Andrew H. Hedges, Alex D. Smith, and Richard Lloyd Anderson, eds., Journals, Volume 2: December 1841-April 1843 in The Joseph Smith Papers, gen. eds. Dean C. Jessee, Ronald K. Esplin, and Richard Lyman Bushman (Salt Lake City: Church Historian’s Press, 2011). xl, 558 pp. Cloth: $54.95; ISBN: 978-1-60908-737-1.
On October 2, 1841, Joseph Smith deposited in the cornerstone of the Nauvoo House the original manuscript of the Book of Mormon, a first edition Doctrine and Covenants, a Bible, and other items deemed sufficiently important to preserve for future generations. Among these was a memorial to the U.S. Senate describing the Latter-day Saints’ persecutions in Missouri and a history of the persecutions published in the Times and Seasons. The addition of these two histories to a repository that included sacred writ demonstrated the degree to which the Latter-day Saints were committed to writing about their persecutions and preserving their writings for subsequent readers. As sociologist Jeffrey K. Olick has noted, “collective memory” is not a single or monolithic “thing,” but a “wide variety of mnemonic products and practices,” which only “gain reality by being used, interpreted, and reproduced or changed.” Early Mormon writings on persecution, then, are best understood as mnemonic products that were gradually “used, interpreted, and reproduced” as they shaped how Mormons and others remembered the past.
The second volume in the Joseph Smith Papers’ Journals series covers from December 1841 through April 1843, years marked by continued negotiation over how the Saints’ Missouri experience would be remembered. As J. Stapley has exhaustively explored in his BCC review most of the fantastic elements of this volume, this review will reflect on one aspect of JS’s journals that cover this period—the attempt by the Missouri government to have JS extradited to stand trial for his alleged complicity in the failed assassination plot on former Governor Lilburn W. Boggs. [Full disclosure: I conducted research for this volume when I was a JSPP employee.]
The extradition should be understood within its broader context—the ongoing struggle between Missourians and the Latter-day Saints to control the memory of the 1838-39 expulsion of the Mormons from Missouri. After leaving Missouri, the Saints actively sought to influence how the public remembered the conflict, producing hundreds of affidavits, petitions, histories, and poems that represented Boggs as a new Nero persecuting latter-day Christians. The Missourians, for their part, published official documents from 1838-39 that portrayed the Saints as treasonous and dangerous fanatics who had threatened the social order and who of necessity had been expelled. Boggs tried to have JS extradited on treason charges, which would have reinforced the Missourians’ narrative, but in 1841 JS and his legal allies successfully invalidated the proceedings.
The 1842 attempt on Boggs’ life reinvigorated this conflict over memory. As editors Alex Smith, Andy Hedges, and Richard Anderson note in their introduction, “more pages and entries in Joseph Smith’s Nauvoo journals are devoted to aspects of the extradition attempt than to any other single topic” (xxxi). Chronologically, the case began on May 6, 1842, when an unknown assailant shot Boggs in his Independence, Missouri home, although word of the shooting did not reach Nauvoo and get recorded in the journal until May 14. The case ended on January 5, 1843, when Judge Nathaniel Pope ruled the extradition demand invalid because JS had not been in Missouri when the shooting occurred, and therefore could not have fled from justice. If a crime had occurred—in the alleged scenario JS had sent Porter Rockwell to Missouri to kill Boggs—then JS should be tried by Illinois, not Missouri. JS’s scribes chronicled the case as it developed, from the initial rumors of JS’s involvement (62), to the controversies surrounding the Nauvoo Municipal Court’s habeas corpus powers (various), to Emma Smith’s remarkable letters to Governer Thomas Carlin explaining the legal flaws in Missouri’s case (e.g., 111-13), to JS’s appearance before the U.S. Circuit Court in Springfield, Illinois to challenge the extradition via habeas corpus (193-240). Simply put, habeas corpus is a legal proceeding that allows an arrested individual to appear before a judge, not to claim their innocence, but to argue that the arrest itself was illegal. Throughout, editors Hedges, Smith, and Anderson provide essential contextual annotations that aid the reader in understanding the complex legal maneuverings.
Equally useful was the inclusion of twelve legal documents relating to the case in the appendix. While future volumes in the JSP Legal Series will doubtless reproduce these sources with full annotations, it is useful to have the documents available here, as they are cited in the volume notes. The first two documents reveal the origins and developing contours of the case. On July 20, 1842, Boggs filed an affidavit claiming that “evidence and information now in his possession” proved that JS, a citizen of Illinois, was an “accessory before the fact of the intended murder.” Boggs did not claim that JS had actually been charged with a crime, or that he had fled from justice, both necessary precursors to a valid extradition (Doc 1). Missouri Governor Thomas Reynolds quietly included these elements in his July 22, 1842 requisition (Doc 2). Missing from this collection of documents is Illinois Governor Thomas Carlin’s August 2, 1842 arrest warrant (the original, to my knowledge, has not been located, although copies are in the Joseph Smith Collection) and the habeas corpus documents produced by the Nauvoo Municipal Court in August 1842. The editors do not provide an explanation for what they decided to include or exclude. The next document is Carlin’s September 20, 1842 proclamation, which offered $200 rewards for JS and Rockwell (Doc 3). The proclamation was significant to the case because Wilson Law of the Nauvoo Legion arrested JS under its jurisdiction in preparation for their trip to Springfield in December 1842, in order to preempt any would-be arresters who encountered the party en route (194).
The remaining documents were produced during JS’s stay in Springfield. Four were created on December 31, 1842: a petition for a new warrant (since the original was still held by the sheriff who visited in Nauvoo in August; Doc 4), a new warrant (Doc 5), JS’s petition to the federal court for habeas corpus (Doc 6), and the writ of habeas corpus (Doc 7). The next document is JS’s January 2, 1843 affidavit, which argued that since JS was in Illinois on May 6, 1842, he could not have fled from Missouri’s justice (Doc 8). Two January 4 affidavits follow, one by Wilson Law and other Mormons, the other by non-Mormons Jacob B. Backenstos and Stephen A. Douglas, both of which affirmed that the affiants were with JS on May 6-7 in Nauvoo (Docs 9 and 10). The penultimate document is the judge’s substantial analysis of JS’s case and existing extradition laws, as well as Pope’s conclusion that JS should be discharged (Doc 11). The last document is Ford’s January 6, 1843 discharge order (Doc 12).
Almost immediately after Judge Pope discharged JS, the Latter-day Saints and their friends began the process of memorializing the case. The prophet’s attorney suggested placing the extradition papers in the temple’s archive (236). As the prophet’s entourage made the trip home to Nauvoo, they memorialized Pope and other influential non-Mormons who helped defeat the extradition attempt in “The Mormon Jubilee”:
Are you sure the news is true?
and are you sure he’s free?
then let us Join with one accord,
And have a Jubilee. . . .
Success unto the Federal Court.
Judge Pope presiding there. . . .
In the defence of Innocence,
They made the truth to bear;
Reynold’s & Carlin’s baseness both
Did fearlessly declare. . . . (237)
Most Latter-day Saints, while not necessarily remembering the case itself, have read D&C 127, which is a letter on baptisms for the dead written while JS was in hiding in 1842.The letter begins thus: “Forasmuch as the Lord has revealed unto me that my enemies, both in Missouri and this State, were again in the pursuit of me; and inasmuch as they pursue me without a cause, and have not the least shadow or coloring of justice or right on their side in the getting up of their prosecutions against me; and inasmuch as their pretensions are all founded in falsehood of the blackest dye, I have thought it expedient and wisdom in me to leave the place for a short season,” and continues with JS’s oft-quoted self-comparison with Paul. This letter, too, was copied into JS’s journal (131-33). The journals and annotations in this volume therefore contain a wealth of information on the case that shed light on the ways that remembering persecution in Missouri shaped JS’s and other Latter-day Saints’s experience in Nauvoo and their interactions with non-Mormons.
 Olick, “From Collective Memory to the Sociology of Mnemonic Products and Practices,” in Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nunning, eds., Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook (Berlin: Walter de Gruytar, 2008), 158. Emphasis original.
 I explore these themes further in “Memoirs of the Persecuted: Persecution, Memory, and the West as a Mormon Refuge,” (MA thesis, BYU, 2008) and “‘We Glory in Tribulations’: Parley P. Pratt, Martyrology, and the Memory of Persecution,” in Parley P. Pratt and the Making of Mormonism, 169-200.