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The Joseph Smith Papers Project Releases ‘Legal Records: Case Introductions’

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The Joseph Smith Papers Project has unveiled its latest historical study aid: “Legal Records: Case Introductions.” This compilation contextualizes Joseph Smith’s multifaceted interactions with the law, casting light on his roles as a plaintiff, defendant, witness, or judge in approximately 200 cases spanning the years 1819 to 1844. Available exclusively as an e-book, “Legal Records: Case Introductions” draws from previously published historical introductions found on

Key Features

  • Extant case files: The series includes case files from 150 legal cases that Joseph Smith encountered during his lifetime.
  • Reconstructed cases: Additionally, it summarizes 43 cases for which no original papers have survived, piecing together details from other sources.
  • 1845 assassination trial: The project also delves into the 1845 trial of Joseph Smith’s accused assassins.
  • Estate records: Explore records related to Joseph Smith’s estate, along with 12 cases involving his estate.
  • High-resolution images and transcriptions: All available documents from legal cases involving Joseph Smith are now accessible on the project website.

Furthermore, “Legal Records: Case Introductions” consolidates historical introductions from the “Legal Records” series. It also includes explanatory essays covering Joseph Smith’s criminal and civil proceedings, his role as a judge in Nauvoo, Illinois, and the Nauvoo Municipal Court’s use of habeas corpus.

“These legal papers provide an illuminating window into various aspects of his financial endeavors in building [the Church], his interactions with his antagonists, and his efforts to administer the law fairly as a judge,” said David W. Grua, lead historian on the series. “In addition, legal encounters shaped some of his most significant religious teachings and revelations.”

This volume will also benefit researchers interested in 19th-century legal and religious history in the United States. It offers glimpses into the treatment of women and racial minorities, as well as religious minorities, under the law during this period.

“Legal Records: Case Introductions” is available for purchase at Deseret Book and on Amazon.

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