The Early Years of Brigham Young

October 11, 1973

Speaking of lineage, I should like to explain to you that whatever your great-grandparents or forebears did cannot be grafted into your own life. If you happen to be named Brown or Jones or Spendlove or Lewis or Young or any name, it doesn’t matter who your ancestors are. If you live right you can become an ancestor yourself and have your own descendants look up to you as a person from whom they might be happy to have descended and whom they might be glad to emulate. I don’t look upon President Brigham Young with any feeling that I am any better for it. I am happy, of course, to be a descendant, but I think I need to do some of the things he did before I can qualify.

Childhood and Youth

John Young, a revolutionary soldier, received a letter in 1800 from a cousin in Whitingham, Vermont. John lived in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and married the daughter of Phineas Howe, a girl by the name of Nabby, whose name we think was really Abigail.

I now present to you a map showing the location of the towns about which I shall speak. John’s cousin sent the letter inviting John to come to Whitingham, Vermont, to live, telling him there was acreage and a lot of trees he could cut, and land he could get cheap, and perhaps offering him some of his own land at a discount. In the late fall or winter of 1800, John Young picked up his wife and eight children and drove across the country, landing at Whitingham; and there, on June 1, with the beautiful summer abloom, Brigham Young was born. The other eight children I shall mention only briefly as I go along; they’re important to my life, of course, but not necessarily to this talk.

At Whitingham Brigham began to grow. The first thing that happened to him was that he apparently couldn’t digest some of the food they gave him and he was not a very well child, with the result that he clung to his sister Fanny and wouldn’t leave her. So when she went out to milk the family cow, Brigham went out and sat on her lap while she milked with one hand. That’s the first knowledge we have of him and what he did. Now I thought that was pretty good, to take part in the family milking so early in life.

Two years later they were on their way across the country to New York State. They came by way of Albany and then down to a place known as Sherburne (Smyrna), and there they lived for three years. Two more children were born, making a total of eleven, and one of them, little Nabby, died.

Again they picked up their wagons and moved over to a township called Aurilius. Now, Aurilius is not a small town as you think of Utah towns. Anywhere in that particular country, a town is a section of land about ten, perhaps twelve, miles square—not quite square always, but a hundred square miles covered heavily with trees, except where they had managed to cut them out to make farms. So when you say he came to a town, you simply mean he moved into the forest, got a tract of land, and started to cut wood and to clear the land.

The history of this family during that period is one of constant moving, constant acquiring of a piece of land, constant cutting of trees and clearing the land, and then, for some reason, moving on to the next place. The remarkable thing about it is that when one of the children would move to a place the rest of the family seemed to gravitate to that place, and at Aurilius there were two of the children who had moved there. So the Young family was at Aurilius. There Nabby Howe Young, the mother of eleven children, died of tuberculosis, worn out from the pioneering days which she endured. Then John Young took his four boys down to Tyrone and again started to clear land.

That particular winter was bad, and they found themselves in early March—still hard winter in that country—without food. John sent his two older boys, Phineas and Joseph, to find work anywhere which they might exchange for food, corn, or whatever, and kept Brigham and Lorenzo Dow—Brigham fourteen, Lorenzo Dow about ten—there in the cabin with him. John Young had tapped the maple trees on his farm and boiled down the sap and made a quantity of maple sugar. As they finally came to the end of their food supply, he told Brigham he was going to take the sugar over to Painted Post, on the border of Pennsylvania, and sell the sugar in exchange for food. He said, “Now you stay here, Briggy, and tomorrow morning get out and work all day clearing the brush and chopping what you can. And Lorenzo, you pile the brush. It’ll take me all night and tomorrow to get there and back, but I’ll be back the next day.”

So early that next morning, strapping on his snowshoes and leaving half a pound or so of sugar for the boys to eat as best they could, he left those two small boys and, donning his pack, snowshoed off through the timber to go to Painted Post.

They worked all that day, as they had promised they would, and about four o’clock they started for the house. As they were walking along they heard a robin sing, one of the early harbingers of spring. They stopped and finally located the robin on a bush some fifty or sixty yards away. Brigham said to Lorenzo, “Now you watch. I’ll run around and get the gun and we’ll have some supper.” So he circled around and got to the cabin and got the gun out and ran back. (The gun, of course, was an old revolutionary muzzle-loading musket, which you fire by putting some powder in a little pan called the frizzen, cocking the gun, and then firing it. The hammer, which has a flint attached to it, strikes a piece of steel, causing a spark to drop into the powder. The powder ignites and runs down a hole in the gun where the main charge is, and the gun fires.) The gun barrel had a half-inch bore. Now you wonder what a half inch is—about the size of my finger. The bullet was about that size too. The gun must have weighed fifteen pounds, but Brigham managed to aim it. Whether he propped it up I don’t know, but he aimed it and pulled the trigger and shot the bird’s head off. They ran over and got the bird, skinned it and cleaned it, went to the cabin, and put the bird in a kettle on the fireplace with a little water and began to stew it. They upended the flour barrel and beat on the bottom, catching what they could in the pan, and managed to get half a cup of flour. They thickened the stew with that and had bird stew and sugar for supper. The next night, of course, John got home, bringing some corn meal and pork, and they were able to survive.

About a year later, Brigham asked his father if he might go out and earn his living and learn how to be a carpenter, and his father gave him permission. Whether or not he apprenticed himself or just hired out I don’t know, but he went back up to Aurilius, where his sister was staying. There, in the same township, the town of Auburn, New York, was beginning to develop. There he stayed and learned the carpenter’s trade, the painter’s trade, and the glazier’s trade. I suppose it took quite a bit of doing, and I can’t explain to you what he went through as a boy, learning those trades, but he worked hard, became expert, and was a very meticulous, careful craftsman, as the chairs which he made in that day and still exist attest.

When he was about twenty-two or twenty-three he lived in Port Byron, on the Erie Canal, fifty or sixty miles east of Palmyra. During this period he met Miss Miriam Works, a beautiful girl, of course. (They always have to be beautiful. From the looks of my family I can believe it, although I don’t measure up to the fact.) They were married and had two children and stayed at Port Byron.

Meanwhile the Young family, John Young and all of his children, began to gather at Mendon. There they kept importuning Brigham to come over, and finally, in 1828, he moved his wife and his two children over to Mendon. There they met Heber C. Kimball and his wife Vilate, and the family, and there was cemented a friendship which lasted as long as they lived.

Introduction to the “Golden Bible”

At Mendon, Brigham’s brother Phineas Howe Young, an itinerant Methodist preacher who had a circuit (a distance of some miles around, where his congregation lived and where there were a certain number of small buildings in which he could preach), was coming home from his circuit riding and stopped at the house of a man named Tomlinson, one of his members, for lunch. You folks can understand that, because even here in our cow country if a cowpuncher, riding a horse, at noon time comes to a ranch house he goes into the corral, puts his horse in the barn, gives him a feed of hay and some grain, and walks up to the house and is given dinner. And so it was with Phineas Howe Young. He stopped for lunch at Tomlinson’s and sat in the parlor. Sitting there also was a tall young man dressed in well-worn homespun.

The young man said to him, “Sir, I have a book I should like you to read.”

“Oh,” said Phineas, “what is it?”

“It’s called the Book of Mormon, sir, and it’s a revelation from God.”

Phineas said, “Oh, the golden Bible?”

“They call it that,” said the man, “and I’d like you to read the testimony of the witnesses.”

The man turned to the back of the book, where in the first edition the testimonies were located, and handed it to Phineas. Phineas read the testimony of the three witnesses, how they had seen with the power of God these plates and heard the voice of God declare that the plates were translated correctly, and then they read about the eight men who had seen them with their eyes and had hefted them and touched them and described them to be of ancient and curious workmanship. The man said, “I would like you to buy one, and I testify to you it’s true.”

Phineas bought one, and on his way home he read a little of it. When he got home he said to his wife, “I have a week’s work to do, and I don’t want to be disturbed.”

“Oh,” said his wife, “what is it?”

He said, “I have a book here and I want to read it and point out its errors so that I can tell my congregations it’s not true.” Phineas read the book and, of course, found out it was true. He took it to his father and he read it, and to his brother Brigham and he read it, and to some of his other family members and they read it. They began to talk about it and decided there might be something to what they had read.”

That summer there came into the community five young men from Columbia, Pennsylvania, 125 miles away. Walking through the country without purse or scrip, they stopped at Mendon and at Victor, where Phineas Young lived. Phineas welcomed them and opened his home to them, where they preached. The Kimballs and the Youngs all went to hear them speak.


At the end of the conversation they were quite sure that the young men had something which was really true. But they waited, and they investigated. That winter, in late December or early January, Heber C. Kimball hitched up a team of horses onto a bobsled, and, accompanied by Brigham and his wife, Miriam (Vilate stayed home to take care of the children), and Phineas Young, drove the 125 miles from Mendon to Columbia. Where they stayed and how they fed their horses in that cold winter weather I do not know. They visited there for a week. There they heard the gift of tongues exercised. And when they went back home they were convinced.

As soon as they returned home, Brigham hitched a horse to a sleigh and, with Portonius Greene, drove the horse from Mendon up around the end of Lake Ontario, across the St. Lawrence River to Kingston, and twenty or thirty miles back in the country to “Loboro” (Loughborough). There Joseph Young had a congregation. Brigham convinced Joseph there was something to this new doctrine. Joseph accompanied him on the return to Mendon.

In April of 1832, Brigham went back into the woods to a creek with Eliad Miller, one of the five men who first came preaching, and, in a blinding snowstorm, found a hole deep enough and was baptized. He sat on a log, his clothing freezing on him as he sat there, and he was confirmed a member of the Church and ordained an elder. He later said, “As I sat there and that was done, I felt the sweet spirit of the Holy Ghost witnessing that my sins were forgiven.” And so he became a member of the Church. Miriam, his wife, was baptized a week later. That summer Miriam died of tuberculosis, leaving two small girls, Elizabeth and Vilate. Heber C. and Vilate Kimball took them in.

That fall Heber C. Kimball and Joseph and Brigham Young hitched up Heber C. Kimball’s team to a wagon and headed west to Kirtland, Ohio, to meet the Prophet Joseph. They rode along through the beautiful fall scenery, down across New York, around Lake Erie, across upper Pennsylvania—the 325 miles to Kirtland. That’s about as far as from Salt Lake City to St. George. They arrived in Kirtland and found Portonius Greene and Rhoda Young Greene already living there, had a little lunch, I suppose, washed up, and then asked to be taken to where the Prophet was. Brother Greene took them to the Prophet’s house, and there they were informed that the Prophet was in the back lot cutting timber. They walked back.

Can you see them, the fall air reflecting the gold and yellow of those beautiful trees in full fall color? As they walked along they saw a man over six feet tall, strong, vigorous, barefooted, cutting wood. As he turned, his blond hair seemed to reflect the golden color of the leaves; and his blue eyes seemed all the more blue. He in turn saw Brigham Young, five foot eight and a half, strong of body and firm of step, also with light hair, about the same color as his own, also with blue eyes. And as the two clasped hands, Brigham said to himself, “I know he is a prophet.” From that day on he dedicated his life to Joseph Smith and never missed an opportunity to be in his presence, day or night, storm or calm, winter or summer.

Taught by the Prophet

They went back home to Mendon, and Brigham and Joseph started in late November or early December, through mud and snow and cold and wind—on foot this time. They started at Mendon, of course, and walked up around Lake Ontario on foot, crossing the St. Lawrence on the ice. As they started to cross the ice, the ice bent beneath their weight and water came up through cracks in it to the depth of their ankles. They immediately separated fifty yards apart and prayed that the ice would not break. It didn’t and they managed to get across. They went to West “Loboro,” converted that congregation, and then came back.

As soon as spring came, in April Brigham went immediately, on foot and alone, around the south shore of Lake Ontario and down the St. Lawrence to Ogdensburg, converting people all through that part of the country. He went over to West “Loboro,” joined a group of people who wanted to go to Kirtland and had their wagons ready, and guided them all the way down some 600-odd miles to Kirtland, Ohio, and then back to Mendon. His travels totaled more than 1,000 miles that summer, much of it on foot.

That fall Heber C. Kimball and Brigham sold their property, packed up the wagon, and with their families drove through the fall beauty to Kirtland, Ohio—325 miles—to be with the Prophet. When they got to Kirtland, they found that the brethren there were all going over to Cleveland for the winter to earn money. Brigham said, “I’m not going. I came to be with the Prophet and I intend to stay.” Even though there wasn’t much work in Kirtland, he stayed and got jobs as a carpenter. He said that when spring came he had “means.”

Every time the Prophet talked, wherever the Prophet held a meeting, wherever the Prophet was holding discussions, Brigham Young laid down his hammer, his saw, his plane, and his square and, without fail, went and listened. And he did it constantly.

In 1834 the Prophet recruited the brethren to go on the Zion’s Camp March. Brigham, of course, with his brother Joseph, joined that march. They went from Kirtland down across Ohio, past Columbus, passing Dublin, across Indiana, across Illinois to the Mississippi, across Missouri to Fishing River. You know the story of Fishing River—how, when the mobbers came to wipe them out, a great storm closed in on them, the river rose, and a great hailstorm came and drove the mobbers to cover, and how the cholera outbreak came as punishment because of the disobedience of some of the Zion’s Camp members. Fourteen of them died. Then the camp was disbanded and Brigham Young was discharged along with the others and walked all the way back to Kirtland—as far as from Winter Quarters to Salt Lake City. He and his brother Joseph did it in twenty-five days. You can figure out how far they walked each day.

Then, of course, there was the great time when they dedicated the Kirtland Temple. Brigham Young did the painting of the interior of that temple and Lorenzo Dow Young did the plastering of the outside of it, with the help, of course, of others. Twelve apostles were now chosen from those who had marched in Zion’s Camp. On that march Joseph Smith taught Brigham Young how to lead men. And he learned from Joseph Smith how men should be led, as they made that thousand-mile-plus walk to the Liberty area.

Called on a mission, they started at Kirtland and came to Buffalo and then fanned out all across New York State, meeting every so often to hold conferences, then across Massachusetts and finally as far as Farmington, Maine, coming back that fall.

Apostasy in the Church

Then apostasy began. The hatred of the men who rose against the Prophet, including some of the apostles, was very great. Brigham and Heber C. Kimball, Joseph Smith, Sr., and Hyrum stood firm, and whenever the meetings were held in which the apostates tried to vote the Prophet out, they were so vehement in his defense that the apostates could do nothing.

In one such meeting in the Kirtland temple, where the apostate conspirators were going to vote the Prophet out of the Church, a man by the name of Jacob Bump, a pugilist, got so angry at the defense of the Prophet by Brigham Young that he jumped to his feet and shouted, “Let me get my hands on him!” Friends grabbed him and held him off, and Brigham said, “Oh, if he wants to lay his hands on me, let him try.” Bump did not attempt to make good his threat. The apostates got so tough and so mean that Brigham finally had to flee to save his own life.

In this period of a year or so, Brigham had—six or seven different times, I would judge—taken steps to preserve the Prophet’s life against that mob, as they conspired to waylay him in one place or to ambush him in another and kill him. I shall not take the time to describe some of those events.

In December Brigham rode away on a horse, leaving his wife, Mary Ann, whom he had married in 1834 at Kirtland, his two girls, and the twins that had since been born—four children—alone to fend for themselves as best they could. He rode the horse across Ohio, stopping at Dublin, Indiana.

Three weeks later the Prophet Joseph Smith was driven out. Starting at ten o’clock at night, he and his counselor, Sidney Rigdon—the two of them on horses—rode sixty miles on that cold, bitter night. I don’t know how many of you young folks have ridden a horse very far, but I rode one forty miles one time, and that was as much as I wanted to ride. Joseph rode sixty miles in the bitter cold of a zero weather night. A few days later his wife met him there. She had been brought slowly along in a wagon. Then all the way across Ohio the spies of the mobbers and some of the mobbers tried to locate him to kill him, but the Lord blinded their eyes. Finally he arrived at Dublin too.

More Trials

At Dublin a strange thing happened. There Joseph met Brigham Young, Lorenzo Dow Young, the Decker family, and two or three other families who were waiting for spring to break, so that they could go west. When the Prophet got there he tried to find work. He couldn’t find any. He could cut a cord of wood for fifty cents. That’s a four-by-four-by-eight-foot stack of wood. He could earn fifty cents that way, and it would take all day to do it.

So he said to Brigham Young, “Brother Brigham, you’re a member of the Twelve Apostles and have the authority. I want to place myself in your hands. I want your advice. Counsel me. What shall I do?”

Brigham said to him, “Are you serious?”

“Yes, I’m serious.”

“Very well,” said Brigham. “If you’re serious, I’ll tell you what you shall do. I want you to quit worrying and rest yourself, and I promise you you will have means by which to go on.”

Then he went to Brother Tomlinson, who was going to sell a tavern, and he said, “Brother Tomlinson, you want to sell your tavern. All right. You’ll get two offers. The first offer will be the best offer. Take that offer and then give liberally to Joseph Smith.”

Well, that’s how it proved to be. He sold the tavern. The first offer was the best offer; he took it. Then he went to the Prophet Joseph Smith and gave him three hundred dollars of the money which he had received from his tavern. Three hundred dollars in those days is about eighteen hundred dollars today. And so the Prophet had means. And those men then moved on, with their wagon trains in the snow, crossing icy rivers. There were no bridges. They began at Dublin, crossing Indiana, crossing Illinois, and arriving at Far West, Missouri, in April.

Brigham sent for Mary Ann to come. I don’t know how she found strength to do it, but she started at Kirtland and took a wagon and went over to the Allegheny River. On that river she got a small boat and was taken slowly down the river to the Ohio River, then finally coming to the junction of the Mississippi, traveling up the Mississippi to St. Louis, changing there to a Missouri River boat, and finally coming up the Missouri River and landing at Richmond.

Brigham met her at Richmond. She was so emaciated from lack of food and the discomforts of that trip he did not recognize her and had to be told who she was. He took her to his little new farm at Far West and nursed her back to health and strength.

Then came upon them all the terrible mobbings you’ve heard about. I’ll have to skip a great deal. Joseph Smith was now in Liberty Jail. Brigham and Heber—the two senior apostles now, due to the apostasy of the senior man—rode over every few days to the Prophet to talk to him through the little window of his basement cell, asking his opinion, his advice and counsel. From that prison he told them what to do, and those two men followed his counsel.

The Saints were driven out of Missouri, and Brigham Young did one thing I’d like you to know. He took a paper and went around to all the male members of the Church and said to them, “I want you to sign this paper, stating that you will pledge everything you own to a committee to be used to take out with us the Saints who can’t go on their own, who have nothing. We do not want to leave a member of the Church behind who wants to leave.” To the credit of that body of men, poor as they were, bereft of stock taken by the mobs, they pledged their money, their cattle, their wagons—everything they owned as a group—to take out the poor. And then in February Brigham and his wife and Vilate Kimball and her children got in a wagon. They obtained a scrawny team somewhere. Brigham drove that team about twenty miles, took the families out, pitched a small tent, put them in the tent, built a fire, cut enough wood for twenty-four hours, turned the team around, and went back to Far West and got a poor family which had nothing and brought it that far. Then that family camped in the tent while he took his family on another twenty miles and came back and got the second family. Others were doing the same thing.

By that means they took the poor out of Missouri to Quincy. And that’s been the habit of this church ever since, to take care of its poor if it possibly can.

Mission to England

When they reached Illinois, they were reminded that in April they had promised to obey the Lord’s command to come back and start for their European mission from the cornerstone of the Far West temple. Brigham Young reminded his colaborers of that, and so five of the apostles got in a wagon and started out. Of course they had gone from Far West to Quincy and had to travel as I described; so they left Quincy, crossed the river, and—using back roads where they wouldn’t be noticed, because they were in grave danger for their lives—arrived in Far West on April 25 at midnight. They were to leave April 26. Heber C. Kimball and one or two of the loyal Saints met them there. They sang a song, offered a prayer, ordained two other brethren apostles, making a total of seven, a majority. Then, dedicating each other to it, and as day was breaking, they left on April 26 in harmony with the revelation and commandment given of the Lord on their mission.

As they rode past the house of one of the apostates, one of the brethren, Brother Turley, said, “Stop, I want to say goodbye to this man.” And so they stopped.

He got out and knocked on the cabin, and the woman said, “Who is it?”

He said, “It’s Brother Turley.”

“It couldn’t be. He’s in Quincy, Illinois.” But she opened the door and there stood Brother Turley. And she said, “What are you doing here?”

“We have just finished dedicating the temple site and are leaving for the mission to England, and I am going with them.”

With that he closed the door, and the apostate listened with chagrin, knowing that the prophecy had been fulfilled, hearing the rapidly retreating sounds of the horses’ hoofs on hard dirt as they rode east out of Far West. They had fulfilled a prophecy, determined that they were not going to let the Lord down. They rode on across the country and finally reached Quincy.

By that time the Saints had moved up to Commerce, which is now Nauvoo. Brigham Young got a room in a barracks across the river in Montrose, and in that one room put his family with Wilford Woodruff and his family. They lived, two families together, in one room.

September came. So sick he couldn’t stand, his wife sick with a newborn baby, his children sick in bed, Brigham crawled out of that house to the door and staggered to a wagon. He crawled up onto the floor of the wagon, was hauled down to the river two or three hundred yards away, managed to crawl into a boat, was taken across the river, crawled out, and lay on the ground for a long time. A horseman came along and offered him a ride and got him onto the horse in some manner, and he was taken to the house of Heber C. Kimball. Heber C. Kimball himself was sick. The two men lay sick in bed in the Kimball home for, a week or two, and finally they determined that that mustn’t be, and so they arose, arranged for a wagon, said goodbye to their two wives—as Mary Ann had come across the river to help nurse him by this time—got in the wagon, and lay down. Heber said to Brigham, “Let’s not leave them this way.” So they staggered to their feet and raised their hats and said, “Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah for Zion!” and fell flat on the floor of the wagon.

They were hauled away twenty miles. They stayed with a family. I shan’t describe that, except that as they drove along in a wagon they had acquired, they came across at Terre Haute, Indiana, a drunk member of the Church, a doctor, who gave Heber C. Kimball an overdose of morphine. That night Brigham fought all the long night to save Heber’s life. Heber looked more dead than alive in the morning. The three men with them decided they wanted to go on. So Brigham said, “All right, you take the team and the surrey and go on, and we’ll catch up with you when Heber gets better.” And as they went out, thinking Heber was going to die in an hour or two, Heber weakly said from the bed, “We’ll beat you to Kirtland.”

As soon as Brigham and Heber were able to go, they went to a small town, Pleasanton, near Terre Haute, and there the Saints gave them $13.50. With that $13.50 they started out and got on a stage (a bus today), went as far as the $13.50 would take them, went into a tavern, and hired a room for the night. The next morning Brigham looked in his purse. There was enough money there to pay for the tavern rent and enough money to take them another day’s journey. They did that all the way across Indiana, across Ohio, to Kirtland.

About the second time it happened, Brigham said to Heber, “Are you putting money in my purse?”

Heber said, “No, you know I haven’t any money. How could I put money in your purse?”

“Well, it’s there.”

They spent a total of $89.50 out of the $13.50 which was given to them.

They worked their way to New York State by way of Cleveland and Kirtland, up to Buffalo across New York, into Vermont, where Brigham saw some of his family, and down to New York City. Brigham traveled in rags. The only way he had to keep warm that winter was to have an old quilt wrapped around him, tied with a rope to keep it on. En route he was given three yards of sateen to make an overcoat.

By the next April they were ready to sail. They had no money. Brigham appealed to the Saints in Long Island by saying to them, “We have come this far without money, but we can’t swim the ocean without money. And we must get to England.” And so the members of the Church there contributed to him personally $19.50. Then Brigham went to the captain of the Black Ball line.

Brigham said to the captain, “How much will the fare be?”

The captain said, “Eighteen dollars.”

It cost him a dollar to hire his share of the cook, and he had fifty cents left. The ship pulled out. Brigham occupied an upper bunk and Heber C. Kimball a lower bunk, and each shared his bunk with another man—two men to each bunk. And that’s the way they crossed the ocean. There was a table where they ate their food which was brought to them from the cook’s galley.

They landed in England a month later. Brigham Young had been seasick the whole time, so sick he couldn’t get out of the bunk. And when he got to England he was so thin and so nearly starved that his cousin, Willard Richards, who met them at the dock in Liverpool, couldn’t recognize him.

The following map represents the trips he took in England. He got to Ledbury, and in Malvern he was inspired to call on John Benbow, who had been converted by Wilford Woodruff, and to ask Benbow to lend him the money to get the Book of Mormon printed. Benbow lent him enough to get the Book of Mormon printed and later tore up the note. They printed 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon and 3,000 hymnbooks, started the Millennial Star going, converted 8,000 people, and left a year later for Nauvoo. They landed in New York, came across to Philadelphia, then to Pittsburgh, and then down the Ohio and up to Nauvoo, arriving in 1842.

Artificial Respiration

Something happened in November of 1842 I’d like to read to you. Brigham was very ill. He had a terrible fever. The Prophet stayed and nursed him for six hours, and for thirty hours the frenzied fight to keep him alive, with all the known medical means, continued night and day. The skin began to peel from his body until his body had a peeled look. When the fever left him on the eighteenth day, they bolstered him up in a chair, but he was so near gone he could not close his eyes, which were set and staring. His chin dropped down and his breathing stopped. Mary Ann took in the situation and threw some cold water in his face, but this had no effect. Then she dashed a handful of strong camphor into his face and eyes, “which I did not feel in the least,” he later said, “neither did I move a muscle. Then she held my nostrils between her thumb and finger, and placing her mouth directly over mine, blew into my lungs until she filled them with air. This set my lungs going and I began to breathe.” And thus the present method of artificial respiration was used many years ago.

Plural Marriage

During that period the Prophet Joseph Smith taught Brigham Young the doctrine of plural marriage. I’d like you young folks to know that the Prophet Joseph Smith revealed this to the world and revealed it to Brigham Young. Here is about what happened. Mary Ann Young was lying in the cabin, the front wall of which was right up against the edge of the road. There was no path. It was a hot summer’s night, the windows were open, and she pulled the bed over against the window to get what air there was.

Down this road came Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. She heard Brigham say to Joseph, “Joseph, the doctrine of eternal marriage as you described it to me is not from the right source.”

Joseph Smith said to him, “It is from the right source, and you will know it, Brother Brigham.”

Brother Brigham then moved toward the door to open the latch, and Joseph Smith walked on up the street. Then Brigham stopped. He didn’t pull the latch string. He suddenly called out, “Joseph! Joseph! The Lord has revealed it to me!” Joseph came back and they spoke a few minutes, and then Joseph went on.

Later on, Brigham said:

I saw he was after something [Joseph had been hinting to him], his conversation leading my mind along and others to see how we could bear this. The revelation was given in 1843, but the doctrine was revealed before this. And when I told Joseph, right in front of my house in the street, what I understood, as he was shaking hands and leaving me, he turned around and looked me in the eye. Says he, “Brother Brigham, are you speaking what you understand? Are you in earnest?”

Says I, “I speak just as the Spirit manifests to me.”

Says he, “God bless you. The Lord has opened your mind.”

And he turned and went off.

And that was how Brigham Young first heard actually in words from the Prophet what he was to do. His loyalty to the Prophet, of course, was such that he proceeded to do it.

Be Loyal, As He Was

I haven’t the time now to explain to you how they went east, how from that time on they promoted the presidency of the United States for Joseph Smith, how in Boston they heard of the death of the Prophet, how they hurried back from Boston across Massachusetts, taking a boat down the Erie Canal to Detroit, across Michigan on a stage to Chicago, across Illinois to Galena, and down the river quickly to Nauvoo in time to save the Church from the apostates. Brigham Young stood up there on that immortal day and, as the power of the Lord transfigured his face and figure so that it looked like the Prophet Joseph Smith, even to the whistle (a mob had broken a front tooth in 1832, and as he spoke he made a whistling sound), he said, “Here is Brigham. Have his knees ever faltered?” He comforted the Saints, and by the inspiration of God they knew that it was he and the Twelve who were to lead the Church, not Sidney Rigdon.

He died in Salt Lake City in 1877, of peritonitis following appendicitis. As he lay on the bed, my great-grandmother said, “his eyes seemed to be fastened upon someone in the far corner toward the ceiling of the room. And we heard him say, ’Joseph! Joseph! Joseph!’”

May the Lord bless us all to be as loyal as he was. As you walk past that bronze effigy which faces the interior of your campus, you may look at it as you pass, and perhaps there will come to you a feeling of what it means not even to teach the multiplication tables without the Holy Ghost. That was the command he gave Brother Maeser when he sent him down here. The key to his life was the Holy Ghost, which he courted constantly, to which he was attuned as the strings on a musical instrument vibrate to others in the same tuning level. May the Lord bless us all to understand the gospel, to know we must be loyal and true if we expect to reach salvation, I pray in the name of Christ. Amen.

© Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved.

S. Dilworth Young

S. Dilworth Young was a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when this devotional address was given at Brigham Young University on 11 October 1973.