Brigham Young

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Brigham Young

Brigham Young (June 1, 1801 - August 29, 1877) was the second prophet and the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After Joseph Smith, the founder, was killed in 1844 by a lynch mob while awaiting trial for charges of treason in Nauvoo, Illinois, Young was appointed the faith's new leader.

In 1925, a famous American biographer, not a member of the Church, wrote these words about Brigham Young:

As a statesman, Brigham Young is one of the few Americans deserving of the adjective "great." In a situation of precariousness and importance, he showed himself a man of resourcefulness and sturdiness, and his personality contributed as much as that of any one man of the development of the western half of the United States.[1]

Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith's former counselor, believed that he was to lead the Church. But as Brigham Young spoke to the people, the mantle of Joseph fell upon him, and it was said he looked and sounded like the Prophet Joseph. A vote was taken, and the people sustained Brigham Young as their new leader. From that day, for over thirty-three years, he lead the Church as prophet, seer, and revelator.

Like many great men in his time of history, Brigham Young was a self-made man. The ninth of eleven children, he cut wood, plowed on his father's farm, and found little time for school or recreation. He later said that he had gone to school no more than eleven and a half days. However, his mother had taught him to read, his father had taught him from the Bible, and he was able to observe and relate events in the world around him.

Brigham Young's original contact with the Church came as a result of newspaper accounts he read of the publication of the Book of Mormon. He later read the book - a copy that had been sold to his brother Phineas, and shared with the others of his family - and received a testimony of its truthfulness. This testimony was reinforced by the testimony of missionaries who came to his brother's home and again by other missionaries whom he traveled to hear.

Perhaps his greatest testimony came from his first meetings and his continued relationship with the Prophet Joseph Smith, for no man affected his life as deeply as did the Prophet, of whom he became a staunch disciple and for whom he would have given his life. He was Joseph Smith's most trusted lieutenant, filling several effective missions, preaching, baptizing, organizing branches, participating in the march of Zion's Camp and the exodus from Missouri to Illinois and helping to establish Nauvoo.

Brigham Young learned from Joseph Smith and through prophecy that the destiny of his people lay far to the west, beyond the limits of civilization, in the tops of the Rocky Mountains. By 1845 it had become impossible for the Saints to live in peace among the "gentiles." Ill-equipped as they were for such a long trek, the Mormons turned their backs on the Illinois homes and set out toward the western horizon.

Young led a group from Nauvoo to Salt Lake City in what is now Utah, where he established what the Mormons call New Zion. While in Salt Lake Brigham Young started a school (Brigham Young University) and a clothing store, ZCMI (Zion Cooperative Mercantile Exchange). ZCMI was later purchased by Meyer & Frank, and in 2006 was purchased by Macy's. Prior to the sale, ZCMI was solely owned an operated by the LDS church.

Interesting Facts and Contributions of Brigham Young

  1. When Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844, Brigham's leadership kept the scattered and frightened Saints together.
  2. He became President at the age of forty-six - the second youngest next to Joseph Smith,
  3. His administration, which lasted thirty years, is the longest in Church history.
  4. He organized the strategic evacuation of the Saints from Missouri into Hancock County, Illinois, where Nauvoo was established.
  5. He directed the colonization of the Mountain West and brought thousands of colonists from all over the world to settle in the West. He directed the settlement of more than 200 villages, towns, and cities. "He was the prime mover in the great development of the West."[2]
  6. He established the provisional State of Deseret in 1849; it became a territory in 1850.
  7. He was appointed first governor of the Territory of Utah and served for eight years.
  8. A great missionary himself, he sent missionaries to China, Siam, India, and Chile. His promoting of the European missions resulted in the immigration of thousands to America.
  9. He was a leader in education. He established the University of Utah and Brigham Young University.
  10. He built roads and canals, and founded numerous social, economic, and cultural institutions, including the Salt Lake Theatre.
  11. William H. Seward, Secretary of State under Abraham Lincoln, stated that America had never produced a greater statesman than Brigham Young.
  12. The fact that he often faced opposition with calmness and serenity and bore persecution with submission and patience stamped him as a great hero.
  13. Temple sites were dedicated under his direction in Salt Lake City, St. George, Logan, and Manti. He lived to see the St. George Temple completed. He also supervised the building of the Salt Lake Tabernacle.
  14. He supervised the building of extensive telegraph lines and railroads.
  15. Three of his sons - John W., Joseph S., and Brigham Jr. - were apostles (only Brigham Jr., was a member of the Council of the Twelve). John W. and Brigham Jr., also served in the First Presidency. He was the only President to have sons serve in the First Presidency while he was President.
  16. A leader in experimental agriculture, he conducted an experimental farm on the outskirts of Salt Lake City to determine which crops would best accommodate themselves to the Utah climate. His work in irrigation set patterns for years to come.
  17. He was a friend to the Indians and established a policy toward them that paved the way to peace.
  18. An outstanding city planner, he directed the laying out of Salt Lake City in ten-acre blocks. Other cities in the West now also follow this plan.
  19. He was called the "Lion of the Lord."
  20. He was a genial and benevolent man who had strong family affections, and loved dancing, singing, music, and the theater. He encouraged his people to enjoy themselves and improve themselves while they built up the kingdom: "The people must have amusement as well as religion" he said.
  21. He opposed liquor, gambling, and card playing and abhorred waste.
  22. He taught the Saints to protect themselves against those who would have destroyed them and to be self-sustaining.
  23. In 1940, Twentieth Century-Fox made a movie of his life, titled Brigham Young. It has been shown frequently on television throughout the nation in recent years.
  24. "... he brought his religious, social, and economic system, the Mormon Church, to successful operation and preserved its identity against a hostile nation and against the main currents of American social evolution in the nineteenth century... the measure of Young's greatness."[3]

Significant Dates and Events in the Lifetime of Brigham Young

Church Membership 1844: 35,000 (est.) 1877: 155,000 (est.)
1877 - Stakes: 20 Missions: 9 Temples 1
U.S. Population, 1877: 48 million (est.)
World Population, 1877: 1.3 billion (est.)
US. Presidents (1844–77): John Tyler, James K. Polk, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, James Buchanan, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant

1801 Brigham Young was born in Whittingham, Windham County, Vermont, June 1.

1815 Mother died; Brigham began to earn his own way in life, eventually becoming a carpenter.

1822 Joined the Methodist Church, September.

1824 Married Miriam Works, Aurelius, New York, October 8.

1829 Moved to Mendon, New York, where his father and most of his brothers and sisters lived.

1830 Samuel H. Smith, as a missionary, left a copy of the Book of Mormon at the home of Phineas Young, brother to Brigham; Phineas read the book and then Brigham read it.

1832 Baptized into the Church by Eleazar Miller, who ordained him an elder, April 14. Brigham converted all his brothers and sisters, his father, and his wife. Brigham arrived in Kirtland with his brother Joseph and Heber C. Kimball; they met with the Prophet Joseph Smith, September.

1832-33 Served mission to Canada and later led many converts to Kirtland.

1833 Moved to Kirtland with his two daughters.

1834 Married Mary Ann Angell, February; joined in march of Zion's Camp.

1834-35 Worked on Kirtland Temple, supervising carpentry work.

1835 Ordained an apostle by Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, Martin Harris, February 15; was a member of the original Quorum of the Twelve (age 33).

1836 Helped complete the Kirtland Temple; did missionary work in Eastern States.

1837 Fled to Missouri with Joseph Smith due to persecution.

1838 Became senior member of the Council of the Twelve, directed the Church while Joseph Smith was in prison; led exodus from Missouri.

1839-41 Served mission to Great Britain.

1840 Was sustained as President of the Council of the Twelve, April 14, at age 38.

1843 Served short mission to Eastern States.

1844 Martyrdom of Prophet Joseph Smith. Brigham spoke to the Saints on August 4 and was transfigured before them; the Saints accepted him as their leader.

1844-77 Missions were opened in Wales, California, France, Scandinavia, Italy, Switzerland, the Sandwich Islands, Australia, India, Malta, Gibraltar, Germany, Europe, South Africa, Siam, the Netherlands, the Eastern and Southern States. and Indian Territory.

The following became states: Florida, Iowa, California, Oregon, West Virginia, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Nevada, Colorado.

1846 Brigham directed exodus of Saints from Nauvoo, February. Nauvoo Temple was dedicated, May 1. Mormon Battalion organized, July 16. Nauvoo Temple captured by mob, September.

1846-47 Brigham formulated policy for treatment of Indians: "It is cheaper to feed the Indians than to fight them."

Donner Party, westbound settlers, suffered disaster in the Sierra Nevadas when caught by snow; 47 survived out of 487.

1846-48 United States at war with Mexico.

1847 Brigham received revelation giving instructions for westward exodus of the Saints, January 14. First pioneers left Winter Quarters April 5, arrived in Salt Lake Valley, July 24. Mormons began irrigation of land in Utah. Brigham selected site for Salt Lake Temple, July 28; organized Salt Lake Stake, October 3; was sustained President of Church at general conference on the Missouri River, December 27.

1847-69 85,000 pioneers made trek to Utah.

1848 Seagulls saved crops from destruction by crickets, June 5.

Mexico ceded Utah to U.S. in Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo. The Communist Manifesto was written.

1848-49 Revolutions swept Europe.

1849 Church organized provisional State of Deseret and adopted first state constitution. First Sunday School in Rocky Mountains was started, December. Gold rush to California made Utah a national highway to gold fields, established a number of non-Mormon merchants in Salt Lake City.

1849-73 David Livingstone, African explorer, discovered source of Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Lake Ngami.

1850 University of Deseret was established (now University of Utah). Perpetual Immigration Fund was incorporated to assist in gathering of Saints. Congress approved organizing Territory of Utah, and Brigham Young became governor. Deseret News was established. Sugar beet industry was started in Utah in 1850s.

Brigham Young and Racism

Brigham Young stated the following:

"The seed of Ham, which is the seed of Cain descending through Ham, will, according to the curse put upon him, serve his brethren, and be a "servant of servants" to his fellow-creatures, until God removes the curse; and no power can hinder it. These are my views upon slavery. I will here say a little more upon this point. The conduct of the whites towards the slaves will, in many cases, send both slave and master to hell. This statement comprises much in a few words. The blacks should be used like servants, and not like brutes, but they must serve. It is their privilege to live so as to enjoy many of the blessings which attend obedience to the first principles of the Gospel, though they are not entitled to the Priesthood." [1]

"Why are so many of the inhabitants of the earth cursed with a sin of blackness? It comes in consequence of their fathers rejecting the power of the Holy Priesthood, and the law of God. They will go down to death. And when all the rest of the children have received their blessings in the Holy Priesthood, then that curse will be removed from the seed of Cain, and they will then come up and possess the priesthood, and receive all the blessings which we now are entitled to. The volition of the creature is free; this is a law of their existence, and the Lord cannot violate his own law; were he to do that, he would cease to be God. He has placed life and death before his children, and it is for them to choose. If they choose life, they receive the blessings of life; if they chose death, they must abide the penalty. This is a law which has always existed from all eternity, and will continue to exist throughout all the eternities to come." [2]

Other Quotations from Brigham Young


To accuse us of being unfriendly to the government is to accuse us of hostility to our religion, for no item of inspiration is held more sacred with us than the Constitution under which America acts.


We may apostatize from the faith, and go out of the church and kingdom of God, and be lost; but this will have no effect upon the progress of the Lord's work, neither can all the powers of hell combined accomplish aught against it.

Book of Mormon

There is not another nation under heaven, in whose midst the Book of Mormon could have been brought forth. The Lord had been operating for centuries to prepare the way for the coming forth of the contents of that book from the bowels of the earth, to be published to the world, to show to the inhabitants thereof that he still lives, and that he will, in the latter days, gather his elect from the four corners of the earth.


Teach your children from their youth, never to set their hearts immoderately upon any objects of this world. Bring them up in the love and fear of the Lord; study their dispositions and deal with them accordingly, never allowing yourself to correct them in the heat of passion; teach them to love you rather than to fear you, and let it be your constant care that the children that God has so kindly given you are taught the importance of the oracles of God, and the beauty of the principles of our holy religion.


Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of the Father, who came in the meridian of time, performed his work, suffered the penalty and paid the debt of man's original sin by offering up himself, was resurrected from the dead, and ascended to his Father. The Lord has revealed to us a plan by which we may be saved both here and hereafter. God has done everything we could ask, and more than we could ask. The errand of Jesus to earth was to bring his brethren and sisters back into the presence of the Father; he has done his part of the work, and it remains for us to do ours. There is not one thing that the Lord could do for the salvation of the human family that he has neglected to do; and it remains for the children of men to receive the truth or reject it; all that can be accomplished for their salvation, independent of them, has been accomplished in and by the Savior.


Upon the stage of a theatre can be represented in character, evil and its consequences, good and its happy results and rewards; the weakness and follies of man, the magnanimity of virtue and the greatness of truth. The stage can be made to aid the pulpit in impressing upon the minds of a community an enlightened sense of a virtuous life, also a proper horror of the enormity of sin with its thorns and pitfalls, its gins and snares can be revealed and how to shun it.


Our education should be such as to improve our minds and fit us for increased usefulness; to make us of greater service to the human family; to enable us to stop our rude methods of living, speaking, and thinking.... I would advise you to read books that are worth reading, read reliable history, and search wisdom out of the best books you can procure.


You cannot give any person their exaltation, unless they know what evil is, what sin, sorrow, and misery are, for no person could comprehend, appreciate, and enjoy an exaltation upon any other principle.


Experience has taught me, that example is the best method of preaching to any people... If we teach righteousness, let us also practice righteousness in every sense of the word; if we teach morality let us be moral, let us see that we preserve ourselves within the bounds of all the good which we teach to others.


We wish the Latter-day Saints to meet at their respective houses, erected for that purpose on the appointed for a fast, and take with them of their substance to feed the poor and the hungry among us, and if it is necessary, to clothe the naked.


  1. Werner, Brigham Young, p. 1.
  2. Encyclopedia Americana, p. 649
  3. Dictionary of American Biography, vol. 20, p. 623.


  • Werner, Morris R. Brigham Young. Jonathan Cape, Ltd.: London, (1925)
  • West, Emerson Roy. Profiles of the Presidents. Deseret Book Co: Utah (1972)