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Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith’s Legal Encounters

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Joseph Smith believed in sustaining the law. This book presents his main legal encounters in the context of his day.

The full book is available for free here: Sustaining the Law, edited by Gordon A. Madsen, Jeffrey N. walker, and John W. Welch

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Joseph Smith believed in sustaining the law. This book presents his main legal encounters in the context of his day. Party to more than two hundred suits in the courts of New York, Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and elsewhere, he faced criminal charges as well as civil claims and collection matters. In the end, he was never convicted of any crime, and he paid his debts. These incidents were significant institutionally as well as personally.

Eleven legal scholars analyze these legal encounters. Topics cover constitutional law, copyright, disorderly conduct, association, assault, marriage, banking, land preemptive rights, treason, municipal charters, bankruptcy, guardianship, habeas corpus, adultery, and freedom of the press.

A 53-page legal chronology presents key information about Joseph’s life in the law. An appendix provides biographies of sixty lawyers and judges with whom he was involved, some being the best legal minds of his day. This book is for anyone interested in the life of Joseph Smith, whether general readers, historians, lawyers, or law students. Each chapter tells a fascinating story based on controlling legal documents—many just recently discovered—that allow detailed legal analysis and accurate understanding.

The full book is available for free here: Sustaining the Law, edited by Gordon A. Madsen, Jeffrey N. walker, and John W. Welch

Individual chapters:

  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • Joseph Smith and the Constitution
  • The Smiths and Religious Freedom Jesse Smiths 1814 Church Tax Protest
  • Standing as a Credible Witness in 1819
  • Being Acquitted of a Disorderly Person Charge in 1826
  • Securing the Book of Mormon Copyright in 1829
  • Organizing the Church as a Religious Association in 1830
  • Winning against Hurlbuts Assault in 1834
  • Performing Legal Marriages in Ohio in 1835
  • Looking Legally at the Kirtland Safety Society
  • Tabulating the Impact of Litigation on the Kirtland Economy
  • Losing Land Claims and the Missouri Conflict in 1838
  • Imprisonment by Austin Kings Court of Inquiry in 1838
  • Protecting Nauvoo by Illinois Charter in 1840
  • Suffering Shipwreck and Bankruptcy in 1842 and Beyond
  • Serving as Guardian under the Lawrence Estate 1842-1844
  • Invoking Habeas Corpus in Missouri and Illinois
  • Defining Adultery under Illinois and Nauvoo Law
  • Legally Suppressing the Nauvoo Expositor in 1844
  • Legal Chronology of Joseph Smith
  • Lawyers and Judges in the Legal Cases of Joseph Smith
  • Glossary of Early Nineteenth-Century Legal Terms
  • Contributors
  • Index