"I am not and never have been a polygamist" : Reed Smoot's Speech before the United States Senate
Utah Historical Quarterly
The Smoot hearings brought national attention to the Mormon Church during the "transition" period of the Church as it evolved from a local or regional religion into a national religion. Reed Smoot was an apostle who was elected to be a United States Senator. After his election, many Utahns protested, declaring his election a violation of the separation of church and state. Smoot was accused of being a polygamist and of being unworthy or disqualified from taking the oath of office for the senate due to the nature of the oath he had taken as an apostle of the Church. Although Smoot was allowed to take office in March 1903, the Senate took the accusations of Smoot seriously and began committee hearings of the situation early in the year 1904. During these hearings, Smoot decided to speak in his own defense. He refuted his charge of polygamy and denied the Church¿s supporting and advocating of the practice of polygamy. He also denied that the Endowment ceremony contained any oath causing a person to be disloyal to the country. To support this, Smoot cited examples of many Utah soldiers who had fought for and given their lives in the service of their country. In ending his speech, Smoot declared that his religion would not interfere with his actions as a Senator, and he pledged his loyalty to the United States. Smoot's speech changed the view of Mormon politicians among the public. Since Smoot, many Utah and non-Utah Mormons have been elected to political offices without much religious controversy. In Mitt Romney's candidacy for president in 2008, however, many of the same questions that faced Smoot are resurfacing. This controversy calls attention to the possible necessity once again of speech similar to Smoot's.