What Was the Contemporary Latter-day Saint View of Abraham Lincoln?

Abraham Lincoln was the sixteenth president of the United States (1861 to 1865). Some believe that Lincoln was “a man inspired of God who invoked a covenant relationship between America and its maker” and that he played a “crucial role … to bring this nation closer to heaven.”

And because Lincoln checked out the Book of Mormon from the Library of Congress, some wonder, “Did it influence him? Was the Book of Mormon a key factor in Lincoln’s success and the healing of a nation?” But Lincoln didn’t just check out the Book of Mormon, he also checked out some anti-Mormon books such as: “Mormonism in All Ages” by J.B. Turner and “Mormonism; Its Leaders and Designs; Portraits and Views” by John Hyde, Jr.

Abraham Lincoln vs Brigham Young

Does the contemporary historical record reveal Lincoln to be a friend or a foe to the Latter-day Saints?

To answer these questions it would seem necessary to provide some historical background and context regarding Abraham Lincoln’s dealings with the Latter-day Saints. Lincoln served four terms in the Illinois House of Representatives (1834-1842) and was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives (1847–1849). From 1839 to 1846, the headquarters of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was located in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Brigham Young said that:

Abe Lincoln was no friend of Christ, particularly, he had never raised his voice in our favor when he was aware that we were being persecuted. He was acquainted with Joseph & Hyrum [in Illinois], and had been a Master Freemason.[1]

Furthermore, Brigham Young stated:

If the Kingdom of God was not in the way, Abraham was [a] pretty good man, but he acted as if he would rather the Kingdom of God was out of the way; he was not the man to raise his voice in favor of Joseph Smith when his enemies were persecuting him. He with many others had assented to the deaths of innocent men, and through that he is subject to the influence of a wicked spirit.[2]

The Latter-day Saint pioneers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley in 1847. Brigham Young was president of the Church from 1847 to 1877. Utah was initially named the Territory of Deseret before being established as the Territory of Utah, with Brigham Young as the first Governor. By 1857 the Federal government wanted Young removed from office. This resulted in the so-called “Mormon War” or “Utah War” and ended in 1858 with Brigham Young stepping down and Alfred Cumming (a non-Mormon) being appointed as governor. In 1861, President Lincoln appointed John Dawson (also a non-Mormon) as governor of Utah, continuing the practice of not allowing the people of Utah to choose their own representatives.

Governor John Dawson left Utah and his post as governor after only three weeks due to tensions with Utah’s citizens. Dawson had allegedly made “grossly improper proposals” to a Mormon widow named Albina Merrill Williams. Mrs. Williams had responded by thrashing him with a fire shovel.

The following are additional comments from Brigham Young about Abraham Lincoln:

Old ‘Abe’ the President of the U.S. has it in his mind to pitch in to us when he had got through with the South. President [Heber C.] Kimball observed that men that he had met with, whether they had little or much of the Spirit of God, were in favor of the South.[3]

We need not expect any thing sensible from them, for the spirit of wisdom is taken away from them. He remarked that Pres Lincoln and Congress appear not to realize that there is a war on hand. It is not so with the South — they are keen and alive.[4]

I will see them in hell before I will raise an army for them. Abe Lincoln has sent these men here to prepare the way for an Army. An order has been sent to California to raise an army to come to Utah. This is the reason why Ball came back. I pray daily that the Lord will take away the reigns of Government of the wicked rulers and put it into the hands of the wise and good. … I do and always have supported the Constitution but I am not in league with such cursed scoundrels as Abe Lincoln and his minions. They have sought our destruction from the beginning and Abe Lincoln has ordered an army to this Territory…[5]

The President [Brigham Young] discussed with him the wicked course the American Nation had taken with this people, observing the government was running into a despotism, and they were willing the government should be despotic while they were in power. The President observed that Abraham Lincoln was a sagacious man, but believed he was wicked.[6]

President Daniel H. Wells, Apostle and member of the First Presidency, stated:

Stephen A. Douglas was a far better man than President Abe Lincoln, for he knew [Lincoln’s] feelings were hostile to this people. Pres Wells acquiesced in these remarks.[7]

Elder George A. Smith made the following statements at the Tabernacle in Salt Lake City in 1861:

Abe Lincoln, the present President of the United States, that was—at any rate he occupies the seat and claims the title, and presides over a portion of the Union at Washington in name—this man is the representative of the religious enthusiasm of the country.  … Mr. Lincoln now is put into power by that priestly influence; and the presumption is, should he not find his hands full by the secession of the Southern States, the spirit of priestcraft would force him, in spite of his good wishes and intentions, to put to death, if it was in his power, every man that believes in the divine mission of Joseph Smith, or that bears testimony of the doctrines he preached. There is no spirit more intolerant, cruel, and devilish than a spirit of religious persecution. It carries its cruelties to a greater extent; and when the civil authority becomes mingled with the religious, and that power is united, and the sword is placed in their hands, it is the most bloody weapon that was ever wielded. Infidelity is almost harmless, compared with it. The bloodthirsty power that has been exercised under such influence exceeds anything that history records. It is a union—a combination of civil and religious power in the hands of corrupt men, and that brought to bear, and turned loose upon us, with a determination to annihilate every Latter-day Saint. But God is our shield and our protector.[8]

From the contemporary historical record it is apparent that the Latter-day Saint leaders did not have a high regard for Abraham Lincoln, and that Lincoln was no friend to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo, Illinois, nor in Utah. The picture they paint of Lincoln is not one of a man inspired of God or involved in bringing this nation closer to heaven. The opposite is true; Lincoln opposed the efforts of the people who were attempting to build up the Kingdom of God in this land.

Credit goes to Scott Bradley who gave a presentation on “Wilford Woodruff’s Vision of America’s Founding Fathers: Who Came, Who Didn’t & Why That Matters Today“. Several of the quotes in this article were found via his research for that presentation.


1. The Office Journal of President Brigham Young: 1858-1863, Book D (Hanna, Ut.: Collier’s Publishing Co., 2006), p. 220.
2. The Office Journal of President Brigham Young: 1858-1863, Book D (Hanna, Ut.: Collier’s Publishing Co., 2006), p. 284.
3. The Office Journal of President Brigham Young: 1858-1863, Book D (Hanna, Ut.: Collier’s Publishing Co., 2006), p. 266.
4. The Office Journal of President Brigham Young: 1858-1863, Book D (Hanna, Ut.: Collier’s Publishing Co., 2006), p. 316.
5. Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, vol. 5 (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1984), pp. 605-6.
6. The Office Journal of President Brigham Young: 1858-1863, Book D (Hanna, Ut.: Collier’s Publishing Co., 2006), p. 362.
7. The Office Journal of President Brigham Young: 1858-1863, Book D (Hanna, Ut.: Collier’s Publishing Co., 2006), pp. 277-78.
8. Remarks by Elder George A. Smith, made in the Tabernacle, Great Salt Lake City, April 6, 1861. Reported by G. D. Watt.

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14 Responses to “What Was the Contemporary Latter-day Saint View of Abraham Lincoln?”

  • Avatar for LDSC Andrew T Says:

    Read The Real Lincoln by Thomas DiLorenzo. He’s not the person your grade school teachers taught you he was.

  • Avatar for LDSC Cliff Edward Says:

    Abraham Lincoln was correctly understood and described by Pres. Brigham Young and the additional Latter-Day Saint leaders quoted within this incisive piece. The unfortunate reality is that Lincoln in action represented the near-opposite of inspired, righteous leadership. The brutal war he set in motion makes present-day identity politics and spontaneous insurrections look tame as deniers of the Light of Christ and corrupting influences upon the authentic American spirit.

    Defending precisely such views of Lincoln will come easily to anyone learning the truth about this unredeemed autocrat, a poser who readily and easily departed from Constitutional principles while choosing a path of ultimately declaring war on his fellow citizens, rather than striving with and inspiring them to greatness. I was encouraged as I read the entirely realistic assessments provided by Church leaders of the day and since. They recognized the evident discord between Lincoln’s professed values and how he actually behaved.

    The fact that this divisive totalitarian is today revered as a benevolent and saintly visionary, possessed of legendary integrity and probity – qualities unmatched, we are reminded, among US presidents – suggests how ghastly a mythology can be conjured among a historically misinformed citizenry.

  • Avatar for LDSC Salmon AZ Says:

    Great article, thanks for publishing.

  • Avatar for LDSC Steven C Fabry Says:

    I am so relieved to know that the early Brethren had the same thoughts about Lincoln that I do. I never liked Lincoln even back in elementary school. I didn’t know why then, but after serving a mission in the South and doing part of a 30 year military career in the South, I know why now. God Bless Defending Utah, God Bless America, God Bless Dixie.

  • Avatar for LDSC Dirk Edwards Says:

    Great piece !!

  • Avatar for LDSC Spencer Bingham Says:

    I have read Tim Ballards Lincoln hypothesis, am reading Ron L Anderson’s Lincoln and Joseph Smith, and read Lincoln’s vindicated.

    Walter Williams seems to think war was over tariffs not slavery, there were black confederates, that can’t be proven as it was not civil war as Davis was not trying to overtake Washington anymore than Washington was trying to overtake London. He was an economics professor and Libertarian why he thought he did. Victors write history. Seems south had to defend there cause.

    Lee Rockwell and Tom DiLorenzo make him out to be a bad guy too. Like the writer of this article I wonder if they mace there mind made up. I don’t think too many people read articles like this and change there mind, or read what critics of Lincoln say and change there mind.

    Getting the truth about Abraham Lincoln Lincoln from Dilorenzo is liking getting the truth about Joseph Smith from anti LDS people.

    Even Brigham Young praised him toward the end of the Presidency. Said you leave us alone I’ll leave you alone. Asked Brigham Young to protect the Telegraphs

    Never J. Grant, Mark E Peterson other church leaders praised him. He was raised up to emancipate the slaves and did his job. I seen books that said he was fair toward the saints.

  • Avatar for LDSC Haylia Brown Says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with this article.
    Lincoln was a dictator. He took away the state’s basic right to secede. He denied the Saints when the needed help, and he didn’t even free the slaves!

    The emancipation proclamation only freed slaves in certain areas, all of them areas that the Union army did not have access to!
    But of course, the victors write the history books, and Lincoln won the war to crush state sovereignty.

  • Avatar for LDSC Michaelogic 101 Says:

    The following comments are factual:

    Christ has his detractors and adherents!

    Satan has his adherents and detractors!

    Christ has his proponents and Satan does too!

    Christ has his enemies and Satan does too!

    The ultimate question is; where do you stand?

  • Avatar for LDSC Roberta Peterson Says:

    Isn’t it amazing how the Lord can inspire & use even “enemies” to accomplish His purposes? Lincoln
    is praised for his changing from a desire to leave slavery alone in each state (States’ Rights) to a desire
    to free slaves wherever he could. But here he is criticized for his failure to support the Latter-day
    Saints. I am reminded of Thomas Paine & his Age of Reason, wherein he mocked the Bible. It was the
    same Thomas Paine who’s Common Sense inspired 1/3 of the colonists to decide for a revolution in
    order to establish their own country. Every one of us has the potential to be used by the Lord for His
    purposes. But each of us also uses our own intellect (and/or is persuaded by Satan) to do things in
    opposition to the Lord’s purposes. Agency. What a gift. What an opportunity every day.

  • Avatar for LDSC Cory Seegmiller Says:

    Did Lincoln support the saints? No. Did Lincoln influence the nation to repent when it was under condemnation for slaying prophets of God and driving the saints out of the country? Yes. Would America have destroyed itself but for Lincoln’s call for national repentance? Most likely.

    Was Lincoln a perfect person? No. Would the U.S. exist today if not for Lincoln’s actions ? Probably not. Would a better America exist today if Lincoln had never been president? No.

    It’s easy for us to either adore or abhor Abraham Lincoln. Regardless, it was through Lincoln that the U.S. persisted so that we can enjoy the (albeit truncated) freedoms and (relative) prosperity that we enjoy today. The U.S. has continued as the most free and prosperous worldly nation that the Earth has ever known precisely because of Lincoln’s actions. Hate him or love him, Lincoln’s legacy has been to our benefit in so many ways. Lincoln was the right man, at the right place, at the right time.

  • Avatar for LDSC Julie Junod Says:

    Inciteful article. I’ve never been able to reconcile Lincoln’s abolition of Habeus Corpus during the Civil War and other actions he took (suppressed the press, e.g.) with the patriot and hero I was taught in the 60’s that he allegedly was. As one poster above suggested, not everyone will have their minds changed due to this article, but I am definitely leaning more to the despot image than the hero image. Lincoln was a faulty man, in many respects. It is my understanding Lincoln did not keep journals, at least none that have been found and published – I don’t know the man’s intent, but as my mother taught me: Actions speak louder than words.

  • Avatar for LDSC Joy Metcalf Says:

    After reading many things about Lincoln, it appears that, like Donald Trump, he was a mixed bag. Brigham Young may have truly believed that except for the civil war, Lincoln would have gone after the Saints. Was he speaking as a prophet or as a man?

    It may be true that Lincoln checked out both the Book of Mormon and anti-Mormon books, but I believe that he was influenced by the Book of Mormon and thus declared the day of fasting and repentence to end the bloody war. Until I found out about his checked out the Book of Mormon and his calling for a national day of repentence, I was pretty much on the not-impressed-with-Lincoln side, particularly because of some of his action such as imprisoning or threatening Supreme Court justices and removing Habeus Corpus. Now, I’m not so sure.

    Much of this happened after the loss of his son. Who is to say how this affected him? We do not and cannot know what was in his heart. We can only let the Lord decide.

  • Avatar for LDSC bootsielou Says:

    Did you also know that Abraham Lincoln checked out The Book of Mormon from the library of Congress and read for 8 months. Then returned it.

  • Avatar for LDSC Spencer Bingham Says:

    Who fired the first shot? Did Jefferson Davis do some of the same things one of the commentators is accusing Lincoln of doing? Or was he a saint? I read a rebuttal basically calling out Davis for doing the same things Dilorenzo accuses Lincoln of doing.

    Lincoln didn’t have any constitutional authority to free the slaves in the union. Emancipation proclamation was war measure. Pushing for the 13th amendment was that bad on Lincoln’s part?

    Confederate sympathizers say victors write history. Lost cause. Every state that seceded cited slavery. Walter Williams writing about Black Confederates saying it was states rights.

    He was a Libertarian economics professor why he thought like he did. Good economic in site but history not his making. Colonists left Crown over no representation. South over slavery and its expansion. Jefferson Davis was no George Washington different reasons for wanting to leave. Abraham Lincoln wasn’t anything like King George or Lord North.

    Had the Confederate won slavery would of lasted longer, states would of broken up and no way could the Us of saved there Mother Country from Germany and the Pacific from Japan. We needed to be the country we are to protect some of Gods children and preserve freedom so the gospel could go to more of Heavenly Fathers children.

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