The Faiths of the Postwar Presidents: From Truman to Obama

By David L. Holmes | Go to book overview

Harry S. Truman
1884–1972 PRESIDENT FROM 1945 TO 1953

In 1907, when Harry Truman was working on the family’s farm in Grandview, Missouri, the rector of the Episcopal church in nearby Independence led a systematic canvass of his city’s religious membership. According to this survey, the population of Independence that year fell into the following religious categories:

1,031Mormon
482Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
464Methodist
462Presbyterian
414Baptist
245Roman Catholic
59Episcopalian
20German Evangelical Church
11Christian Scientist
9Lutheran
4Seventh Day Adventist
25“Scattered”
1,337“No Church”1

Inevitably, the survey raises questions. Are African American churches omitted, or are they included in the Baptist, Methodist, and perhaps other categories? Is the Jewish population listed under “Scattered” or “No Church,” or is it entirely disregarded? Regardless of the survey’s accuracy, it shows that Harry Truman was raised in a churchgoing, largely Protestant environment. In 1907, Independence had two and a half times more church members than persons who listed no church affiliation. Mormons represented the largest religious group, for Joseph Smith Jr. had declared that the second coming of Jesus would occur in Independence. In 1860, his son Joseph Smith III

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