Education Week: Lincoln’s brushes with the Early Church

According to Ron L. Andersen, Abraham Lincoln had more knowledge about the LDS Church than any other president.

Although there is no official documentation that contemporaries Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Smith officially met, Lincoln was very knowledgeable about the LDS Church.

In an Education Week presentation on the BYU campus, Ron L. Andersen, author of “Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Smith” and “Abraham Lincoln, God’s Humble Instrument,” discussed how the 16th president of the United States met several Saints in Springfield, Illinois during the early 1840s.

“Lincoln took more knowledge about the Latter-day Saints to the White House than any other president,” Andersen said.

According to the presenter, some of the first saints that Lincoln met were James Adams and Katherine Mulliner.

Lincoln had hired Mulliner to do his laundry while he was a young single lawyer. It is thought that when returning his laundry, Mulliner would discuss her life in the church with the future politician — mostly telling him about her husband’s mission in Scotland and gospel principles.

Another instance where Lincoln could have conversed with the saints was in the Old Globe Tavern, which is where he and his wife, Mary, lived in a rectangular room on the second floor.

Andersen said he believes that Willard Richards and other Mormons dined with the Lincolns in Old Globe Tavern while the group of saints boarded there two weeks before a trial over an old search warrant for Joseph Smith.

Uniquely, Mary Lincoln attended the warrant trial of Joseph Smith, which was highly controversial at the time — since it was considered unseemly for women to attend trials and to participate in government affairs.

During this trial, Lincoln was across the street in legislative session at the Illinois State Legislative building. In fact, the State House session was adjourned when someone shouted, “Joe Smith is running away,” after someone saw a horse bolting outside when Joseph Smith exited the trial.

It is possible that Lincoln could have seen the Prophet from the window of the legislative building during the commotion, noticing that he was not on the runaway animal.

The same week, Joseph Smith was offered a floor of the legislative building to hold religious services — which was packed with members and non-members alike.

Though the service was noted in Lincoln’s ledger, there were no sightings of the public official.

Lincoln also advocated for the Nauvoo Charter in 1840 and personally congratulated John C. Bennett, despite the Saints writing him off the ballot, when he first ran to become a national congressman.

Interestingly, Lincoln never belonged to a specific church and never spoke against specific Christian denominations, but he did believe in revelation, keeping God’s commandments, keeping the Sabbath Day holy, reading the Bible, praying and having no vices, Andersen said.

During his presidency, Lincoln checked out the Book of Mormon for nearly eight months from the Library of Congress, along with some anti-Mormon literature, which he promptly returned within four days.

Lincoln was also asked about his stance on the Mormons by a church member sent by Brigham Young. Lincoln was reported as saying, “If he’ll leave me alone, I’ll leave him alone,” talking about Brigham Young.

The 16th president held to his promise by not drafting any Saints from what would become the state of Utah to the Union Army during the Civil War.

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