Sunday, October 20, 2013

Brigham Young read-a-thon

My photo of a photograph in the Fairview Museum of a younger Brigham Young

During 2013 I have served as a gospel doctrine teacher (Sunday School) in my LDS congregation one Sunday per month.  Our course of study has been the Doctrine & Covenants which has included a great deal of LDS Church history.  I have really enjoyed the church history part.  I have had a great affinity for history in general but in particular church history for many years.  This year I have been delving even deeper as I have prepared my lessons.

The last month or so I have been reading about Brigham Young, 2nd president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Ten of Brigham Young's daughters know as "The Big Ten"

He would receive world wide attention because of his many wives and 50+ children.  He would go down in history as the leader of the largest organized immigration movement in the world and the premiere colonizer of the American West.

Photo of Brigham Young (middle in top hat) on his trip to the confluence of the Virgin and Colorado Rivers in early 1870's, the farthest south that he traveled

Brigham Young first traveled to the Salt Lake Valley in 1847.  He returned to Iowa later that same year, then came west again leading many others in 1848.  He never returned that far east again, even with the advent of the Intercontinental Railroad.  The Great Basin became his home, his project, and still bears his imprint.

Brigham Young, American Moses by Leonard J. Arrington, was first published in 1986.  It is a very detailed biography of Brigham Young as a young man, church convert, church leader, government leader, organizer and planner, and family man.  Under his leadership and lifetime over 80,000 people came to live in the Great Basin in over 350 communities.

He was born in Whitingham, Vermont to a newly arrived and struggling family including a mother with consumption (tuberculosis).  They traveled on to the backwoods of Upper New York State where hard labor was the rule, shoes were only worn to church, and education came in small doses.  Brigham Young claimed to have had only 11 days of formal schooling.  But his was a Bible reading family and a religious family of whom all eventually joined this new religion.  His mother dies when Brigham is a young teen and life becomes even harder.  His scrappiness allows him to continue on, to learn the trade of carpenter and glazier for which he became well known, and to survive the death of his first young wife from the same disease which had taken his mother.

I also read Brigham Young, A Concise Biography of the Mormon Moses by Ed Breslin which was published this year.  It is concise and the beginning is taken almost word for word from Arrington's biography.  His is also the perspective of an Eastener looking back on this time period in the West.

I also read much of Brigham Young, The Colonizer by Milton R. Hunter which is in my library as part of the books I received of my mother's.  It was first published in the early 1940's and was the doctrinal thesis of Hunter.  It contains good, solid church history of this period as well as a detailed telling of the colonization of the Great Basin year by year and location by location.  It is said that you will find a Mormon community where a good creek or river leaves the mountains.  As one drives the highways and byways of the western states they will pass through these communities including the Mormon Corridor along which Interstate 15 now travels.

Brigham Young statue in front of the Administration Building on the Brigham Young University Campus

He was a self-taught man, an intelligent man, and a man who did not shirk from giving advice.  He was also known for his kindness to the poor and the struggling and his contempt for those who might take advantage of others.  He and his best friend, Heber C. Kinball, would travel to the mouth of Emmigration Canyon to welcome the annual groups immigrating to the Great Basin.  His influence had brought them there and he had a plan for their survival in the arid American West.

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