Brigham Young

Brigham Young, the man who had succeeded in expelling Rigdon and

establishing his own position as head of the church, was born in

Whitingham, Windham County, Vermont, on June 1, 1801. The precise

locality of his birth in that town is in dispute. His father, a

native of Massachusetts, is said to have served under Washington

during the Revolutionary War. The family consisted of eleven

children, five sons and six daughters, of whom Brigham was the

ninth. The Youngs moved to Whitingham in January, 1801. In his

address at the centennial celebration of that town in 1880, Clark

Jillson said, "Henry Goodnow, Esq., of this town says that

Brigham Young's father came here the poorest man that ever had

been in town; that he never owned a cow, horse, or any land, but

was a basket maker." Mormon accounts represent the elder Young as

having been a farmer.

His circumstances permitted him to give his children very little

education, and, when sixteen years old, Brigham seems to have

started out to make his own living, working as a carpenter,

painter, and glazier, as jobs were offered. He was living in

Aurelius, Cayuga County, New York, in 1824, working at his trade,

and there, in October of that year, he married his first wife,

Miriam Works. In 1829 they moved to Mendon, Monroe County, New


Joseph Smith's brother, in the following year, left a copy of the

Mormon Bible at the house of Brigham's brother Phineas in Mendon,

and there Brigham first saw it. Occasional preaching by Mormon

elders made the new faith a subject of conversation in the

neighborhood, and Phineas was an early convert. Brigham stated in

a sermon in Salt Lake City, on August 8, 1852, that he examined

the new Bible for two years before deciding to receive it. He was

baptized into the Mormon church on April 14, 1832. His wife, who

also embraced the faith, died in September of that year, leaving

him two daughters.

Young married his second wife, Mary A. Angel, in Kirtland on

March 31, 1834. His application for a marriage license is still

on file among the records of the Probate Court at Chardon, now

the shire town of Geauga County, Ohio, and his signature is a

proof of his illiterateness, showing that he did not know how to

spell his own baptismal name, spelling it "Bricham."

Young began preaching and baptizing in the neighborhood, having

at once been made an elder, and in the autumn of 1832, after

Smith's second return from Missouri, he visited Kirtland and

first saw the prophet. Mormon accounts of this visit say that

Young "spoke in tongues," and that Smith pronounced his language

"the pure Adamic," and then predicted that he would in time

preside over the church. It is not at all improbable that Joseph

did not hesitate to interpret Brigham's "tongues," but at that

time he was thinking of everything else but a successor to


Young, with his brother Joseph, went from Kirtland on foot to

Canada, where he preached and baptized, and whence he brought

back a company of converts. He worked at his trade in Kirtland

(preaching as called upon) from that time until 1834, when he

accompanied the "Army of Zion" to Missouri, being one of the

captains of tens. Returning with the prophet, he was employed on

the Temple and other church buildings for the next three years

(superintending the painting of the Temple), when he was not

engaged in other church work. Having been made one of the

original Quorum of Twelve in 1835, he devoted a good deal of time

in the warmer months holding conferences in New York State and

New England.

When open opposition to Smith manifested itself in Kirtland,

Young was one of his firmest defenders. He attended a meeting in

an upper room of the Temple, the object of which was to depose

Smith and place David Whitmer in the Presidency, leading in the

debate, and declaring that he "knew that Joseph was a prophet."

According to his own statement, he learned of a plot to kill

Smith as he was returning from Michigan in a stage-coach, and met

the coach with a horse and buggy, and drove the prophet to

Kirtland unharmed. When Smith found it necessary to flee from

Ohio, Young followed him to Missouri with his family, arriving at

Far West on March 14, 1838. He sailed to Liverpool on a mission

in 1840, remaining there a little more than a year.

In all the discords of the church that occurred during Smith's

life, Young never incurred the prophet's displeasure, and there

is no evidence that he ever attempted to obtain any more power or

honor for himself than was voluntarily accorded to him. He gave

practical assistance to the refugees from Missouri as they

arrived at Quincy, but there is no record of his prominence in

the discussions there over the future plans for the church. The

prophet's liking for him is shown in a revelation dated at

Nauvoo, July 9; 1841 (Sec. 126), which said:--

"Dear and beloved brother Brigham Young, verily thus saith the

Lord unto you, my servant Brigham, it is no more required at your

hand to leave your family as in times past, for your offering is

acceptable to me; I have seen your labor and toil in journeyings

for my name. I therefore command you to send my word abroad, and

take special care of your family from this time, henceforth, and

forever. Amen."

The apostasy of Marsh and the death of Patton had left Young the

President of the Twelve, and that was the position in which he

found himself at the time of Smith's death.

One of the first subjects which Young had to decide concerned

"revelations." Did they cease with Smith's death, or, if not, who

would receive and publish them? Young made a statement on this

subject at the church conference held at Nauvoo on October 6 of

that year, which indicated his own uncertainty on the subject,

and which concluded as follows, "Every member has the right of

receiving revelations for themselves, both male and female." As

if conscious that all this was not very clear, he closed by

making a declaration which was very characteristic of his future

policy: "If you don't know whose right it is to give revelations,

I will tell you. It is I."* We shall see that the discontinuance

of written "revelations" was a cause of complaint during all of

Young's subsequent career in Utah, but he never yielded to the

demand for them.

* Times and Seasons, Vol. V, pp. 682-683.

At the conference in Nauvoo Young selected eighty-five men from

the Quorum of high priests to preside over branches of the church

in all the congressional districts of the United States; and he

took pains to explain to them that they were not to stay six

months and then return, but "to go and settle down where they can

take their families and tarry until the Temple is built, and then

come and get their endowments, and return to their families and

build up a Stake as large as this." Young's policy evidently was,

while not imitating Rigdon's plan to move the church bodily to

the East, to build up big branches all over the country, with a

view to such control of affairs, temporal and spiritual, as could

be attained. "If the people will let us alone," he said to this

same conference, "we will convert the world."

Many members did not look on the Twelve as that head of the

church which Smith's revelations had decreed. It was argued by

those who upheld Rigdon and Strang, and by some who remained with

the Twelve, that the "revelations" still required a First

Presidency. The Twelve allowed this question to remain unsettled

until the brethren were gathered at Winter Quarters, Iowa, after

their expulsion from Nauvoo, and Young had returned from his

first trip to Salt Lake valley. The matter was taken up at a

council at Orson Hyde's house on December 5, 1847, and it was

decided, but not without some opposing views, to reorganize the

church according to the original plan, with a First Presidency

and Patriarch. In accordance with this plan, a conference was

held in the log tabernacle at Winter Quarters on December 24, and

Young was elected President and John Smith Patriarch. Young

selected Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards to be his

counsellors, and the action of this conference was confirmed in

Salt Lake City the following October. Young wrote immediately

after his election, "This is one of the happiest days of my


The vacancies in the Twelve caused by these promotions, and by

Wight's apostasy, were not filled until February 12, 1849, in

Salt Lake City, when Lorenzo Snow, Erastus Snow, C. C. Rich, and

F. D. Richards were chosen.

Blood Atonement Brigham Young's Death - His Character facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail