Friday, September 16, 2011

Should a Mormon Apostle be a US Senator?

     The other day I concluded reading one of the most interesting books on early Mormon politics called The Politics of American Religious Identity: The Seating of Senator Reed Smoot, Mormon ApostleReed Smoot was elected to the United States Senate in 1903.  However, at the time he was an apostle for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which will be referred to as the LDS Church.

     This election was extremely controversial because many in Washington D.C. felt that Smoot's election was the LDS Church trying to control the political arena in Utah.  Further controversy arose due to the continued practice of polygamy, even after the LDS church stated that they discontinued it (while I understand that this can be a contentious point for several people.  This is at least what the book argues).  Many in D.C. felt that Smoot may himself be a polygamist in addition to hostilities between Mormons and Protestants.  This resulted in several members of the Senate refusubg to seat him.  A huge trial commenced, called the Reed Smoot Hearings, which I believe has the largest collection in the US Library of Congress of trial evidence of any trial in US history.  It was a big deal (and is a really interesting read).  Here is a comic of the Smoot Hearings:

Courtesy of Wikipedia

    Smoot was eventually seated in the Senate despite several objections from fellow senators.  He ended up serving in the senate till 1933 and was a very influential and powerful member.  The whole story is a very interesting, and I feel not a well know part of US and LDS history.

     Smoot has a strong connection to Provo, Utah, and his house is located near downtown at 183 E. 100 S. (it is on the corner of 200 E and 100 S).  Smoot lived there from  1892 until his death in 1941.  The house is National Historic Landmark list;  there are only 15 places in Utah that are on the list, including Ft. Douglas, Temple Square, and the Brigham Young House.  It is also the only located on the list in Utah County.  The list is pretty exclusive and quite an honor for the house to be there.

     Here is a picture of the house at some time when Smoot was living in it (he is located on the far right in the top picture) and what it looks like today:

Courtesy of the J. Willard Marriott Library, University of Utah

     The plaque on the front of the house reads: "This house was built for reed and Ellie Eldredge Smoot [his wife who is in the picture above] in 1892.  Richard K. A. Kletting was the architect.  Reed Smoot, born in Salt Lake City in 1862, served as a member of the Quarum of the Twelve Apostles of the LDS Church from 1900 until his death in 1941.  Senator Smoot represented Utah in the United States Senate from 1902 [although this date is controversial, since he wasn't seated until later] until 1933 and became a national leader of the Republican party.  Reed Smoot was the son of Abraham O. Smoot, pioneer, civic, business and Mormon church leader."  The house is still owned by relatives of Reed Smoot and some of his descendants work and live in the Provo area (I met one while researching another blog entry).

    The history surrounding Smoot is extremely interesting, and his legacy is a great addition to Provo.  To answer the question in the title, although the LDS church does not encourage Apostles to be Senators (and I think they may have just come out and forbidden it) in the 1900's the situation was different and they did encourage an Apostle to become a Senator from Utah.  I encourage anyone who has a little bit of time to read a little bit more about Reed Smoot.  Below are a few additional pictures of the house:

     I have to add one additional photo.  I love the neighborhood surrounding the Smoot House and feel that it is one of the best in Provo.  Also the orange house below was an inspiration for my sister's own house which she painted orange.  I thought that I'd add a photo of those as well.  Here they are:


  1. Haha I know the guy that painted that house. He moved to Maryland a while back though.

    For some more history, look up the Smoot Hawley act. Many believe it's one of the major things that drove the US - and the world - into the great depression.

  2. LOVE the pictures and history. I also have an interest/have been doing some blogs related to the history of Utah Valley... if you get a chance, stop by my site and tell me what you think :)