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Brigham Young

Question: What title was Brigham Young known by for his courageous steadfastness through the many years of service he gave to the Church?

      Marker at Brigham Young’s Birthplace

Answer: Brigham Young was born June 1, 1801 in Whittingham, Vermont, the ninth of eleven children born to John Young and Abigail Howe. When Brigham was three years of age, the family moved to New York. His mother died of tuberculosis when Brigham was fourteen. His father remarried, and Brigham left home at age sixteen, living for a period with a sister in Auburn, where he became an apprentice carpenter, painter, and glazier. He then became a master carpenter and built chairs, desks, staircases, and carved mantelpieces for many homes.

On October 5, 1824, Brigham married Miriam Angeline Works. After a later move to Port Byron, they had their first child, Elizabeth. Near the end of 1828, Brigham took his family to Mendon, New York, to be near his father and other relatives. At Mendon, Miriam gave birth to a second daughter, Vilate, but contracted chronic tuberculosis and became a semi-invalid. Brigham cared for the children, and carried Miriam to a rocking chair in front of the fireplace in the morning, then back to bed in the evening. In Mendon he built a shop and mill, made and repaired furniture, and put in window panes, doorways, staircases, and fireplace mantels.

In April of 1830, Samuel Smith, brother of Joseph Smith, passed through Mendon while on a missionary journey to distribute copies of the Book of Mormon. He left a copy with Brigham’s brother, Phineas, an itinerant preacher for the Reformed Methodist Church. Phineas was favorably impressed with the book and lent it to his father, then to his sister Fanny, who gave it to Brigham. Though impressed, Brigham nevertheless counseled caution.

After nearly two years of investigation, Brigham, moved by the testimony of a Mormon elder, Eleazer Miller, was baptized on April 15, 1832. All of Brigham’s immediate family were also baptized. Miriam, who also joined, lived only until September 8, 1832. One week after his baptism, Brigham gave his first sermon. He declared “[After I was baptized] I wanted to thunder and roar out the Gospel to the nations.’ His courageous steadfastness later earned for him the title “Lion of the Lord.’

That fall, after Miriam’s death, Brigham, his brother Joseph, and Heber Kimball, traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, where he first met the twenty-six-year-old Prophet Joseph Smith. Invited to evening prayer in the Smith home, Brigham spoke in tongues, the first speaking in tongues witnessed by the Prophet. Brigham and his brother Joseph Young then made several missionary trips into areas of New York and upper Canada.

In the summer of 1833, Brigham traveled to Kirtland, where he heard Joseph Smith teach about the gathering of the Saints. Thus instructed, Brigham returned to New York and, with the Kimballs, moved his household to Kirtland. Among those whom Brigham met in Kirtland was Mary Ann Angell, from Seneca, New York. Brigham married her on February 18, 1834. She looked after Brigham’s two daughters by Miriam and subsequently had six children of her own.

In 1834, Brigham and his brother Joseph served with Zion’s Camp. Brigham regarded the difficult trek as superb education and later called it “the starting point of my knowing how to lead Israel.’ Brigham Young was ordained a member of the Church’s original Quorum of The Twelve Apostles on February 14, 1835. Brigham helped in the construction of the Kirtland Temple, attended the School of the Prophets and participated in the Pentecostal outpouring that accompanied the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in the spring of 1836.

On December 22, 1837, Brigham and his family moved to Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri. Growing numbers of Latter-day Saint arrivals antagonized old settlers, and violence erupted. Disarmed, violated, and robbed of most of their holdings, the Latter-day Saints were driven from the state. With Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, and other Church leaders imprisoned, Brigham Young, then the senior member of the Quorum the Twelve, directed the evacuation of the Saints to Quincy and other Illinois communities. There were between 8,000 and 12,000 exiles.

In the spring of 1839, Joseph Smith designated Commerce (renamed Nauvoo), Illinois, the new central gathering place of the Saints. Brigham’s family was hardly settled in the area when he and other members of the Twelve left to fulfill their mission calls to Great Britain. Despite poverty and poor health all around, Brigham left his wife and children in September, determined to go to England or to die trying. Preceded by some members of the Quorum in March 1840, President Young and his companions finally docked at Liverpool in April.

As quorum president, Brigham directed their work in Britain during an astonishing year in which they baptized between 7,000 and 8,000 converts; printed and distributed 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon, 3,000 hymn books, 1,500 volumes of the Millennial Star, and 50,000 tracts; established a shipping agency; and assisted nearly 1,000 to emigrate to Nauvoo.

Along with others, Brigham was also taught the principle of plural marriage; he accepted it after much reluctance. He was among the first seven persons to receive the full temple endowment at the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo on May 4, 1842.

      Nauvoo Home

In February 1844, Joseph Smith instructed Brigham Young and others of his quorum about a future move to the Rocky Mountains. In March 1844, Brigham participated in the creation of the Council of Fifty. Soon after, Joseph Smith gave Brigham and other members of the Twelve a dramatic charge to “bear off this kingdom,” telling them that they now had all the keys and instruction needed to do so successfully.

In May 1844, Brigham and other apostles left on summer missions; mostly to promote Joseph Smith for President of the United States. While they were gone, events in Nauvoo deteriorated. Joseph Smith was arrested and, on June 27, was killed along with his brother Hyrum. Brigham and his companions rushed back to Nauvoo, arriving August 6. On August 8, Brigham and the Twelve were sustained by the membership to lead the Church. Although committed to leaving Nauvoo, Brigham and his associates were determined to complete the Nauvoo Temple before heading West. By December the temple was ready for ordinance work, and by February nearly 6,000 members had received temple blessings therein.

Brigham Young began the migration in February 1846. By hundreds, people crossed the Mississippi River and trudged across Iowa. Brigham Young established headquarters at what was called Winter Quarters (now Florence, Nebraska).

      This is the Place Monument

Brigham Young set out with an advance group of 143 men, three women, and two children on April 5, 1847. Delayed by illness, he arrived in the Salt Lake Valley a few days behind the advance party. “This is the right place, drive on,’ Brigham said on July 24, 1847, as he looked over the Great Salt Lake Valley. On August 26, 1847, he joined the return party to Winter Quarters.

      Kanesville Iowa Tabernacle

At Winter Quarters in December 1847, the First Presidency of the Church was reorganized with Brigham Young as President and Heber C. Kimball and Willard Richards as his counselors. Their action was sustained by the membership in the log tabernacle at Council Bluffs, Iowa, on December 27, 1847. The following April, Brigham, his family, and approximately 3,500 other Saints headed for the Salt Lake Valley.

President Young served faithfully as president of the Church for thirty years. As President, he faced multiple problems of emigration, settling Saints in the west, and religious persecution. Brigham’s most obvious achievements were the product of his lifelong talent for practical decision making. Colonizer (over 200 settlements), territorial governor, and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brigham Young remained vigorous until his death. Just before his death, he presided at the dedication of the St. George Temple.

He died on August 29, 1877, after calling out “Joseph, Joseph, Joseph.’ He is buried in the Mormon Pioneer Memorial (Young Family Cemetery) in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Source: Brigham Young (1801-1877), Original text corrected and edited by Dr. Larry C. Porter, Department of Church History and Doctrine, and Janet Rex, University Communications, 4/2001; Who’s Who in the Doctrine & Covenants by Susan Easton Black;;

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