Monday, July 19, 2010
Brigham Young is ranked as one of the most important colonizers of the American west. His great leadership abilities and pioneering efforts helped him to lead approximately 100,000 people to the mountain valleys of Utah, Idaho, Arizona and other western states. He was a great colonizer and builder of a great commonwealth as he led the founding of more than two hundred cities, towns, and villages and the establishment of many schools and factories. A statue of Brigham Young stands in Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. to represent the state of Utah. He was the second President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and a devoted husband and father. He was a faithful disciple and Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ. Brigham was born in Whittingham, Widdham County, Vermont, on June 1, 1801, the ninth of eleven children of John and Abigail Howe Young. His father was a farmer and was one of the soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War under George Washington. In 1804 the family moved to the state of New York, and Brigham grew to manhood on the heavily wooded lands there. Brigham attended school for about twelve days; therefore, his classroom was basically the family home and the surrounding land. His parents were poor. Brigham later stated, "We never had the opportunity of letters [formal education] in our youth, but we had the privilege of picking up brush, chopping down trees, rolling logs, and working amongst the roots, and of getting our shins, feet and toes bruised." Brigham worked hard to help clear the land, farm it, and help with the chores of the household. H always remembered the strict moral training of his father and the teachings of his mother who "taught her children all the time to honour the name of the Father and the Son, and to reverence the [Bible]; she said, Read it, observe its precepts, and apply them to your lives as far as you can; do everything that is good; do nothing that is evil; and if you see any persons in distress, administer to their wants." Brigham's mother died when he was fourteen years old. Brigham was an apprentice carpenter, joiner, painter, and glazier by age 16. He took pride in his craft and said he considered "honest, reliable work, such as would endure, for those who employed me" to be "a part of my religion." Brigham was a tireless worker with a strong will, engaging personality, and deep convictions, all of which made him an outstanding leader. At age 23, Brigham married Miriam Angeline Works. The couple was blessed with two daughters. Brigham supported his family by making and repairing chairs, tables, and cupboards and installing windows, doors, stairways and fireplace mantels. Miriam contracted tuberculosis. Brigham carried the burden of her care and nursed her through the final weeks of her consumptive illness. She died in September 1832. On 18 February 1834 Brigham married Mary Ann Angell. Six children were born to this couple. Brigham and his first wife Miriam joined the Methodist Church during their first year of marriage, but Brigham continued to wrestle with religious questions. He searched for a church organized according to the pattern Jesus Christ established with a "system of ordinances" and all the gifts of the gospel. Two copies of the Book of Mormon were given by Samuel Smith (brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith) to the family of Brigham Young in April 1830 one month after the book was published. Some of Brigham's siblings read the book and accepted it as the truth, but Brigham did not immediately accept it. Brigham wanted to know the doctrine of the book and if the doctrines were the ones taught by Jesus Christ. He studied the book and prayed about it for two years and stated, "I examined the matter studiously, for two years, before I made up my mind to receive that book. I knew it was true, as well as I knew that I could see with my eyes, or feel by the touch of my fingers, or be sensible of the demonstration of any sense. Had not this been the case, I never would have embraced it to this day." Just as Brigham had to know for himself, he later taught the Saints that God did not intend them "to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another's sleeve…." At another time he said, "It is my duty to know the mind of the Lord concerning myself." He added, "It is your privilege and duty to live so that you know when the word of the Lord is spoken to you and when the mind of the Lord is revealed to you." Brigham believed that he had found the religion that he had been searching for and was baptized on 15 April 1832, a cold and snowy day, in his own millstream; he was confirmed and ordained an elder on the same day. All of Brigham's immediate family members were baptized and remained faithful Latter-day Saints. Brigham felt a great desire to meet the Prophet Joseph Smith and so traveled to Kirtland, Ohio, with his brother Joseph and close friend Heber C. Kimball. The travelers found Joseph Smith chopping wood with his brothers. Brigham stated that his "joy was full at the privilege of shaking the hand of the Prophet of God" and receiving "the sure testimony, by the Spirit of prophecy, that he was all that any man could believe him to be, as a true Prophet." This experience was the beginning of one of Brigham's most important relationships. Brigham became a strong supporter of Joseph Smith and served a series of missions as one of the Church's most successful missionaries. He moved his family to Kirtland, Ohio, in order to gather with other Saints in September 1833. There in Kirtland Brigham met and married his second wife, Mary Ann Angell. In the spring of 1834, Brigham volunteered to march with Zion's Camp, a group of 205 men who went with Joseph Smith to take aid and provisions to the Saints in Jackson County, Missouri, who had been forced out of their homes. It was a journey of two thousand miles and was performed on foot. This difficult journey strengthened Brigham's loyalty to Joseph Smith and taught him the importance of obedience to God and His prophet. Brigham was one of nine veterans of Zion's Camp to be selected as members of the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles at a special conference on February 14, 1835. Brigham left in May 1835 to serve a four-month mission to the eastern states. He returned to the same area as a missionary during the summers of 1836 and 1837. Brigham supervised the painting and finishing of the Kirtland Temple and was present when the Prophet Joseph Smith introduced preliminary ordinances there. He also attended the March 1836 dedication services with hundreds of other Saints who had greatly sacrificed to build the first temple in this dispensation. Several dissenters tried to take the leadership of the Church from Joseph Smith, and Brigham Young confronted the apostates in the Kirtland Temple: "I rose up, and in a plain and forcible manner told them that Joseph was a Prophet, and I knew it, and that they might rail and slander him as much as they pleased, they could not destroy the appointment of the Prophet of God, they could only destroy their own authority, cut the thread that bound them to the Prophet and to God and sink themselves to hell." Brigham's support for Joseph was so uncompromising that the mob turned upon him and forced him to flee. He left Kirtland to join Joseph Smith and other Church leaders in western Missouri. As large numbers of Saints moved to western Missouri, older settlers there became concerned and fearful about the political and economic domination of the newcomers. Tensions grew until they erupted in the summer and fall of 1838 and culminated when the governor of Missouri ordered the state militia to drive the Latter-day Saints from the state or to exterminate them. Joseph Smith and other leaders of the Church were imprisoned while still others either died or apostatized. New leadership responsibilities were thrust upon Brigham who was President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Brigham and his good friend and fellow Apostle Heber C. Kimball were the only leaders available to guide and assist the Saints as they fled Missouri in a difficult winter exodus. Brigham and Heber led the Saints in a covenant to help the poor, to bring every Latter-day Saint out of the state, and to prepare to gather once again. The exiled Saints built a new city in Commerce, Illinois, and renamed it Nauvoo. Brigham was in Nauvoo only a few months before Joseph received a revelation calling the Quorum of the Twelve to serve missions in England. Brigham and his family were all ill in the fall of 1839 as he left on the mission. Eight members of the Quorum of the Twelve served missions in the British Isles during 1840 and 1841 under the direction of Brigham Young, the President of the Quorum. The missionaries "baptized between seven and eight thousand, printed 5,000 Books of Mormon, 3,000 Hymn Books, 2,500 volumes of the Millennial Star, and 50,000 tracts and emigrated to Zion 1,000 souls…. And have left sown in the hearts of many thousands the seeds of eternal truth, which will bring forth fruit to the honor and glory of God, and yet we have lacked nothing to eat, drink or wear: in all these things I acknowledge the hand of God." Brigham and his fellow Apostles shouldered new responsibilities and improved their personal capacities as well as the capacity of the quorum to work unitedly and effectively for the Church. Joseph Smith trusted the "united wisdom" of the quorum. In August 1841 in Nauvoo, Joseph announced "that the time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency." The Twelve received greater responsibilities that included preaching the gospel, settling new immigrants, purchasing land, and building the Nauvoo Temple. Before the completion of the Nauvoo Temple, Joseph gathered the Twelve and privately introduced them to temple ordinances, including baptism for the dead, the temple endowment, and family sealings. He anticipated that the Twelve would then teach the ordinances to other members of the Church. The Prophet met again with the Twelve in the spring of 1844 and conferred upon them all the keys and authority necessary to carry forward the work of the Church. The Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered within the next three months. As President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Brigham stood next in line to lead the Church. Through nearly a decade of service as an Apostle of Jesus Christ, Brigham Young learned the ways of the Lord. He was prepared to preside over the Church, first as President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and after December 1847 as President of the Church. Brigham's willingness to work hard, be obedient, sacrifice, and accept responsibility as well as his capacity to receive and act upon the promptings of the Spirit prepared him for his new responsibilities. Mobs forced the Latter-day Saints to leave Illinois in 1846 in mid-winter. Brigham led his followers across the frozen Mississippi River and on a long journey through Iowa to the area near present-day Omaha, Nebraska. Knowing that there could not be any lasting peace for the Saints until they were completely separated from the gentiles, Brigham led an advance party of 148 Mormon settlers west to a previously planned refuge in the Great Basin. Upon arrival in the Great Salt Lake Valley (Utah), Brigham declared, "This is the right place. Drive on." Under Brigham's direction, thousands of other Mormons came to the valley and prospered in Utah. They developed irrigation techniques that helped parts of the barren dessert to blossom into rich and fruitful land. The U.S. government established the Territory of Utah in 1850 and made Brigham its first governor. He continued to direct missionary work and led the development of hundreds of Mormon settlements in the West. Non-Mormons came to Utah and caused more problems for the Saints. Gentiles circulated false reports that the church was in rebellion against the federal government. An alarmed President James Buchanan in 1857 replaced Brigham with a gentile governor and sent troops to Utah. The Mormons prepared to defend themselves, and the Utah War - or Mormon War - followed with no actual battles. The hostilities ceased in 1858 when Brigham accepted the new governor and President Buchanan gave full pardons to all concerned. Even though Brigham was no longer governor, he remained the most powerful man in Utah until his death. Brigham's life was centered on teaching the gospel and building up and sustaining the kingdom of God. He said, "The Kingdom of heaven is first and foremost with us." Apostles serving with Brigham at the time of his death described him: "During the thirty three years that he has presided over the Church, since the martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph, his knees have never trembled, his hands have never shook; he has never faltered or quailed. However threatening the surroundings or prospects may have been, he has never been dismayed; but at those times he has exhibited such serene confidence and faith, and uttered such words of encouragement, as to comfort and sustain all the people, and to call forth their love and admiration. The Lord, however, not only blessed him with valor, but He endowed him with great wisdom. His counsels, when obeyed, have been attended with salvation, and as an organizer and administrator he has no superior…." They added, "His labors the Lord has crowned with most remarkable success, his words he has honored and fulfilled, and those who have obeyed his counsel he has blessed and upheld. The time will yet come when his presidency over the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be pointed to as an epoch of wonderful events." Facts and quotes for this post came from an article in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, pp 1-12.