Elder Dallin H. Oaks: 'Joseph Smith was a remarkable man, a great American'
“Revelation is the foundation of our Church doctrine and governance, and it is also fundamental to personal conversion, personal decision-making and the ways we understand and apply the inspired texts we call the scriptures,” he explained.
While it is common for critics of the prophet to label him as “ignorant” due to his lack of access to the learning of his day, perhaps it is time for educated non-believers to pose the question a biographer posed about George Washington, “Where did his genius come from?” Elder Oaks said. “I see the answer to that question as revelation from God.”
Such revelation led him to teach his people to use the law to fight injustice and to trust in the Constitution, he observed. “And so the people sought redress in the courts. They followed him.”
Brief introductory remarks were given by James R. Thompson, Illinois governor from 1977 to 1991. He is now the chair of the Illinois Supreme Court Historic Preservation Commission.
“The general purpose of these special events, the first of which we’ll hear tonight, is to examine historical trials, to raise awareness of modern-day issues. Our history guides us and it can’t be separated from current public policy,” he said. “The law guides us in our everyday lives and relationship between law and history is important, not only to study, but even more important to disseminate to the people of our state. Our events today in Nauvoo, tomorrow in Springfield and next month in Chicago help explain a complex issue, habeas corpus, inherited from the common law in medieval times.”
Elder Oaks began his speech on a humorous note as he recalled his first meeting with Gov. Thompson. Elder Oaks was a young professor at the University of Chicago Law School appointed by an appellate court to represent a defendant convicted of burglary. Mr. Thompson was the prosecutor in the case.
“Hoping to impress a panel of apparently uninterested justice, he drew upon the Victor Hugo novel Les Miserables, calling his client “a sort of 20th century Jean Valjean.”
“As Mr. Thompson came to the lectern, the presiding judge, whom I had thought uncomprehending, welcomed the prosecutor with these words: ‘I presume you are Monsieur Javert.’”
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