Y Facts

Brigham Young Biography: How to lead Israel

In 1834, Brigham and his brother Joseph served with Zion's Camp, a small army of Saints led by Joseph Smith that marched from Ohio to Missouri in the summer of 1834 to assist those driven from their homes by hostile mobs. Brigham regarded the difficult trek as superb education and later called it "the starting point of my knowing how to lead Israel" (Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, pp. 45-46).

Dedication and potential, more than accomplishments, qualified Brigham Young to be ordained a member of the Church's original Quorum of The Twelve Apostles on February 14, 1835. The Twelve were a "traveling high council" charged to take the gospel "to all nations, kindred, tongues, and people." They presided not "at home" but "abroad, serving as the leading quorum in the Church after the First Presidency."

Each summer Brigham undertook proselyting missions in the East; each winter he cared for his family and helped build up Kirtland. He helped construct the Kirtland Temple, attended the School of the Prophets, participated in the Pentecostal outpouring that accompanied the dedication of the Kirtland Temple in the spring of 1836, and engaged in Church-related business activities assigned to him by Joseph Smith. When the Kirtland community became divided over Joseph Smith's leadership, Brigham Young's strong defense of the Prophet so enraged the critics that Brigham had to flee Kirtland for his safety on December 22, 1837. He and his family, made their way to Far West, Caldwell County, Missouri.

By the summer of 1838, most of the Kirtland faithful, including Brigham and his family, had moved to Caldwell County, in northern Missouri. Growing numbers of Latter-day Saint arrivals rekindled antagonisms with old settlers, and violence erupted. Disarmed, violated, and robbed of most of their holdings, the Latter-day Saints were driven from the state. With Joseph Smith, his brother Hyrum, Sidney Rigdon, and other Church leaders imprisoned, Brigham Young, then the senior member of the Quorum the Twelve, directed the evacuation of the Saints to Quincy and other Illinois communities. To ensure that members without teams and wagons would not be left behind, he and other members of the Committee on Removal, drew up the Missouri Covenant. All who signed it agreed to make their resources available to remove every person to safety who wished to leave the state of Missouri. There were between 8,000 and 12,000 exiles.

In the spring of 1839, Joseph Smith designated Commerce (renamed Nauvoo), Illinois, the new central gathering place of the Saints. Brigham's family was hardly settled in the area when he and other members of the Twelve left to fulfill their mission calls to Great Britain. Despite poverty and poor health all around, Brigham left his wife and children in September, determined to go to England or to die trying. Preceded by some members of the Quorum in March 1840, President Young and his companions finally docked at Liverpool in April.

As quorum president, Brigham directed their work in Britain during an astonishing year in which they baptized between 7,000 and 8,000 converts; printed and distributed 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon, 3,000 hymn books, 1,500 volumes of the Millennial Star, and 50,000 tracts; established a shipping agency; and assisted nearly 1,000 to emigrate to Nauvoo. Brigham traveled to the principal cities in England and took time to visit Buckingham Palace, St. Paul's Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, the Lake district, factory towns, the Potteries, museums, art galleries, and, of course, the homes of converts, both rich and poor. In later years he often commented on what he had seen and learned in England.

Such striking success, the first such experience of a united quorum, prepared the Twelve for additional responsibilities. Back in Nauvoo, Brigham was given the assignment of directing the Twelve in their supervision of missionary work, the purchase of lands and settling of immigrants, and various construction projects. Along with others, Brigham was also taught the principle of Plural Marriage; he accepted it after much reluctance and considerable thought and prayer. With Mary Ann's consent, he married Lucy Ann Decker Seeley in June 1842, and later other plural wives. He was among the first seven persons to receive the full temple endowment at the hands of the Prophet Joseph Smith in Nauvoo on May 4, 1842. Later, with Mary Ann, he participated with others who had received temple ordinances in sessions during which Joseph Smith gave additional instructions on gospel principles.

Because Brigham Young was now the president of the quorum, which came second only to the First Presidency in authority and responsibility, he became increasingly immersed in the affairs of the rapidly expanding community. Nonetheless, though he helped direct everything from the construction of the Nauvoo Temple to missionary work abroad, he also continued the pattern established in Kirtland of personally undertaking preaching missions each summer. In February 1844, Joseph Smith further instructed Brigham Young and others of his quorum about a future move to the Rocky Mountains. In March 1844, Brigham participated in the creation of the Council of Fifty – an organization suggesting a pattern of government for a future theocratic society and the last such organizational pattern left by Joseph Smith. Soon after, as if in foreboding of his impending death, Joseph Smith gave Brigham and other members of the Twelve a dramatic charge to "bear off this kingdom," telling them that they now had all the keys and instruction needed to do so successfully (Conference Report, Apr. 1898:89; Millennial Star, Mar. 1845:151).

In May 1844, Brigham and other apostles left on summer missions. While they were gone, events in Nauvoo deteriorated. Joseph Smith was arrested and, on June 27, was killed with his brother Hyrum when a mob stormed the jail at Carthage, Illinois, where they were being held. Brigham began to hear rumors of the murders while in the Boston area, but did not hear definite word of the assassination until July 16 in Peterboro, New Hampshire. He and his companions immediately rushed back to Nauvoo, arriving August 6. On August 8, Brigham and the Twelve were sustained by the membership to lead the Church. Brigham remained the President of the Church until his death in 1877.

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