America’s Founding Fathers are Mormons

“That We May Be Redeemed” Painting by Glen Hopkinson

In Mormon culture it’s common to talk about who’s who in Mormondom. There are even websites created for the sole purpose of letting the world know which famous people are Mormons. Many know that American Idol David Archuleta is a Mormon, that Larry King married a Mormon, and rumors continue to float that Steve Martin is one too, but did you know that America’s Founding Fathers are Mormon!? It’s true.

At the time of America declaring its independence from Great Britain, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, subsequent victory in the Revolutionary War, and later the Constitutional Convention of 1787, Christ’s Church and Gospel had not yet been restored. A great apostasy had taken place, and while the fulness of the Gospel was lacking, these and other inspired events, headed by wise and inspired men, paved the way for the restoration of the Priesthood, the Gospel, and Church of Jesus Christ, through the Prophet Joseph Smith.

If the Church of Jesus Christ wasn’t officially established until 1830, you might ask how it is that the Founding Fathers are Mormons? Only a few of the Founding Fathers, and signers of the Declaration of Independence, were still alive in 1830 (James Madison was the last to pass away in 1836).

“It was to [President Wilford Woodruff] that the founders of the American nation appeared in the St. George Temple, seeking to have the temple ordinances performed for them. That was very unusual, brethren, and those kinds of miracles and visions and revelations were rather unusual, as you would know. These men of the American Constitution had lived in a day when the gospel was not upon the earth, but they were upright, good men who were entitled to all of the blessings which come to us. (Spencer W. Kimball, ”Preparing for Service in the Church” 47)

President Ezra Taft Benson shared further details of Wilford Woodruff’s experience in his talk The Constitution: A Heavenly Banner:

“Shortly after President Kimball became President of the Church, he assigned me to go into the vault of the St. George Temple and check the early records. As I did so, I realized the fulfillment of a dream I had had ever since learning of the visit of the Founding Fathers to the St. George Temple. I saw with my own eyes the records of the work that was done for the Founding Fathers of this great nation, beginning with George Washington. Think of it, the Founding Fathers of this nation, those great men, appeared within those sacred walls and had their vicarious work done for them. President Wilford Woodruff spoke of it in these words:

“Before I left St. George, the spirits of the dead gathered around me, wanting to know why we did not redeem them. Said they, “You have had the use of the Endowment House for a number of years, and yet nothing has ever been done for us. We laid the foundation of the government you now enjoy, and we never apostatized from it, but we remained true to it and were faithful to God.”  These were the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and they waited on me for two days and two nights….

“I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men. (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, pp. 160-61)

“These noble spirits came there with divine permission-evidence that this work of salvation goes forward on both sides of the veil.

“At a later conference, in April 1898, after he became President of the Church, President Woodruff declared that “those men who laid the foundation of this American government and signed the Declaration of Independence were the best spirits the God of heaven could find on the face of the earth. They were choice spirits … [and] were inspired of the Lord” (CR, April 1898, p. 89). We honor those men today. We are the grateful beneficiaries of their noble work.

“But we honor more than those who brought forth the Constitution.  We honor the Lord who revealed it. God himself has borne witness to the fact that he is pleased with the final product of the work of these great patriots.”

Listen to this article: [audio:
|titles=America’s Founding Fathers are Mormons]
Special thanks to LDS Liberty and Tammy Broderick for creating an audio version of this article. Well done.

31 thoughts on “America’s Founding Fathers are Mormons”

        1. They weren’t rebaptized, their Temple work was done in St. George. They had come asking why it had taken so long. A great book is “The Other Eminent Men of Wilford Woodruff”; it tells the story of the Founding Father’s visitation as well as who else the work has been done for.

          1. I don’t mean to be argumentative, but I don’t think Jeanetta’s response to Michael’s question is accurate.

            As Wilford Woodruff’s narrative above clearly states, he performed the vicarious baptisms for these people:

            “I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men.”

            I hadn’t heard that the baptisms for these people had been done previously, but if that’s the case I wonder if it was a recordkeeping issue. I’ve heard that when the doctrine of vacarious baptism for the dead was revealed, there were many ordinances done without a proper record being kept.

        2. “I straightway went into the baptismal font and called upon Brother McCallister to baptize me for the signers of the Declaration of Independence, and fifty other eminent men. (Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1946, pp. 160-61)

          But it seems very clear that they we’re re-baptized…maybe I missed something here. Let me know please!!

  1. I just want to comment that I have read the 3 different articles posted by others in the comments above, regarding this issue of the founding fathers having their temple work done for them… I highly recommend that you also check out those linked articles.

  2. While on a mission at the SLC Family History Library with my wife, I made print-outs of the film showing the recordings of the baptisms by name of the Founders, beginning with George Washington, 54 of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, US Presidents up to and including Andrew Johnson, Christopher Columbus, and other “eminent” men and women. I imagine then film is still available for viewing. One need only ask for the number of the film showing baptisms at the St. George Temple for 21 August 1877.

  3. I don’t think saying that the founding fathers are “Mormon” is correct; I understand the point that you are making but I think it’s a little sensational.

    Most people don’t even know what “Mormon” means. They just think it is another church. We believe that this church is guided under the direction of Jesus Christ and it’s purpose is to act as a vehicle to preach the gospel and administer the ordinances of salvation to man that he might receive the blessings of the atonement.

    “Mormonism” happens to be the nickname of the work of God in our day, the same work that began when Adam left the garden of Eden; it gets to be a semantics game.

    1. Well, even the early saints referred to themselves as “Mormons”, but anyways… it is correct that the founders are Mormon, in the sense that they have accepted the restored Church and Gospel of Jesus Christ, similarly as we have… but I understand what you’re saying ;)

  4. Personally, I find this story a little suspect.
    The fact that the baptisms had already been done in Nauvoo suggests this isn’t what it first appears to be.
    Church history, as well as the modern church, seems to be awash with urban myths.

    1. Alan –

      You either believe in what not one, but two latter-day prophets of the Lord (Wilford Wooodruff and Spencer W. Kimball) have said or you don’t.

      Which is it?

      If you call yourself a Latter-day Saint but believe that TWO prophets blatantly lied about such a major, major issue, you are really no Latter-day Saint at all. Period.

      Are you in or are you out?

      (And, by the way, the ultimate source of knowledge on this issue is waiting for you to ask Him about if needed: God.)

      1. Prophets don’t lie? Where is that doctrine found ion the scriptures? And why did BY come up with so much false doctrine like blood atonement, Adam-god, blacks not worthy of receiving priesthood, polygamy, etc.?
        How many prophets upheld the false doctrine of blacks not being worthy of holding the priesthood? Woodruff and Kimball both did, unfortunately.

  5. I need to find out how to buy a print of each of the below paintings / artists.

    Glen Hopkinson

    Harold I Hopkinson

    I want to buy a print of each painting, and I don’t know how to find where to buy each of these two different prints as detailed below:

    above link = “That We May Be Redeemed” painting by Glen Hopkinson … man sits at table, President George Washington stands, appealing on behalf of our deceased forefathers

    above link = Harold I. Hopkinson, “That We May Be Redeemed” (1989). This painting, which depicts Wilford Woodruff’s visitation, Founding Fathers

  6. It seems that the early baptisms of the founding fathers took place in 1841, long before the temple was built. Back then, living saints were baptized and rebaptized. As I recall, it was later decided that all would be rebaptized one more time and no more. A rebaptism was in order for all, which would be the one that was to count. Perhaps the same was needed for the dead.

  7. Mary Louise Miner

    The founding fathers were baptized by proxy in the St. George Temple; and if they accepted the work done for them, they are members of the Church of Jesus Christ.

  8. Yes, rebaptism was a doctrine of the church, back then. It was understood that baptism is an ordinance that should be engaged for renewal, from time to time, such as when a person is about to be advanced, or fulfill a mission, or for help to the body in overcoming sickness, etc.. That doctrine is still found in some of the general conference speeches found in the Journal of Discourses.

    I’m sure they got it from Joseph — but it seems to be evident in scripture, as well. Concerning a new convert who had been baptized previously in another church, the Lord could have indicated that the previous baptism was invalid. Instead, He said the old things are done away when one joins the church, thus associating baptism with advancement.

  9. This is a bit of church history that has always intrigued me. However, it leads me to further thoughts and questions on this matter: It sounds like Wilford Woodruff didn’t know many of the founding fathers had already been baptized in the Endowment House prior to his vision. (Or if he did, he must have concluded they were invalid and thus needed to be done again.) Based on his dialogue with these deceased spirits, it appears they either weren’t aware of it either. Or if they were, that there was a special reason for a do over. Only this time all the ordinances were done (i.e. baptisms, endowments, and I assume sealings too), not just their baptisms for the dead. We might speculate further as to why they appeared to this particular Apostle in Saint George.

    1. There are lots of “unknowns” leading to questions that someday will be answered. In the mean time, as was stated earlier, we can rely in faith on the words of prophets and apostles that this event did happen as it was written.

  10. Proxy is some time an over reach. The whole concept begins with Paul’s attempt to make Jews out of gentiles. There is a web site which flatly and accurately states that the Founding Fathers were not Christians, much less Mormons. If any thing they were Deists. First we have the great and faith (in the Church) enhancing truth about the myth of Israel in Palestine, then ruin it with this kind of thing which contributes to the mass exodus from the Church

  11. I guess it must have escaped his notice many if not all of these men had already had their work done for them, some of them many times. I guess it took the work of prophet to make that work valid. What do you think?

  12. In reading all the comments following this article there are questions about rebaptism, proxy endowments, sealings, baptism for the dead in Nauvoo, Wilford Woodruff’s experience/vision in St. George, etc. I researched this topic for 15 years and shared what I learned in a book called “Wilford Woodruff’s Witness: The Development of Temple Doctrine.” I’d paste the entire chapter here but I’m only allowed 366 more characters in this comment. So, if you’d like me to send it to you directly please email me at woodruffinfo at gmail dot com. I have also posted a timeline of temple related events (from rebaptism and proxy baptism in Nauvoo, to the first proxy endowment in St. George, etc.) at The process was trial and error and took 71 years.

  13. Interesting article–but the painting was actually created by Harold I. Hopkinson, father of Glen Hopkinson. Glen wore costumes and posed as some of the individuals featured i the painting–but his father was the artist.

  14. I had a GA friend who had an interest in this subject. He told me that the Signers of the Declaration plus George Washington and a couple more of the Founders were posthumously ordained as apostles. In the era we’re talking about, lots of men were ordained apostles but weren’t in the Quorum of the Twelve. Anyway, my friend has passed away and I don’t know if what he said was in confidence, so I’d like to know if this information has been published anywhere. It’s not remarkable if it’s correct, just interesting.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *