Authors highlight Mormons who ran for US presidency

Many know Joseph Smith as the founder and president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, few know that he was campaigning to become president of the United States when he was killed.Newell Bringhurst and Craig Foster, authors of “The Mormon Quest for the Presidency,” talked about the failed campaigns of several presidential candidates with strong LDS ties during a lecture Thursday at Utah State University. Bringhurst said many view Smith’s 1844 candidacy as “a publicity stunt or an ego trip” when in reality his campaign was “both serious and carefully planned.” Smith’s campaign called for the abolition of slavery through gradual compensated emancipation, reducing the size of Congress by two-thirds, cutting Congress members’ salaries and a few other reforms. Bringhurst said Smith “actually had little chance” of winning before he was killed in Carthage Jail in June 1844, months after he started his presidential campaign.While Smith is the most well-known Mormon to run for president, he’s not the only one. In 1976, a committee tried to earn enough money to present Ezra Taft Benson, who would later become president of the LDS church, as a candidate for the United States presidency. Mitt Romney’s father, George, ran for presidency in 1968. Other candidates include names such as Bo Gritz, a military man who briefly aligned himself with the LDS church, and Sonia Johnson, a feminist and equal rights activist from Cache Valley who was excommunicated from the church for her activities. The “Mormon question” is getting attention once again because two GOP candidates in the 2012 presidential race – Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman – have ties with the church. Mitt and Huntsman may both be affiliated with the LDS church, but beyond a personal history in business and a distant family connection, they don’t have much else in common.”They’re not kissing cousins, that’s for sure,” Bringhurst said.Their association with the church might be affecting their campaigns, but that isn’t the main concern that worries voters. Romney has been known to flip flop and critics are wary of his health care plan. Huntsman is seen as too liberal by most who would have a say in Republican primaries. During what Bringhurst calls the “equivalent of a roller coaster, with Republicans frantic for the perfect anti-Romney candidate,” Foster said voters will get a better idea of who the GOP candidate will be after the first three or four caucuses. – rachel@cvdaily.com

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