Blacks have long been derided as an inferior people in some Mormon teachings, and it wasn't until 1978 that black men were permitted to become Mormon priests. The South Carolina state co-chair of the Fred Thompson for president campaign, Cyndi Mosteller, this week told The Palmetto Scoop Web site that voters will question "the Church's history, and almost theology, on the issue of race -- particularly the black race."
In that context it's interesting to note that Smith's campaign in 1844 sought to end slavery.
Smith's solution was gradualist -- to purchase the freedom of slaves with funds amassed by the reduction in the size of Congress, pay for members of Congress and the sale of public lands.
He "was not an abolitionist in the strictest sense," wrote Margaret Robertson in her Brigham Young University study of Smith's campaign.
"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 "refused to take the extreme abolitionist point."
These and other views were published in Smith's campaign book.
Fourteen years after Smith translated the metal pages he said he discovered and published the Book of Mormon in 1830 came the publication of his presidential treatise, "General Smith's Views of the Power and Policy of the Government of the United States," (an image of which can be seen HERE from Brigham Young University's archives).
In his campaign book, Smith outlined a six-point platform: gradually ending slavery; reducing the size of Congress by at least two-thirds; re-establishing a national bank; annexing Texas, California and Oregon; prison reform; and a position near and dear to Mormons at the time -- empowering the federal government to protect the liberties of minorities from "mobocracy."
Referring specifically to Gov. Lilburn Boggs, who had used his state militia to evict Mormons from his home state of Missouri in 1838, Smith wanted to ensure federal civil rights protections even if a governor himself were "a mobber."
Though Smith enjoyed support among his followers, his support for polygamy, starting in 1841, as well as other church issues, had begun to alienate some supporters.
A rival newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, questioned whether Smith could serve as a federal and local official at the same time. "We see that our friend the Neighbor, advocates the claims of Gen. Joseph Smith for the presidency; we also see from the records of the grand Jury of Hancock Co. at their recent term, that the general is a candidate to represent the branch of the state government at Alton [prison]. We would respectfully suggest to the Neighbor, whether the two offices are not incompatible with each other."
Smith had an interesting concept of the First Amendment, one that might make Romney's attitude towards the Boston Globe seem downright friendly. Working with the Nauvoo City Council, Smith had the Expositor's printing press seized and every copy of the newspaper he could find burned.
He wrote a letter in the Neighbor accusing the rival newspaper of plotting "the destruction of the institutions of this city, both civil and religious… to rid the city of a paper so filthy and pestilential as this become the duty of every good citizen who loves good order and morality."
The controversy, combined as it was with other questions about Smith's leadership and charges brought against him by the government, soon spiraled out of control. Smith was killed by an angry mob on June 25, 1844.
But many of his electioneers spread throughout the country to campaign for him continued on their journeys. Referring to Smith as a "martyr," they now talked up his religion, not his White House hopes.