“High Treason and Murder”

The Examination of Mormon Prisoners at Richmond, Missouri, in November 1838



The Richmond court of inquiry, the preliminary hearing that sent Joseph Smith and other Latter-day Saint leaders to jail following the so-called Mormon War of 1838 in Missouri, has long been viewed within the LDS community as a sham trial, held by Missouri officials to give legal covering to their persecution of the Saints. Joseph Smith labeled it a “mock examination” in which “there was not the least shadow of honor, or justice, or law, administered toward them, but sheer prejudice, and the spirit of persecution and malice.” According to Mormon accounts, the chief witnesses for the state were apostates and persecutors who swore to all manner of lies. In addition, Missouri officials allegedly denied the defendants their right to cross-examine witnesses, bring their own witnesses, or testify on their own behalf. “In this mock court of inquiry the defendants were prevented from giving any testimony on their part, by an armed force at the court house . . . so there was no testimony examined only against them,” wrote Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and Elias Smith in a joint petition to Congress.


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