This year's Sunstone Symposium is underway at the University of Utah, drawing scholars of Mormonism from inside and outside the LDS church. It includes lots of presentations on political topics because of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign. While he's the first Mormon to win a major party nomination, he's certainly not the first to run.
While members of his church were being expelled from Missouri in 1838, Joseph Smith spent months in jail. A new documentary film says that's where Smith found the resolve to get involved in politics. A Mormon President tells the story of Smith's candidacy for president of the United States in 1844. Adam Christing talked to non-Mormon historians as well as scholars from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ, another church that looks to Smith as its founder.
"I think we see in Joseph a mirror. I think we see ourselves," Christing tells KUER. "If we are political we see the politician, if we're spiritual, because Joseph was a multitude of personalities in one man."
The film tells how Smith sent missionaries from church headquarters in Nauvoo, Illinois to recruit support for his candidacy as well as to spread a religious message. He was murdered in June of 1844. Had he lived, Christing says Smith may have won enough support to influence the outcome of the election, at least in Illinois.