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July 22, 2021 45 min

The American Revolution dismembered a protestant empire. In the years during and after the war, states disestablished their churches, old and new denominations flourished, and Americans enshrined religious freedom into their state and federal constitutions.

But claiming religious freedom in a democracy was not the same as enjoying it. In the republic’s early years, Joseph Smith, who founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and his Mormon brethren learned all too well the difference between ideal and reality.

In Missouri and elsewhere, Smith and his fellow Mormons faced persecution for their beliefs, yet had faith that American democracy would help right these wrongs. But as it became clear that state and federal officials would not intervene, Smith arrived at a bold conclusion--he would run for president in 1844 on one of the most radical platforms in American history.

On today’s show, Dr. Spencer W. McBride joins Jim Ambuske to talk about Smith, Mormonism, and the politics of religion in the early republic.

McBride is the author of the new book Joseph Smith for President: The Prophet, the Assassins, and the Fight for American Religious Freedom, published by Oxford University Press in 2021.

About Our Guest:

Spencer W. McBride, Ph.D., is an Associate Managing Historian of the Joseph Smith Papers Project and the author of Pulpit and Nation: Clergymen and the Politics of Revolutionary America. He has written about the evolving role of religion in American politics for the Washington Post and the Deseret News. He is also the creator and host of The First Vision: A Joseph Smith Papers Podcast.

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