Brigham Young was a rough-hewn New York craftsman whose impoverished life was electrified by the Mormon faith. Turner provides a fully realized portrait of this spiritual prophet, viewed by followers as a protector and by opponents as a heretic. His pioneering faith made a deep imprint on tens of thousands of lives in the American Mountain West.
John G. Turner is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University.
Read an Excerpt
From Chapter Five: Prophets and Pretenders
On 25 January 1846, Young adopted eight couples, including loyal followers Albert Rockwood, John D. Lee, and George Grant. As with Young’s own children, they were sealed to Miriam Works, with Mary Ann again serving as a ritual proxy. “[T]he Spirit of allmighty god attended the administration & filled our hearts to overflowing,” Young described the emotions of the day, “& many wept for joy that were adopted into my Family.” “Brigham kissed all his children,” recorded Thomas Bullock. George Laub, who alongside his wife was sealed to John D. Lee, recorded that Lee promised “to doo unto them as he would unto his own children,” and adopted children covenanted “to do all the good for his upbuilding and happyness.” Nearly two weeks later, several additional sons and daughters joined Young’s family as adopted children. In a departure from the customary practice of having adopted children sealed to a man’s first wife, Augusta Adams Young stood next to her husband as the adoptive mother, perhaps as a sign of Young’s favor following their resealing.
Amid the feverish pace of ritual activity, many church members—perhaps even including Brigham Young—probably did not understand the implications of the sealings and adoptions at the temple altar. It was a liminal time for Latter-day Saint family relations, as Smith’s plural marriage revelation and the temple rituals disregarded both Protestant convention and civil marriages. The sealings reshaped Mormon families and connected them in new ways. In one case, Young ritually adopted Robert and Hannah Pierce, parents of his plural wives Margaret and Mary Pierce. His parents-in-law became his spiritual children. In some instances, a sense of impermanence and flexibility remained, as parties continued to refashion their family connections. James and Mary Woodward—she was the passenger in Young’s omnibus carriage the night it foundered on a Nauvoo bridge—were both sealed to Brigham Young as his adopted children in early February. Two days after Mary became Young’s adopted daughter, she married her spiritual father. Sometime after she moved to Nauvoo with her husband, Mary had complained in a letter to Young that James “abused” her and asked Young for her “release from worse than death.” Hearing whispers of Nauvoo polygamy, she hoped Young would make her his wife. Perhaps aware of Mary’s desire, James may have requested the ritual adoption as a way of avoiding losing his wife. During the press of temple work, ,Young had little time to reflect on the future consequences of the ceremonies. He and his increasingly unwieldy family would have to wait to work out exactly how the temple sealings would shape their earthly futures.
As the washings, anointings, and sealings proceeded, Young and top church leaders decided to leave Nauvoo sooner than planned, having received false advice from Governor Ford that the federal government would intervene to arrest church leaders on the counterfeiting charges and prevent the Mormons from crossing the Rocky Mountains. Simultaneously, Young heard rumors that Ford intended to declare martial law under “mob militia” led by General Hardin, who, Young surmised, “will no doubt renew those writs that had been isued for the 12 & others & thereby commence harrassing us again.” Ford did not plan to arrest Young or other church leaders, but he did want to hasten the departure of the Mormons and, with them, his biggest political headache. Young, though, feared arrest for understandable reasons. Given ongoing mob activity in Hancock County, he expected the mob to kill him if he was arrested. By February 2, Young grew desperate in his anxiety to abandon the City of Joseph. “It is my opinion,” he told a clerk, “that if we are here 10 days that our way will be Hedged up ..we want to be 500 miles from here before they are aware of our move.”
Contents Preface Prologue 1. A New Creature 2. The Tongues of Angels 3. Acts of the Apostles 4. New and Everlasting Covenant 5. Prophets and Pretenders 6. Word and Will 7. A New Era of Things 8. One Family 9. Go Ahead 10. The Whirlwind 11. Let Him Alone 12. The Monster in the Vale 13. The Soul and Mainspring of the West Epilogue Notes Acknowledgments Index
Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet 4 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
Great book, honest in it's evaluation of a very controversial figure without bias for either the Mormon or Gentile points of view. Great read.
More than 1 year ago
More than 1 year ago
The facts were well researched but the entire dialogue had a very negatively slant. Any statement can be worded with a positive or negative attitude and it was apparent that even the good done by Brigham Young left you with a nasty taste in your mouth. It did not come across as unbiased or neutral. Very disappointed.
More than 1 year ago
I would love to see this as an ebook. The reviews from both Mormon, exMormon, and never Mormon scholars of this book all give it fantastic reviews.
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