Jo’s legal troubles

November court of inquiry found there was enough evidence to begin a jury trial against Joseph Smith for arson, robbery, and treason. He escaped prison while being transported to Boone county. Those charges didn’t go anywhere.

Court of inquiry documents published in early 1841, prejudicing the public and destroying any possibility of a fair and balanced trial as mandated by the constitution.

Governor Lilburn W. Boggs had signed Mormon Extermination Order, forcing them into Illinois.

May 6, 1842, an unknown assailant attempted to kill Governor Boggs in his home.

July 20th Boggs provided an affidavit accusing Joseph Smith was accessary before the fact of the intended murder, never accuses Orrin Porter Rockwell.

Governor Reynolds provided writ of extradition to Governor Carlin of Illinois. Both state constitutions require governors to grant writs of extradition from governors of other states without inquiring into the facts behind the warrant.

Jo was taken under arrest to Springfield. His counsel argued the court had jurisdiction to rule on the merits of the case, while attorney general attempted to argue the court had no jurisdiction.

Judge Nathaniel Pope ruled the court had jurisdiction and Jo’s writ of Habeas Corpus was granted, setting him free.

What happens after this?

Prop 2,_Section_1.html?v=UC_AVI_S1_1800010118000101

Prop 2 began gaining traction in summer of 2018. LDS Church sent an email urging members to vote “No” on the initiative. UT patients coalition raised $896k in campaign support of initiative.

Opposition raised $870k in opposition.

Utah passed Proposition 2 by 52 percent majority.

UT constitution grants equal power to legislature and people to propose legislation.

UT legislature called special session and immediately passed “Compromise bill” known as Utah Medical Cannabis Act. Former Mayor Rocky Anderson joined a number of institutions filing a lawsuit in 3rd district court to

Ep 138 – Full Faith and Credit with Andrew Torrez

On this episode, Andrew Torrez of Opening Arguments joins us to discuss the legal sphere of Joseph Smith’s troubles in 1843. He helps fact check my take on the January 1843 trial which heard in Smith’s favor on the writ of habeas corpus, but Jo was far from out of the woods. Andrew helps us understand what the next step would be for the State of Illinois as well as Jo’s legal counsel in keeping him out of state custody. After that, we read a letter Jo sent to his legal counsel with regards to new intelligence he’d gained from Orson Pratt. Then we wrap up with discussing a dream Jo had recorded in his history.



January 1843 court transcription

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Legal Counsel

Joseph Smith has been on the run from the law since 1839, but more recently he’d been hiding out since he was fingered as a primary suspect in the Lilburn Boggs assassination attempt. He’d now been to court and was granted his writ of habeas corpus, but his legal troubles were far from over.

Andrew was wrong: Andrew said a couple of time that Lilburn Boggs was former or ex governor and Senator of Missouri. A small correction, Boggs had never been Senator of Illinois at this time because he was shot during his Senatorial campaign. Arguably that was one of the main reasons he was shot when he was because he stood to become the new Missouri Senator and the Mormons simply did not want that to happen. I didn’t catch it when talking to Andrew and I don’t think that correction would have substantively changed the conversation, but it was worth a quick Andrew was wrong segment. Of course I want to thank him again for coming on and helping us navigate through that.

With everything Andrew and I discussed in mind, Joseph Smith’s legal troubles were far from over. He’s stepped into a clearing but was nowhere near out of the woods just yet. His friends and enemies were well aware that he’d prevailed on this one Habeas Corpus hearing, but that Missouri only had to get better documentation and he’d be quickly whisked back into court to be extradited.

Upon Jo’s return to Nauvoo from Springfield, he was handed a letter from Orson Brain-Powered Pratt, who Jo had suspected for a long time was in league with John C. Wreck-it Bennett and Hingepin Sidney Rigdon in trying to bring down the prophet. Orson Pratt had been disciplined for his suspected actions and removed from his position as member of the Quorum of Apostles, but giving Jo this letter proved to a certain extent that Pratt had Jo’s best interests in mind. Jo immediately wrote to his legal counsel, Josiah Butterfield, copying the letter in its entirety to make Butterfield aware of the coming storm he faced.

From Vogel’s HoC 5:238

Nauvoo, January 16, 1843

J. Butterfield, Esq.:

Dear Sir:--I now sit down to inform you of our safe arrival home on Tuesday last, after a cold and troublesome journey of four days. We found our families well and cheerful. The news of our arrival was soon generally known, and when it was understood that justice had once more triumphed over oppression, and the innocent been rescued from the power of mobocracy, gladness filled the hearts of the citizens of Nauvoo, and gratitude to those who had so nobly and manfully defended the cause of justice and innocence was universally manifest, and of course I rejoiced with them and felt like a free man at home.

Yesterday a letter was received by Sidney Rigdon, Esq., from John C. Bennett, which was handed to me this morning. From that letter it appears that Bennett was at Springfield a few days after we left there, and he is determined if possible to keep up the persecution against me. I herewith transmit a copy of his letter and shall rely upon your counsel, in the event of any further attempt to oppress me and deprive me of liberty; but I am in hopes that Governor Ford will not gratify the spirit of oppression and mobocracy so glaringly manifest in the conduct of John C. Bennett.

The following is a copy of his letter:--

And this is the letter which must have made Jo sweat bullets when it was handed to him by Orson Brain-Powered Pratt:

Mr Sidney Rigdon and Orson Pratt:

Dear Friends:--It is a long time since I have written to you, and I should now much desire to see you, but I leave tonight for Missouri to meet the messenger charged with the arrest of Joseph Smith, Hyrum Smith, Lyman Wight and others for murder, burglary, treason, &c., &c., who will be demanded in a few days on new indictments, found by the grand jury of a called court on the original evidence, and in relation to which a nolle prosequi was entered by the district attorney.

New proceedings have been gotten up on the old charges, and no habeas corpus can then save them. We shall try Smith on the Boggs case when we get him into Missouri. The war goes bravely on, and although Smith thinks he is now safe, the enemy is near, even at the door. He has awoke the wrong passenger. The governor will relinquish Joe up at once on the new requisition. There is but one opinion on the case, and that is, nothing can save Joe on a new requisition and demand predicated on the old charges on the institution of new writs. He must go to Missouri, but he shall not be harmed if he is not guilty, but he is a murderer and must suffer the penalty of the law. Enough on this subject.

I hope that both of your kind and amiable families are well, and you will please to give them all my best respects. I hope to se you all soon. When the officer arrives, I shall be near at hand. I shall see you all again. Please to write me at Independence immediately.

Yours respectfully, JOHN C. BENNETT

P.S. Will Mr. Rigdon please to hand this letter to Mr. Pratt after reading?

Now comes Jo’s analysis of the letter in copying it word for word and sending it to his legal counsel.

In the foregoing the designs of Bennett are very plainly manifest, and to see his rascality you have only to read some articles from his pen published in the Times and Seasons about two years ago, on the subject of the Missouri affair. I shall be happy to hear from you on this subject as soon as convenient, also if you have received any communication from Washington.

Yours, very respectfully, JOSEPH SMITH

By WM. CLAYTON, Agent.

P.S. I would just remark that I am not at all indebted to S. Rigdon for this letter, but to Orson Pratt, who, after he had read it, immediately brought it to me.

That P.S. really exhibits how petty Jo could be, but the larger point remains that Missouri was back to devising how to get Jo within the confines of state custody. Bennett was working closely with Governor Reynolds to lay out their strategy to try Jo on “new proceedings [that] have been gotten up on the old charges,” confident that “no habeas corpus can then save [him].”

Even if Jo wasn’t guilty to accessary before the fact of the Boggs assassination attempt, he was still guilty of all those old charges, and Missouri wouldn’t rest until they could finally try him in a jury trial and get the conviction they sought. This fight was far from over.

However, this show of fealty by Orson Pratt was noticed by Jo, who baptized him and his wife in the Mississippi river for repentance and reinstated Pratt back into his position in the Quorum of the Twelve. Pratt must have been elated to be elevated back to his former glory.

The same day, Jo gave a failed prophecy, which was stricken from the original History of the Church. However, because I’m reading the Dan Vogel Source and Text Critical Edition, we get to read the failed prophecy. From page 242 of volume 5:

Elder Hyde told of the excellent white wine he drank in the east [Palestine]. Joseph prophesied in the name of the Lord that he would drink wine with him in that country.

That’s a Joseph Smith prophecy you don’t hear much about, but there it is, recorded in Book D-1 page 1457, with editorial note \reconsider/ next to it, and then it was removed from the history of the church, and thus removed from history in general. Jo prophesied he would drink Palestinian wine with Orson Hyde in 1843, but he died a year and a half later. What is a prophet who makes false prophecies? A liar. Just a dude talking with thousands of people fawning over his every word.

The last point we’ll discuss today was another of Jo’s dreams. Now, dream divination is absolutely worthless, unless the dream we’re discussing is believed in by the person reporting it to have been prophetic or divinatory in some way. When somebody has a dream, trying to ascribe specific meaning to it is pointless. However, when Jo had his dreams recorded, it needs to be understood that he regarded them as prophetic because he regarded every one of his actions to be prophetic. Jo lived in a world moved and shaped by the will of Eloheim. Random coincidences to Joseph were the will of God showering blessings upon his chosen servant. Jo standing trial for his illegal actions wasn’t the will of proper law being carried out, it was the will of the adversary trying to destroy the work of God on earth. Jo didn’t operate in a naturalistic world, so when he had his dreams recorded, we can be assured that he took great significance from them, even if this overactive sleep state simply was what happens when somebody is under as much stress as Jo was at this time. Here’s the dream from the HoC:

I related my dream: “I dreamed this morning that I was in the lobby of the Representatives’ Hall, at Springfield, when some of the members who did not like my being there, began to mar, and cut, and pound my shins with pieces of iron. I bore it as long as I could, then jumped over the rail into the hall, caught a rod of iron and went at them, cursing and swearing at them in the most awful manner, and drove them all out of the house. I went to the door and told them to send me a clerk and I would make some laws that would do good. There was quite a collection around the State House trying to raise an army to take me, and there were many horses tied round the square. I thought they would not have the privilege of getting me, so I took a rod of iron and mowed my way through their ranks, looking after the best race-horse, thinking they might catch me where they could find me; when I awoke.”

Whether or not that was Jo’s dream doesn’t matter. The way he reported his dream reveals deeper desires and intentions that must not be ignored. What do I mean by that?

By January of 1843, Jo had spent a lot of time fraternizing with very powerful people. I would argue that his association with Governors, Senators, military leaders, and many other high-ranking politicians had a humanizing effect in Jo’s mind. Let’s face it, the barrier for entry into most government positions is simply likability, especially in the 19th century. Jo had proven through his 13-year ministry that he was very likeable, how hard could it be to become a politician? Besides, Jo operated by the gift and power of god. Every action he took was via direction from his conception of God. Everything which happened to him was by the power of God.

Jo had incredible aspirations ahead of him. There can be no doubt that he was contemplating being president of the United States at this time. His reported dream here reads like the fever dream state of a revolutionary. He was in the representatives’ hall of the state of Illinois when he was attacked by a bunch of the legislators. Then he picks up a weapon and drives them all away. Then he dreams of sending for a clerk so he could make his own laws that “would do good”. Good for what? Good for whom? Then they raise an entire army against Jo and he battles them all, and steals their best race-horse and makes his escape.

Honestly, it’s just a dream, but what better analogy for Jo at this time in Nauvoo history? It couldn’t possibly be more apt. He was the kingpin of a criminal empire who ravenously sought increasing power, and would stop at nothing to become king of the world. This wasn’t just a dream, this was Jo’s most deep-seated desires playing themselves out in his own mind. Less than a year after this time he forms his council of fifty, established for the sole purpose of being the governing body of America once the secular government collapsed.

What I find most fascinating about Joseph Smith’s entire legal sphere at this time is that he was clearly testing the system. He was the kind of demagogue who would push everything to the point just before it broke. He ducked and dodged every legal proceeding brought against him, many of which were efforts to curtail his power or make him responsible for his actions, but none prevailed. Jo triumphed over them all and when he didn’t triumph, he simply ran away from his problems. Jo was testing the boundaries that Americans in the 1840s would deal with before the legal process would completely break down and vigilante justice became the only seemingly reasonable answer.

When Jo was assassinated in Carthage, a mere 17 months from where our timeline currently rests, the religious aspect was such a small piece to the puzzle. Jo confounded his enemies because the average American and the American government isn’t equipped to deal with people like Joseph Smith. He constructed a fraudulent empire built on loans he was constantly defaulting on. He waged war and established himself as a military leader in Missouri, but cried foul when other military leaders attempted to try him in a court martial. He was a libertine under the sanctimonious garb of religious ritualism and when challenged about his libertine nature he just said it was all from God. He knows because he speaks for God.

Not only was he the one true prophet, he was also the primary government authority in Nauvoo. He and his best buddies ran the town however they saw fit. The incredibly broad powers granted by the Nauvoo Charter and the overreach granted to the municipal court of Nauvoo made it possible for the city to harbor fugitives, murderers, horse thieves, and when those persons arrest was called for, the Nauvoo court would issue a writ of habeas corpus and they’d walk.

Nauvoo was a criminal empire, run by Missouri’s public enemy #1 after his failed military campaign and escape from state custody there. Sure, Jo was assassinated in 1844, but I would be willing to bet that when it happened, there were probably a lot more people who thought it was justified and a long time coming, than who thought that he was taken from the earth before he fulfilled his mission.

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