A newer edition of this article was published as a chapter in Sustaining the Law. Follow this link to view the chapter.
Joseph Smith, the Latter-day Saint Prophet, was not a lawyer by training, but he became well acquainted with the court system in New York, Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois during his brief lifetime. Through his encounters with the law, he developed a distinct view of the law's prospect for delivering justice. At first, Smith had a firm belief that, through faith and God's assistance, he would find justice. He was willing to go before the courts to present his complaints with confidence that he would ultimately prevail against all challenges. But after 1837, when his enemies began assailing him with numerous "vexatious lawsuits," he learned he could not rely on courts for his protection and rights.