“Whenever I see a pretty woman I have to pray for grace.” – a quote from the founder and first Prophet of the Mormon Church and predecessor of the Great Prophet Brigham Young. Brigham Young was a very much-disliked person in his time but was also a praised person in his religion. A practical man of enormous common sense, he marched his people to the Rockies, directed the establishment of more than 325 western towns, built railroads, constructed stores, erected factories, brought Utah tens of thousands of immigrants, and created the superbly organized and brilliantly administered missionary system that brings well over one hundred thousand new members into the Mormon church each year.
Reasons Young was disliked were unlimited and vast but the most outstanding was the Mormon belief in polygamy. He had perhaps fifty-five wives and fifty-six children according to World Book Encyclopedia. Yes, Mormons are Christian and most Christian religions believe in monogamy. This caused a great upset in the present eastern states. Young was born in Whitingham, Vermont on June 1, 1801. At the age of 29, after reading Joseph Smith’s The Book of Mormon , Young began a period of study and contemplation of two years and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1832. A year later he led a band of converts to Kirtland, Ohio.
Young rose rapidly and became the second in seniority on the newly formed Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835. Young who was the senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1839 directed the Mormon migration to Nauvoo, Illinois. Under the direction of Smith and Young the Mormon people were safe from prosecution temporarily. That same year Young was assigned to do missionary work in England. After returning a year later, he became the leading fiscal officer of the Mormon Church. While on a stumping tour for Joseph Smith’s presidential campaign in 1844, Young learned of Joseph Smith and his brother’s murder by a lynching mob Nauvoo, Illinois. After a bitter struggle with several rivals, Young took over leadership of the church.
As church leader Young decided that the Mormons could not live within American society and that western migration was necessary. Becoming president of the church in 1847, he sent an expedition to the west to survey the land for his people to settle on. The Great Salt Lake was the settlement with landscape to establish Young’s Mormon society. Young led his followers to Utah in 1848 and began his settlement near the Great Salt Lake, irrigating land and starting public works projects, encouraged continued immigration to Utah. After the Utah Territorial Act of 1850, Young became the first governor of the territory. He maintained this position until in 1858 when he was forced to yield his position as governor by Buchanan.
Brigham Young was a mass of contradictions. He was on one hand; a man of God who professed inspiration from Jesus and in his sermons often cited the Master’s doctrines of meekness and nonmaterialism. On the other hand, he was a man of violence who boldly and repeatedly preached holy war against non-Mormons. And in later life, the quest for material gain and personal pleasure dominated Young’s thinking. As the savior of a great religion, young possessed many admirable qualities. His god bestowed upon him courage, determination, great organizational skills, and the capacity to inspire and lead men. After all he only had eleven days of formal education showing that he was a man of great common sense. He proved his mass of qualities throughout his lifetime
Young remained handsome and virile throughout most of his long life. He was five-feet ten-inches tall and possessed an unusually powerful frame. His chest measured forty-five inches broadened by the rigors of outdoor life. Like his predecessor, Joseph Smith, he possessed great personal charm. Women both men unusually attractive.
Young died in Salt Lake City, Utah, August 29th 1877 at the age of 77. Young left his followers with a mixed legacy. He left a people determined to survive, to prosper, and to spread God’s word but forever fearful of Satan and constantly afraid of excommunication and damnation. Never to question church doctrine or authority which has remained an unpardonable sin subject to excommunication. And left a church so rooted in anti-intellectualism that its leaders still remain suspicious of new ideas. However, his place in history is secure. Praised by nearly four million Mormons, he will survive as long as the religion he saved endures.
World Book Encyclopedia 1989. Young, Brigham
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