A Book of Mormons
by Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker
1801. June 1: Born in Whitingham, Vermont, Brigham Young was cousin to Apostles Franklin D. Richards and Willard Richards. He was son-in-law of Albert Rockwood (First Council of Seventy), and brother-in-law to Lorenzo Snow, Amasa Lyman, Heber C. Kimball, and Church architect Truman Angell. He was Heber C. Kimball’s uncle by marriage.
Soon after Brigham’s birth, his family moved to Sherburne, New York. “When I was young,” Brigham recalled, “I was kept within very strict bounds and was not allowed to walk more than half-an-hour on Sunday for exercise. … I had not a chance to dance when I was young, and never heard the enchanting tones of the violin until I was eleven years of age; and then I thought I was on the highway to hell, if I suffered myself to linger and listen to it.”
At age sixteen, Brigham learned carpentry, joining, painting, and glazing. The family was poor. His sisters made him “Jo Johnson” caps to ease the New York winter. He had to work year round, ill clad, with “insufficient food until my stomach would ache.”
Throughout his life Brigham Young was conscious of the fact that he had little formal education—only eleven days. “When I meet ladies and gentlemen of high rank, they must not expect from me the same formal ceremony and etiquette that are observed among the great in the courts of kings. In my youthful days, instead of going to school, I had to chop logs, to sow and plant, to plow in the midst of roots barefooted, and if I had on a pair of pants that would cover me I did pretty well.”
Despite his lack of formal education, he was the leading spirit in endowing three institutions of higher learning in Utah—Brigham Young College (Logan, Utah), the University of Deseret (now University of Utah in Salt Lake City), and Brigham Young Academy (now Brigham Young University in Provo). His educational philosophy was summed up in a prize-winning definition submitted posthumously for him to the San Francisco World’s [p.404]Fair: “Education is the power to think clearly, to act well in the world’s work, and to appreciate life.”
He married Miriam Works in 1824. She died in 1832, and he married Mary Ann Angel in 1834.
Brigham Young described himself as a “great lover of women. In what particular? I love to see them happy, to see them well fed and well clothed, and I love to see them cheerful. I love to see their faces and talk with them, when they talk in righteousness; but as for anything more, I do not care. There are probably but few men in the world who care about the private society of women less than I do.”
He married at least fifty-five plural wives, including Zina D. Huntington, Eliza R. Snow, Amelia Folsom, Ann Eliza Webb, and seven widows of Joseph Smith. Several wives left him and six obtained formal divorces.
He fathered thirty-one daughters and twenty-five sons, including sons who married daughters of apostles Jedediah M. Grant, Parley P. Pratt, Erastus Snow, and Lorenzo Snow. Susa Young Gates was perhaps his most prominent daughter.
President Young ordained three of his sons apostles when the youngest was only eleven years old. Appointing them his counselors, he became the only president of the Church to have sons serving with him in the First Presidency. Brigham Jr. was the only son to become a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. John W. was publicly sustained as a member of the First Presidency in 1876, but Joseph A. remained apostle without portfolio.
1830. A Methodist since 1822, Brigham Young read the Book of Mormon left in Mendon, New York, by Joseph Smith’s brother Samuel. Two years later, on April 14, 1832, he was baptized, confirmed, and ordained an elder by Eleazer Miller.
[p.405]1832. Served a mission to Canada with his brother Joseph.
1834. Marched in Zion’s Camp.
[p.405 photo does not have a caption]
1835. February 14: Called to the original Quorum of the Twelve by the Three Witnesses.
[p.406]1838. October: When David Patten was killed, Young became the senior member of the Quorum and led the Saints from Missouri to Illinois while Joseph Smith was in Liberty Jail.
1839. September 14: Brigham Young left Nauvoo on a mission to England “without purse or scrip.” His wife was ill, with no means of support, caring for a day-old baby. In England he founded the Millennial Star and established the European Emigration Bureau, which sent the first company of forty European Saints to Nauvoo.
1841. Called to be president of the Quorum of the Twelve (D&C 124:127), Young returned to Nauvoo in July.
“President of the Whole Church”
1844. July: Young was on a Council of Fifty assignment promoting Joseph Smith’s U.S. presidential candidacy when he learned of the martyrdom. Despite attempts by Sidney Rigdon to assume control of the Church after Joseph’s death, the Church membership sustained the Quorum of the Twelve with Young as its president. As early as December 5, Brigham Young was signing Church documents as “President of the Church.”
1845. April 7: Sustained as “President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to this Church and nation, and all nations, and also as President of the whole Church of Latter-day Saints.”
1847. December 5: Sustained as President of the Church by the Quorum of the Twelve “with authority to nominate his two counselors,” Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards. December 24: The First Presidency was formally sustained by a general conference in Kanesville, Iowa.
1847. President Brigham Young led the pioneer vanguard to the Salt Lake Valley and directed colonizing efforts in more than two hundred settlements. He was appointed [p.407]governor of the Provisional State of Deseret (1849) by the provisional legislature, organized the “Perpetual Emigration Fund” (1849), established the Deseret News, with Willard Richards as editor (1850), and was appointed governor of Utah Territory by President Millard Fillmore (1850).
A charter member of the Council of Fifty, Brigham Young noted in a meeting of the Salt Lake School of the Prophets that “some of the brethren think that the Priesthood should not govern us in political affairs but the Priesthood is supreme; even in financial affairs. … Some would say as with the Democrats [in the] east, each party wanting their man but we must quit that: I hope we may never hear of an opposition in this city or country again. … We will learn that the Priesthood must dictate.”
1857. Reports that the Mormon “theodemocracy” was getting out of hand provoked President James Buchanan to send federal troops to install a new governor and other officials. Governor Young, who had not been contacted by the president, declared martial law and forbade the army to enter the Salt Lake Valley. In the spring of 1858, as the Utah Expeditionary Force approached, Young evacuated northern Utah. Thomas L. Kane worked out a settlement whereby the army passed through the deserted Salt Lake City to Cedar Valley, thirty miles southwest, and the new territorial officials were accepted without further incident.
1861. October 18: At the outbreak of the Civil War Brigham Young wired the first telegraph message east on the new Overland Telegraph line: “Utah has not seceded, but is firm for the Constitution and laws of our once happy country.”
“Lion of the Lord”
The “Lion of the Lord”—so named by toastmaster W. W. Phelps in 1845—was imposing in every dimension. He stood 5’10” tall, weighed 188-200 pounds, and boasted a 44-inch chest.
He also wore false teeth. “One morning he was cleaning his artificial dentures at the family wash bench [p.408]just outside a back door [of the Erastus Snow home in Saint George, Utah] when little Flora caught sight of him at this very private chore. Quickly he plopped his teeth into his mouth when he beheld her staring at him in open-mouthed, wide-eyed fascination. She bounced up and down with excitement, shrilly crying ‘Oh, Brother Brigham, show me your teeth; show me your teeth, Brother Brigham!’ The Lion of the Lord, touched by childhood’s whims, kindly obliged.”
He was not always the confident preacher moderns tend to envision. Even in his later years, he approached the public forum with uneasiness. “Although I have been a public speaker for thirty-seven years,” he once said, “it is seldom that I rise before a congregation without feeling a child-like timidity; if I live to the age of Methusaleh I do not know that I shall outgrow it.”
Visitors to Salt Lake City often commented on his language: “He says ‘leetie’, ‘beyene’ and ‘disremember.’ An irrepressible conflict between his nominatives and verbs now and then crops out in expressions like ‘they ‘” was.
“When he speaks,” reported one contemporary, “the words seem to be calmly weighed by the brain, clipped by the teeth, and finally squeezed through the left half of the almost locked up lips.”
His sermons were usually practical—filled with hints on stock raising, fence building, tales of sufferings of Saints, advice to the lovelorn. He admonished the breathing of fresh mountain air, the use of homemade cloth, the eating of thick-crusted bread.
Man of Contradictions
Brigham Young was not averse to contradicting himself. He condemned novel reading as profitless, but allowed the practice in his own home. He consistently denounced the purchase of manufactured “states goods” as a breach of self-sufficiency, but admitted buying more of them than any man in the territory. He demanded strict obedience from members of the Church, yet counseled:
“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for [p.409]themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.”
A journalist described Brigham Young as “a self-reliant and strong-willed man … one born to be master of himself and many others.” But his children remember him as an “easy touch.” He himself declared, “I do not rule my family with an iron hand, as many do, but in kindness and with pleasant words; and if soft words would teach them, they would know as much as any family on this earth.”
Brigham Young worked as a carpenter on the Kirtland and Nauvoo temples. He laid tile cornerstone for the Salt Lake Temple (1853) and dedicated sites for the Logan and Manti temples (1877). At the Manti dedication he told Warren Snow: “Here is the spot where the Prophet Moroni stood and dedicated this piece of land for a temple site, and that is the reason why the location is made here, and we can’t move it from this spot.”
Heber J. Grant recalled Brigham Young’s saying, “Daniel Wells is my statesman, Heber Kimball is my prophet, and I am a business man looking after the best interests of the people.”
“Before I had been one year in this place [Salt Lake City],” Brigham Young said, “the wealthiest man who came from the mines, Father Rhodes, with seventeen thousand dollars could not buy the possessions I had [p.410]made in one year.” During the years 1862-1872 President Young’s annual personal income averaged $32,000.
His wealth came from a “dairy in Hampton, Utah, which produced over 150 tons of cheese per year, a 10,000-acre ranch between Mendon and Logan on which grazed 600 head of cattle and hundreds of sheep, a carding factory and grist mill on City Creek, a large wagon and repair shop in Salt Lake City, a cotton and woolen factory at the mouth of Parley’s Canyon, a leather tannery in St. George, a saddle-manufacturing shop, and a shoe factory which employed a dozen men.”
His farming and ranching operations were blue-ribbon quality. He won many prizes at the annual Deseret fairs—”second best apples,” “second best pecks of silver and red onions,” “best drumhead cabbage,” “best bunches of grapes,” “best pigs,” “best brood mare,” “best yearling colt,” “best Devon Bull.”
At his death, he was the wealthiest man in Utah, with an estate of approximately $2.5 million, which was embroiled in legal battles between his family and the Church for years afterwards.
1877. August 29: Died of complications related to appendicitis.
Brigham Young was typically practical in arranging his own burial details, requesting a coffin “made of plump 1-1/4 inch (redwood) boards, not scrimped in length … my body dressed in my temple clothing … the coffin to have the appearance that if I wanted to turn a little to the right or the left, I should have plenty of room to do so.” Buried in the family burial plot one block east of the Lion House in Salt Lake City.
During World War II a United States Navy liberty ship was named in his honor, and in 1950 a twelve-foot marble statue of Brigham Young, created by his grandson Mahonri M. Young, was placed in the Capitol Building in Washington, D. C.
Arrington, Leonard J. “Taxable Income in Utah.” Utah Historical Quarterly 14 (January 1956):27.
Bancroft, Hubert Howe. History of Utah. San Francisco: The History Co., 1889.
Burton, Richard. City of the Saints. Edited by Fawn M. Brodie. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1963.
Carter, Kate B. Unique Story: President Brigham Young. Salt Lake City: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, n.d.
Codman, John. The Mormon Country: A Summer with the “Latter-day Saints.” New York: United States Publishing Company, 1874.
Conference Reports, October 1941.
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[p.440]England, Eugene. Brother Brigham. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1980.
History of the Church, 5:2-3.
Jenson, Andrew, Church Chronology. Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1899.
Jenson, Andrew. LDS Biographical Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Company, 1901-1936.
Jessee, Dean C. “Brigham Young’s Family: The Wilderness Years.” Brigham Young University Studies. 19 (Summer 1979):474-500.
Journal of Discourses, 3:357, 5:99, 9:150, 13:61.
Larson, Andrew Karl. Erastus Snow: The Life of a Missionary and Pioneer for the Early Mormon Church. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1971.
Millennial Star, 3 August 1888, 15 January 1851.
New York Herald, 30 July 1858, 12 August 1868.
New York Semi-Weekly Tribune, 1 April 1870.
Quinn, D. Michael. “The Mormon Succession Crisis of 1844.” Brigham Young University Studies 16 (Winter 1976):187-233.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Miscellaneous Meeting Minutes, 7 April 1844.
_____. Brigham Young Papers.
Salt Lake City, Utah. Utah State Historical Society. Provo School of the Prophets Minutes, 20 July 1868.
Walker, Ronald W., and Esplin, Ronald K. “Brigham Young: An Autobiographical Recollection.” Journal of Mormon History 4 (1977):19-34.
Wilkinson, Ernest L. Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years. 4 vols. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975.
1836. December 18: Born in Kirtland, Ohio, to Brigham Young and MaryAnn Angell. His twin sister, Mary, died at the age of seven.
He married Catherine Curtis Spencer in 1855, and later Jane Carrington (1857), Elizabeth Fenton (1868), Rhoda Elizabeth Perkins (1886), Abbie Stevens (1888), and Helen Armstrong (1890). He was the father of thirty-one children.
1855. Two army officers lodged a complaint with Salt Lake City Mayor Jedediah Grant that “young Brigy” and three others rode “violently by them & bowing, while they were riding the streets with some Ladies.”
A year earlier, Young was injured in a Christmas Day street fight between a group of Salt Lake City citizens and drunken soldiers from Ft. Douglas.
1855. November 22: Secretly ordained an apostle by his father. Wilford Woodruff related, “President Young said, ‘I am going to tell you something that I have never before mentioned to any other person. I have ordained my sons, Joseph A., Brigham & John W., Apostles and My Coun- sellors. Have you any objections?’ J. Taylor and G. A. Smith said they had not, that it was his own affair & they considered it under his own direction. He further stated, ‘In ordaining my sons I have done no more than I am perfectly willing that you should do with yours. And I am determined to put my sons into active service in the Spiritual Affairs of the Kingdom and keep them there just as long as possible. You have the same privilege.'”
1862. Called on a mission to England. President Young wrote his son before his return, “In all probability you will be [p.413]able to entirely omit the use of tobacco on your mission, if you have not already done so. … Permit us to welcome you home with your mouth and breath free from the use and smell of tobacco. It is now going on two years and a half since I have used a particle of tobacco, and I guess a little resolution and faith on your part will also enable you to dispense with its use.”
Brigham Young, Jr., returned to Liverpool to preside over the European Mission in 1865, 1867, and 1890.
Brigham Young Agent
1868. Appointed with his brother John W. to serve as their father’s agent for Union Pacific Railroad grading contracts.
1869. Called to preside over the Saints in Cache County, Utah.
1878. Served with George Q. Cannon and Albert Carrington as an executor of the Brigham Young estate.
A small group of heirs brought suit against the Church and executors. When a $50,000 contempt of court bond was required for each executor in addition to the $300,000 already posted, President Cannon declared the extra bonding excessive and decided it was better to go to jail than further obligate themselves and their friends financially. The three spent three weeks in the penitentiary before the Utah Supreme Court set aside the decision of the lower court.
1885. Young was instrumental in securing Mexican permission to establish Mormon colonies south of the border in 1885 as havens for those harried by anti-polygamy regulations in the United States.
President of the Quorum of the Twelve
Young Brigham, though appointed special counselor to his father in 1864, was not admitted to the Quorum of the Twelve until 1868, after the death of George A. Smith. In 1873 Brigham was called as one of five assistant counselors to his father. At the time of his father’s death in 1877, there [p.414]was much speculation, both within and without the Church, that Brigham Jr. would succeed his father as president.
1890. Sustained as president of the Quorum of the Twelve.
1898. Though the Spanish-American War was popular with the American public and Church officials, Young opposed it. He counseled against enlistment and even preached publicly against the call for volunteers. The First Presidency asked him to stop his personal efforts against the war. When he did, the First Presidency issued a statement supporting the war effort.
1900. Seniority in the Twelve was changed to reflect date of entry into the Quorum rather than date of ordination. Thus Joseph F. Smith became senior apostle and hence Church president in 1901 instead of Young.
1903. April 11: Died of bronchitis of the liver in Salt Lake City at the age of sixty-nine. He was buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery.
Brooks, Juanita, ed. On the Mormon Frontier: The Diary of Hosea Stout. 2 vols Salt Lake City: University of Utah/Utah State Historical Society, 1964.
Jenson, Andrew. Latter-day Saint Biographical Encyclopedia. 4 vols. Salt Lake City: Andrew Jenson Historical Company, 1901-1936.
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Philadelphia Morning Post, 28 October 1869.
Quinn, D. Michael. “The Mormon Church and the Spanish-American War: An End to Selective Pacifism.” Pacific Historical Review 43 (August 1974): 342-366.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Wilford Woodruff Journal, 17 April 1864.
_____. Brigham Young, Jr., Journals.
Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, 2:94-96.
1821. January 21: Born Zina Diantha Huntington in Watertown, New York. She married Henry B. Jacobs in March, 1841, and was sealed to Joseph Smith seven months later, seven months pregnant with Jacobs’s child.
T. B. H. Stenhouse reported that some time after Joseph Smith’s death, “within the hearing of many Saints … [Brigham Young] ordered those walking in other men’s shoes to step out of them. ‘Brother Jacobs,’ Young declared, ‘the woman you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is the spiritual wife of brother Joseph sealed up to him. I am his proxy, and she is, in this behalf, with her children, my property. You can go where you please, and get another, but be sure to get one of your own kindred spirit.'”
In 1846 Jacobs “stood approving as [Zina’s] earlier sealing to Joseph Smith was confirmed by proxy in the Nauvoo Temple,” and “witnessed her sealing ‘for time’ to Brigham Young.”
Zina and Brigham had only one child, but she also reared four of his children by Clara Ross after the death of their mother.
1835. After baptism by Hyrum Smith, Zina’s entire family moved to Kirtland, Ohio, where she exercised the “gift of tongues and interpretation thereof.” Eliza R. Snow and Zina often worked as a revelatory team, one speaking in tongues while the other interpreted.
Pioneer Midwife and Teacher
Zina D. H. Young took a medical course in the early 1850s and became a midwife and nurse. She also taught school. She frequently administered “washings and anointings” to women prior to childbirth.
As president of the Church Silk Association, she traveled the territory promoting the cultivation of mulberry trees and silkworms. She was the manager of Brigham Young’s cocoonery.
[p.417]Plural Marriage Advocate
1876. At a women’s mass meeting in Salt Lake City she proclaimed, “The principle of plural marriage is honorable. It is a principle of the Gods, it is heaven born. God revealed it to us as a saving principle; we have accepted it as such, and we know it is of him for the fruits of it are holy. Even the Savior, himself, traces his lineage back to polygamic parents. We are proud of the principle, because we know its true worth, and we want our children to practice it, that through us a race of men and women may grow up possessing sound minds in sound bodies, who shall live to the age of a tree.”
She advised, “I think that much of the unhappiness found in polygamous families is due to the women themselves. They expect too much attention from the husband, and because they do not get it, or see a little attention bestowed upon one of the other wives, they become sullen and morose, and permit their ill-temper to finally find vent.”
A successful polygamous wife “must regard her husband with indifference, and with no other feeling than that of reverence, for love we regard as a false sentiment; a feeling which should have no existence in polygamy. The marriages which we read of in the Old Testament were not love matches, as of instance, the marriage of Isaac to Rebekah, of Jacob to Leah; and we believe in the good old custom by which marriages should be arranged by the parents of the young people.”
Third President of the Relief Society
1888. A charter member of the Nauvoo Relief Society, Zina D. H. Young was selected second counselor to President Eliza R. Snow in 1879. In 1888 Wilford Woodruff called her to be the third president of the Relief Society.
1901. August 28: Died of old age—sexton’s records list “senility”—at her home at 146 Fourth Street in Salt Lake [p.418]City at the age of eighty. Buried in the Salt Lake City Cemetery family plot of her first husband, Henry B. Jacobs, who had died of Bright’s disease in 1886. Her epitaph is the motto of the Relief Society: “Charity never faileth.”
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New York World, 17 November 1869.
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Woman’s Exponent, 7 (1878): 98.