Brigham Young


Covered wagons
Nicknamed the "American Moses," Brigham Young was a leader of the Church of the Latter-Day Saints who led his followers from Illinois to their current location in Salt Lake City, Utah. Born in Vermont, Young had earlier converted to the Methodist faith, but after the publication of the Book of Mormon, he became drawn in by this radical new religion and joined the church before travelling to Canada as a missionary. Following his wife’s death that same year, he joined the large Mormon population in Kirtland, Ohio, where he was made a member of the first Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Only a few years later, he assisted in leading the Mormon mass exodus from their center in Missouri, when they were ordered to leave the state. After Joseph Smith’s death in 1944, Young argued that the Quorum, being equal in power to the deceased Prophet, should lead the congregation. His argument was approved, and in 1847 he was ordained President of the Church, with his fellow Apostles to assist him. Shortly thereafter, Young began to move the population once more, this time to Salt Lake City, Utah, a territory that he founded. In 1850 he was appointed governor of the region and superintendant of American Indian affairs by President Millard Fillmore, and during his time in office he helped establish settlements throughout Utah, Idaho, Arizona, and Nevada.

In 1856, President James Buchanan began to grow uneasy with Young’s dual—political and religious—leadership role, and he sent out a troop of soldiers to accompany the governor’s replacement. Calling together a band of militia, Young managed to hold them off for a winter, and when this did not defeat them he made plans to burn Salt Lake City and escape to Mexico. At the last moment, however, he relented, and after his agreement to step down as governor, he received a pardon from Buchanan. Young passed away in 1877, likely of diseases resulting from a ruptured appendix.

Young was the longest-serving President of the Mormon Church in history, and during his leadership he was best known for his promotion of polygamy, the practice of keeping multiple wives started by Joseph Smith. Young himself married fifty-five different women, who gave birth to fifty-six children, forty-six of whom survived to adulthood. In order to accommodate his large family, he built the Lion House and the Beehive House, two historic Utah landmarks. Young was also known for banning black men from the Mormon priesthood, claiming those of African descent to be the offspring of Cain. Nor could black Mormons participate in special temple rites, restrictions that remained in place until 1978. Young established the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and in 1850 he founded the University of Deseret, later renamed the University of Utah. He also founded Brigham Young Academy, today known as Brigham Young University.

Key events during the life of Brigham Young:

Married Miriam Angeline Works.
Converted to Methodism.
Converted to Mormonism after reading the Book of Mormon.
  Death of Miriam.
Ordained as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Helped lead Mormons out of Missouri.
Death of Joseph Smith.
Served as President of the Mormon Church.
Moved the Mormons to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Banned any African American man from joining the Mormon Priesthood.
Was made governor of the Utah territory.
  Founded the University of Deseret.
Stepped down from the role of governor.
Founded Brigham Young Academy.

Other Resources

Story Links
Book Links
Buchanan—The Story of the Mormons  in  This Country of Ours  by  H. E. Marshall

Short Biography
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