A Book of Mormons
by Richard S. Van Wagoner and Steven C. Walker
Almon W. Babbitt (1813-1856)
Church Legal Defender
1813. October 1: Born Almon Whiting Babbitt in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. Married Julia Ann Hills Johnson in 1833. They were parents of four children.
1831. Immediately after his baptism at age eighteen, Babbitt was called to serve a mission to New York. He later served another mission to New York, as well as missions to Canada and to Indiana-Pennsylvania.
In and Out of the Church
Although Babbitt’s Church commitment was evidenced by his service in Zion’s Camp (1834), the First Quorum of the Seventy (1835), and as Kirtland’s stake president (1841), he frequently clashed with other Church leaders.
When brought before the Kirtland High Council in 1835 for failing to keep the Word of Wisdom, Babbitt claimed that he “had taken the liberty to break the word of wisdom, from the example of President Joseph Smith, Jr., and others,” whereupon the Prophet charged him with “traducing my character.” Babbitt was disfellowshipped and later received back into fellowship after “confessing his error.”
1839. Apparently pleased with his work on a committee to “gather up and obtain all the libelous reports and publications which have been circulated against the church,” Joseph Smith appointed him Kirtland Stake president, with instructions to “do what you can in righteousness to build up Kirtland, but do not suffer yourselves to harbor the idea that Kirtland will rise on the ruins of Nauvoo.”
1840. In Nauvoo, Joseph Smith charged that Babbitt had claimed members of the First Presidency were financially extravagant. These charges were eventually dropped, but in 1841 he was disfellowshipped for teaching new mem-[p.7]bers of the Church to locate in Kirtland rather than Nauvoo—a “doctrine contrary to the revelation of God, and detrimental to the interests of the Church.”
Two years later he was restored to fellowship and appointed presiding elder in Ramus, Illinois.
1849. Disfellowshipped in Kanesville (Council Bluffs, Iowa) for opposing Orson Hyde’s use of the Frontier Guardian to support the Iowa Whig Party, he was received back into fellowship six months later.
In 1851 he was again disfellowshipped for “profanity and intemperance in the streets of Kanesville; for corrupting the morals of the people … by giving them liquor to beguile them from the path of duty and honor.”
Finally excommunicated in May, 1854.
Church Legal Defender
1844. During the troubled days prior to Joseph Smith’s death, Babbitt served as legal counsel to the Prophet, recommending the actions which resulted in the destruction of the anti-Mormon Nauvoo Expositor.
After the Prophet’s death, Babbitt served on a committee with Brigham Young, Willard Richards, Orson Pratt, W.W. Phelps, and John M. Bernhisel that unsuccessfully petitioned President James K. Polk to “convene a special session of Congress and furnish us an asylum where we can enjoy our rights of conscience and religion unmolested.”
When the main body of Saints left Nauvoo, he remained behind to serve with Joseph Heywood and John S. Fullmer as trustee-in-trust for Church property.
1844. A member of the Council of Fifty, Babbitt was elected to the Illinois Legislature, where he argued gallantly but unsuccessfully against repeal of the Nauvoo Charter in 1845.
1849. Elected by the “General Assembly of the State of Deseret” [p.8]to petition Congress for statehood. Brigham Young wrote Orson Hyde in Council Bluffs, informing him of Babbitt’s selection and alluding to their differences over the Frontier Guardian: “Babbitt … is somewhat acquainted with the rules of legislation and has formed a considerable acquaintance with many of the members of Congress, especially on the other side of politics. … Brother Babbitt came here rather soured in his feelings in relation to certain differences of opinion and policy in your region. … Let the past be buried.”
Hyde responded, “Brother Babbitt, I believe, is a good hand to manage a dirty law suit; but I think, for a representative, you can send a man to Washington who will do you and himself more honor than Mr. Babbitt.”
Congress refused to seat Babbitt, and created the Territory of Utah instead of the State of Deseret. Thomas L. Kane advised “against returning Mr. Babbitt as your delegate.” And John M. Bernhisel, Babbitt’s colleague, observed, “The Senators in Congress could not comprehend how we could select such an immoral man as Babbitt for our delegate.”
Babbitt took such criticism philosophically: “When I came here I was chosen their humble servant to go back, and ask for admission into the Union. I went, and did so. I laboured faithfully. I went back with all the prejudices of this people against me. I stood between the wind and the water and combatted the opposition.”
1852. Established the Western Bugle at Council Bluffs. Orson Hyde editorialized in the Frontier Guardian: “We welcome Friend Babbitt to the editorial corps, and wish him every success in every undertaking except his political exertion.”
In 1853 President Franklin Pierce appointed Babbitt Secretary of Utah Territory.
Ambushed by Indians
1856. Murdered by Cheyenne Indians on the Wyoming plains in late August at the age of forty-four. He had sent a government supply train from Florence, Nebraska, to Utah, but an Indian attack near Fort Kearney left only one survivor. Babbitt regrouped the train, against the advice of [p.9]Porter Rockwell: “Porter, perhaps the next thing you will hear of me will be in my grave, but I must go.”
The statement proved prophetic. Ambushed again, apparently by the same band of Cheyenne, Colonel Babbitt and his entire train were wiped out. It was later reported that “after the colonel had fired his double-barrelled gun and his two revolvers, one of the Indians crept behind the wagon and tomahawked the colonel. … Babbitt fought like a grizzly bear.” Nothing was found of his remains “but a few bones.”
“Mormon Marauders” Accused of His Death
1856. In his resignation letter as Associate Justice of Utah Territory, William W. Drummond claimed that Babbitt had been killed by a band of “Mormon marauders sent from Salt Lake City for that purpose … under direct order of the presidency of the Church of the Latter-day Saints.”
Babbitt’s widow, Julia Ann, wrote in the New York Herald, August 1, 1857: “I have not a shadow of suspicion that white men were any way concerned in his death—the newspaper story that he was killed by the ‘Mormons’ to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Nevertheless, Babbitt’s estrangement from Brigham Young had become so severe that President Young told a combined meeting of the Quorum of the Twelve and Salt Lake High Council on October 4, 1856: “Speaking of Babbit’s [sic] death—thank God for that. I will acknowledge the hand of the Lord in that at all events.”
[p.419]Barrett, Gwynn W. “John M. Bernhisel—Mormon Elder in Congress.” Ph.D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1968.
Crescent City Oracle, 22 May 1857.
Frontier Guardian, 21 February 1849, 29 April 1852.
History of the Church, 2:252; 3:346; 4:164-166, 187, 424, 276.
Millennial Star, 19:443; 17:307.
Nauvoo Neighbor, 20 January 1845.
Ridd, Jay D. “Almon Whiting Babbitt.” Master’s thesis, University of Utah, 1953.
Roberts, B. H. Comprehensive History, 2:524.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Brigham Young Papers. John M. Bernhisel to Brigham Young, 19 July 1851.
_____. Thomas L. Kane to Brigham Young, 24 September 1850.
_____. Brigham Young to Orson Hyde, 19 July 1849.
1804. August 3: Born John Cook Bennett in Fairhaven, Massachusetts. He married Mary A. Barker, who bore him four children. He divorced her in 1842 on grounds of desertion, and five years later married Sarah Rider.
5’5″ tall, 142 pounds, dark complexion, dark eyes, with a Roman nose. By the age of thirty-eight he had lost his upper front teeth.
1825. Bennett studied medicine with his uncle, the president of the Ohio Medical Convention, and was licensed to practice medicine by the Ohio Twelfth District Medical Society. He served as president of a medical college at Willoughby, Ohio, and was instrumental in founding the Illinois State Medical Society. He also taught at Cincinnati’s University of the Literary and Botanico-Medical College, as “Professor of Mid-wifery, and the Diseases Peculiar to Women and Children.”
In Nauvoo he became interested in the medicinal effects of the tomato, proposing that “much of the bilious affections to which our citizens are subjected during the hot season, can be prevented by the free use of the Tomato.” He also helped initiate the drainage of nearby swamps—a major health hazard to Nauvoo.
1826. After serving as a Methodist preacher for three years, he became a follower of Alexander Campbell. Like Sidney Rigdon, Bennett gained prominence as a Campbellite preacher.
Though his attempt to found Methodist University in Ohio was unsuccessful, he secured a charter for Wheeling (Ohio) University in 1829. Later he helped found Indiana University at New Albany, and was its first president. In 1841 he was appointed chancellor of the University of Nauvoo. Classes in the sciences, literature, philosophy, history, music, foreign languages, and religion were taught in private homes, the Masonic Hall, and the uncompleted temple.
He first met Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon when he was living at Willoughby, Ohio. When he heard of Church difficulties in Missouri, he wrote encouraging letters to Joseph Smith and was later baptized by him in Nauvoo.
On April 8, 1841, John C. Bennett replaced the ailing Sidney Rigdon as “Assistant President” of the Church. For a time he was the Prophet’s constant companion, confidant, and advisor, and was praised in Doctrine and Covenants 124: “I have seen the work which he hath done, which I accept if he continues, and will crown him with blessings and great glory.”
1839. Known in military circles as “42-pounder” for his aggressive tactics, Bennett was appointed brigadier general in the Invincible Light Dragoons of Illinois. In addition to serving as quartermaster general of Illinois, he was commissioned major general in the Nauvoo Legion by Illinois Secretary of State Stephen A. Douglas. During the Civil War he organized the Tenth Iowa Infantry and later served as field and staff surgeon of the Third U.S. Infantry.
Nauvoo Civic Leader
1841. Unanimously elected the first mayor of Nauvoo, he also served as secretary of the Nauvoo Masonic Lodge. He [p.13]engineered the Illinois Legislature’s approval of the Nauvoo Charter, Nauvoo Legion, and the University of Nauvoo.
1842. After eighteen months of membership in the Church, he was accused of teaching an adulterous system of”spiritual wifery” and was asked to “withdraw his name from the Church record.” At the time of his excommunication he was expelled from the Masonic Lodge, cashiered from the Nauvoo Legion, and forced to resign as mayor of Nauvoo—although the city council approved a vote of thanks “for his great zeal in having good and wholesome laws adopted for the government of this city; and for the faithful discharge of his duty while Mayor.”
Author of An Expose’ of Joe Smith
1842. Declaring that he had only become a Mormon in order to “get behind the curtain, and behold, at my leisure, the secret wires of the fabric and likewise those who moved them,” he wrote The History of the Saints: Or An Exposé of Joe Smith and the Mormons. “I felt myself an humble instrument in the hands of God to expose the Imposter and his myrmidons, and to open the eyes of my countrymen to his dark and damnable designs. I have done my duty.”
Supporter of Mormon Splinter Groups
1844. After Joseph Smith’s death, he returned to Nauvoo with a letter purportedly given to him by the Prophet which stated that Sidney Rigdon was to be president of the Church in the event of Joseph Smith’s death. In 1844-1845 he joined the disciples of William Law and Sidney Rigdon. Baptized into James Strang’s Mormon group in 1846, he was excommunicated a year later for sexual licentiousness and disagreements over management of the sect’s affairs. Despite his excommunication, however, Bennett [p.14]continued to advise Strang, particularly on matters of pomp and ceremony, such as Strang’s public coronation in 1850.
Wished to Command the Utah Expeditionary Forces
1858. Aware of President Buchanan’s plans to send an army to Utah, Bennett sent a letter to his friend Stephen A. Douglas volunteering his service: “That the conflict with Utah will be most sanguinary, there is little doubt. I desire to be in the most bloody and terrible battle. You know my military capacity well. When I commanded the Legion it was the best disciplined body of troops in the Union, so admitted on all hands. I can now select and take against them as formidable a Regiment as America can produce, if President Buchanan will only give me the authority to do so.”
1866. Bennett was well known in the Polk City, Iowa, area as a poultry expert. He wrote A Treatise On Breeding & General Management Of Domestic Fowls, and is credited with having created the Plymouth Rock strain of chicken.
1867. Died August 5, at the age of sixty-three. He was buried with Masonic honors in Polk City Cemetery.
[p.419]Bennett, John C. The History of the Saints: Or an Expose’ of Joe Smith and Mormonism. Boston: Leland & Whiting, 1842.
Hill, Donna. Joseph Smith: The First Mormon. Garden City, New York: Doubleday & Co., 1977.
History of the Church 4:341.
[p.420]Hogan, Mervin B. “The Confrontation of G. M. Abraham Jonas and John Cook Bennett at Nauvoo.” Mimeographed. Salt Lake City. LDS Church History Library.
McKiernan, F. Mark. The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness: Sidney Rigdon, Religious Reformer. Lawrence, Kansas: Coronado Press, 1971.
New Haven, Connecticut. Yale University. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library. John C. Bennett Letters in James D. Strang Papers.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Illinois A. F. and M. for 1952.
The History of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.3 vols. Independence, Missouri: Herald House, 1967.
Times and Seasons, 2:404.
Tyler, Dr. James J. John Cook Bennett: Colorful Freemason of the Early Nineteenth Century, Grand Masonic Lodge of Ohio, 1947.
1799. June 23: Born John Martin Bernheisel in Tyrone, Pennsylvania, he later changed his name to John Milton Bernhisel.
When he was forty-four, Bernhisel was sealed to ten deceased female friends and relatives by Joseph Smith, but he did not enter into a temporal marriage until 1845, when he married Julia Ann Haight Van Orden, a forty-year-old widow with six children.
The following year he married plural wives Dolly Ranson, Catherine Paine, Fanny Spafford, Melissa Lott Smith, and Catherine Burgess Barker and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Elizabeth. Bernhisel apparently considered the first three plural wives as a “spiritual charge,” for he never lived with any of them. His marriage to Melissa Lott Smith was for “time only”; she had been sealed to Joseph Smith in 1843. Melissa left Bernhisel, though apparently never divorcing, and married Ira Willes in 1849. Bernhisel’s marriages to Julia Van Orden and Catherine Burgess Baker were dissolved by mutual agreement in the Salt Lake Valley. Thus by 1851 he had reverted to monogamy with his youngest wife, Elizabeth, who bore him eight children.
In addition to the sealings performed by Joseph Smith, and the seven wives married in Nauvoo, Bernhisel was sealed to eighty-three deceased women in the Salt Lake Endowment House in 1868, plus an additional twenty-three wives one year later.
1827. Graduated from the medical department of the University of Pennsylvania, specializing in apoplexy (strokes). He set up a private practice in Philadelphia, and later in New York. In Nauvoo he discontinued the practice of medicine until after retirement from public office in 1863, when he resumed private practice.
[p.17]Patients remembered him as an “urbane, cultured, and refined physician, making his professional visits in a long frock coat and a high silk hat—a rather formidable antiquarian.” At the conclusion of his examination of female patients, he would often advise: “Cultivate, my dear Madam, as far as possible, a cheerful, happy and contented disposition, and all will be well.”
Friend of Joseph Smith
1843. Though he was baptized in 1837 and ordained a bishop in New York City in 1841, it was not until 1843 that the Prophet could convince him to migrate to Nauvoo. On his arrival, Joseph Smith insisted that he board in the Smith home. He became a respected friend and adviser to the family, serving as Joseph’s personal emissary to Governor Ford in 1844 and attending to Emma Smith after the birth of her son, David Hyrum, five months after the Prophet’s death.
1845. Emma Smith offered to let Bernhisel read the manuscript of the Bible revision Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had prepared in 1830-1833. He borrowed the manuscript for three months, copying the manuscript markings into his own Bible, which he later presented to Brigham Young.
Council of Fifty Member
A charter member of the Council of Fifty, Bernhisel helped Joseph Smith prepare his 1844 political treatise, “Views on Government.” Later he was selected by the Council to help dispose of property in Nauvoo after the main body of Saints had left. In 1848 the Council appointed him to “treaty with Congress on behalf of Deseret.”
He became vice-president of ZCMI, which was established in 1868 by the Council of Fifty to combat the anticipated economic threats of the transcontinental railroad and William Godbe’s “New Movement.”
1849. Selected by the Council of Fifty to pursue territorial status for Deseret, Bernhisel left for Washington on May 3, 1849. But by July Brigham Young and his advisers decided to petition for statehood instead. As Colonel Thomas L. Kane put it, the Saints would be “better off without any government from the hands of Congress than with a territorial government.” Almon Babbitt was dispatched with the statehood petition.
Bernhisel believed that Congress was unlikely to grant statehood “on account of the sparcity of population,” and he proved correct: statehood was denied; Utah was given territorial status.
Shortly before his departure for Washington as Utah Territory’s first Congressional delegate, Bernhisel decided to revert to monogamy. Though he accepted plural marriage in principle, he opposed its open promulgation arid practice. He realized that his political colleagues viewed polygamy as repugnant to the laws and mores of the country. In 1852 he admonished Brigham Young, “Not one in a thousand will be convinced that the ‘Doctrine’ is at all consistent with chastity, or even morality, much less that it is a pure and righteous one.”
1881. September 28: Died of “intermittent fever” in Salt Lake City at the age of eighty-two; buried in Salt Lake City Cemetery.
[p.420]Barrett, Gwynn W. “John M. Bernhisel: Mormon Elder in Congress.” Ph.D. dissertation, Brigham Young University, 1968.
Blanche, Rose. “Early Utah Medical Practice.” Utah Historical Quarterly 10 (1942):18-19.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Genealogical Society Library. Endowment House Record Books E and F.
Salt Lake City, Utah. LDS Church Archives. John M. Bernhisel Papers. John M. Bernhisel to Thomas L. Kane, 4 December 1849; to Brigham Young, 8 November 1852, 14 December 1854.
_____. Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 26 November 1849.
1819. Born Samuel Brannan in Saco, Maine. He married Ann Eliza Corwin and they had five children. After his wife divorced him in 1870, he married Carmelita de Llaguno.
Early Mormon Convert
1833. He first heard of Mormonism from Apostles Heber C. Kimball and Orson Hyde. Settling near Kirtland, Ohio, he was baptized and apprenticed as a printer. The collapse of the Kirtland Safety Society and surrounding banks ruined him financially, and he was forced to travel the country seeking newspaper work, finally finding employment in Painsville, Ohio.
1844. Though he had been ordained an elder in 1838 and served a mission to Ohio, his chief contributions to the Church were as a newspaperman.
He was called to help found the Prophet in New York City with Joseph Smith’s brother William. Following Joseph’s death, Brannan, William Smith, and George J. Adams were charged with using the Prophet for personal gain. According to Wilford Woodruff, “Their whole influence has gone throughout the eastern Churches to gratify their own propensities, rob the Churches for themselves, set up as great men, to gain influence unto themselves.”
They were also accused of teaching “a principle that they call the spiritual wife doctrine If any one says anything against practising or preaching it, they think he is an old granny and weak in the faith.” Brannan was disfellowshipped for marrying a plural wife in Massachusetts, but the woman died shortly thereafter. When he asked for forgiveness from the Council of the Twelve, he was quickly reinstated and sent back to New York City to assist New England Mission President Parley P. Pratt in publishing a new Church periodical, the Messenger.
1846. February 4: Encouraged by Brigham Young, Brannan loaded 238 Saints, mostly farmers and mechanics, and the Messenger press on board the Brooklyn. Sailing from New York around Cape Horn, the Brooklyn weathered two severe storms. Ten passengers died but two babies were born-one named “Atlantic,” the other “Pacific.”
Arriving in Yerba Buena (San Francisco) on July 29, the Saints established a settlement called New Hope. Unaware of the decision of Brigham Young and the Twelve to settle in the Great Basin, the California settlers anticipated the arrival of the pioneer company in their new community.
Brannan published the first newspaper, preached the first English sermon, performed the first white marriage, and was defendant in one of the first jury trials of northern California, having been accused of misappropriating funds from the Brooklyn Saints’ “common stock.”
1847. June 6: Received his first communication from Brigham Young since the Brooklyn Saints left New York: “The camp will not go to the west coast or to your place at present; we have not the means. … Any among you who may choose to come over into the Great Basin or meet the camp, are at liberty to do so; and if they are doing well where they are, and choose to stay, it is quite right.”
Brannan traveled to meet Brigham Young on the Green River and argued unsuccessfully for settlement in California rather than the Great Salt Lake Valley.
Returning to California, he met the mustered-out Mormon Battalion, and advised, “The Saints could not possibly subsist in the Great Salt Lake Valley, as according to the testimony of mountaineers, it froze there every month in the year, and the ground was too dry to sprout seeds without irrigation, and if irrigated with the cold mountain streams, the seeds would be chilled and prevented from growing, or, if they did grow, they would be sickly and fail to mature.”
California’s First Millionaire
1849. His published cries of “Gold! Gold! Gold from the American [p.22]River!” started the California gold rush. Though not directly involved in “golddigging,” he became California’s first millionaire in merchandising, hotels, real estate, lumber, and shipping.
Mindful of Brannan’s financial success, President Brigham Young advised him, “If you want to continue to prosper, do not forget the Lord’s treasury, lest he forget you; for with the liberal, the Lord is liberal. And when you have settled with the treasury, I want you to remember that Brother Brigham has long been destitute of a home, and suffered heavy losses and incurred great expenses in searching out a location and planting the church in this place. He wants you to send him a present of twenty thousand dollars in gold dust, to help him in his labors. This is but a trifle when gold is so plentiful, but it will do me much good at this time.”
When Apostles Amasa M. Lyman and Charles C. Rich visited the California Saints, they asked for the tithes. Brannan, who had invested the money in personal and “common stock” ventures, replied: “I’ll give up the Lord’s money when he [Brigham Young] sends me a receipt signed by the Lord, and no sooner.”
Prominent San Francisco Citizen
1851. Organized “Committee of Vigilance” to combat incendiarism and lawlessness in San Francisco. Presiding over the committee’s first lynching, rope in hand, he encouraged, “Every lover of liberty and good order, lay hold.” He was the leading spirit in the Odd Fellows, the Society of California Pioneers, the Marion Rifle Corps, the Eureka Light Brigade, and the E. Clampus Vitus—”for the benefit of widows and orphans but primarily of widows.”
1851. September 1: Newly arrived Pacific Mission President Parley P. Pratt excommunicated Brannan for “a general course of unchristianlike conduct, neglect of duty, and for combining with lawless assemblies to commit murder and other crimes—the “Committee of Vigilance” lynching.
[p.23]Founder of Calistoga
1859. Purchased 2000 acres of prime Napa Valley lands on which he built a huge resort, Calistoga, where Merino sheep and blooded Spanish horses grazed, and a distillery turned out an annual 90,000 gallons of brandy made from the grapes of 100,000 vines. “Calistoga” was coined when Brannan, in an inebriated state had declared he would make the resort the “Calistoga of Sarafornia.”
1868. Severely wounded during a violent property dispute at Calistoga, he suffered permanent partial paralysis of his left side. Two years later, Brannan’s enchantment with dancer Lola Montez, Lillie Hitchcock Coit, and others resulted in divorce, which forced Brannan to liquidate his holdings. Increased drinking eventually precipitated total collapse of his financial empire.
He traded his last $1.5 million in Mexican war bonds for 1,687,585 acres in Sonora, but was unable to colonize the arid, Indian-infested region and returned to San Diego—deserted by his Mexican wife, penniless, and wracked with arthritic pain.
1889. May 6: Died at the age of seventy of inflammation of the bowels. His remains were interred in a pauper’s holding vault for sixteen months prior to his family’s securing final burial in San Diego’s Mount Hope Cemetery.
[p.420]Archuleta, Kay. The Brannan Saga. San Jose, California: Smith McKay Printing Co., 1977.
Bailey, Paul. Sam Brannan and the California Mormons. Salt Lake City: Westernlore Press, 1959.
Provo, Utah. Brigham Young University. Harold B. Lee Library. Sam Brannan Letters.
Salt Lake City, Utah· LDS Church Archives. Brigham Young Papers. Wilford Woodruff to Brigham Young, 3 December 1844.
_____. Brigham Young to Sam Brannan, 6 June 1847, 5 April 1849.
Stellman, Louis J. Sam Brannan, Builder of San Francisco: A Biography. New York: Exposition Press, 1954.
Tyler, Daniel. A Concise History of the Mormon Battalion in the Mexican War. Salt Lake City, 1881.
1852. December 9: Born George Henry Brimhall in Salt Lake City. In 1874 he married Alsina Elizabeth Wilkins; they had six children. After her death in 1884 he married Flora Robertson; they became the parents of nine children.
1870. Every Sunday night or Monday morning, Brimhall walked twelves miles from his home in Spanish Fork to attend “Timpanogos University,” a Provo high school. He worked for Principal Warren Dusenberry for board and did janitorial work for tuition. At the end of the year he gave the valedictory address “with considerable vehemence, I presume, as for the first time I was applauded although my pants were patched.”
1877. Received a “normal diploma” (teaching certificate) from Brigham Young Academy in Provo, where he studied under Karl G. Maeser. “Judge Dusenberry showed me the road to higher education,” Brimhall recalled, “but Karl G. Maeser showed me the way to a higher life.”
1890. After serving as principal of Spanish Fork schools, district superintendent of Utah County schools, and superintendent of Provo community schools, Brimhall became head of the intermediate department and preparatory school at Brigham Young Academy for twenty dollars a month. He later became principal of the normal department and completed a bachelor’s degree in pedagogy, graduating in Brigham Young Academy’s first college commencement in 1893. Later that year he was awarded the bachelor of didactics by the Church Board of Education.
1900. Having served as a member of the Church Board of [p.26]Education since 1898, Brimhall was designated acting president of Brigham Young Academy in the spring of 1900 when President Benjamin Cluff left on an expedition to South America. Brimhall planned to “improve… but not… radically revolutionize the school,” for he believed the academy “depends not on man, or any set of men. God planted it and we are but gardeners to take care of it.”
Brimhall purchased seventy-four acres of “Temple Hill,” where the upper BYU campus was built. The academy became Brigham Young University in 1903, and Brimhall was appointed permanent president in 1904. He introduced B.S. degrees in 1904, B.A. degrees in 1907, and the M.A. in 1919.
During his presidency, five buildings were constructed on campus—the Training School (1902), Art Building (1904), Maeser Memorial (1911), Mechanic Arts Building (1919), and Women’s Gymnasium (1913)—one of few buildings in the United States devoted exclusively to physical education for women.
1909. Critics charged that BYU was “lacking in genuine scholarship” and that most of its teachers were a “bunch of farmers who gave their leisure time only to teaching.”
To upgrade the level of scholarship, Brimhall hired four Mormon professors trained at Harvard, Chicago, Cornell, and the University of California. The popular, articulate professors quickly won the minds and hearts of many students with their lectures in eugenics, communism, socialism, Darwinism, and “higher criticism” of the Bible.
1910. “Many stake presidents, some of our leading principals and teachers, and leading men who are friends of our schools … expressed deep anxiety” to Church Commissioner of Education Horace Hall Cummings. Brimhall, though an initial supporter of the professors, changed his view when some BYU students “told him they had quit praying because they learned in school there was no real God to hear them.” A dream about the issue charged Brimhall with “enthusiastic support thereafter in setting [p.27]things right.” Both he and Cummings advised the four professors “not to press their views with such vigor,” and Cummings took a report tothe university trustees which ultimately led to the dismissal or resignation of the four.
BYU students petitioned in behalf of the professors. Caught in the crossfire, Brimhall feared loss of funding for the university and declared, “The school follows the Church.”
Brimhall was responsible for developing a bird sanctuary in Provo Canyon and was a strong advocate of placing elk, caribou, and mountain sheep in the Wasatch and Uinta mountains.
An active supporter of the Utah National Parks Council of the Boy Scouts of America, he received the first Silver Beaver awarded by the council.
In addition to receiving honorary doctorates from the Church Board of Education and Brigham Young University, he was president of Utah Educational Association (1897-1898), National Educational Association life member, and American Red Cross director. A BYU building was named in his honor in 1935.
Brimhall wrote numerous articles for Church magazines and composed several songs, including “Old Glory” and “I Love Thee, Utah Valley.” He also published a collection of sayings and speeches entitled Long and Short Arrows.
Retirement and Death
1921. After Twenty-one years as President of Brigham Young University, Brimhall retired in 1921.
[p.28]1932. July 29: After several months of ill health, Brimhall became depressed. “His restless spirit chafed under the long seige which had sapped his strength.” While his wife was out of the house on a short shopping trip, Brimhall killed himself with a hunting rifle. Apostles George Albert smith, Richard R. Lyman, and Melvin J. Ballard participated at his funeral progrm. He was buried in Provo Cemetery.
[p.420]Pardoe, T. Earl. The Sons of Brigham. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Alumni, 1969.
Provo, Utah. Brigham Young University. Harold B. Lee Library. George H. Brimhall Journal.
_____. Benjamin Cluff, Jr., Presidential Papers.
_____. “Pedagogical History of the Brigham Young Academy Class of ’93.”
Provo Daily Herald, 17 March 1911, 31 July 1932.
Salt Lake Telegram, 30 July 1932, p. 2.
Sherlock, Richard. “Campus in Crisis: BYU, 1911.” Sunstone 4 (January- February 1979):10-16.
[p.421]Smith, Joseph F. “Philosophy and the Church Schools.” Juvenile Instructor, April 1911, pp. 208-209.
Wilkinson, Ernest L. Brigham Young University: The First One Hundred Years. 4 vols. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1975.
1915. September 15: Born Fawn McKay in Ogden, Utah, she was the niece of Church President David O. McKay and the granddaughter of BYU President George H. Brimhall. Married Bernard Brodie; they had three children.
1934. Graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in English at the age of eighteen. “I was devout until I went to the University of Utah …. Being exposed to the great literature of the past… was a very quiet kind of liberation. elp pay school expenses, I was given a special job at the University of Chicago cafeteria. I carried a big coffee pot and poured second cups of coffee. When I poured an extra cup for Bernie, he gave me two red carnations. He brought me flowers every day for the next six weeks, when we were married.”
No Man Knows My History
1936. While employed at the University of Chicago library, she [p.31]began research on the life of Joseph Smith. She submitted the first five chapters to Alfred Knopf Publishing Company and in 1943 was awarded a $2500 Fellowship in Biography.
1945. No Man Knows My History: The Life of Joseph Smith the Mormon Prophet was published. She tried to prepare her parents by writing:”It is only fair to you both that I tell you quite frankly and honestly in advance that the book is likely to get a good bit of hostile criticism from the authorities of the Church. Certain things which I feel should be included to tell the whole story of the man, you will feel should better have been left buried. You will probably be criticized for having raised a wayward daughter.”
The best-known criticism was Hugh Nibley’s No Ma’am, That’s Not History, which argued that another biographer could use the same facts to support a different set of conclusions. To her parents, Brodie wrote in 1946: “Thank you for sending the Hugh Nibley pamphlet. I had expected better things in this ‘scholarly reply to Mrs. Brodie.’ It is a flippant and shallow piece. He really did me a service by demonstrating the difference between his scholarship and mine. If that is the best a young Mormon historian can offer, then I am all the more certain that the death of B.H. Roberts meant the end of all that was truly scholarly and honest in orthodox Mormon historiography.”
1946. “I was excommunicated for heresy—and I was a heretic—and specifically for writing the book. My husband was teaching at Yale at the time and we were living in New Haven. Two Mormon missionaries came to the door and presented me with a letter asking me to appear before the bishop’s court in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to defend myself against heresy. I simply told them, or wrote a letter telling them, that I would not go because, after all, I was a heretic.”
The letter announcing the bishop’s court charged “apostasy, in this among other matters: That in a book recently published by you, you assert matters as truths [p.32]which deny the divine origin of the Book of Mormon, the restoration of the priesthood and of Christ’s Church through the instrumentality of the Prophet Joseph Smith, contrary to the beliefs, doctrines and teachings of the Church.”
1951. The Brodies moved to California, where Fawn actively pursued her literary career. During the next thirty years she wrote Thaddeus Stevens, Scourge of the South (1959)—the life of a radical Republican leader of Civil War Reconstruction; From Crossbow to H-Bomb (co-authored with her husband, 1962); The Devil Drives: A Life of Sir Richard Burton (1967)—Nile explorer, translator of the Arabian Nights, soldier, and poet; second edition of No Man Knows My History (1969); and Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History (1974). She also edited The City of the Saints (1963)—an account of Sir Richard Burton’s 1860 trip to Utah, and Route from Liverpool to Great Salt Lake (1963)—Frederick Piercy’s 1853 narrative of a visit to Utah, as well as publishing more than forty book reviews and articles.
Her publications, particularly the Joseph Smith and Thomas Jefferson books, generated both acclaim and criticism. Criticisms centered on the use of psycho-biographical techniques to ascertain a historical figure’s experiences and motivations through psychological interpretation. Mindful of the pitfalls of her profession, Brodie commented, “Even the most dispassionate historian, trying to select fairly with intelligence and discretion, manipulates in spite of himself, by nuances, by repudiation, by omission, by unconscious affection or hostility.”
“She attacked civic problems, she attacked political problems, she was a wonderful letter writer to the Times,” a neighbor eulogized. “We always felt joy when we felt a letter coming on, seeing it snap in her dark eyes before [p.33]she would attack the typewriter. … You’d see Fawn stalking the moors like Boadicea out on a Roman charge. She was really a warrior lady about our hill; she was a fierce defender of it. And when she saw something evil creeping up on us, in the way of either civic injustice or some pollution that was in the offing, she fought. She was a wonderful fighter.”
She was awarded several prestigious awards during her lifetime, including the Commonwealth Club of California Literature Award in 1959, the Utah Historical Society 1967 Fellow of the Year, the 1974 Alumni Emeritus Award at the University of Utah, and the 1975 Los Angeles Times “Woman of the Year.” She was appointed senior lecturer in the UCLA history department, though her academic credentials were in English literature.
Retirement and Death
1977. Retired from UCLA to write Richard Nixon: The Shaping of His Character. One year later, her husband died of cancer.
1981. January 10: Died of cancer at the age of sixty-five in Santa Monica, California, having refused pain medication to finish the final draft of her Nixon biography. She was cremated, her ashes scattered over the Pacific Palisades area she loved and protected.
[p.421]American Literature 46 (January 1975):581.
Brodie, Fawn M. “Can We Manipulate the Past?” Paper read at First Annual American West Lecture. Salt Lake City, 1970.
Los Angeles Times, 20 February 1977, 12 January 1981.
Provo, Utah. Brigham Young University. Harold B. Lee Library. Barbara Mckay Smith Letter Collection.
_____. Fawn Brodie Memorial Services.
Salt Lake City, Utah. University of Utah. J. Willard Marriott Library. Fawn M. Brodie Interview at California State University at Fullerton, 30 November 1975.
_____. Fawn M. Brodie Letter Collection.
1883. October 24: Born in Granger, Utah, the fifth of fourteen children. He married Zina Young Card, a granddaughter of Brigham Young, in 1908. They were the parents of eight children, including a son, Hugh Card Brown, RAF pilot lost over the North Sea during World War II.
As a young boy he acquired the nickname “Dutch” because of a speech impediment. He later became one of Mormonism’s most respected orators.
1899. The family moved to Alberta, Canada, where, except for studies at the Brigham Young College in Logan, Utah, and a mission to Great Britain, he lived for twenty-eight years.
1915. Served for three years as a Canadian Army major in World War I, with overseas duty in France.
At the outbreak of World War II he became an army coordinator for the Church, visiting military installations and conferring with Latter-day Saint leaders and servicemen. The LDS Servicemen’s Committee was organized on his advice in 1943.
1920. Served as a barrister and solicitor in Lethbridge, Alberta. In 1927 he joined the Salt Lake City law firm which included J. Reuben Clark, Preston Richards, and Albert E. Bowen.
1921. The first president of the Lethbridge Stake at the age of thirty-eight, Brown was at that time the youngest stake president in the Church. Two years after arriving in Salt Lake City, he was called to preside over Granite Stake.
1927. When Brown moved to Utah, President Heber J. Grant, Anthony W. Ivins, and B. H. Roberts “told me at different times and separately that if I wanted to belong to a party that represented the common people, I would be a Democrat, but if I wanted to be popular and be in touch with the wealth of the nation, I would be a Republican.”
1934. Left the Clark-Richards-Bowen firm because of political differences. Though he considered J. Reuben Clark his mentor in law and religion, Brown knew they were poles apart in politics.
Elected state chairman of the Democratic Party, Brown decided to run for the U. S. Senate. He placed third, behind incumbent Senator William H. King and Herbert Maw: “I entered, in fact, against the advice of my wife, which I have regretted ever since.”
As a general authority, Hugh B. Brown advised Church members to “develop a maturity of mind and emotion and a depth of spirit which enables you to differ with others on matters of politics without calling into question the integrity of those with whom you differ. Allow within the bounds of your definition of religious orthodoxy variations of political beliefs. Do not have the temerity to dogmatize in issues where the Lord has seen fit to be silent.”
State Liquor Chairman
1935. Appointed chairman of Utah’s first liquor commission: “We must find a condition that will not be ideal for the bootleggers. … I had a lot of experience with this in Alberta … and with that background and experience and [p.37]observation, I am unalterably opposed to the licensing system and in favor of state control.”
1937. Called to preside over the British Mission. At the outbreak of World War II, Brown was appointed coordinator of LDS servicemen in the U. S. and Great Britain. When the war ended, he was again appointed president of the British Mission.
1946. Though he did not complete his college education, he taught political science and religion for a short time at Brigham Young University.
1962. Awarded an honorary doctor of humanities degree from BYU, he advised students: “Be dauntless in your pursuit of truth and resist all demands for unthinking conformity. … Tolerance and truth demand that all be heard and that competing ideas be tested against each other.”
He stressed the study of literature: “While making a lifetime study of the standard works of the Church, one should also become familiar with the classics, with Shakespeare, Milton, Tennyson, and Wordsworth. … One should know something of the writings of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and the later philosophers, who while they err in many respects, will start a man thinking independently and courageously on the meaning of life and its purpose.”
During a 1969 BYU commencement address he said, “You young people live in an age when freedom of the mind is suppressed over much of the world. We must preserve it in our Church and in America and resist all efforts of earnest men to suppress it. … Preserve, then, the freedom of your mind in education and in religion and be unafraid to express your thoughts, and insist upon your right to examine every proposition. We are not so much concerned whether your thoughts be orthodox or heterodox as we are that you shall have thoughts.”
Author of many books, including Eternal Quest, You [p.38]and Your Marriage, Abundant Life, Continuing the Quest, Vision and Valor.
1953. Called to be an assistant to the Twelve. Five years later he was called to the Quorum of the Twelve by President David O. McKay, and in 1961 he was called to be counselor to the First Presidency due to the ill health of J. Reuben Clark. Following President Clark’s death in October, he became second counselor. Two years later he was named first counselor to President McKay.
As a member of the First Presidency, he often voiced sentiments on controversial matters, as in his 1963 conference address on civil rights: “We believe that all men are children of the same God, and that it is a moral evil for any person or group of persons to deny any human being the right to gainful employment, to full educational opportunity, and to every privilege of citizenship, just as it is a moral evil to deny him the right to worship according to the dictates of his own conscience.”
Brown served as president of the Richland Oil Development Company in Edmonton, Alberta, in the early 1950s. His skills proved useful in his Church assignments, which included service on the boards of directors of Beehive State Bank and Deseret Federal Savings and Loan Association, plus vice-presidencies of Beneficial Life Insurance Company, Hotel Utah Corporation, ZCMI, Utah-Idaho Sugar Company, and KSL Radio.
Though suffering from trigeminal neuralgia, which caused extreme facial pain for nearly fifty years, President Brown never lost his sense of humor.
[p.39]My bi-focals are wonderful,
My hearing aid’s a find,
My dentures come in handy,
But how I miss my mind!
“There are, of course, physical limitations imposed by increasing years,” he said, “but we should not yield or surrender to them, or give up in despair with the first twinge of stiffening joints in mind or body. Life will continue to have an alluring and increasing wealth of interest all the way down its western slopes for him who keeps a cutting edge on his awareness.”
1975. December 2: Died at the age of ninety-two in Salt Lake City of causes incident to age. Epitaph in Salt Lake City Cemetery: “From Man to God.”
Brown, Hugh B. “Be Aware—Beware,” baccalaureate address, Brigham Young University, 24 May 1962.
_____. Continuing the Quest. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1961.
_____. The Abundant Life. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965.
Campbell, Eugene E., and Poll, Richard D. Hugh B. Brown: His Life and Thought. Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1975.
Deseret News, 3 December 1975.
Improvement Era 56:914.