Brigham Young

Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet

Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: Harvard University Press
Pages: 490
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  • Book Info
    Brigham Young
    Book Description:

    Brigham Young was a rough-hewn New York craftsman whose impoverished life was electrified by the Mormon faith. Turner provides a fully realized portrait of this spiritual prophet, viewed by followers as a protector and by opponents as a heretic. His pioneering faith made a deep imprint on tens of thousands of lives in the American Mountain West.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06731-8
    Subjects: History, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. 1-6)

    On new Year’s Day 1877, Brigham Young and nearly thirteen hundred Latter-day Saints gathered in the southern Utah settlement of St. George. They came to dedicate a temple, the first the church had completed since fleeing Illinois thirty-one years earlier. For three hours, Mormon leaders offered lengthy prayers consecrating the new building.

    At the end of the services, Young finally rose. He was ailing from rheumatism and unable to walk. Several men had helped him into and around the temple in a sedan chair on rollers. Despite his infirmities, a man who had delivered thousands of discourses over the past...

  5. CHAPTER ONE A New Creature
    (pp. 7-28)

    I was baptized under the hand of Ebezer [Eleazar] Miller,” scrawled Brigham Young in his diary when he joined Joseph Smith Jr.’s Church of Christ on April 9, 1832. Miller baptized Young on a cold, snowy day in Mendon, New York, about twenty miles south of Rochester. After the two-mile trip from the stream back to his Mendon home, Young wrote many years later, “he [Miller] laid his hands on me and ordained me an elder, at which I marvelled.”¹

    For Brigham Young, his conversion, baptism, and ordination heralded a new beginning, a rupture from his previous life as a...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Tongues of Angels
    (pp. 29-54)

    The Age of Jackson, in which Americans debated Indian removal, nullification, and the Bank of the United States, was also an era of millenarian visionaries and spiritual wonders. Although mainstream Methodists and Baptists began to shed their rough edges and the intense supernaturalism of the early-nineteenth-century awakenings, within other religious movements the veil between heaven and earth continued to part. Prophets appeared, men and women filled with the Holy Ghost spoke in tongues, and believers told of angelic visitors. Devotees of Swedish mystic Emmanuel Swedenborg—whose Heaven and Hell became an American bestseller in the 1820s—marveled at his reports...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Acts of the Apostles
    (pp. 55-79)

    Leaving his wife and children behind in Kirtland, Brigham Young headed for Missouri. After stopping at his brother Lorenzo’s temporary residence in Dublin, Indiana, and rendezvousing with Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, Young arrived with the prophet in the city of Far West in mid-March 1838. In 1836, Clay County citizens had met and insisted that the expelled Jackson County Mormons leave Clay County, Missouri, where they had taken refuge. Residents of neighboring Ray County did not want Mormon refugees within their borders either, but state legislation had carved two counties—Caldwell and Daviess—out of northern Ray County. Caldwell...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR New and Everlasting Covenant
    (pp. 80-109)

    While Brigham Young oversaw the rapid expansion of the British church, Mary Ann struggled with poverty, sickness, and loneliness. In his absence, she had moved with their children across the Mississippi River to Commerce, Illinois. “I found my family,” he later wrote, “living in a small unfinished log cabin, situated on a low wet lot, so swampy that when the first attempt was made to plow it the oxen mired.” With his customary energy, Young drained and fenced the lot, finished the house (several blocks away from Joseph Smith’s riverside residence), and built an above-ground cellar. One week after Young’s...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Prophets and Pretenders
    (pp. 110-143)

    Questions of authenticity were central to antebellum American culture. In a market economy dependent on merchants and banks, Americans struggled to separate genuine currency from “bogus” money, legal title from fraudulent land claims, and creditworthy individuals from confidence men and failures. Antebellum Americans vexed by counterfeit currency also encountered mesmeric healers, skull-studying phrenologists, and spiritualist mediums who claimed a scientific basis for their innovative practices. Thus, it is not surprising that many Americans also debated the genuineness or fraudulency of the prophets and preachers that dotted the religious landscape. Even the adherents of movements with theological affinities sometimes denounced each...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Word and Will
    (pp. 144-174)

    During breaks from presiding over temple rituals, Young and the other apostles examined maps of the American West and read John C. Frémont’s narrative of his 1843 journey through the Bear River Valley to California, during which the explorer passed through what he termed the “Great interior Basin,” then part of Mexican Upper California. Frémont, known as the “Great Pathfinder,” described a vast desert plateau with lakes possessing “no outlet to the ocean,” a region “peopled … miserably and sparsely.” The latter aspect appealed to Mormon leaders, who wanted an isolated sanctuary without any existing white settlements. In August 1845,...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN A New Era of Things
    (pp. 175-206)

    In june 1848, Brigham Young again set forth from Winter Quarters. Prodded by the U.S. government’s denial of permission for the church to remain at the Missouri for another season, nearly two thousand Mormons crossed the mountains that summer. In September, the Saints halted at the Weber River in honor of “the leader of Israel.” When Young overtook them, he “past [passed] into the valley in his place, at the head of the joyful multitude.” The crowd greeting his party sang a hymn composed by Young’s wife Eliza Snow, who praised the arrival of the “great father in Israel,” the...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT One Family
    (pp. 207-229)

    The whole kingdom are one family,” Brigham Young told an 1848 meeting of his extended family.¹ Utah’s Mormons spoke English with a variety of British accents, and by the mid-1850s Scandinavian Mormons in Utah held Sunday services in their own languages. They came from a variety of socioeconomic backgrounds and from different religious upbringings. In one respect, though, they were strikingly similar. Whether born in the United States or Europe, nearly all were white.

    A handful of black Americans—free and slave—had joined the church in the 1830s and 1840s, and a small number of Native Americans (“Lamanites,” in...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Go Ahead
    (pp. 230-264)

    With predictable victories over Utah’s Indians and the more surprising triumph over the “runaway judges,” Brigham Young in 1852 stood at the height of his political power while the church enjoyed several years of relative peace and prosperity. Thousands of Latter-day Saints crossed the plains each summer and the church steadily built up the line of settlements that extended from Salt Lake City to nearly the California coast. The Utah Mormons numbered more than twenty thousand by the mid-1850s. “[I]t will be mormondom all over,” Young exulted.¹

    Young knew it would take years of arduous work to achieve that audacious...

  14. CHAPTER TEN The Whirlwind
    (pp. 265-300)

    One of the more curious scenes of the Mormon reformation came at the territory’s legislative assembly, which moved from Fillmore to the new capital of Salt Lake City in 1856. In late December, Brigham Young addressed a joint session of the territory’s two legislative chambers. If the legislators got “the Holy Ghost,” Young suggested, they could “make laws that no gentile power can break.” After the speech, the legislators unanimously voted “to repent and forsake our sins and be rebaptized for their remission.” That night, they formed a line and passed buckets of ice-cold water to a baptistry on the...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Let Him Alone
    (pp. 301-337)

    By leading the Latter-day Saints across the Rocky Mountains, colonizing a large swath of the American West, and bringing Utah into armed confrontation with the U.S. Army, Brigham Young had become a figure of national and even international renown. Mormonism was famous—more accurately, infamous—as America’s homegrown religion. When Philip Schaff, a theologian and church historian, returned to his native Germany, he lamented that “concerning nothing have I been more frequently asked in Germany, than concerning the primeval forests and the Mormons—the oldest and newest products of America.” Exposés of Mormon domestic life, books that chronicled trips through...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE The Monster in the Vale
    (pp. 338-371)

    In may 1867, when Young arrived home after one of his regular tours of the southern Utah settlements, Salt Lake City’s Mormon population greeted its president like a returning king. Having turned sixty-five the previous year, a rather portly Brigham Young now sported a neatly trimmed gray beard to complement his still-full head of slowly graying hair. American flags festooned the capital’s buildings, the Nauvoo Legion provided an escort, and throngs of the church’s youth greeted Young’s party. Probably with some hyperbole, John D. Lee estimated that 25,000 persons—five miles in length—filed passed Young’s Beehive House mansion. Young’s...

  17. CHAPTER THIRTEEN The Soul and Mainspring of the West
    (pp. 372-407)

    Many nineteenth-century Americans saw the West as a quick path to great riches. They came to make their fortunes out of white pine forests, prairie soil, bison herds, and placer gold. The descendants of men and women who had sought buried treasures in the burned-over district of western New York now sought gold and silver in western canyons and mountainsides. Prospectors hoped to beat others to those resources and quickly make their fortunes, then return to families and homes back east. Many ultimately decided to stay in the West, but even once mining became industrialized, miners remained peripatetic, readily moving...

  18. Epilogue
    (pp. 408-414)

    On september 1, 1877, a great crush of mourners filed through the Salt Lake City Tabernacle to see Young’s body. The next day, after the tabernacle reached its capacity, two thousand individuals stood outside the building during the funeral. After the hymns, prayers, and eulogies concluded, a large procession brought Young’s corpse through the Eagle Gate outside his mansions and eventually to a family cemetery just to the east of Temple Square. At the burial service, a choir sang “O, my Father,” celebrating Young’s return to his heavenly, divine parents.

    Not hesitating to speak ill of the dead or his...

  19. Notes
    (pp. 415-486)
  20. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 487-489)
  21. Index
    (pp. 490-500)