The following is excerpted from the Church News. To read the full article, CLICK HERE

In the spring of 1844, a Black man only identified in legal records as “Chism” was suspected of a crime, seized and whipped by a mob of drunken men in Nauvoo, Illinois.

Following the assault, the man sought safety in the office of Joseph Smith, who then served as the city’s mayor and justice of the peace.

At a time when wrongs against Black individuals were not prosecuted, Joseph did his best in his legal capacity as justice of the peace to bring the perpetrators to justice, said Jeffrey Mahas, a historian with the Joseph Smith Papers.

“It’s a great example that shows Joseph’s commitment in his role to try and bring justice to all the citizens in Nauvoo,” he said.

The lesser-known legal case is found in the Joseph Smith Papers newly released ebook, “Legal Records: Case Introductions,” a historical study aid that contextualizes nearly 200 legal cases in which Joseph Smith was a plaintiff/complainant, defendant, witness or judge between the years of 1819 to 1844.

The publication of the “Legal Records” was announced at a media event at the Church History Library on Tuesday, April 17.

“Legal Records: Case Introductions” is a single volume compilation of historical introductions previously published at, 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. It is only available in an ebook format.

The project also marks the completion of the Joseph Smith Papers online Legal Records series.

“This is putting it all into one place for interested readers,” said David Grua, lead historian on the series. “We see a side of Joseph that we don’t often see in other sources.”

To read the full article, CLICK HERE