Some Mormons give the impression that the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor newspaper was legal. This kind of language is misleading. While there is some lingering ambiguity over the legality of the destruction of the copies of the Expositor, even Mormon apostle Dallin Oaks (who wrote Carthage Conspiracy) admits that the destruction of the Expositor’s printing press was in fact illegal.
“In view of the law discussed above, particularly the statement in Blackstone, the combination of these three considerations seems to have been sufficient to give the Nauvoo City Council considerable basis in the law of their day for their action in characterizing the published issues of the Nauvoo Expositor as a nuisance an in summarily abating them by destruction.
“The characterization of the printing press as a nuisance, and its subsequent destruction, is another matter. The common law authorities on nuisance abatement generally, and especially those on summary abatement, were emphatic in declaring that abatement must be limited by the necessities of the case, and that no wanton or unnecessary destruction of property could be permitted. A party guilty of excess was liable in damages for trespass to the party injured…. there was no legal justification in 1844 for the destruction of the Expositor press as a nuisance. Its libelous, provocative, and perhaps obscene output may well have been a public and a private nuisance, but the evil article was not the press itself but the way in which it was being used. Consequently, those who caused or accomplished its destruction were liable for money damages in an action of trespass.” (Utah Law Review, Summer 1965, pages 890-891)
So next time a Mormon gives the impression that everything was legal, make sure you pass along these words.