Brigham Young, aptly nicknamed the Mormon Moses, was born into humble circumstances. His parents were farmers in Vermont and from a young age he understood the meaning of hard work. As a young man Young worked as a carpenter, painter, and blacksmith. He married his first wife, Miriam Angeline Works, in 1824 and was a Methodist. While living in New York Brigham Young read the Book of Mormon and became interested in joining the new church. After his wife's death in 1832, he officially converted to Mormonism.
From the onset, Young poured his heart into serving the Mormon church, also known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS). Upon conversion he served as a missionary in Canada and encouraged his friends and family to join as well. He later travelled to Europe where he proselytized to the urban working class. In addition, Brigham Young helped to establish the Mormon communities in the US states of Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois. Joseph Smith was impressed with his commitment and made Brigham Young president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, which was the governing body of the church. Following Smith's death in 1844, Young was elected president of the Mormon church. Although some groups broke into settlements in Missouri and elsewhere, the majority of the Mormon community followed Young on an exodus from Illinois to Utah. There they founded Salt Lake City on July 24th, 1847, which became a sort of promised land to all the Mormons fleeing religious persecution.
Brigham Young was one of the most influential pioneers of his time. After settling in Salt Lake City, he organized the development of over a hundred settlements in and around the territory of Utah. He was elected governor and superintendent of Indian affairs. He funded the emigration of hundreds of pioneers to the west and fought to give women the right to vote in Utah. He promoted the construction of railroads and phone lines to better connect the various settlements. In addition, he founded the University of Deseret, now known as the University of Utah, the Salt Lake Theater, and his namesake Brigham Young University.
As president of the Mormon church, Brigham Young preached around 500 sermons. He built upon Smith's legacy, expanding and adding new doctrine and practices to the Mormon beliefs. He strongly advocated polygamy and had 55 wives and 57 children during his lifetime. Young also is known for his teaching that God was once a mortal man and eventually became exalted, therefore presenting the idea that all Mormon men had the potential to reach god status in the afterlife. In addition, he instituted youth programs and strongly encouraged missions. Some of his greatest accomplishments include overseeing the construction of the Mormon Tabernacle and the Salt Lake Temple.
Brigham Young's roles as governor of Utah and president of the Mormon church often intersected. Every political decision he made was focused on promoting the growth and wellbeing of the church. As more non-Mormons moved into the area, they began to question Young's leadership, especially concerning polygamy, calling for a separation of church and state. Although the church suffered a lot of backlash, such as president Buchanan sending troops to replace Young as governor, Young was able to overcome most of the setbacks and continue to prosper the church.
Brigham Young died on August 29, 1877 from a ruptured appendix. His funeral was held in the Mormon Tabernacle and it's estimated that over 12,000 people attended. But, just as his predecessor Joseph Smith, Young was a false prophet. The thousands who followed him physically to Salt Lake City and the millions who follow him spiritually today are pursuing a mirage. For those who follow the teachings of Mormonism the promised land will remain elusive as they continue to wander the desert. Only those who trust in Jesus Christ as their Savior will enter the promised land of eternity with God. For Jesus Himself declared, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
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