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Brigham Young (June 1, 1801 – August 29, 1877) was the second prophet and president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church; see also Mormonism). After church founder Joseph Smith, Jr., Young is perhaps the most important person in LDS history.
Young had a variety of monikers, among the most popular of which is "The American Moses" , (sometimes "The Modern Moses" or "The Mormon Moses" ) because, like the biblical figure, he led his followers in an often arduous "exodus" through a desert, to what they saw as a "promised land". He was also dubbed "The Lion of the Lord" for his bold personality.
Though he had converted to the Methodist faith in 1823, Young was drawn to Mormonism after reading the Book of Mormon shortly after its publication in 1830. He officially joined the new church in 1832 and traveled to Canada as a missionary. After his first wife died in 1833, Young joined many Mormons in establishing a community in Kirtland, Ohio.
Young was strongly committed to his new faith. He was ordained an apostle and joined the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as one of the first members on February 14, 1835. In 1840 and 1841, he went to England as a missionary for his church. Many of those Young converted moved to the United States to join Mormon communities there. In the 1840s Young was among those who established the city of Nauvoo, Illinois on the Mississippi River. It became the headquarters of the church and was larger than the city of Chicago.
While in jail awaiting trial for treason charges, Smith was killed by an armed mob of vigilantes in 1844. Several claimants to his role as church president emerged during the succession crisis that ensued. Sidney Rigdon, the only surviving member of the First Presidency put himself forward as "guardian of the Church," but at a meeting of a congregation in Nauvoo, Young successfully counter-argued that the Quorum of the Twelve should instead be sustained as a new First Presidency. This motion carried and Young, as president of the quorum, became the de facto president of the church at Nauvoo. Rigdon became the president of a separate church organization based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and other potential successors emerged to lead what became separate denominations of the movement. See Latter-day Saint movement.
Actions as Church President
After three years under the Quorum of the Twelve, Young reorganized a new First Presidency and was declared President of the largest remaining schism in 1847. Repeated conflict led Young to relocate his group of Latter-day Saints to a territory in what is now Utah; then part of Mexico. Young organized the journey that would take the faithful to Winter Quarters, Nebraska, in 1846, then to Utah's Salt Lake Valley on July 24, 1847, a date now recognized as a Utah state holiday and known as Pioneer Day.
In Utah, Young directed religious and economic matters. He encouraged independence and self-sufficiency. Many cities and towns in Utah, and some in neighboring states, were founded under Young's direction. Some have accused Young of being an autocrat during his leadership in Utah . Others disagree with this assessment, recognizing Young as a strong, inspiring leader during a challenging era, and further noting that his reputation and legacy are generally well-regarded.
A recurrent question is the nature or extent of Young's involvement in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the killing of some 120 members of a non-Mormon wagon train near Cedar City, Utah in 1857. Some say the ordering authorities in Cedar City had sent a messenger to Salt Lake City seeking direction from Young, and his belated response allegedly would have averted the massacre. Others are unconvinced that even this would absolve Young from responsibility, given the extent of his authority and influence as the leader of the Mormons.
Young was perhaps the most famous polygamist of the early church. Young married approximately 27 women and had 56 known children. These marriages were not recognized as legally binding according to U.S. law, and in response to a suit for alimony from one of his "ex-wives," Young successfully argued in court that he owed no alimony because they were never legally married. In 1856 he built the Lion House to accommodate his sizable family.
In addition to founding the University of Utah, Young also organized the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Brigham Young University is named after him. In 1950, the state of Utah donated a marble statue of Young to the U.S. Capitol's National Statuary Hall Collection.
Prominent football player Steve Young is a descendant of Brigham Young.
- Leonard J. Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses; University of Illinois Press; ISBN 0252012968, (1985; Paperback, 1986).
| Preceded by:|
Joseph Smith, Jr.
| President of the LDS Church |
| Succeeded by:|
| Previously ordained:|
David Wyman Patten
| Quorum of the Twelve Apostles|
| Next ordained:|
Heber C. Kimball
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