Y Facts

Brigham Young Biography: Connecting

As President of the Church, Brigham conducted regular Sunday services in Salt Lake City and each year visited as many outlying communities as possible. He appointed bishops for each ward and settlement and encouraged each ward to provide cultural opportunities for its members, such as dances, theater, music recitals, and, above all, schools. He listened to people with complaints, responded to myriad questions about personal and family affairs as well as religion, and dictated thousands of letters with instruction, counsel, friendly advice, and casual comment about Church and national affairs. He was a firm Latter-day Saint leader and a wise counselor.

Brigham gave some 500 sermons in pioneer Utah that were recorded word for word by a stenographer. These, all delivered without a prepared text, may have seemed rambling in organization, but they were well thought out and suggest remarkable mental power. They were well adapted to his audiences. His discourses were like "fireside chats," an informal "talking things over" with his audiences. Interweaving subjects as diverse as women's fashions, the atonement of Christ, recollections of Joseph Smith, and how to make good bread, Brigham kept his audiences enthralled, amused, and in tears, sometimes for hours. He inspired, motivated, taught, and encouraged.

The Latter-day Saints had settled among various tribes of Native Americans. Intent upon helping them, converting them, and avoiding bloodshed, Brigham established Indian farms, took Indians into his own home, advocated a policy of "feeding them is cheaper than fighting them," and held periodic meetings with chiefs. His policies were not always successful, but he consistently sought peaceful solutions and firmly opposed the all-too-common frontier practice of shooting Indians for petty causes. In 1851, Brigham was appointed governor and superintendent of Indian Affairs of Utah Territory by U.S. President Millard Fillmore. His principal problem as governor was dealing with the "outside" federal appointees, many of whom were, from any point of view, both unsympathetic to the Church and inexcusably incompetent. There were problems over small federal expenditures, the failure of Saints to use federal judges in cases of civil disputes, the lack of tact of the federally appointed officials in discussing the Church, their opposition to the union of church and state, and their assumption that Latter-day Saints were immoral because of their tolerance of plural marriage.

This continuing controversy eventually led to the decision of U.S. President James Buchanan in 1857 to replace Brigham Young with an "outside" governor, Alfred Cumming of Georgia. At the same time, President Buchanan, who had been (wrongly) informed that the Mormons were "in a state of substantial rebellion against the laws and authority of the United States," sent a major portion of the U.S. Army to Utah to install the new governor and to ensure the execution of U.S. laws. Though Governor Young was not notified of this action, scouts observed and reported armed forces secretly heading for Utah. Fearful of a repetition of the "mobocracy" of Missouri and Illinois, he called people home from outlying colonies and mobilized the Saints to defend their homes. Eventually, with the assistance of a politically influential, non-Mormon friend of the Saints, Thomas L. Kane, a peaceful settlement of the affair was arranged. Peace commissioners Lazarus Powell and Ben McCulloch were sent by the U.S. Government to arbitrate the terms. The U.S. Army's construction and occupation of southwest Amnesty was subsequently granted by the President of the United States. Camp Floyd (a post some forty miles from Salt Lake City) proved an irritant, but the Church continued its expansion and development. President Young remained, as his colleagues boasted, governor of the people, while his replacements merely governed the territory. The military left Utah in 1861 with the start of the Civil War. However, they were replaced in 1862 by the "California Volunteers," who were stationed at Camp Douglas.

A believer in adapting the newest technology to the advantage of LDS society, Brigham Young contracted in 1861 to build a portion of the transcontinental telegraph line, which was then being constructed from Nebraska to California. He then proceeded to erect the 1,200-mile Deseret Telegraph line from Franklin, Idaho, to northern Arizona. This connected a great many of the Mormon villages with Salt Lake City and, through that connection, with the world. While the transcontinental railroad was under construction, he negotiated for contracts with Union Pacific and Central Pacific. As a result, LDS contractors were appointed to build the roadbeds east of Salt Lake City into part of Wyoming and west into Nevada. He then organized the Utah Central, Utah Southern, and Utah Northern railroads, thereby facilitating the extension of a line south from Ogden to Frisco in southern Utah and one north to Franklin, Idaho, and eventually to Montana.

Aware that the completion of the railroad would imperil the independent social economy of his people, President Young inaugurated a protective movement that sought to preserve, as much as possible, their unique way of life. He organized cooperatives to handle local merchandising and manufacturing; initiated several new enterprises to develop local resources; promoted Relief Societies in each ward in order to provide opportunities for self-development, socialization, and compassionate service for women; opened the doors of the University of Deseret (later the University of Utah) for both young men and women; encouraged women to become professionally trained, especially in medicine; and gave women the vote. In 1875, he established Brigham Young Academy (later Brigham Young University), in 1877 Brigham Young College (Logan, Utah), and put in motion a host of academies to follow, including the Latter-day Saints College at Salt Lake. In 1874, he also promoted the United Order movement in an effort to encourage cooperation and home production and consumption.

Next Page

Previous Article  Next Article

Submit Correction

Please state specifically
the correction needed.
(All fields are required *)

Full Name:*

Email:*

Message:*