How Two Men Changed the Face of American History

More books have been written about Abraham Lincoln than about any other except Jesus Christ himself. What is it about this man that has captivated the interest of hundreds of millions for more than a century and a half? And what significance does his life and accomplishments hold to members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints commonly known as the Mormons and Latter-day Saints?   And why is it that the name of Joseph Smith, an obscure farm-boy contemporary of Lincoln, is recognized throughout the modern world more than 150 years after his short life of 38 years was ended by assassins’ bullets?

With the exception of Lincoln’s first two years as President when Brigham Young felt he and his people would fare better with a Democrat as president, Latter-day Saints have been universal in their high regard for Lincoln. Much like the rest of America, they revere him for his magnanimous character, his unparalleled  leadership and his world-changing accomplishments. The Mormon Church President from 1918 to 1940, Heber J. Grant made the following declaration in February 1940:

“Every Latter-day Saint believes that Abraham Lincoln was raised up and inspired of God, and that he reached the Presidency of the United States under the favor of our Heavenly Father…We honor Abraham Lincoln because we believe absolutely that God honored him and raised him to be the instrument in His hands of saving the Constitution and the Union."

This statement is of significance in light of the fact that Lincoln made no attempt to conceal his own personal belief that he was placed in the seat of Presidency of this nation not only by the vote of the people but also by the hand of God. He would frequently express that his role as President was to carry out the will of God concerning the nation and nothing more.

 

 

Abraham Lincoln was born just three years before the Mormon Church founder, Joseph Smith who organized the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on April 6, 1830 with merely six members present in Fayette, New York. He was beloved by his converts for his role as their prophet and was maligned but most everyone else as a fraud. For five years, Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Smith lived in the same state of Illinois, Lincoln living in Springfield and Smith in Nauvoo (with an estimated 20,000 followers) some 100 miles to the north and west on the banks of the Mississippi. On different occasions Joseph Smith spent time in Lincoln’s hometown and while it is entirely possible that they met, there is no record of such an acquaintance being made. Lincoln, like many other Americans in that era, would have read dozens of newspaper articles on the notorious Mormon Prophet and Smith most certainly knew of Lincoln’s involvement in the Illinois State Legislature where Lincoln supported the Mormons’ appeal to the legislature for the official organization of the City of Nauvoo through the Nauvoo Charter.

The extraordinary lives of these timeless frontier icons are worthy of examination today. Both men would declare themselves candidates for the presidency of the Untied States; one would succeed. Both would embrace unique and surprisingly similar interpretations of the Holy Scriptures, one succeeding in establishing a global religion. Abraham Lincoln would not only win in his bid for the presidency, but would become one of the most revered leaders in American and world history. Joseph Smith’s peculiar religion that was predicted by his murderers to disintegrate into nothing more than a blemish on America’s religious history, has not only defied their calculations but has flourished with an unparalleled resiliency. While membership in most established Protestant religions is declining, the Mormon Church continues its indomitable growth throughout the world, prompting the name of Joseph Smith to be uttered to this day, for good and ill around the globe.

These two presidential prophets would, throughout their lives, be derided as infidels for the religious convictions that they tenaciously espoused and expounded, and both would give their lives as martyrs to their separate causes. Abraham Lincoln, as a local politician and as President of the United States would play an unanticipated supporting role in the turbulent development of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day possible that they met, there is no record of such an acquaintance being made. Lincoln, like many other Americans in that era, would have read dozens of newspaper articles on the notorious Mormon Prophet and Smith most certainly knew of Lincoln’s involvement in the Illinois State Legislature where Lincoln supported the Mormons’ appeal to the legislature for the official organization of the City of Nauvoo through the Nauvoo Charter.

The extraordinary lives of these timeless frontier icons are worthy of examination today. Both men would declare themselves candidates for the presidency of the Untied States; one would succeed. Both would embrace unique and surprisingly similar interpretations of the Holy Scriptures, one succeeding in establishing a global religion. Abraham Lincoln would not only win in his bid for the presidency, but would become one of the most revered leaders in American and world history. Joseph Smith’s peculiar religion that was predicted by his murderers to disintegrate into nothing more than a blemish on America’s religious history, has not only defied their calculations but has flourished with an unparalleled resiliency. While membership in most established Protestant religions is declining, the Mormon Church continues its indomitable growth throughout the world, prompting the name of Joseph Smith to be uttered to this day, for good and ill around the globe.

These two presidential prophets would, throughout their lives, be derided as infidels for the religious convictions that they tenaciously espoused and expounded, and both would give their lives as martyrs to their separate causes. Abraham Lincoln, as a local politician and as President of the United States would play an unanticipated supporting role in the turbulent development of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day.

 

* The following was an excerpt from the book  Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Smith which is currently on sale for $9.99 (50% off!)