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Mormon Smith’s Many Wives, Presidential Run: Lewis Lapham

The book jacket of ``The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith'' by Matthew Bowman. Source: Random House via Bloomberg
The book jacket of ``The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith'' by Matthew Bowman. Source: Random House via Bloomberg

Interview by Lewis Lapham

April 14 (Bloomberg) -- It is not clear how many wives Mormon founder Joseph Smith married under divine commandment -- some estimates put the number at 30.

Dissenters from the practice -- including top Mormons William Law, his wife Jane and brother Wilson -- were excommunicated.

(To listen to the podcast, click here.)

The three saw Smith as a fallen prophet and organized a new church that practiced “true Mormonism.” On June 7, 1844, Law published a newspaper, the Nauvoo Expositor, revealing the “abominations and whoredoms” practiced by Smith and others.

At the time, Smith was mayor of Nauvoo and president of the church. Earlier that year, Smith had also formally declared his candidacy for President of the U.S.

Arguing that the Expositor posed a threat to the public peace, he ordered the destruction of the printing press and any remaining copies of the paper.

In the ensuing fracas, Smith was jailed until he could be tried for treason against Illinois for declaring martial law in Nauvoo. A mob with painted faces broke in and Smith was shot dead attempting to escape.

I spoke with Matthew Bowman, author of “The Mormon People: The Making of an American Faith,” on the following topics:

1. God Speaks

2. Golden Plates

3. A New Jerusalem

4. Polygamy

5. A Mormon as U.S. President

To buy this book in North America, click here.

(Lewis Lapham is the founder of Lapham’s Quarterly and the former editor of Harper’s magazine. He hosts “The World in Time” interview series for Bloomberg News.)

Today’s Muse highlights include: an interview with Aifric Campbell and a NYC weekend preview.

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