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Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet Formato Kindle
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Following the murder of Joseph Smith by a mob while in the Carthage, Illinois jail, the young Mormon Church faced a crisis that saw it splinter under several potential leaders. Brigham Young became the leader of what would become the largest element to grow from Smith’s original church, and it was under his leadership that the church and its members moved to Utah after years of oppression in the mid-west. This was no small deal to the United States. Besides Utah, Young sent Mormons to San Bernardino, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada, to Idaho and Canada, and to Arizona and Mexico. And until the federal government redrew state boundaries over the years to reduce Mormon influence, parts of the existing states of Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Colorado, and California were once under Young’s political and religious leadership.
Obviously Turner’s book is focused on Young. The author follows several key themes in Young’s life: first was the importance of Mormonism to Young and how this affected his decisions. He believed in Joseph Smith and his religion; both of these became the key motivators for Young.
Second, because of the abuse of Mormons in the mid-west, and due to the murder of Joseph Smith after he turned himself in, Young never trusted the government again. This became a driving factor in his dealings with the federal government which were, for the most part, negative.
Third, under Young relations with Native Americans oscillated between an unusual amount of friendliness, for the time, and the more normal relations with settlers due to the reality on the ground. Overall, Young’s policy, was driven by the idea that Native Americans were descended from the Lamanites of the Book of Mormon, and therefore needed to be saved.
The book also addresses his broader social experiment with communalism within the church in a drive to make it self-sufficient. Again, driven by his distrust of “gentiles” who had murdered Joseph Smith, and of the government that did not protect him or Mormons, Young routinely tried to implement policies that excluded outsiders, and that would force Mormons to be self-reliant.
Of course, Turner addresses the two more controversial elements those of polygamy and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. In the case of polygamy, Young was a real believer in the concept because it was part of his religion, and Joseph Smith. As for the Mountain Meadows Massacre, Turner believes that, based on the timeline, Young did not order it, and was not aware of it until after the fact. He then spent the next 20 years ignoring it or putting off federal investigations of the subject.
Overall, this is a good, balanced, traditional biography of a man who greatly impacted the settlement of the west and who essentially laid the foundation for the current Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, the Mormons. Whether or not you like the religion, the fact is Brigham Young was a significant part of American history.