Joseph Smith Papers Publishes Guide to Approximately 200 Legal Cases

SALT LAKE CITY—The Joseph Smith Papers Project has released Legal Records: Case Introductions, a historical study aid that contextualizes Joseph Smith’s interactions with the law as a plaintiff/complainant, defendant, witness, or judge in approximately two hundred cases between 1819 and 1844. Available as an e-book only, Legal Records: Case Introductions is a compilation of historical introductions previously published at

The project also announces the completion of its online Legal Records series. This series represents decades of dedicated research by attorneys, archivists, and historians who have scoured courthouses, repositories, and private manuscript collections to illuminate the legal experiences of Joseph Smith, founder of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It features extant case files from 150 legal cases heard during his lifetime; it also summarizes 43 cases for which no papers have survived, as reconstructed from other sources. Finally, the Legal Records series features documents from the 1845 trial of Joseph Smith’s accused assassins, as well as the records of his estate and twelve cases brought against it. High-resolution images and transcriptions of all available documents from the legal cases involving Joseph Smith can now be found on the project website.

Legal Records: Case Introductions brings together in a single volume the historical introductions from the Legal Records series, along with explanatory essays on Joseph Smith’s criminal and civil proceedings, his role as a judge in Nauvoo, Illinois, and the Nauvoo Municipal Court’s use of habeas corpus.

This e-book will be particularly useful for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints studying the life of Joseph Smith, said David W. Grua, lead historian on the series. “These legal papers provide an illuminating window into various aspects of his financial endeavors in building Zion, his interactions with his antagonists, and his efforts to administer the law fairly as a judge. In addition, legal encounters shaped some of his most significant religious teachings and revelations.”

This volume will also benefit researchers interested in nineteenth-century legal and religious history in the United States. It offers glimpses into the treatment of women and racial minorities, as well as religious minorities, under the law during this period.

Legal Records: Case Introductions is available for purchase at Deseret Book and on Amazon.