Brigham Young's Death - His Character

Brigham Young died in Salt Lake City at 4 P.M. on Wednesday,

August 29, 1877. He was attacked with acute cholera morbus on

the evening of the 23rd, after delivering an address in the

Council House, and it was followed by inflammation of the

bowels. The body lay in state in the Tabernacle from Saturday,

September 1, until Sunday noon, when the funeral services were

held. He was buriod in a little plot on one of the main streets

of Salt Lake City, not far from his place of residence.

The steps by which Young reached the position of head of the

Mormon church, the character of his rule, and the means by which

he maintained it have been set forth in the previous chapters of

this work. In the ruler we have seen a man without education,

but possessed of an iron will, courage to take advantage of

unusual opportunities, and a thorough knowledge of his flock

gained by association with them in all their wanderings. In his

people we have seen a nucleus of fanatics, including some of

Joseph Smith's fellow-plotters, constantly added to by new

recruits, mostly poor and ignorant foreigners, who had been made

to believe in Smith's Bible and "revelations," and been further

lured to a change of residence by false pictures of the country

they were going to, and the business opportunities that awaited

them there. Having made a prominent tenet of the church the

practice of polygamy, which Young certainly knew the federal

government would not approve, he had an additional bond with

which to unite the interests of his flock with his own, and thus

to make them believe his approval as necessary to their personal

safety as they believed it to be necessary to their salvation.

The command which Young exercised in these circumstances is not

an illustration of any form of leadership which can be held up

to admiration. It is rather an exemplification of that tyranny in

church and state which the world condemns whenever an example of

it is afforded.

Young was the centre of responsibility for all the rebellion,

nullification, and crime carried on under the authority of the

church while he was its head. He never concealed his own power.

He gloried in it, and declared it openly in and out of the

Tabernacle. Authority of this kind cannot be divided. Whatever

credit is due to Young for securing it, is legitimately his. But

those who point to its acquisition as a sign of greatness, must

accept for him, with it, responsibility for the crimes that were

carried on under it.

The laudators of Young have found evidence of great executive

ability in his management of the migration from Nauvoo to Utah.

But, in the first place, this migration was compulsory; the

Mormons were obliged to move. In the second place its

accomplishment was no more successful than the contemporary

migrations to Oregon, and the loss of life in the camps on the

Missouri River was greater than that incurred in the great rush

across the plains to California; while the horrors of the

hand-cart movement--a scheme of Young's own device--have never

been equalled in Western travel. In Utah, circumstances greatly

favored Young's success. Had not gold been discovered when it

was in California, the Mormon settlement would long have been

like a dot in a desert, and its ability to support the stream Of

immigrants attracted from Europe would have been problematic,

since, in more than one summer, those already there had narrowly

escaped starvation while depending on the agricultural resources

of the valley.

J. Hyde, writing in 1857, said that Young "by the native force

and vigor of a strong mind" had taken from beneath the Mormon

church system "the monstrous stilts of a miserable superstition,

and consolidated it into a compact scheme of the sternest

fanaticism."* In other words, he might have explained, instead of

relying on such "revelations" as served Smith, he refused to use

artificial commands of God, and substituted the commands of

Young, teaching, and having his associates teach, that obedience

to the head of the church was obedience to the Supreme Power.

Both Hyde and Stenhouse, writing before Young's death, and as

witnesses of the strength of his autocratic government,

overestimated him. This is seen in the view they took of the

effect of his death. Hyde declared that under any of the other

contemporary leadersTaylor, Kimball, Orson Hyde, or Pratt:

"Mormonism will decline. Brigham is its tun; this is its

daytime." Stenhouse asserted that, "Theocracy will die out with

Brigham's flickering flame of life; and, when he is laid in the

tomb, many who are silent now will curse his memory for the

cruel suffering that his ambition caused them to endure." But

all such prophecies remain unfulfilled. Young's death caused no

more revolution or change in the Mormon church than does the

death of a Pope in the Church of Rome. "Regret it who may,"

wrote a Salt Lake City correspondent less than three months

after his burial, "the fact is visible to every intelligent

person here that Mormonism has taken a new lease of life, and,

instead of disintegration, there never was such unity among its

people; and in the place of a rapidly dying consumptive, whose

days were numbered, the body of the church is the picture of

pristine health and vigor, with all the ambition and enthusiasm

of a first love."** The new leadership has, grudgingly, traded

polygamy for statehood; but the church power is as strong and

despotic and unified to-day on the lines on which it is working

as it was under Young, only exercising that power on the more

civilized basis rendered necessary by closer connection with an

outside civilization.

* "Mormonism," p.151.

** New York Times, November 23, 1877.

Young was a successful accumulator of property for his own use. A

poor man when he set out from Nauvoo, his estate at his death

was valued at between $2,000,000 and $3,000,000. This was a

great accumulation for a pioneer who had settled in a

wilderness, been burdened with a polygamous family of over twenty

wives and fifty children, and the cares of a church

denomination, without salary as a church officer. "I am the only

person in the church," Young said to Greeley in 1859, "who has

not a regular calling apart from the church service"; and he

added, "We think a man who cannot make his living aside from the

ministry of the church unsuited to that office. I am called

rich, and consider myself worth $250,000; but no dollar of it

ever was paid me by the church, nor for any service as a

minister of the Everlasting Gospel." * Two years after his death

a writer in the Salt Lake Tribune** asserted that Young had

secured in Utah from the tithing $13,000,000, squandered about

$9,000,o on his family, and left the rest to be fought for by

his heirs and assigns.*** Notwithstanding the vast sums taken by

him in tithing for the alleged benefit of the poor, there was not

in Salt Lake City, at the time of his death, a single hospital

or "home" creditable to that settlement.

* "Overland Journey," p. 213.

** June 25, 1879.

*** "Having control of the tithing, and possessing unlimited

credit, he has added 'house to house and field to field,' while

every one knew that he had no personal enterprises sufficient to

enable him to meet anything like the current expenses of his

numerous wives and children. As trustee in trust he renders no

account of the funds that come into his hands, but tells the

faithful that they are at perfect liberty to examine the books

at any moment."--"Rocky Mountain Saints," p. 665.

The mere acquisition of his wealth no more entitled Young to be

held up as a marvellous man of business than did Tweed's

accumulations give him this distinction in New York. Beadle

declares that "Brigham never made a success of any business he

undertook except managing the Mormons," and cites among his

business failures the non-success of every distant colony he

planted, the Cottonwood Canal (whose mouth was ten feet higher

than its source), his beet-sugar manufactory, and his Colorado

Transportation Company (to bring goods for southern Utah up the

Colorado River).*

* "Polygamy," p. 484.

The reports of Young's discourses in the Temple show that he was

as determined in carrying out his own financial schemes as he

was in enforcing orders pertaining to the church. Here is an

almost humorous illustration of this. In urging the people one

day to be more regular in paying their tithing, he said they

need not fear that he would make a bad use of their money, as he

had plenty of his own, adding:--"I believe I will tell you how I

get some of it. A great many of these elders in Israel, soon

after courting these young ladies, and old ladies, and

middle-aged ladies, and having them sealed to them, want to have

a bill of divorce. I have told them from the beginning that

sealing men and women for time and all eternity is one of the

ordinances of the House of God, and that I never wanted a

farthing for sealing them, nor for officiating in any of the

ordinances of God's house. But when you ask for a bill of

divorce, I intend that you shall pay for it. That keeps me in

spending money, besides enabling me to give hundreds of dollars

to the poor, and buy butter, eggs, and little notions for women

and children, and otherwise use it where it does good. You may

think this a singular feature of the Gospel, but I cannot

exactly say that this is in the Gospel."*

* Deseret News, March 20, 1861. For such an openly jolly old

hypocrite one can scarcely resist the feeling that he would like

to pass around the hat.

We have seen how Young gave himself control of a valuable canon.

That was only the beginning of such acquisitions. The

territorial legislature of Utah was continually making special

grants to him. Among them may be mentioned the control of City

Creek Canon (said to have been worth $10,000 a year) on payment

of $500; of the waters of Mill Creek; exclusive right to Kansas

Prairie as a herd-ground; the whole of Cache Valley for a

herd-ground; Rush Valley for a herd-ground; rights to establish

ferries; an appropriation of $2500 for an academy in Salt Lake

City (which was not built), etc.*

* Here is the text of one of these acts: "Be it ordained by the

General Assembly of the State of Deseret that Brigham Young has

the sole control of City Creek and Canon; and that he pay into

the public treasury the sum of $500 therefore. Dec. 9, 1850."

Young's holdings of real estate were large, not only in Salt Lake

City, but in almost every county in the territory.* Besides city

lots and farm lands, he. owned grist and saw mills, and he took

care that his farms were well cultivated and that his mills made

fine flour.**

* "For several years past the agent of the church, A. M. Musser,

has been engaged in securing legal deeds for all the property

the prophet claims, and by this he will be able to secure in his

lifetime to his different families such property as will render

them independent at his death. The building of the Pacific

Railroad is said to have yielded him about a quarter of a

million."--"Rocky Mountain Saints," p. 666.

** "His position secured him also many valuable presents. From a

barrel of brandy down to an umbrella, Brigham receives

courteously and remembers the donors with increased kindness. I

saw one man make him a present of ten fine milch cows."--Hyde,

"Mormonism," p. 165.

As trustee in trust for the church Young had control of all the

church property and income, practically without responsibility

or oversight. Mrs. Waite (writing in 1866) said that attempts

for many years by the General Conference to procure a balance

sheet of receipts and expenditures had failed, and that the

accounts in the tithing office, such as they were, were kept by

clerks who were the leading actors in the Salt Lake Theatre,

owned by Young.* It was openly charged that, in 1852, Young

"balanced his account" with the church by having the clerk

credit him with the amount due by him, "for services rendered,"

and that, in 1867, he balanced his account again by crediting

himself with $967,000. A committee appointed to investigate the

accounts of Young after his death reported to the Conference of

October, 1878, that "for the sole purpose of preserving it from

the spoliation of the enemy," he "had transferred certain

property from the possession of the church to his own individual

possession," but that it had been transferred back again.

* "The Mormon Prophet," pp. 148-149,

Young's will divided his wives and children into nineteen

"classes," and directed his executors to pay to each such a sum

as might be necessary for their comfortable support; the word

"marriage" in the will to mean "either by ceremony before a

lawful magistrate, or according to the order of the Church of

Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or by their cohabitation in

conformity to our custom."

On June 14, 1879, Emmeline A. Young, on behalf of herself and

the heirs at law, began a suit against the executors of Young's

estate, charging that they had improperly appropriated $200,000;

had improperly allowed nearly $1,000,000 to John Taylor as

trustee in trust to the church, less a credit of $300,000 for

Young's services as trustee; and that they claimed the power, as

members of the Apostles' Quorum, to dispose of all the

testator's property and to disinherit any heir who refused to

submit. This suit was compromised in the following September,

the seven persons joining in it executing a release on payment of

$75,000. A suit which the church had begun against the heirs and

executors was also discontinued. The Salt Lake Herald (Mormon)

of October 5, 1879, said, "The adjustment is far preferable to a

continuance of the suit, which was proving not only expensive,

but had become excessively annoying to many people, was a large

disturbing element in the community, and was rapidly descending

into paths that nobody here cares to see trodden."

Just how many wives Brigham Young had, in the course of his life,

would depend on his own and others' definition of that term. He

told Horace Greeley, in 1859: "I have fifteen; I know no one who

has more. But some of those sealed to me are old ladies, whom I

regard rather as mothers than wives, but whom I have taken home

to cherish and support."* In 1869, he informed the Boston Board

of Trade, when that body visited Salt Lake City, that he had

sixteen wives living, and had lost four, and that forty-nine of

his children were living then. " He was," says Beadle, "sealed

on the spiritual wife system to more women than any one can

count; all over Mormondom are pious old widows, or wives of

Gentiles and apostates, who hope to rise at the last day and

claim a celestial share in Brigham." J. Hyde said that he knew

of about twenty-five wives with whom Brigham lived. The

following list is made up from "Pictures and Biographies of

Brigham Young and his Wives," published by J. H. Crockwell of

Salt Lake City, by authority of Young's eldest son and of seven

of his wives, but is not complete:--

* "Overland journey," p. 215.


Mary Ann Angell * February, 1834. Ohio 6

Louisa Beman ** April, 1841. Nauvoo 4

Mrs. Lucy Decker Seely June, 1842. Nauvoo 7

H. E. C. Campbell November, 1843.Nauvoo 1

Augusta Adams November, 1843. Nauvoo 0

Clara Decker May, 1844. Nauvoo 5

Clara C. Ross September, 1844. Nauvoo 4

Emily Dow Partridge** September, 1844. Nauvoo 7

Susan Snively November, 1844. Nauvoo 0

Olive Grey Frost** February, 1845. Nauvoo 0

Emmeline Free April, 1845. Nauvoo 0

Margaret Pierce April, 1845. Nauvoo 1

N. K. T. Carter January, 1846. Nauvoo 0

Ellen Rockwood January, 1846. Nauvoo 0

Maria Lawrence** January, 1846. Nauvoo 0

Martha Bowker January, 1846. Nauvoo 0

Margaret M. Alley January, 1846. Nauvoo 2

Lucy Bigelow March, 1847. (?) 3

Z. D. Huntington ** March, 1847 (?). Nauvoo 1

Eliza K. Snow** June, 1849. S. L. C. 0

Eliza Burgess October, 1850. S. L. C. 1

Harriet Barney October, 1850. S. L. C. 1

Harriet A. Folsom January, 1863. S. L. C. 0

Mary Van Cott January, 1865. S. L. C. 1

Ann Eliza Webb April, 1868. S. L. C. 0

* His first wife died 1832.

** Joseph Smith's widows.

Young's principal houses in Salt Lake City stood at the

southeastern corner of the block adjoining the Temple block, and

designated on the map as block 8. The largest building,

occupying the corner, was called the Beehive House; connected

with this was a smaller building in which were Young's private

offices, the tithing office, etc; and next to this was a

building partly of stone, called the Lion House, taking its name

from the figure of a lion sculptured on its front, representing

Young's title "The Lion of the Lord." When J. Hyde wrote,

seventeen or eighteen of Young's wives dwelt in the Lion House,

and the Beehive House became his official residence.* Individual

wives were provided for elsewhere. His legal wife lived in what

was called the White House, a few hundred yards from his

official home. His well-beloved Amelia lived in another house

half a block distant; another favorite, just across the street;

Emmeline, on the same block; and not far away the latest

acquisition to his harem.

* The Beehive House is still the official residence of the head

of the church, and in it President Snow was living at the time

of his death. The office building is still devoted to office

uses, and the Lion House now furnishes temporary quarters to the

Latter-Day Saints' College.

Young's life in his later years was a very orderly one, although

he was not methodical in arranging his office hours and

attending to his many duties. Rising before eight A.m., he was

usually in his office at nine, transacting business with his

secretary, and was ready to receive callers at ten. So many were

the people who had occasion to see him, and so varied were the

matters that could be brought to his attention, that many hours

would be devoted to these callers if other engagements did not

interfere. Once a year he made a sort of visit of state to all

the principal settlements in the territory, accompanied by

counsellors, apostles, and Bishops, and sometimes by a favorite

wife. Shorter excursions of the same kind were made at other

times. Each settlement was expected to give him a formal

greeting, and this sometimes took the form of a procession with

banners, such as might have been prepared for a conquering hero.

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