Dallin Oaks: The Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor’s Printing Press was Illegal

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.

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14 Responses to Dallin Oaks: The Destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor’s Printing Press was Illegal

  1. Michael P says:

    Ah, but Aaron, that must be his opinion, and should be taken as such…

    I don’t know a lot about Nauvoo, but did some quick research. It definately seems the council acted outside its bounds to destroy the entire press.

  2. Megan says:

    Oh Aaron, don’t you know this is just Oaks’ opinion? I mean, who cares if he’s an apostle. And besides, this isn’t official church doctrine or teaching. And even if it were, it makes no difference, because the Church’s stance can change years later.
    Just trying to anticipate potential responses. The thing I can’t figure out is, when are the LDS Apostles supposed to be taken seriously?

  3. Michael P says:

    Quiet day…

    Megan, I gotta say I think it is funny we say the same thing, essentially.

    But you do ask a great question: when are we to take them seriously.

    I wonder if it matters to them.

    Any Mormon input?

  4. Brian says:

    This is my first posting at this forum. I have read the articles at MRM for some years, and have been impressed with them.

    This subject of the Nauvoo Expositor is an interesting one. I have read large portions of this document. It could be described in many ways: specific, impassioned, concerned. Though the question of the legality of the destruction of the press on which it was printed is beyond my expertise, perhaps this somewhat obscures the document itself.

    Two of the Expositor’s primary contributors include two of the three men which constituted (some years before its publication) the LDS First Presidency. These would have been well-known men at the time, having been the prophet’s first and second councilors. For this reason alone, it is an extraordinary document.

    The document, if I remember, spoke at length about:

    * Guilt felt by the contributors for having been involved in what they had come to believe was contrary to the will of God.
    * Displeasure with teachings they maintained had been introduced apart from the knowledge of the general membership of the LDS church, including teachings on a plurality of Gods and a plurality of wives.
    * A defense of the Book of Mormon and Bible, which they believed had been adhered to by the prophet in his earlier days, but had since departed from.
    * Displeasure of the prophet’s handling of the problems in Missouri.
    * Three affidavits, signed by the prophet’s former councilors (and one of their wives), which had been sworn before a Illinois grand jury investigating allegations of adultery on the part of the LDS prophet.

    Imagine for a moment, if in our day, the LDS prophet’s two councilors were to resign and write a document similar to the one above? It would be most extraordinary. This is what the Expositor was.

    If the destruction of the press was not legal, the document suggested the prophet was in trouble. If the destruction of the press was legal, the document suggested the prophet was in trouble.

  5. falcon says:

    When are the LDS apostles to be taken seriously? Hmmmmmm for the moment, maybe. I don’t know, just believe and follow the leaders. They’ll never mislead you. It’s called blind faith, I guess.

  6. amanda says:

    Dallin H. Oaks has an impressive education and resume in the field of law. Many of you might not realize this but in the restored church, our professional lives are quite separate from what we are called to do of God- I realize this is a foreign concept to many here because evangelical “leaders” call themselves to their religious profession. You might consider Dallin H. Oaks as a professional in this instance rather than an apostle. This isn’t a matter of doctrine, it’s a matter of professional opinion.

    Self-righteousness is not a virtue. It honestly starts to wear on all of you. You might try holding yourself to the same standards you have held these LDS who have been outspoken on this matter. Have any of you ever misspoke? Misunderstood or assumed before you knew? Or ever just been wrong? If not, I’m truly impressed.

    Aaron, this article was very disappointing and quite childish. Substance suits you better.

    Romans 14: 10, 13
    10 But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.
    13 Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way.

    I’d listen to Dallin H. Oaks on matters of professional opinion to matters of doctrine ALL DAY LONG- He’s truly impressive. Aaron has had more impressive moments. You should publish more of your lyrics on here 🙂

  7. Megan says:

    Evangelical leaders do not call themselves to religious profession. They experience a personal calling to ministry. It is very common for pastors etc. to talk about “God calling me” to the ministry. The call is directly transmittd from God to the pastor’s heart. Pastors receive a pittance for a salary, have families to provide for, work 50 plus hours, etc. It is difficult, emotionally/spiritually exhausting work. Pastor’s families also experience the stress of living in “the fish bowl”, as they are inadvertantly expected to be a model family. In other words, not a life of luxury. Pastors of huge mega-churches who receive huge salaries are few and far between.

    It is inconceivable to me that Oaks would speak about a controversial Mormon issue and not be expected to be quoted or relied on for his statement. As an Apostle I would expect him to be held to the highest standard of God’s revelation. I’m not impressed with the argument that he somehow misspoke.

  8. shelli says:

    James R. Clark, Messages of the First Presidency, Vol.6, p.284: “The living allowances of the General Authorities of the Church increased 30 percent retroactive to January 1, 1950.”

    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTIONS: “Because the General Authorities are obliged to leave their regular employment for full-time Church service, they receive a modest living allowance provided from income on Church investments.”

    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, GENERAL AUTHORITIES: “Unlike local leaders, who maintain their normal vocations while serving in Church assignments, General Authorities set aside their careers to devote their full time to the ministry of their office. The living allowance given General Authorities rarely if ever equals the earnings they sacrifice to serve full-time in the Church.”

    Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol.2, MISSION PRESIDENT: “The calling is not a regular remunerative position, but interrupts professional employment; whatever financial losses accrue are part of the expected sacrifice. The family involved gives of its time and energies without salary, though there is a modest allowance for living expenses.”

    Church News, October 13, 1979, p.19: “Elder Richards told stories of men being called as General Authorities who gave up financial success and fame to accept lifelong assignments with only a small living allowance to support them.”

    A salary by any other name is still a salary. LDS leaders are clearly compensated for their service to the Church, just as full-time non-LDS clergy are compensated for their service to their congregations. While there is no doubt the LDS Church employs a double-standard on this issue, there seems to be no answer to our original question: The LDS Church teaches that a paid clergy is wrong, yet the LDS Prophet and Apostles are paid a salary. Why is it acceptable for LDS leaders to be paid but wrong for Protestant clergy to be given a salary?

    LDS Clergy are paid.

  9. Jeff B says:

    LDS Clergy are paid living allowances (i.e. food/shelter/medical costs are paid for by the church). I think thats a “no duh”. Do some LDS member seriously think a guy that puts in 50-60 hours a week into their church calling has another 40 hours a week to work a full time job AND even more time to raise a family?

    I guess money magically appears in their bank accounts to pay for their families expenses since daddy doesn’t work a whole lot..

    Regardless. I have no problem with LDS clergy getting paid just as I have no problem with leaders of other faiths getting paid. A person needs to survive.

    I do however have a problem with pastors of mega-churches paying themselves hundreds of thousands of dollars that could probably go to better use. I’m sure God supports his teachers in any way he can, but to take more than necessary from a ministry for survival shows greed. If you want to be rich, own a business.

  10. Rick B says:

    No where in the bible does it teach it is wrong for “clergy” to be paid. on the contrary, here are verses that would teach other wise: 1 cor 9:3-14; Luke 10:7-8; and for the people who don’t accept the bible here is solid proof from D. and C. 42:71-73 71.and the elders or high priests who are appointed to assist the bishop as counselors in all things, are to have their families supported out of the property which is consecrated to the bishop, for the good of the poor, and for other purposes, as before mentioned; or they are to receive a just remuneration for all their services, either a stewardship or otherwise, as may be thought best or decided by the counselors and bishop. and the bishop, also, shall receive his support, or a just remuneration for all his services in the church.” many missionaries have told me they support themselves. that is not true, pg 209 of gospel principles says there is a missionary fund set aside by members of the church. if the Mormon church is not aware of these teachings or is dishonest, how can members and non-members trust the church to lead them into the truth?

    Jeff, About the Pastors of the Mega Church’s, If they are taking to Much then God will deal with them, I have no control over how much they get paid or how they decide how much they get. Rick b

  11. Megan says:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with a leader of any faith being paid. That is not the issue. I believe Shelli cited the examples of LDS leaders receiving a salary because it is common for Mormons to state or imply that their Church is 100% volunteer when that is not the case.

  12. amanda says:

    What do you mean when you say LDS clergy? I don’t refer to apostles as clergy. But for your information, many of them are retired…they receive financial compensation for their travels around the globe in order to minister to the members–that compensation merely pays for their food, lodgings, and airfare–there isn’t an increase in their bank accounts, they don’t use it to pay their mortgage….that is a big difference. Just look it up, none of them do this as a LIVING, they all had day jobs at one point, and all of them very educated in their respective fields.


    Do I think it is wrong to be paid for preaching? Well, I don’t think these preachers are necessarily bad people BECAUSE they get paid…but I would certainly suggest that it isn’t how Christ intended on serving our fellow man…it’s not exactly service when placed in the context of the free market system. Just read about Jesus cleansing the temple in Jerusalem…the market place does not belong on the steps of the temple


    n. Priestly policy; the policy of a priesthood; esp., in an ill sense, fraud or imposition in religious concerns; management by priests to gain wealth and power by working upon the religious motives or credulity of others.

    Does this definition apply to ALL ministers? I don’t believe so. My father-in-law for one was a preacher and is a very humble man. However, there are many who do take on Christs name as if they own it– building large homes and hardly minister on an individual basis- they are like rock stars. But I believe paying our ministers, preachers, bishops, you name it, is a poor model of service and Christianity. The temptations that follow are astronomical…just look at televangelists, “send us money and we’ll pray for you!!!”. Employing people to answer phone calls to accept money so they can pay their ridiculous mortgage and hairstylists.

    The church is 100% volunteer Megan, you state that this is not the case but do not give any examples.

  13. Jeff B says:

    Amanda said “it’s not exactly service when placed in the context of the free market system.”

    I know this is for another topic but I have to get it off my chest.. Let’s change some wording in that statement

    “it’s not exactly grace when placed in the context of a good works system.”

    Again, i know, another topic, but that just ran across my mind and I had to say it 🙂

    I didn’t mean their bank accounts grow. I mean money is put into their bank accounts in which they spend on the their necessities. Regardless of what they use it on, it’s still being paid.. It’s like the military. You get a living allowance BECAUSE you choose to serve your country and not being able to get a job. You said many of them are retired, so that would imply that some are not. Do you have any idea how they pay their bills? (speaking of apostles)

    I agree Amanda, its unfortunate that some aren’t able to resist the urges of making a buck off God. I’m happy to hear your father was.

  14. Megan says:

    I don’t care that ministers get paid. (By the way, televangelists are not ministers. I personally can’t stand most of them.) I don’t care that most LDS leaders do not get paid (the GA’s do, as shown by Shelli–there’s your example, Amanda). The Bible does not prohibit or encourage Christian leaders to receive a salary. When the Bible is neutral or silent on a subject it’s best not to make an issue of it.
    It doesn’t matter to me that most of the work done in the LDS church is volunteer. But it matters a great deal to Mormons. I have had LDS missionaries and other Mormons trot out that fact with great fanfare, as if it proves this is the one true church.
    I think we should be careful of adding on things to the Bible. Yes, Jesus did not get a salary, but he also did not earn any salary at all during his ministry…as far as we know. Maybe we should all go the whole hog and travel around as itinerant ministers and not even own houses! Let’s just stick with what the Bible clearly and explicitly teaches…something for our LDS friends on here to consider. (Yes, I’m still thinking about the nature of God issue).

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