Political Science and Law | BYU Studies

Political Science and Law

Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith's Legal Encounters

Editor Jeffrey N. Walker, Editor John W. Welch, Editor Gordon A. Madsen,
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... Read more

Early Mormon Polygamy

Author Various Authors,
This compilation of articles and book reviews on Mormon polygamy is selected from over fifty years of LDS scholarship published by BYU Studies. This volume features articles on the Church's legal confrontation with government over polygamy, various aspects of plural marriage in St. George, the perspectives of two prominent Mormon plural wives (Eliza R. Snow and Emmeline B. Wells), and several... Read more

Sustaining the Law: Joseph Smith's Legal Encounters

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.


America and the Rational Road to Peace

In the midst of the Cold War, Richard Poll asserts that reason can prevent the onset of World War III. In this article, he discusses how countries are more hesitant in starting a conflict because of the high cost of a nuclear war. Poll also describes the four tendencies America has that could encourage another general war: doing too little, doing too much, doing too little and then too much, and... Read more

Beyond Politics

Politics, as practiced on earth, belongs to the ways of men; it is the essential activity of the city—the city of man, not the City of God. As used by the Greek writers, the polis is "the community or body of citizens," that is, a body of citizens not taking orders from anyone else. Politeia is "a wellordered government, a commonwealth." Politics, ta politika, is concern for the social order,... Read more

Brigham Young's Ideal Society: The Kingdom of God

The idea of an ideal society, a Utopia, has existed and been articulated throughout the ages by Plato, Cicero, St. Augustine, and even Marx, all of who, in turn, came up with their own idealistic state of living. But Brigham Young took the Utopian idea and connected it to the gospel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His ideal society was the kingdom of God beginning even before... Read more

Power in Washington: Congress Versus the White House

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Perspectives on the Constitution—Origin, Development, Philosophy, and Contemporary Applications

As a group, Latter-day Saints are part of a perhaps increasingly small minority that continues to see the hand of divinity in the founding of this nation and the coming forth of the Constitution. This fact not only suggests that the Constitution's bicentennial should be observed at Brigham Young University, but that it ought to be observed in a way that takes the document seriously, not merely as... Read more

Loyal Opposition: Ernest L. Wilkinson's Role in Founding the BYU Law School

Ernest L. Wilkinson is best known for being the president of Brigham Young University for twenty years (1951–1971). He should also be remembered for his role as catalyst for the existence of the J. Reuben Clark Law School at BYU. Wilkinson's diaries and personal papers tell the story of the J. Reuben Clark Law School founding prior to its March 9, 1971, public announcement. This article discusses... Read more

The Principles of the Proclamation: Ten Years of Hope

Professor Wilkins tells the story of his initial involvement with the UN on the need for stable families. He explains the connection between international law, family policy, and the efforts of legal scholars and academic centers. He also argues that despite current efforts to redefine the family, continued erosion of what Article 16(3) of the Universal Declaration of Human rights calls “the... Read more

Habeas Corpus in Early Nineteenth-Century Mormonism: Joseph Smith's Legal Bulwark for Personal Freedom

*This article is being offered free as a courtesy to lds.org as it was footnoted in a Newsroom post on their site. After Joseph Smith's incarceration in Liberty Jail in Liberty, Missouri, in 1838-1839, Smith believed that he would not survive another imprisonment. It was in fact his jailing in Illinois that ended in his murder in 1844. This paper explores Smith's use of writs of habeas corpus to... Read more

"Securing" the Prophet's Copyright in the Book of Mormon: Historical and Legal Context for the So-called Canadian Copyright Revelation

To read the extended version of this article click here . The 2009 publication of the Manuscript Revelation Books as part of the Joseph Smith Papers makes available, for the first time, the text of a revelation received in 1829 or 1830 by the Prophet Joseph Smith on securing the copyright of the Book of Mormon in all the world and selling a copyright for its publication in the four then-existing... Read more

The Boggs Shooting and Attempted Extradition: Joseph Smith's Most Famous Case

When Missouri governor Lilburn Boggs accused Joseph Smith (founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) of being the mastermind behind his attempted assassination in 1842, Joseph Smith's enemies tried to extradite him to Missouri for trial three times. Each time, Joseph successfully appealed to the laws of the land and exerted self-preserving political influence through the Nauvoo... Read more

The Current Revolution in Russia

The revolution is occurring in Russia and Eastern Europe, but its repercussions are worldwide. And not only in international relations, but also in what is happening in other countries that we would never have thought were connected with events in Russia and Eastern Europe. I will concentrate only on the Soviet Union because what has happened there is the key to what has happened in Eastern... Read more

The Necessity of Political Parties and the Importance of Compromise

Political parties are essential to modern democracy, contrary to some popular opinion. Parties organize democracy and prevent voters from having to choose from among scores of candidates. Parties in a broad sense stand for a particular view of the role of government. Party identification is the best predictor of how people vote. Compromise between the parties has been and will remain vital to... Read more

Road to Martyrdom: Joseph Smith's Last Legal Cases

While the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor in June 1844 played a role in the martyrdom of Joseph Smith in Carthage, Illinois, on June 27, 1844, there were other factors. These included fear of the Nauvoo Legion's power and the concentration of power in Joseph Smith himself, economic competition with some of the leading Mormon opponents, and political unrest due to the rapidly increasing Mormon... Read more

Islam: An Introduction and Bibliography

Long before the events of September 11, 2001, BYU Studies began working on this special issue focusing on Islam. The authors and editors who worked on this issue have tried to capture the spirit of a religion that provides guidance to the lives of millions of people worldwide. The ever expanding influence of Islam extends to the prominent and often controversial role that Islam plays in... Read more

American Foreign Policy: Focus on Asia

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The Constitution as Covenant

The Constitution of the United States is the legacy of "a peculiar moment in history when all knowledge coincided, when classical antiquity, Christian theology, English empiricism, and European rationalism could all be linked." And covenant was the linking concept. The religious idea of covenant was particularly and profoundly important in the evolution and inspiration of the American... Read more

Economic Policy: National, Institutional, and Individual Issues

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The Political Dimension in Nephi's Small Plates

Every people needs to know that its laws and rulers are legitimate and authoritative. This is why stories of national origins and city foundings are so important to human societies throughout the world. Such stories provide explanations of the legitimate origins of their laws and their rulers. Not untypically, such traditions also deal with ambiguous elements of the founding, explaining away... Read more

When Our Enemies Are Also Saints: Response to Claudia W. Harris's "Mormons on the Warfront"

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The Crusades Against the Mason, Catholics, and Mormons: Separate Waves of a Common Current

The anti-Catholic movement of the 1850s shares common features with the anti-Masonic movement of the 1830s and the anti-Mormon movement of the 1870s and 1880s. A closer look at these three movements reveals a distrust among nineteenth-century Americans for any small yet unified minority. The author discusses the similarities among the three campaigns and explores reasons why the anti-Mormon... Read more

The People's Republic: Communist or Chinese?

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The War-Making Power: Congress vs. the President

Although constitutionally, the Congress has the power to declare war, throughout U.S. history, the President has usurped this power. Cases such as the Mexican War, the French Naval war, and the China Relief Insurrection before World War I are all instances when the President took the initiative in entering a war without an official declaration by Congress. In the case of both World Wars,... Read more

Many Voices, One Umma: Sociopolitical Debate in the Muslim Community

As a religion expands beyond its original setting, it encounters new historical, economic, social, and geopolitical forces. The resulting clash between sacred truth and secular reality creates ideological tensions within a religious community that leads its followers to engage in a process of dialogue, reform, and reconciliation. This process of dialectical exchange occurs both between members... Read more

Public Virtue and the Roots of American Government

As the leaders of the new American states considered the viability of a republic, the fundamental question they asked was whether Americans had sufficient virtue to make self-government work: to soften the sharpest edges of self-interests, to temper the most disruptive personal and social passions, and to ensure sentiments of support and patriotism for the polity. Given the nature of man as they... Read more

Theory and Practice of Church and State During the Brigham Young Era

The early Latter--day Saints felt they were building the spiritual and political kingdom of God on Earth. The concept of the kingdom included political ideals as well as economic and social. Joseph Smith ran for US president on this premise. After his death, when the Nauvoo charter was repealed, a political vacuum was created, and Brigham Young was there to fill it. As the Saints went west,... Read more

Joseph Smith and the 1834 D. P. Hurlbut Case

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... Read more

North Korea: Between Dogmatism and Revisionism

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The Misunderstood First Amendment and Our Lives Online

Certainly, we have always been warned about the harms of pornography. Jesus said, "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart" (Matt. 5:27–28). But the prophets have become increasingly insistent in their warnings during the last... Read more

The Best Constitution in Existence: The Influence of the British Example on the Framers of Our Fundamental Law

Because it is the current fashion to read history backwards, tracing the records of actions and attitudes back from our time through 1763 instead of forward from the Norman Conquest, it is predictable that this generation should persist in construing the United States Constitution in a vacuum, that they should forget how most of our American forefathers cherished the English constitution and did... Read more

The Trials of Jesus and Jeremiah

The trial of Jesus is, by far, the most difficult problem of ancient legal history. Many famous scholars have quite deliberately avoided writing and talking about it because of its immense complexity. Although I will not be able to solve the problem of the trial of Jesus, the important thing is for us to understand why it is insoluble, to understand the methodological difficulties which cause us... Read more

Joseph Smith, the Constitution, and Individual Liberties

The theological impact of Joseph Smith today is not even questioned. But what of his secular contributions? Was the Prophet important, like Jefferson, for his political insights? What were his constitutional ideals? How important are they now? It is my intention in this essay to examine some possible sources of Joseph Smith's views on the Constitution and the importance of individual liberties,... Read more

The Summer of 1787: Getting a Constitution

It is not at all certain that complex historical events really have beginnings, but it is absolutely certain that all essays must. And so we begin with my favorite living Frenchman, Jean-Francois Revel, commenting on the revolution in eighteenth-century America: "That revolution was, in any case, the only revolution ever to keep more promises than it broke." What made that possible in America was... Read more

"Entered At Stationers' Hall": The British Copyright Registrations for the Book of Mormon in 1841 and the Doctrine and Covenants in 1845

On April 16, 1840, eight members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints met in Preston, England. One of the topics they discussed was the need to secure copyright protection for the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants in England. The Quorum of the Twelve Apostles recognized the key to gaining copyright protection for Latter-day Saint... Read more

The Impact of Inflation on the Developing Economy: The Brazilian Case

No generation in history has encompassed such rapid, marked and widespread change in man's environment as that of our own. To a large degree many of these changes have been induced by remarkable advances made in the physical sciences—the incredible truncation of distances occasioned by the advent of jet transportation; the awesome power placed in the hands of man by the discovery of nuclear... Read more

A Strange Encounter: The English Courts and Mormon Polygamy

In 1866 English courts for the first time encountered a "Mormon" (i.e., polygamous) marriage. On 22 March of that year The [London] Times related: "It is a strange fact that no case should have arisen on the validity of Mormon marriages before that of "Hyde v. Hyde", which came before the Divorce Court in January last." Actually, it is not surprising that the courts of Great Britain had not had... Read more

Personal Faith and Public Policy: Some Timely Observations on the League of Nations Controversy in Utah

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Recent Bibliography on the Trials of Jesus

In recent years, numerous books and articles have been written about the arrest, accusation, interrogations, trials, mocking, and execution of Jesus. Many of the details about these procedures are insignificant when compared with the eternal consequences of the suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Nevertheless, questions about the historicity and interpretation of the New Testament... Read more