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Young, Brigham (1801-1877)

Brigham Young (1801-1877)

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Mormon pioneer

A Calling. Born on 1 June 1801 in Whitingham, Vermont, Brigham Young was only marginally successful as a farmer and carpenter before moving on to better opportunities. On 14 April 1832 he converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, being baptized at Men-don, New York. In the Mormon community, Young found a spiritual home and an outlet for undiscovered talents. When on 27 June 1844 a mob lynched Mormon leader Joseph Smith at a jail in Carthage, Missouri, Young was able to unite most of Smiths converts behind him as their new leader.

Exodus. Smiths efforts to develop a separate Mormon community in the midst of American society had led to near war between Mormons and Gentiles. Young reasoned that distance would give the Mormons safety, and he consulted explorers and scouts who had traveled in the West. In March 1845 he decided upon the Great Basin between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada as the Mormons place of refuge. The area, which the Mormons called Deseret (meaning Land of the Honey Bee), seemed fertile enough that they could farm and become economically self-sufficient, but was not so inviting that other settlers might disturb them. On 15 February 1846 Young and a group of pioneers left the Mormon town of Nauvoo, Illinois; they reached the Great Basin on 24 July 1847. The next year Young led a second wagon train to the new territory. After that Young himself never traveled outside Deseret, although he continued to encourage Mormon migration. By the autumn of 1848 approximately five thousand followers had arrived, and in 1849 Young established a Perpetual Emigrating Fund Company to give financial assistance to impoverished potential migrants from England and continental Europe.

Government. Mormon efforts to establish a government were shaped by the efforts of the United States to expand westward. At the same time Young was making his first trip to Deseret, the United States was at war with Mexico. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), the Mexican government ceded land, including Deseret, to the United States. The Mormons hoped that Deseret would quickly become a state, for then they could control the local government. However, Washington politicians hoped to use the Mexican cession as an element in a great compromise over slavery and turned Deseret into the Utah Territory (1850). Many federal authorities were anti-Mormon, and official policy toward the Mormons varied, depending on the personality involved. Democratic president Franklin Pierce appointed Young his territorial governor. Pierces successor, Democrat James Buchanan, not only refused to renew Youngs appointment, but sent twenty-five hundred federal troops to install his choice for territorial governor, Alfred Cumming. Young mobilized his Nauvoo Legion to counter the U.S. Army, and during the Utah War of 1857-1858 the Mormons set grass fires, drove off livestock, and burned government supply wagons in an unsuccessful attempt to halt the advance of federal troops.

Native Tribes. The land Young chose for the Mormons was between that of two large Indian tribes, the Ute to the south and the Shoshone to the north. Mormon teachings held that Native Americans had descended from the Ten Lost Tribes of ancient Israel and thus should be treated with respect. Young also made the practical observation that it was cheaper to feed the Indians than to fight them, and the Mormons attempted to teach their new neighbors how to farm. Finally, Mormons and Native Americans had a common interest in keeping other settlers out. When in 1857 a group of one hundred settlers going from Missouri and Arkansas to California began marauding through Mormon territory, Indians and Mormons, led by John D. Lee, attacked them and killed all but eighteen children in an incident that came to be called the Mountain Meadows Massacre. However, when the Civil War began a few years later, the Indians took advantage of the reduced number of federal troops to attack stagecoaches traveling unprotected along western routes. The Mormons then assisted the federal government by protecting the stagecoaches.

Civil War. During the Civil War, Young allied the Mormons with the Union, but it was not because he opposed slavery or supported equal rights for all races. In fact, Southern Mormons had brought between seventy-five and one hundred slaves to Deseret in 1847. That same year Young forbade Mormons to ordain blacks to the priesthood. (The ban remained in effect until 1978.) Mormon support of the Union, however, was not rewarded, and in 1862 Congress passed the Morrill Anti-Bigamy Act. The law included a clause preventing religious groups advocating polygamy from holding more than a certain amount of property in the territories. Young protected his flock from the laws penalties by putting all church property in his name.

Modern Patriarch. Besides working to establish the church and community, Young did what was expected of him as a Mormon in terms of building up family life. Joseph Smith had introduced polygamy in 1843. At first Young was disturbed by this new doctrine, but he dutifully began taking more wives that same year. Over his lifetime he entered into marriage with fifty-five women. Most of these marriages seem to have been platonic relationships in which the women obtained economic security and a foothold in Mormon society, while Young enhanced his position as an example of Mormon manhood. He did, though, have to provide for all these wives and for his fifty-seven children. To that end, Young traded with goldrushers on their way to California, purchased the real estate of those who were leaving Utah Territory, and made investments in roads and other improvements.

Postwar Problems. After the Civil War, Americans resumed their westward expansion, and President Ulysses S. Grant renewed federal efforts that conflicted with Mormon interests. Young continued the task of trying to protect his flock. However, he died unexpectedly after a brief but intense illness, most likely a ruptured appendix, on 29 August 1877.

Source

Newell G. Bringhurst, Brigham Young and the Expanding American Frontier (Boston: Little, Brown, 1986).

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Brigham Young

Brigham Young

Brigham Young (1801-1877), American colonizer and second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, led the Mormons to Utah, colonized it, and served as official and unofficial governor of Oregon Territory.

Brigham Young was born at Whitingham, Vt., on June 1, 1801. When he was three, the family moved to an area of New York where religious mysticism and revivalism were strong. He had only two months of formal education, for the family was poor and rootless. He became a house painter and glazier, and, at the age of 22, a Methodist. He married Miriam Works, and they settled at Mendon, N.Y., in 1829.

In 1832, after studying Joseph Smith's Book of Mormon for two years, Young was baptized into the new Church and became very active in it. The following year he moved to Kirtland, Ohio, to form a Mormon church. He traveled through the eastern United States seeking converts, as well as joining "Zion's Army," a militant Mormon branch.

Rise in the Church

In February 1835, when the Quorum of Twelve Apostles was established as an administrative aid to Prophet Joseph Smith, Young was third in rank. By 1838, when the Mormons were expelled from Missouri, he was senior member of this body and directed the removal to Nauvoo, Ill. In 1839 he went to England on a successful mission, returning to Illinois in 1841 to become the Church's leading fiscal agent. By 1844 he had contracted three polygamous marriages.

In 1844 Smith determined to run for president of the United States, and Young left on a speaking tour in support of this. In Boston that July he heard of Smith's murder two weeks earlier. He returned to Nauvoo to find the membership in panic and virtually leaderless. He rallied the members, defeated Sidney Rigdon for leadership, and began searching for a new location for the Mormons, who were again being persecuted.

Colonizer of Utah

After studying government documents and talking with travelers, Young sent agents to various parts of the West to look for the new Zion. He selected the Great Salt Lake region in the hope that there the believers would not be bothered again by outsiders. The move was accomplished under his leadership in 1846-1847, financed by funds from foreign missions and by the salaries of a battalion of men he sent to serve the U.S. Army during the Mexican War. On Dec. 5, 1847, at Salt Lake City, Young was elected president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, a position he held until his death.

Young planned a grand city at Salt Lake; the Church retained complete control through prior appropriation of available water, and irrigated farming became the backbone of the colony. He sent colonists to establish Mormon communities at strategic locations in the Great Basin area, some 357 towns in all, and sent missionaries all over the world to seek recruits. To assist the approximately 70,000 converts who came from Europe, he established the Perpetual Emigration Fund to extend loans which, when repaid, would assist still more to come. When funds were low, he directed the immigrants to come from St. Louis, pushing their goods in handcarts, but this advice was somewhat discredited when one group died in a snowstorm at Sweet-water River, Wyo., in 1856.

To keep money in the territory, Young urged development of home industries, the Zion's Cooperative Mercantile Institution. Also, he preached the necessity of hard work and thrift, and he forbade the faithful to engage in mining, fearing the discovery of gold would bring in large numbers of non-Mormons.

Young was a pragmatic leader who sought to strengthen the Church by cooperative means. He loved dancing, singing, and the theater, so these were acceptable; he forbade liquor, tobacco, all stimulants, gambling, and cardplaying. He encouraged polygamy because it was hated by non-Mormons; thus its practice insured Mormon unity against outsiders. Young himself had an estimated 19 to 27 wives and 56 children. He also urged a good educational system, and he established the University of Deseret (now the University of Utah) in 1850.

Political Leader

The Mexican War brought Utah into American hands, so Young gathered a constitutional convention to petition for statehood under the name Deseret. Congress refused, naming it the Territory of Utah, but Young became governor. In 1857 opposition to the Mormons became so strong from Federal officials that he was removed as governor. When he refused to be ousted, a Federal army under Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston was sent to expel him. The so-called "Mormon War" ended in 1858 by compromise; Young gave way to a non-Mormon governor but continued to govern unofficially through his position in the Church until his death in Salt Lake City on Aug. 29, 1877. A domineering tyrant in public, privately Young had been genial and benevolent.

Further Reading

Works on Young include Frank J. Cannon and George L. Knapp, Brigham Young and His Mormon Empire (1913), a hostile treatment; M. R. Werner, Brigham Young (1925); Susa Young Gates and Lead D. Widtsoe, The Life Story of Brigham Young (1930), which contains excellent material on his family life; Milton R. Hunter, Brigham Young: The Colonizer (1940; 2d ed. 1941); Ray B. West, Kingdom of the Saints: The Story of Brigham Young and the Mormons (1957); and Stanley P. Hirshson's unfavorable portrait, The Lion of the Lord: A Biography of Brigham Young (1969). The last is less a biography than an account of Mormon history, emphasizing the more sensational aspects of Young's life. A good, overall picture of Young and his work is in Thomas F. O'Dea, The Mormons (1957). □

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Young, Brigham

Brigham Young (brĬg´əm), 1801–77, American religious leader, early head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, b. Whitingham, Vt. Brigham Young was perhaps the greatest molder of Mormonism, his influence having a greater effect even than that of the church's founder, Joseph Smith, in shaping the Mormon faith as it exists today (see Latter-Day Saints, Church of Jesus Christ of).

Early Life

He was a painter and glazier in Mendon, Monroe co., N.Y., when he was first attracted to the new religion. Baptized as an adult in 1832, he led a group to the Mormon community at Kirtland, Ohio, and in 1835 became one of the Council of Twelve (the Apostles). When the Mormons were persecuted in their Missouri Zion in the late 1830s, Young was one of the few Mormon leaders not placed under arrest, and his abilities as an organizer came to the fore. He was one of the chief figures in the move to Nauvoo, Ill. Sent as missionary to England, he started a community that eventually brought approximately 40,000 émigrés to the United States between 1841 and 1870.

Mormon Leader

After Joseph Smith's assassination (1844), Young was the chief factor in maintaining the unity of the church in the Council of Twelve. From that time forward, he served as the Mormons' spiritual leader. He led the great migration west in 1846–47 and was the director of the settlement at Salt Lake City. He exercised supreme control in the communal theocracy of Mormonism, and his genius, as much as anything else, led to the phenomenal growth of a prosperous community. After the creation of Utah's provisional government, he was also made territorial governor and superintendent of Indian affairs.

When the Mormon practice of polygamy and a more general fear and hatred of Mormon power led to hostilities between the United States and the Mormons, Young defended Mormon interests, particularly during the military expedition against the Mormons called the Utah War (1857–58). He lost his post as governor, but through his able statesmanship, he avoided a real break with the United States. In his old age, he was arrested on charges of polygamy and murder, but he was acquitted and his influence increased rather than diminished until his death.

The exact number of his wives—still a contested figure—and the extent of his fortune were the objects of curiosity and idle rumor nationwide. Accusations of sensuality leveled against him by people who were ignorant of the basic principles of Mormon doctrine were not justified. The most serious charge that can be brought against him is that of condoning the massacre at Mountain Meadows. He did not instigate that crime, but it seems probable that he did protect its perpetrators.

Bibliography

See Susa Young Gates (his daughter) and L. E. Widtsoe, The Life Story of Brigham Young (1930); C. Stott, Search for Sanctuary (1984); L. J. Arrington, Brigham Young (1985); N. G. Bringhurst, Brigham Young (1986); J. G. Turner, Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (2012).

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Young, Brigham

Young, Brigham (1801–77) US religious leader, founder of Salt Lake City. An early convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons), Young took over the leadership when Joseph Smith, the founder, was killed by a mob in 1844. Young held the group together through persecutions and led their westward migration (1846–47) to Utah, where he organized the settlement that became Salt Lake City. He was governor of Utah Territory (1850–57).

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Young, Brigham

Young, Brigham (Mormon leader in 19th cent.): see MORMONS.

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