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Wild West Western Facts

Brigham Young

Brigham Young
Brigham Young was a Mormon leader, born in 1801, who has a University named after him in Utah, and was the driving force which led the Mormon faithful to the Great Salt Lake basin and founded what is present day Salt Lake City.

Young was the ninth of 11 children, and although he lacked much formal education, he mastered skills that would make him independent and able to make his own way.

He married in 1824 and in 1830 he first saw the Book of Mormon, written by Joseph Smith, and was deeply impressed.  It should be noted at this point that according to the Mormon faith, God called Joseph Smith to merely "translate" The Book of Mormon (a record of God’s dealings with his people in the American Continents from 600 B.C. to 421 A.D.)  Therefore, according to Brigham Young’s belief, Joseph Smith was not the author but rather the translator.

Young converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April of 1832, and after his wife died he went to visit Prophet Joseph Smith in Ohio, and later gave up his business and began proselytizing for the Mormon religion. He met Mary Ann Angell and married her in 1834. He joined a long trek to help the Mormon community in Missouri, which had been legally harassed, and violently attacked as well. Young proved himself a leader while on this expedition, and when it was formed, he was appointed to the Council of Twelve Apostles. He spent the summers of 1836 and 1837 doing missionary work in the East.

In 1838 he followed Joseph Smith from Ohio to Missouri, but the local people feared the Mormons, and the Governor of Missouri issued orders to exterminate or drive the Mormons out of Missouri. Joseph Smith and other leaders of the church were held by federal troops, and thievery of Mormon property was "legitimized" by saying it was necessary to pay for the military action.

Young then helped to bring the Mormons from Missouri to Nauvoo, Illinois. Young went to England to recruit converts, and back in Nauvoo he became president of the Council and part of Smith's inner circle. It was about this time that the doctrine of plural marriage became a divine requirement, which according to some accounts Young accepted reluctantly, but with his wife Mary Ann's permission, in 1842, he married his first plural wife, Lucy Ann Decker Seeley. He next went East to raise money for the Nauvoo Temple.

Nonetheless, back in Nauvoo, Smith's Mormon policies did not sit well with non-Mormons who feared and mistrusted the Mormons who they thought of as outsiders trying take over their area. Smith's enemies made trouble, and Smith was arrested, jailed, and then killed by a mob that broke into the jail. Brigham Young returned from the East and claimed the right of church leadership as president of the Council, and was accepted by the congregation. With the constant threat of violence by the non-Mormons, Young knew that the approximately 16,000 Mormons would have to leave and find a place where they could practice their religion in peace. This led to the migration know as the great trek to the Salt Lake Valley, that Young stated was ordained for his people.

The city itself was laid out and much was done in time to develop resources, and encourage immigration. Many Mormons made the trek over a period of many years after the original founding of Salt Lake City, by pulling or pushing hand carts, in fact, rescue teams were sent out to bring people in to avoid them being caught in the winter snows and there were no shortage of young strong men to volunteer because they knew that they would get the first chance to meet the young women immigrants and possibly get themselves a wife.

President Millard Fillmore appointed Brigham Young as the first governor of the new territory but there were plenty of conflicts between the Mormons and the Federal government which led President Buchanan to send Federal troops to Utah in 1857, so Young declared martial law and sent Mormon troops to meet the Federals. There were some skirmishes but all out war with the United States was avoided.

The Utah Territory remained neutral during the Civil War. It is reported that Brigham Young was "arrested" for bigamy in 1872, but he was never tried. Later those from other religions forced the Mormons to renounce plural marriage as a condition of joining the Union, however, some sects of the Mormon religion have never given the practice up. Young died in 1877 and left many theological writings and sermons. He is supposed by some accounts to have had 55 wives and sired 57 children.

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