity, in the midst of the people, proclaiming repentance and baptism for remission of sin, and laying on of hands for the reception of the Holy Spirit.” Pettegrew is quoting a letter he wrote to the Times and Seasons. Pettegrew, “History,” 51; George P. Dykes, Letter to Editor, Times and Seasons 5 (July 15, 1844): 583–84. The letter to the editor from George Dykes concerning his mission was written on May 21, 1844.

63. Other elders, whom I did not mention above, also wrote of baptizing. For example, William Hyde (Vermont) baptized three people, Henry Boyle baptized four people, and Norton Jacob baptized at least eight people. William Hyde, Journal, June 23 and July 1, 1844, microfilm of holograph, LDS Church Archives; Boyle, Autobiography and Diary, 7–10; Jacob, Reminiscence and Journal, 8.

64. Hamblin, Journals, 7.

65. Burgess, Journals, May 18 and June 11, 1844.

66. Burgess, Journals, July 8, 1844.

67. Cordon, Journal, May 31, 1844.

68. Jackman, “Short Sketch,” 23.

69. Daniel D. Hunt, Journal, typescript, [1], LDS Church Archives.

70. Holt, “Reminiscences,” 18.

71. Hamblin, Journals, 6.

72. Duncan, “Biography,” 10.

73. Boyle, Autobiography and Diary, 3–4.

74. Boyle, Autobiography and Diary, 5–8.

75. See Richards, Journal, August 16, 1844; Jacob, Reminiscence and Journal, 7; Vilate Kimball to Heber C. Kimball, June 9, 1844.

76. Tracy, Reminiscences and Diary, 27–28.

77. Pettegrew, “History,” 35.

78. Woodruff, Journal, 2:429–30 (July 22–23, 1844).

79. Cordon, Journal, April 29, 1845.

80. Horner, “Pioneer,” 515.

81. Post, Journal, July 28, 1844; February 23, 1845.

82. Riley, Journal, July 7 and September 15, 1844.

83. Boyle, Autobiography and Diary, 10.

84. Lee wrote that an angel came to him, at which time he saw the Martyrdom in vision and was told that like Christ, Joseph Smith was killed when people thought he would take over the country or kingdom he lived in, but that through his death he would gain greater dominion and that the Church would continue with the Apostles. Lee wrote that he was told that he should await his endowment on high as did the Apostles of old. Lee, Journal, July 1844.

85. Often Mormonism Unveiled (written by Lee in 1881 after he was excommunicated and sentenced to be executed for the Mountain Meadows Massacre) is quoted concerning Lee’s mission and his embarrassment over electioneering. Such embarrassment is not reflected at all in his original journal of 1844. Lee added in Mormonism Unveiled that the angel told him to await the real leader of the Church. He reported being at the August 8, 1844, meeting in Nauvoo, where, he claimed, Brigham Young imitated the Prophet. Lee said many people, including himself, were deceived into thinking that the mantle of the Prophet had fallen on the “usurper” Brigham Young. Contrary to the claims of Mormonism Unveiled, Lee’s daily journal for 1844 shows he was not even in Nauvoo for the August 8 meeting. He baptized three new members in Kentucky on August 8 and returned to Nauvoo on August 20. Compare Lee, Journal, August 3 and 20, 1844; and John D. Lee, Mormonism Unveiled (St. Louis: N. D. Thompson, 1881), 151–55.

86. Rich, Journal, July 14 and 15, 1844.

87. Pettegrew, “History,” 53.

88. Brigham Young, Hyrum Smith, and Heber C. Kimball all instructed the elders to teach the first principles of the gospel on their campaigning missions. See History of the Church, 6:321–26.

89. Abraham Smoot wrote in his journal on learning of the Martyrdom: “Great God indow me with Christian fortitude for all my forebodings & fears are more than realized. . . . Can it be so, O, Father & thy will be done if so . . . cause my heartfelt grief to cease. . . . How long O Father, How long wilt thou hear the cryes of the blood of innocence even from ritious Able [righteous Abel] down to thy Prophets and seer our brethern Joseph & Hyrum. . . . Awak[e] O arm of God awake is the preayrs of thy servent & avenge the blood of inocence on thine enomy O lord send fourth the ancient of day[s] that thy saints may possess the Kingdom in peace that thy enomys no longer trample over Isreal but that thy wark may be cut short in ritiousness for thy ser[vants and] elects sake. Even so father let it bee is my most fervent Preayr to isreals God in the name of Jesus Christ. Even so father Let it be, Amen” (Smoot, Journal, July 12, 1844).

Lorenzo Snow, after hearing of the Martyrdom, was upset at the government for not protecting Joseph Smith. He wrote, “I ask this Mobocratic Government if it expects my hand, my heart, and my tongue are going to be hushed in silence by their damnible and worse than savage deeds!” Lorenzo Snow, Journal, July 19, 1844.

90. Smith, “My Journal,” 279, 322–24.

91. Young, Manuscript History, 170.

92. Cordon’s talk proclaimed Joseph Smith as the Prophet of the Restoration and also related gospel themes to two of the planks of Joseph Smith’s platform: prison reform and gradual abolition. From Burgess’s and Cordon’s notes it is apparent that the majority of the conference was spent in ecclesiastical affairs, but Cordon dedicated some time to political campaigning. Burgess, Journals, May 26, 1844; Cordon, Journal, May 25–26, 1844.

93. Cordon, Journal, May 25–26, 1844; Burgess, Journals, May 26, 1844.

94. James Harvey Glines, Reminiscences and Diary, 39, LDS Church Archives.

95. Woodruff, Journal, 2:410 (June 10, 1844).

96. Cordon, Journal, June 30, 1844.

97. “Conference Minutes,” Times and Seasons 5 (July 15, 1844): 580.

98. Burgess, Journals, May 25, 1844.

99. Crandell Dunn, Journal, July 21, 1844, LDS Church Archives.

100. Tracy, Reminiscences and Diary, 30.

101. Neither James Strang nor Joseph Smith went to Nauvoo as instructed. Rather, they continued east in search of followers. This incident is interesting, in that it concerns George Miller as well. In recounting what Joseph Smith and the electioneers did and intended by the campaign, George Miller in his 1855 letter advocated Strang’s ideas about the Kingdom of God. Did any of the electioneers ever comment on these ideas? Through Norton Jacob we learn they did. They ran into Strang, and rather than sympathizing with his notions of establishing the Kingdom of God, they detected him as an apostate and sent him to Nauvoo to be dealt with by the Brethren. Clearly, Miller’s statements in 1855, by reflecting the ideas of Strang, are not in accordance with what the electioneers felt in 1844. It is therefore unlikely that Miller’s statements concerning the candidacy represent the purposes of the campaign as understood by the electioneers or the Brethren at Nauvoo (at least as the Brethren and their purposes were understood by these electioneers). Jacob, Reminiscence and Journal, 7–8.

102. Young, Manuscript History, 170.

103. Woodruff, Journal, 2:421 (July 11, 1844).

104. Rich, Journal, June 14, 1844.

105. Cordon, Journal, June 14 and July 11, 1844.

106. Cordon, Journal, September 4, 1844.

107. Jackman, “Short Sketch,” 24–25.

108. Erastus Snow, “Erastus Snow Sketch Book,” 88–89, Perry Special Collections.

109. Hamblin, Journals, 7; James A. Little, Jacob Hamblin: A Narrative of His Personal Experience, as a Frontiersman, Missionary to the Indians and Explorer, 2d ed. (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1909), 18. Jacob Hamblin dictated this narrative to Little in 1881.

110. Pettegrew, “History,” 53.

111. Richards, Journal, July 5–August 3, 1844.

112. Dunn, Journal, June 27, 1844.

113. Burgess, Journals, June 9, 1844.

114. Enoch Burns, Autobiography, in Henrietta Elizabeth Crombie Williams, Autobiography, 60, typescript, Perry Special Collections.

115. Glines, Reminiscences and Diary, 39.

116. Woodruff, Journal, 2:410 (June 11, 1844).

117. These scattered members of the Church probably did not attend the August 8, 1844, meeting in Nauvoo that confirmed who would lead the Church. It is likely that this acquaintance and familiarity with the members of the Twelve coupled with the Twelve’s testimonies prepared these Saints for the outcome of that meeting and probably made it easier for some, if not many, of them to follow the Twelve after Joseph Smith’s death.

118. Quoted in Matthias F. Cowley, Wilford Woodruff—His Life and Labors (1909; reprint, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1964), 204.

119. Little, “Biographical Sketch,” 36. For a summary of the dangers in Nauvoo at this time, see John E. Hallwas and Roger D. Launius, eds., Cultures in Conflict: A Documentary History of the Mormon War in Illinois (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1995).

120. Lorenzo Snow, Journal, quoted in Smith, Biography and Family Record, 83.

121. Vilate Kimball to Heber C. Kimball, June 30, 1844, typescript, LDS Church Archives.

122. Vilate Kimball to Heber C. Kimball, June 9, 1844.

123. G. Homer Durham speculates that the circulation and presentation of Joseph Smith’s Views to the American people may have affected the election of Polk over Clay. While there is no way to prove whether or not that was the case, the circumstances of the election cited by Durham are interesting to consider. See Durham, Joseph Smith: Prophet-Statesman, 203–5.

124. Hyde, Journal, July 1, 1844.

125. Listed in Margaret Robertson, “The Campaign and the Kingdom: The Activities of the Electioneers in Joseph Smith’s Presidential Campaign” (honor’s thesis, Brigham Young University, 1998), appendix, where sources for these names can also be found.