098-099: Joseph Smith’s Legal Battles During the Nauvoo Period

November 27, 2007
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Morris Thurston is both a Harvard trained lawyer and a legal editor for the Joseph Smith Papers project. He is also one of the world’s leading scholars regarding Joseph Smith’s legal troubles during the Nauvoo era.

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13 Responses to 098-099: Joseph Smith’s Legal Battles During the Nauvoo Period

  1. November 27, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Read the new book:
    “When Salt Lake City Calls” by Rocky Hulse

  2. A-P
    November 27, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    As usual, an off-topic comment by Helen, who can’t seem to find a receptive audience for her stuff. She and Rocky fancy themselves the heirs to Jerald and Sandra — but Helen, I’ve read Jerald and Sandra, and you’re no Jerald OR Sandra.

  3. November 28, 2007 at 11:18 am

    Off topic? Have you read the entire book “When Salt Lake City Calls” or for that matter any part of it? As for Jerald and Sandra Tanner, I thank God everyday that I found their work in 1982 and call them friends. Since Sandra’s beloved Jerald has passed, she has visited us in Nauvoo and while here appeared on our International television program “Truth Outreach”. For you to throw their names around without having read the book shows nothing more than an ad-hominem attack.

  4. November 28, 2007 at 8:22 pm

    A Few Clarifications Pertaining to My Mormon Stories Podcast on Joseph’s Nauvoo Legal Battles

    As I reviewed what I said on my podcast, I noticed several items that require clarification or correction. So, for all of you careful listeners, here is some more interesting stuff:

    1. Political Affiliations. I stumbled a bit in answering John’s question about the political affiliations of some of the characters, particularly the Illinois governors. Here’s the lineup. Illinois Governors Thomas Carlin and Thomas Ford were both Democrats, as were Governors Lilburn Boggs and Thomas Reynolds of Missouri. Stephen A. Douglas was also a Democrat. Orville Browning, Joseph’s lawyer in the first extradition, and the defense attorney for Joseph’s accused murderers, was a Whig who became one of the founders of the Republican Party and was appointed to fill Douglas’ U. S. Senate seat when Stephen A. Douglas died (during Lincoln’s presidency).

    2. John C. Bennett, Spiritual Wifery and Abortion Charges. Bennett was a fascinating character who had a meteoritic rise in the Church, becoming briefly Assistant President of the Church, mayor of Nauvoo, general of the Nauvoo Legion and chancellor of the University of Nauvoo. His fall was equally rapid, having apparently engaged in a form of “free love” that he equated with “spiritual wifery.” After an attempt at reconciliation, in which he signed an affidavit that Joseph was not involved in any way with his adultery, and after vowing to change, he was caught in additional indiscretions and excommunicated. This is when he began lecturing and writing against the Church and Joseph.

    The abortion claims seem to stem from the affair involving Sarah Pratt, wife of apostle Orson Pratt. This is too convoluted a matter to detail here. Suffice it to say that there were charges and countercharges and that second degree hearsay has Sarah Pratt saying Bennett told her “that he could cause abortion with perfect safety to the mother.” It is difficult to know where the truth lies in this matter.

    Despite his bitter attacks on Joseph and the Church, after the martyrdom, Bennett briefly returned to join forces with Sidney Rigdon and then with James Strange, before more charges of sexual misconduct led to his ouster from the Strang movement. Bennett later made many contributions to science, becoming an early champion of the benefits of the tomato and an expert on the breeding of chickens. He authored a number of books on subjects as disparate as gynecology and chicken breeding.

    3. Did Joseph Order Rockwell to Shoot Boggs? In addition to the points I made in the podcast, it is useful to note that Rockwell, though offered a chance to be freed from the Missouri jail if he implicated Joseph, refused to do so. Also, Bennett acknowledges that Rockwell denied to him (Bennett) during a one-on-one conversation, that Joseph had ordered the shooting of Boggs.

    4. Frank Worrell. This was the name of the Carthage Gray guard who refused to testify at the trial of Joseph’s accused murderers on the grounds that his testimony might tend to incriminate him. (I had a temporary mental block during the podcast.) Worrell was later shot by Orrin Porter Rockwell when Worrell was menacing Hancock County Sheriff Jacob Backenstos.

    5. Rockwell’s Nauvoo Appearance. Porter Rockwell appeared at the Smith house on Christmas day 1843, after being released from a Missouri jail. (I misspoke in saying it was 1842).

    6. Nauvoo Municipal Ordinance of August 8, 1842. I mentioned that a Nauvoo ordinance authorized the Municipal Court to go into the merits of a case on habeas corpus under certain circumstances. Specifically, these circumstances were when the court found that “the writ or process has been issued, either through private pique, malicious intent, or religious or other persecution, falsehood or misrepresentation.”

    7. Legal Circumstances Surrounding Joseph and Hyrum’s Incarceration in Carthage. I didn’t prepare to speak on the legal events leading up to the martyrdom, so I wasn’t as clear as I might have been. I’m indebted to my longtime friend and co-editor, Joseph Bentley, for the following clarifications.

    Joseph and Hyrum were brought to Carthage on charges of disturbing the peace (creating a riot). They had already been tried on that charge in the Nauvoo Municipal Court and found not guilty, then the case had been heard by Judge Daniel H. Wells (then a non-Mormon), who likewise found them not guilty. At Governor Ford’s urging Joseph and Hyrum went to Carthage to face those same charges there, since most non-Mormons thought any trial in Nauvoo was suspect. Had Joseph and Hyrum been convicted of disturbing the peace, it is unlikely that the penalty would have been particularly severe. The testimony in Nauvoo was that there wasn’t much of a riot. One swift blow to the door was all it took. There was no pitched battle in the streets and nobody was seriously injured.

    After posting bail on the riot charges, Joseph and Hyrum were served with criminal complaints for treason, a non-bailable offense. This is why they could not return to Nauvoo pending trial and why they were put in protective custody in the Carthage jail.

    The legal basis behind the treason charges remains a bit of a mystery, as are the two individuals who swore out those charges (Augustine Spencer and Henry Norton). Governor Ford, in his history of Illinois, claims the treason charges were based on Joseph’s having mobilized the Nauvoo Legion in contravention of Ford’s order not to do so.

    Although a number of states had treason statutes, it was extremely rare for anyone to be charged with treason against a state, and even rarer for a person to be convicted of such treason. At least one legal scholar believes there was little chance that Joseph or Hyrum would actually have been convicted had they gone to trial on the treason charge. It may simply have been a ploy to make certain they could not post bail and go back to Nauvoo, where they would have been safe from the mob.

  5. Arthur Wei
    November 30, 2007 at 6:49 am

    Hey Helen,
    I would encourage you to contact Eric Hoffman.
    Eric is said to lead the least successful Anti-LDS ministry on the whole internet (one living truth ministry). So maybe you two could join forces.
    Good luck,
    Arthur.

  6. January 1, 2008 at 11:28 pm

    Hey Arthur ~ Happy New Year January 1, 2008! Maybe you should have listened to ‘Prime Time Chicago’ today with Steve Hiller on WMBI Moody Radio. The replay program of the year 2007 was the interview with Rocky Hulse of the Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center. On December 14, 2007 Rocky was on ‘Prime Time Chicago’ for the 2nd time to discuss his new book ‘When Salt Lake City Calls’ Is there a conflict between Mormonism and the public trust? This coming year tune in to several radio stations, you just might learn the truth about Mormonism. BTW…you also might want to listen to VCY America and the interview on December 20th Crosstalk, where Rocky again discussed ‘When Salt Lake City Calls’ and took live call in questios from the listeners, as he did while on Moody Radio. Both of these Radio Stations can be heard online live everyday, if you aren’t in their listening areas.

  7. January 4, 2008 at 1:24 pm

    Just for you Arthur, Google Nauvoo Christian Visitors Center. In case you or others need the one for One Living Truth Ministries… Google it.

  8. January 5, 2008 at 12:57 pm

    Arthur,
    Still at it huh? Would you look to share with all the readers here how you have been stalking me for over a year now, posting as different people with different character traits on different forums and blogs [including mine].

    Arthur, I sense that you are extremely unstable. It’s also interesting that you are a very vocal atheist, yet will side with the LDS world view any day when it comes to rubbing shoulders with christians. I remember a similiar situation.
    It was during the arrest of Jesus. The Jews and the Romans were total enemies and disagreed greatly on thier world views. But they decided to join forces for a day to accomplish one thing…Crucify the Son of Man. The enemy never suprises me, Arthur. I think if Jesus were here on earth today he might say something like this to you:

    “You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me.” (John 8:41-45)

    In His Name,
    -Eric hoffman

  9. Derek Rickson
    January 22, 2008 at 2:17 pm

    Hey Helen, Arthur, Eric,
    just wanted remind you that your posts are not related to the topic at all. Could you take your bickering and discussions to your own blogs?

    From your arrogant and self-righteous attitudes, it seems that you are evangelicals, am I right?

    Be that as it may,
    please don’t waste our time and space here on the podcasts/blogs on Mormon culture, not evangelical arrogance.
    Thank you,
    Derek Rickson.

  10. April 18, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    Hey Derek,

    It isn’t often that the truth slips out showing Mormon arrogance, you just couldn’t help yourself and with your last post, it did.

    Warm regards,
    Helen Hulse

  11. Res Ipsa
    February 27, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    This is a fantastic podcast! Very interesting.

  12. Rachel Young
    June 28, 2010 at 11:45 am

    Hello Eric, Hello Helen, I just tried to access Eric Hoffmans website onelivingtruth.com, but it seems to be an expired domain. What happened to this ministry, which Arthur said was one of the most successful anti-mormon ministries?
    Rachel.

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