Read Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet by John G. Turner Online


Brigham Young was a rough-hewn craftsman from New York whose impoverished and obscure life was electrified by the Mormon faith. He trudged around the United States and England to gain converts for Mormonism, spoke in spiritual tongues, married more than fifty women, and eventually transformed a barren desert into his vision of the Kingdom of God. While previous accounts ofBrigham Young was a rough-hewn craftsman from New York whose impoverished and obscure life was electrified by the Mormon faith. He trudged around the United States and England to gain converts for Mormonism, spoke in spiritual tongues, married more than fifty women, and eventually transformed a barren desert into his vision of the Kingdom of God. While previous accounts of his life have been distorted by hagiography or polemical expose, John Turner provides a fully realized portrait of a colossal figure in American religion, politics, and westward expansion.After the 1844 murder of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, Young gathered those Latter-day Saints who would follow him and led them over the Rocky Mountains. In Utah, he styled himself after the patriarchs, judges, and prophets of ancient Israel. As charismatic as he was autocratic, he was viewed by his followers as an indispensable protector and by his opponents as a theocratic, treasonous heretic.Under his fiery tutelage, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints defended plural marriage, restricted the place of African Americans within the church, fought the U.S. Army in 1857, and obstructed federal efforts to prosecute perpetrators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. At the same time, Young's tenacity and faith brought tens of thousands of Mormons to the American West, imbued their everyday lives with sacred purpose, and sustained his church against adversity. Turner reveals the complexity of this spiritual prophet, whose commitment made a deep imprint on his church and the American Mountain West....

Title : Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet
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ISBN : 9780674049673
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 512 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet Reviews

  • Darwin8u
    2019-03-21 12:27

    "Education is the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the worlds work, and the power to appreciate life."- Brigham YoungThis is one of those biographies that should be read regardless of your interest in the subject. IT is important not just because of what it can teach you about Brigham Young, Mormons, the American West of the late 1800s, etc, but because of what it can teach the careful reader about how history is done. This book is history done by a craftsman who is fascinated by his subject, but also devoted to his craft. Turner, a non-Mormon historian, is able to craft a compelling narrative of Brigham Young that avoids the hagiographic and almost propagandist tendencies of those biographies pushed out by some faithful LDS biographers. It also avoids, however, giving too much weight to aspects of Young's character and life that while in the 21st century seem bigoted and narrow (his view towards blacks and women) but were actually quite common among most protestant males in America from the Jacksonian era through Reconstruction. It avoids focusing too much attention on aspects of Young that are easily exploited for their titillation factor, but he doesn't avoid them. He places polygamy, Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Mormon Reformation, the Utah War, etc., all in the proper framework -- one which helps the reader to understand Brigham Young as a man and a Mormon prophet, but NOT as a caricature or a saint.As I review my review I have discovered Turner has come out with a new book that I need to read titled: The Mormon Jesus: A Biography. If it is half as interesting as this one, it is a must read.

  • Bryan Buchanan
    2019-04-14 09:39

    Indulge me: picture a man neck deep in a swift river with people on both banks trying to warn him of boulders they think are in his path. After successfully navigating his course, he exits the river to the cheers of both banks. It happened. His name is John Turner and he’s just written a landmark biography of Brigham Young. With an embarrassment of riches in terms of sources that would drown a lesser man and voices from both extremes depicting a tyrannical harem-master and, conversely, a gentle kingdom builder, Turner has achieved a fair and well-rounded portrait of Brigham Young. No sticky wicket (Mountain Meadows, the handcart imbroglio, Young’s often testy personality, etc.) is skirted—at the same time, the reader does not get a sense that Turner is poking at them as at a sore tooth. Notoriously difficult for biographers, Young has eluded many through the years. With Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, Turner has done what Rough Stone Rolling did for Joseph Smith: combine meticulous primary source research with balanced historical craft.One more comparison with Joseph Smith—for many years, Brigham Young: American Moses had served a role much like Joseph Smith: The First Mormon of (at least for believing Mormons) the standard—possibly even definitive in the minds of some—biography. Though Arrington [1] did achieve a much more effective treatment of Young—using a wealth of uncatalogued contemporary source chaos discovered by Michael Quinn—the result failed to provide a picture of the “man.” One left the book without feeling that his thought and drive had been reached. In addition, most of the rough edges of both Young’s life and contemporary Mormon history were filed down if not ignored. As Turner notes in his preface, only Arrington could claim “unfettered” access to the Young papers, yet more needed to be done. From the notes and source list, it is clear that Turner did in fact enjoy a friendly and helpful relationship with the staff at the Church History Library. The fortunate consequence is a thoughtful analysis of the rich mine of pertinent documents (journals—both private and clerical, letters, minutes and sermons—even many existing only in shorthand format [2])Turner begins his narrative with a concise look at Young’s early life (aside: I am not a fan of Mormon biographies that spend an inordinate amount of time on the subject’s early life—not why I’m reading), pointing out his unstable home life following his father’s remarriage and his discontent with his religious milieu. Turner gives a brief overview of the translation and impact of the Book of Mormon, noting that its influence was driven more by its mere existence than by content at that point. His discussion of Brigham’s slow transition into Mormonism features a strong point of his approach—though he notes Young’s reminiscences of this time, he points out that Brigham likely overstated his role. Turner recognizes the value of later recollections but carefully weighs their reliability.Chapter two, “The Tongues of Angels,” contains one of the high points of Turner’s narrative—a discussion of Young’s religious surroundings (particularly the more pronounced expressions of spiritual gifts) and his participation therein. Though the stereotypical view of Young is as a pragmatic mover and shaker, Tuner draws out his charismatic and even enthusiastic side. The story of him speaking in tongues upon meeting Joseph Smith is well-known, but Turner shows that this facet of Young’s character would emerge periodically throughout his life. Another welcome aspect of the narrative is obvious in this section (notably so in his discussion of the Kirtland Safety Society fiasco)—Turner walks the fine line between providing context while not allowing his primary subject to recede into the background. I’m always irritated to read a biography that is really a period history with a biographical glaze.The Nauvoo era always seems to be a minefield for historians—how does one treat such a chaotic and dualistic time? In discussing it with friends, I’ve remarked that—depending on who you associated with—Nauvoo could be two very, very different places, one for “inner circlers” and one for regular citizens. The narrative for this period is superb—his discussion of polygamy especially so. For example, he balances Young’s well-known desire for the grave immediately after hearing of the new doctrine with an 1849 statement that, after a fuller hearing of the matter with Joseph, he was “filled with the Holy Ghost” to the point of “lightness.” A similarly temperate discussion of the succession crisis evidences Turner’s dispassionate style—he summarizes the purported transfiguration of Brigham Young thusly: “Whether or not they experienced something miraculous in the meeting, for some Mormons their sense of Young as Joseph’s successor grew quickly.” In the uncertain days before the exodus from Nauvoo, Turner brings out Young’s notoriously mercurial disposition—when greeted by people on the street with the ritual handclasps from the newly introduced endowment, Young abruptly shut down the ceremonies. His temper is also evident in the heated discussions surrounding the attempt to reconstitute the First Presidency at Winter Quarters. For those with a distaste for scatological language, consider yourselves warned!The chapter entitled “A New Order of Things” is another particularly impressive section, especially when dealing with Young’s many plural wives. It is fascinating to hear their voices as the realities of polygamy were being worked out. As was generally his nature, Young seems not to have been terribly warm and fuzzy in his relationships with his wives. Augusta Cobb Adams proved to be quite the formidable opponent when disagreements arose—she repeatedly requested to be sealed to another husband, preferably Jesus Christ himself, but she accepted Joseph Smith as an acceptable alternative. Various “sticky” issues throughout the 1850s are ably treated by Turner. He discusses the evolution of racial beliefs and policies, noting that Young as a product of his times “fostered a policy of exclusion that his successors saw little choice but to perpetuate.” Turner is similarly thorough in his treatment of Indian relations, noting that initially Young complained of “many Elders [who] have prayed to be among the Lamanites and now they want to kill them.” Following numerous encounters with the different tribes in the region, Young finally stated that “my natural disposition and taste it loathes the sight of those degraded Indians.” Turner’s analysis here is broad and temperate and serves as an excellent overview of the origins of the priesthood ban as well as a check against simply summarizing Young’s Indian policy as “it’s cheaper to feed them than fight them.”Throughout the narrative, Turner maintains the effort to provide a rounded picture of Young. His discussion of several doctrinal principles is an important part of this endeavor. He treats Young’s exposition of Adam-God teachings (those who cling to the “the sermon was not reported accurately” defense might want to apply the X-acto remedy on these pages) and his thoughts on “eternal increase” concisely and effectively.From the friendly confines of theological speculations, Turner proceeds to what is probably the climax of Young’s life, the dark days of the Utah War and Mountain Meadows Massacre. To set the stage, he recounts the testy relations with territorial officers and several suspicious deaths like those in the Aiken party. After reviewing the evidence in an even-handed matter, Turner concludes on Young’s “likely complicity” in the matter. As is the case throughout the narrative, Turner intersperses interesting details—here, he notes several odd dreams of Young’s that the heavy stress effected. Drawing on important recent surveys of the matter (particularly Bill MacKinnon’s), Turner chronicles Young’s march to the edge of the precipice and the inevitably inglorious retreat therefrom. Turner’s concise account of the massacre concludes that “there is no satisfactory evidence that Young ordered the massacre” and that “there was no good reason for Young to order a massacre with the potential to focus the full fury of the American government on Utah” but, in the end, “Young bears significant responsibility for what took place.”The narrative seems to lose steam slightly after the events of 1857-58—this is probably largely so because Young’s life never again reached the same fever pitch as earlier. Another discussion of his wives is particularly interesting—Turner notes the rethinking that Young went through, citing his daughter’s assessment that, in later life, Young set out to “correct what he esteemed to be a mistake of his early judgment.” Several other important events are covered such as Young’s appointment of his sons as apostles and counselors, the ongoing legal battle with Ann Eliza Webb and the John D. Lee trial. One can feel Young’s life winding down with a few last-minute efforts at kingdom building such as a renewed zeal for United Order principles and the building of the St. George temple.Simply put, Turner’s treatment of Young’s life is a landmark in Mormon biography. Everything that a serious student of Mormon history could want is here: careful and extensive research, balanced analysis and polished, crisp writing. The acknowledgments give a clue as to his method—clearly Turner had numerous readers along the way and it paid off handsomely. Turner avoids common “outsider” errors about the intricacies of Mormon society and historiography. By interacting with scholars, both veteran (Will Bagley, Bill MacKinnon) and up-and-coming (Matt Grow, Sam Brown), Turner has ensured his narrative draws on the finest research available. It is a testament to interest in Mormon history that such an excellent biography will find wide readership due to its publication by a major press such as Harvard University. Both author and publisher are to be commended for a very valuable addition to the field.Footnotes:[1] I refer to Arrington as the stated author though, as Gary Topping has noted, it was (in true Arrington form) a collaborative effort involving Richard Jensen, Ron Watt, Becky Cornwall, Maureen Ursenbach Beecher, Ronald Walker, Ronald Esplin, William Hartley, Dean Jessee and undoubtedly others. See Leonard J. Arrington: A Historian’s Life, 161.[2] The unsung hero responsible for transcription—LaJean Carruth—has provided key assistance in several recent gems such as Hearken, O Ye People: The Historical Setting of Joseph Smith's Ohio Revelations (Staker) and Parley P. Pratt: The Apostle Paul of Mormonism (Givens/Grow).

  • James Thane
    2019-03-22 14:35

    This is an excellent new scholarly but very readable biography of one of the most facinating and important figures in American history and especially in the development of the American West.Brigham Young was an early convert to the Mormon religion and quickly became a trusted confidant of the religion's founder, Joseph Smith. He labored diligently to help build the early church, including making a mission to England to win converts. When Smith was killed in 1844, the young religion fractured, with several adherents claiming Smith's mantle. More effectively than any of the others, Young pressed his claim to the role and as the Mormons' residence in the eastern U.S. became increasingly untenable, Young convinced the majority of the "Saints" to follow him westward to a new home in what would become Utah. There he labored diligently for over thirty years to build the community of Latter Day Saints and to defend it against the myriad of forces that threatened it, not the least among them being the government of the United States.Along the way, Young also took at least fifty-five wives and fathered fifty-eight children. He built a fortune of his own and, in addition to placing the Mormon religion on a firm and lasting footing, he played a huge role in the settlement and development of the Great Basin Kingdom. Inevitably, this led to more than a little conflict and controversy, both within and outside of the church, particularly over the doctrine of plural marriage, which was initially "revealed" to only a few of the Mormon leaders. Some resented what they thought were Young's autocratic ways. Many also disliked the idea that Young asked sacrifices of his flock that he was not willing to make himself. He brooked no opposition to his leadership, either from his fellow Mormons or from non-Mormons, and insisted always that he knew what was best for the church and for the earthly kingdom he was attempting to create.Young was a man of large appetites and was sometimes abrasive, profane, contradictory and unpleasant. He spoke his mind and often upbraided his flock for failing to meet his expectations. But the bulk of the Latter Day Saints strongly supported and revered him up to the moment of his death.This is a "warts and all" biography, written by a non-Mormon who was given access to all the relevant documents and materials that one might need to construct a full and complete life of Brigham Young, and it's hard to imagine that anyone will need to return to the task for some time. This is a very well-researched and well-written book that should appeal to anyone interested in Young, in the Mormon Church, or in the settlement of the American West.

  • BHodges
    2019-03-24 14:25

    For all his pragmatic simplicity, Brigham Young was a complicated man, and somewhat different from the prophet contemporary Mormons might learn about in Seminary or Sunday School classes. Alternately stingy and generous, saintly and foul-mouthed, blunt/bold and secretive; his sermons and letters best encapsulate the earthy-heavenly mix of Brigham Young's religion. Turner has done an admirable job trying to capture the complicated nature of the subject in this biography. Turner is a sympathetic outsider to Mormonism who isn't afraid to highlight Brigham's sincere religious devotion manifest in Young's prayers, or his brash, sometimes dangerous rhetoric preached in pitchforks from the pulpit. Turner's fairness perhaps leaves the narrative itself a little flat, a stylistic feature of many academic-as-opposed-to-popular biographies.More than past biographies (mainly Arrington's), Turner pays much needed attention to Young's theological views. He spends a good amount of ink on teachings modern Mormons will not be as familiar with, as they faded quickly after Brigham Young died. But he avoids over-emphasizing things like blood atonement and Adam-God by including alongside them Young's vision for economic and political salvation; a practical faith with eternal implications. When it comes to the controversial topic of polygamy, Turner adroitly and frankly discusses matters without an appeal to prurience. He does well to situate it theologically in Young's thought, but also examines the practical outcomes of the Mormons' peculiar institution. We see Young performing wedding ceremonies, granting or denying divorces, and giving advice in a variety of circumstances. And as with some of Young's business plans, not all of his marriages were successful by any stretch.If there is a weakness to this book, it's partly due to the nature of the historical record itself. Any biographer of such a controversial figure, faced with mounds and mounds of contradictory sources, may be tempted to spend too much time playing history detective. There were times when I wish Turner had done a little more digging, instead of punting on claims made by Young or others. For example, Young underwent a shift between the 50s and 60s, from a brash, challenging and publicly acerbic leader to a more temperate and PR-savvy fellow. Turner traces the changes but doesn't do much to explain them. Turner does a good job of showing how Young retained some of his fire for the rest of his life.Perhaps the book's biggest lapse comes in the final pages when Turner breezes past the big ecclesiastical reorganization Young executed shortly before his death. It helped shape the face of modern Mormon Church in a big way, and I wanted to know what contributed to the reorganization, and what Young hoped to accomplish by it. The concluding chapter left me feeling like the book is incomplete. Arrington's book, by contrast, traces a bit of the afterwind of Young's life, mainly in regards to (somewhat boring) financial circumstances. I would've enjoyed a chapter on Young's legacy in the Mormon Church.Such problems aside, Turner manages to include plenty of interesting discussions of Young's family life, business enterprises, ecclesiastical responsibilities, and pastoral efforts in a well-organized fashion. Through this book, many non-Mormons will meet a Brigham Young they never knew--and so will many Mormons.

  • John
    2019-03-20 14:43

    I felt I could trust the author. His research earned my trust, his clarity as a writer earned my trust and his perceptiveness about Mormonism earned my trust. If Joseph Smith was a "rough stone rolling," then Brigham Young was an even rougher stone rolling. But they rolled down similar paths of adversity, opposition and persecution. They both knew that, over a lifetime, these experiences would render them smoother stones. However, as the author points out several times, Brigham did not intend to be a martyr like Joseph. He intended to fight. And just as he did not intend to be a martyr, he did not intend to let the kingdom of God on earth be changed by opposition, from inside or outside of the kingdom. However, since Brigham's day the Church has changed. I believe that the essential mission of the Church has not only been preserved, but refined, by prophets who have guided it through trials of fire since Brigham's death in 1877. And I believe that Brigham would sustain the changes made; because, if he believed in anything, he believed in the authority of living prophets.

  • Misha
    2019-04-16 13:20

    I listened to this book on Audible. Honestly, out of the 16 hours I probably took away about 5 hours worth. Definitely a book I need to reread again. I am so happy I read this book. I have not read much on early church history and this book was definitely an eye opener. The author is a non-LDS man, but I still felt like he tried to be neutral--though maybe not as flattering as the other Brigham Young book--The American Moses. Still, I came away with a greater understanding and a greater appreciation for Brigham Young. I do not agree with or like everything Brigham Young said or did, but every man, even the prophet is human. We all make mistakes. It is also easy to judge those men in our modern day lens. Every racial remark, bigotry comment is heightened because of how we act and think today. A 150 years ago was a very different setting, with very different points of views on those topics. Brigham Young was the man needed for that time to be the sort of person to bring a group together, be a leader and establish order. He could act like a tyrant at times, yet be very loving and complimentary. I found him to be a very interesting man. Not to mention of course learning about his very long list of wives--and who the favorites were. I was saddened to learn details about the Mountain Meadows massacre, yet I'm so glad to have been given the known facts of events such as this. When I'm confronted by non-Mormons who ask about these events, I feel like I actually know what they're now talking about and know it from a non-biased perspective who presented facts of the information we do have about the horrible massacre. By reading an account that isn't all praise, I feel like I can understand why those outside the Mormon faith would have a difficult time understanding certain things about Mormon history. Even those within the faith may come away with questions about the history. I know by reading this book I had more questions when I finished than when I started. Yet, I still come away with respect for Brigham Young and how he was able to move a whole group of people, keep peace, prosper and be true to a faith amidst numerous setbacks and obstacles. A good read. I will definitely listen to it again, I'm sure I will just as much that second time! --On a side note, my husband read The American Moses Brigham Young book and said this book was much different and definitely less flattering. Yet both authors claim to be unbiased in their approach. This is the newest biography. I would like to read the other to compare.

  • Andrew
    2019-04-08 12:50

    The second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has long been an elusive figure for me. Brigham Young is certainly of paramount importance in the LDS narrative, and I remember the traditional stories well--American Moses, the divine successor to Joseph Smith, and the builder of temples. But I also remember taunts from some in high school about polygamy, Adam-God theories, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre. I read Brigham Young's Journal of Discourses too when I was in 7th grade, leaving me befuddled on bizarre issues such as animal magentism and blood atonement. In this context then, I am thrilled to finally have a fantastic biography of the man that captures his place in the founding of the American West and Mormonism but does not shy from his rough and colorful personality. A non-LDS scholar with full access to Young's written records, Turner has succeeded brilliantly in avoiding both hagiography and polemic, and as a result provides a full and fascinating insight into one of the critical figures in 19th century Mormonism. Read more of the review at

  • Christopher
    2019-04-17 11:28

    This guy should have been the winner of the Worst Person to Ever Have a Prestigious University Named For Them Award, but he was narrowly edged out by the Joseph Goebbels Institute of Higher Learning.Seriously, this guy isn't the worst, but he's pretty close. He was a bigamist, fear-mongering cult leader who ruled with an iron whim. He's at least partially guilty of a massacre and responsible for a bloody coup and a guerrilla war. He was ridiculously foul-mouthed for a man of god, with an exceedingly mercurial temperament. He married 55 women, one of them his own mother-in-law! It was also a habit of his to marry women who were currently married to other men, with and/or without the permission of their husbands. So yeah, let's name a university after him!He does make for some really interesting reading, however.

  • Emma
    2019-04-05 13:20

    Biases up front: Brigham Young is tied with Nephi as the #1 prophet that I wouldn't want to hang out with. This book did not change my mind.* Sure, his massive sense of ego enabled him accomplish projects of great scope through the force of sheer will, but the un-self-aware narcissism just really grates after awhile.I felt like this book could have been twice as long. Turner has a lot of complex issues to deal with - succession, polygamy and BY's family life, Mountain Meadows, Adam-God theory - and there was enough in the book to be interesting but not enough that I got a sense of any thesis or unifying theory.*The part that made me like BY the most was the early 1850s when he was seemingly beginning every sentence with "shit". I think we've all been there. And, wouldn't it be a kick to bring swearing back to General Conference.

  • Viliami
    2019-04-15 16:38

    Not sure how to situate the new information I'm getting into my current belief system. Definitely not the first time this has happened before.

  • Matt
    2019-03-21 08:27

    Turner tackles the ominous task of constructing the life of a 19th century historical figure, where documents are scattered and deteriorating. Add to that, the fact that the figure in question was a President of the Latter-Day Saints (LDS) Church and the scarcity of documents only increases as the veil of secrecy falls. This biography of Brigham Young is not only thorough, but also shows Young as being a man of multi-facets. Turner presents Brigham Young in three distinct (yet interconnected) personas: Young the prophet, Young the leader, and Young the politician. Turner is also able to shed light on the early days of the LDS Church, looking into its distinct beliefs, while leaving open a great debate in which the reader can engage, should they desire. Filled with quotes and pulling on scattered and sometimes elusive texts, Turner does Brigham Young and the LDS Church a great service in this biography, perfect for the curious reader.Turner opens his biography noting that Young was not born into the LDS Church, nor was it his first religious community. Growing up on the fringes of the Methodist movement in New York, Young took his religious following seriously as he moved towards a more evangelical belief system. Crossing paths with Joseph Smith, Young became a follower and helped found the early Mormon movement, working to expand its growth. Young became an early prophet (small-p) by presenting Smith's words and insisting on the gospel-like visions and writings of the early Smith life events. Young went so far as to push the movement West, into Illinois, as well as overseas by opening Mormon Church philosophy in the United Kingdom. While he missed his ever-blossoming family, Young felt passing along the Word more important than simply spending time with his wife and children. He prophesied wherever and whenever he could, all in the hopes of ensuring any who could hear Smith's words did so. Young counselled so far as to delving into the Indian reservations in hopes that the 'red man' could see the light. Young would speak in tongues and was able, though scarcely, to convert many. Turner does posit that many likely had no idea what they were getting into, but that is not uncommon at this time when white-red relations were at the forefront. This prophet role undertaken by Young led to his rising in the movement and eventually leading the LDS Church in the mid-1840s.With the death of Joseph Smith in 1844, Young rushed to take the empty chair left and lead the Church. While this was not met without controversy, Young filled the void and acted as the seemingly only alternative, letting LDS saints see that he would guide them into the Promised Land. Turner argues that he did so, acting as an American Moses, taking the LDS Church from Illinois after it became vilified, and chose Utah to settle. Under Young's leadership, an expansion of the Smith teachings of baptism of the dead and plural marriage grew exponentially, but also a keen focus on rooting the church with temples and other permanent structures. This allowed the Church to flourish in an American Territory not yet established and, Turner loosely argues, Mormonising Utah for the future. Young's leadership led him to be recognised by the President of the United States and Young became a conduit from the Gentiles (Mormon belief) to the Mormons, especially in Utah. This leadership would pave the way for Turner's third view of Young; the ever-evolving politician.Young assumed the role of Governor of the Utah Territory in 1851, juggling his leadership of the Church with economic control over the Territory. At this point, Young took to the pulpit and rallied for Mormon-favoured judicial appointments and a hands off approach to running the Territory. Young could liaise directly with those in positions of power and try to push for favourable decisions. This was not always possible, or at least Turner leads the reader to believe that Washington dug in its heels on certain occasions. Mormon beliefs fed nicely into the slavery movement and kept blacks subjugated, while also promoting polygamy on a regular basis. Using the Dred Scott decision in the Supreme Court, which argued that the federal government could not regulate slavery in the states or territories, Young pushed for its extrapolation onto polygamy. He argued that it was the Territory's right to choose how to live, especially as there was no law forbidding it. Later, as Young was forced to hand over the gubernatorial reins, he sought to create the State of Deseret, an enlarged version of what is now Utah, but was refused by Congress. Young's clashes with Washington solidify his political stances, as do his repeated sermons from the pulpit. As with any religious group, leaders are inherently politicians of some form and cannot divorce themselves from this. That Young wore both hats as a Church and political leader simultaneously only personifies an already well-held belief.Turner also uses the biography of an early member of the LDS Church to enlighten readers into some of the practices undertaken by Mormons. Citing both baptism of the dead and plural marriages, Turner argues that both Smith and Young pulled support for these acts from Scripture and that they were only following what God sought them to do. While this may seem weak in the 21st century, at the time it was surely quite plausible and people accepted it, at least many within the fold. There were some who could not stomach plural and celestial marriages, which Turner shows repeatedly throughout the book, but the belief of the followers is supported by the ever-evolving religious movement the LDS Church became. The reader will likely marvel at the arguments and may even drop a guard for a moment, allowing an open mind to synthesize the beliefs. Young's personal arguments about Adam being GOD fell on many deaf ears within the LDS Church, but Young did not become discouraged. He used the catch-phrase many leaders who present controversial beliefs present to the flock: "you are not yet ready for this, but one day you will come to accept it." Even still, there was a schism in the LDS Church, with a reorganisation movement, led by Joseph Smith III, son of the Prophet. Smith sought to tame some of the beliefs that Young espouses, much to the latter's chagrin. It began showing that there were cracks in the movements and that the beliefs Young professed might have been too intense, even for the religiously famished to stomach. Turner's presentation of the LDS Church and its tenets leaves the door open for debate by the larger academic and lay populations. Is the LDS Church a cult? A religious movement? A third fork in the pathway of Christianity? I will not lay out answers for these questions here, for I want all readers to have the chance to form their own opinions. Turner's presentation of the facts is quite neutral and offers both mud and clean water as it relates to the Church and Young. It is the reader who must take up the cause, using this book as one of numerous sources to fuel their arguments. I must, however, rhetorically ask, as Turner does in his preface: for a group desiring a better understanding of themselves after decades of vilification, why are key documents kept hidden and opposition scorned so heavily? What is hidden behind that curtain, oh great Wizard?Kudos, Mr. Turner for such a refreshing look at a man I knew so little about, telling his story in a clear and open fashion. Balancing one's views is surely difficult, but you keep on the narrow path with few issues at all.Like/hate the review? An ever-growing collection of others appears at:

  • Douglas
    2019-04-17 16:20

    I vacillated between shock and awe reading this book. I believe that is the expected reaction, as BY was a man of paradox (juxtaposed with Terryl Givens' "People of Paradox"). A few lines stood out to me as I was finishing this morning. One was about how when BY died, the SLTribune said that "Utah will be Americanized and politically and socially redeemed." echoing the language of white southern Democrats who "regained control of the American South". This was alongside the point that they believed that Mormonism would die out after BY's death. It seems in postmortem, that only one of those even somewhat came true - Mormons would become patriotic, politically conservative, and more aligned with the evangelicals than any other group.I struggled with how I felt about BY throughout the book, tbh. However, at the end, I felt a real peace and a specific gratitude for him. Would I recommend this book to anyone? Maybe... I remain satisfied that prophets of the Lord can be prophets, warts and all.

  • Stephen Cranney
    2019-03-22 11:21

    Seems like the author tried a little too hard to conscientiously walk the problematize-the-traditional-narrative-as-much-as-possible-without-completely-throwing-him-under-the-bus line that the Mormon intelligentsia eats up. Consequently, Brigham Young the man simply came to be defined as a series of disjointed controversies without giving a very holistic perspective. He tends to cherry pick the most sensational statements, even when it's clear that Brigham Young had a tendency to exaggerate for effect (e.g. threatening to kill Connor on the spot if he ever met him). He tries to drive a narrative of a deeply wounded, paranoid leader primarily defined by his aggressiveness, but that's just not the picture one gets from his letters and discourses. For example, Turner doesn't mention Young's liberal attitudes towards apostate minority religious groups before and after the Mormon reformation (leave them alone). By focusing on the few murders that have some circumstantial evidence of Young's involvement or at least encouragement, he portrays the picture of some medieval hammer of God spilling the blood of sinners, while ignoring the much better documented cases of Young pardoning such sinners (in one case, calling off a planned execution of a bestial) that problematize the hammer of God portrayal. Also, lack of footnotes for quotes! Huge cardinal sin and pet peeve of mine. It doesn't take that much extra work and adds so much to the credibility of the book. Any serious work of history should provide footnotes to the primary source for any quote used. At times the lack of citations makes it read like more of a work written by a journalist.Anyway, it's an entertaining read that touches on all the major facets of BY's life and career, but it leaves one with a very confused picture of who he was (and not just because he was a complicated man), so if you really want a picture of BY the man, it would probably be more efficient to simply read his letters and discourses.

  • Jason Palmer
    2019-04-19 11:31

    I always had a vague resentment and occasional hatred of Brigham Young before reading this book. As a Mormon missionary, I felt I had to apologize for him and his policies one too many times. And then there was the mystery about how much he had to do with the massacre at Mountain Meadows that always shrouded my image of him in clouds of doubt flecked with blood. As a result of reading this book however, I have come to a respect of Brigham; the kind that can only come through an intimate understanding of everything from his seven divorces to his bowel problems. Now that my reading is over, I kind of miss the old guy. This is the definitive book on Brigham Young because it was written with the pure motives of a historian trying to make sense of history for history’s sake. The author has nothing to lose by offending Mormons and nothing to gain by vilifying them. In other words, this book is bound to deeply disturb Mormons and Anti-Mormons alike, just as Brigham himself did. The book is just as likely to bring an apostate Mormon back to the fold as it is to push a faithful Mormon into apostasy. Honestly though, what propelled me through the reading were the direct quotes of hilarious profanity that Young used to pepper his correspondence and speeches throughout his life. As a member of the church, I always heard about this guy, Golden Kimbal, who was a general authority with a reputation for saying an occasional swear word. Let’s just say Golden Kimbal would be as squeamish as a school girl in the presence of the true art of insult embodied in Young. I’d like to provide a few direct quotes from Young in this review, but I fear official reprimand from The Church. Just imagine the creativity of Blackadder mixed with the abandon of George Carlin and you get the Mormon prophet at his best.

  • Spencer Peacock
    2019-03-24 13:24

    There's this cliche saying about how people who aren't complicated seldom make history. or maybe they do make history, they just will never make very interesting books. That's true here. I was just going to flip through this. I didn't think it had anything new to offer being raised mormon and being kind of an armchair mormon historian. I read every page. It was very interesting to read this. One thing in particular that was interesting is that he was not always the "lion" he is remembered for. He was kind of reserved and shy from what I gathered. It was really fascinating to see how he became the person he's remembered for. It also kind of helps you understand his seemingly unhealthy grasp on power, why he was so scared of opposition, and why he was just so filled with vitriol. There are some pretty alarming stories in this. I thought I had heard everything. wow. I had to set the book down and gather myself a few times. Gut wrenching,sickening, alarming stuff. He was a very complicated person. Probably a little bit crazy from the power, the responsibilities and the fear of getting assassinated. John Turner did a fantastic job. It was very objective. I came away appreciating brigham in some respects and cutting him a little slack. Even though I still think he was an asshole who was seriously, seriously disturbed.

  • Kim Berkey
    2019-04-15 11:25

    This book was excellent: excellently researched, excellently written.If I have any quibbles, one is that Turner's depiction of Brigham Young fell pretty flat. He didn't do a very good job explaining why people would choose to follow such a man. There weren't any heart-warming, lovable vignettes to round out the portrayal of a paranoid, bad-tempered despot.In fact, there were very few vignettes at all. I felt like the book breezed past every stage of Brigham's life, never stopping to tell enough small stories. Don't get me wrong--there *are* stories. There *is* detail about events. But in the end, the book felt like it could have been more appropriately titled "Mormon History in Brigham Young's Era."One final note: Julie Smith's book review at Times & Seasons had me concerned that this book would be difficult to get through, or at least provide some difficult questions. I may not be the "average church member," but I didn't have any problem with the "nitty-gritty" of Brigham's life and behavior.All that said, it's an excellent history and well deserves to be the definitive study of Brigham Young that it's surely becoming.

  • Aaron
    2019-04-12 08:50

    Surprise! Brigham Young and we Mormons are just as much a part of the Wild Wild West as gunslingers, Indians, and 49ers. For some reason, we have always wanted to segregate ourselves from the difficult and sordid history of the American West. Instead, because of good books just like this, we find ourselves right in the middle of the events that turned the West--and I'm not being shy about it, into the best part of the United States. I liked that many of the difficulties of Brigham Young were discussed--Mountain Meadows, strange revelations, and polygamy. I also thought that there was a fair balance between the good accomplishments and the difficult history. Overall, I still stand by American Moses as the best biography written on Brigham. I know this will be a topic debated for millenia. There is no doubt that Arrington had more time and an equal amount of resources to work on his biography. The way I look at it, history is best when it's sorted out by those involved. Coming to terms with our difficult history is something that faces our Mormon generation.

  • Mark
    2019-04-15 15:32

    This even-handed scholarly biography, the first fair treatment of the prophet, Brigham Young, is both fascinating and disturbing. While the author covers all of the most troubling aspects of Brigham Young's Mormonism (polygamy, indian relations, the Mt. Meadows massacre, Adam-God doctrine, etc.) he has no obvious ax to grind and takes pains to place Brigham in the context of his time. What we are left with is a portrait of a singular leader establishing a people in a hostile wilderness while dealing with a hostile government. For me, Brigham emerged as truly the Pioneer Prophet, the right man for the moment, while at the same time being a fallible mortal, heir to the prejudices of his day and the realities of 19th century conventions. And so, the book was both inspiring and troubling, but for me definitely worth the read!

  • Bryson
    2019-03-20 15:25

    An excellent and fair analysis of Brigham Young, his life, his doctrine, his leadership, and his role in shaping mormon identity. My only complaint is that it raised more question in my mind than it answered, but this has more to do with the controversial and often contradictory nature of Brigham than anything else. A must-read for anyone interested in mormon history or mormonism in general.

  • Samuel Brown
    2019-03-28 08:38

    Great biography by a sympathetic outsider. Might be a bit challenging for traditional LDS readers, but with some prep work (American Moses, Rough Stone Rolling), I think it could work well. For other readers it will be the definitive biography for decades.

  • Carl
    2019-03-25 10:44

    Some of my favorite books on Mormon history have been biographies of the LDS church presidents. It's fascinating to me to see how their personalities shape the church. It's clear to me that God does call his prophets to lead the church at the opportune moments for their particular skills and their particular approaches to things. Joseph Smith's expansive vision of God's work, Brigham Young's intractable tenacity, Wilford Woodruff's pragmatism, Gordon B. Hinckley's media-saviness, etc. have all helped the Kingdom of God move forward. A friend of mine has a goal to read a biography on every single U.S. President. Based on her goal, I have in my mind a goal to read good biographies on each of the church presidents.So far I have read:Joseph Smith-Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling by Richard BushmanBrigham Young-Brigham Young: American Moses, by Leonard ArringtonDavid O. McKay-David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, by Greg PrinceGordon B. Hinckley, Go Forward With Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley, by Sheri Dew (This one ends when President Hinckley becomes the church president, but that's okay because I was alive for all of President Hickley's tenure as prophet.)To-read:Spencer W. Kimball-Lengthen Your Stride: The Presidency of Spencer W. Kimball, by Ed KimballWilford Woodruff-Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet, by Thomas AlexanderI haven't really been working on this (I have plenty to read right now for my own studies, thank you very much) so if any of you have any suggestions on biographies for church presidents, I'd love to hear them.In any event, I saw with interest that a new biography on Brigham Young had come out from Harvard University Press. I was intrigued based on my experiences with the above biographies that I have read. I also knew that it was by a non-Mormon, and it's always good to get outside views on events.Before I get into the review itself, I'll just say that I want a scholarly article on the picture the dust jacket uses:Who's the woman there? And who scratched her face off? Another wife? Brigham? An overzealous historian? Fascinating possibilities. Anyway, on to the review!John Turner does a fantastic job of using his nearly unfettered access to the church history library in SLC to paint a more complete picture of Brother Brigham than any previous biography, and that includes Leonard Arrington's biography. This is interesting because Arrington actually was the church historian at the time he wrote his book. I suppose the library wasn't as well organized then as it is now. (I've heard nothing but positive feedback about how professional the library is these days. The church historian's office has made fantastic leaps in the last decade, helping produce a vast collection's availability to aid scholars in their work on Mormonism.) And Turner's book certainly does a great job of getting into the various details of Brother Brigham's life, showing us the man who was thrown suddenly into the role of church leader, and what he did with it. I particularly think that Turner's thesis about where Brigham Young got his hard edges in leadership style is likely accurate. Turner points to the few years after Joseph Smith's death as the shifting point from Brigham's personality from a follower to a leader . . . and definitely a more "iron fist" kind of leader than Joseph. Why more iron fist? Because, in Brigham's mind, Joseph was too soft on dissension, and that's what eventually got him killed. Brigham had no desire to become a martyr himself.Now, whether Joseph died because he let dissenters run rampant is true or not, I think that Brigham himself thought it true, and that's why he was more of a dictator than Joseph was. Turner's discussion of how Brigham shifted during the three or so years after Joseph's death has convinced me. Living for that much time under armed guard, afraid for your life, sneaking in and out of the temple . . . such a prolonged experience would have an affect on anybody. I think that Turner is right in pointing out Brigham's leadership style is one result of this, shall we say, trauma. And Brother Brigham's more iron-fist approach to leadership is certainly not one that we've been taught readily in our church. Turner's biography paints a, well, shall we say . . . saucier kind of Brigham than your average sunday school manual. Is that a bad thing?Well, that depends. I'm no fan of hiding the truth. I think, in the long run, that telling the truth is good. I think too often we LDS treat our history like all the Mormons were completely saintly and never made a single error, even though the Doctrine & Covenants itself directly contradicts that (namely, the parts where the Lord says that the saints have sinned, but I digress). So it's a problem when some poor Mormon discovers that church history wasn't all hugs and puppies, and their testimony, largely based on incorrect assumptions of prophetic infallibility, flies all to pieces. So I think it's nice that we learn about Brother Brigham's saucier side. It pre-empts such testimonies flying all to pieces.However.There is a right way to discuss these things, and a wrong way. I discovered inklings of Brother Brigham's saucier side in Arrington's biography, discovered Joseph Smith's failings in Rough Stone Rolling, and learned of internal conflicts and dissension among the higher leaders of the church from Greg Prince's biography of President McKay. These were all okay to me, because they were written by believing Latter-day Saints who had found some way to reconcile such-and-such a piece of church history with their testimony of the restored gospel. They showed the inner workings of the church by way of the lives of its prophets, and that's very useful and interesting. Contrary to what you might have learned in primary, the governance of the church is not all by divine fiat. Sometimes there are even debates and disagreements about which actions to take. (Unsurprising, if you think about getting any two people ever to agree on everything, let alone three, or twelve, or fifteen.)I think that Turner discusses these things the wrong way. Upon finishing the book, I thought to myself, "why would anybody follow this Brigham Young? He's kind of a jerk." I'm not the only one with this criticism of the book.And I've actually had several opportunities to meet Turner (which is why I finished the book during this time of intense study for me, I wanted to have it finished by the last time we would meet), and so at one of them I asked him that question. Why did people follow Brigham? He admitted to me and the others in the study group a few weeks ago that he felt he could have handled this question better. He pointed out three things, specifically, that Brigham had done before he became the de facto church president, and later actual church president, that garnered him a lot of good will from the members. First, many of the church members were from the British Isles, and Brigham had led the British mission. So many members of the church had fond memories of him as the leader of the missionaries that brought them into the church. Second, he finished the Nauvoo temple and endowed thousands of Mormons before they abandoned the city. The sheer amount of man-hours this took would have staggered anybody but the firmest believer. Brigham Young was a believer, and it showed to the people that he worked tirelessly for in the temple. Third, he was the "American Moses" who dragged a despondent group of church members from their Nauvoo the Beautiful to the middle of nowheresville, Mexico, to create a civilization literally out nothing in a sparsely-populated desert wilderness. He worked hard to preserve the church and to get its members to safety. So, after doing these three things he had garnered a lot of support and a lot of good will from the members.But since Turner admitted to me, personally, that he didn't make this connection clear, I can still criticize the book on this point. Largely the Brigham the biography portrays for the last half or so of the book is a ruffian, ruling with an iron fist and lording it over all the people of Utah, fighting with the federal government, condoning courses of action that seem outright appalling in retrospect, and getting in theological spats with some of the other apostles (namely Orson Pratt). He mellowed out towards the end of his life, but for a good chunk in the middle of the book Brigham comes across as a very unsavory character. And here's where John and I part company.In all of his book there is no hint that Brigham was actually inspired at all. This came as no surprise to me, as I was not expecting Turner to think of things that way. What I did not expect, and what did surprise me, was the effect it had on me, a believing Mormon, in reading the work. I just felt that it was lacking . . . something. You know, maybe the fact that Brigham actually was a prophet. That he actually was inspired by God. That he was called of God to lead His church, and that he was the right man for the job at the time.President Boyd K. Packer once said "There is no such thing as an accurate, objective history of the Church without consideration of the spiritual powers that attend this work." In the more scholarly circles of the church (especially the arrogant ones that I really don't actually like) he's gotten some flak for saying it. Actually, he mostly gets flak for some of the other things he said in that speech, which you can go dig up if you want. However, unsurprisingly, on this point he is absolutely right. Turner's biography does not feel, to me, like an accurate, objective history of Brother Brigham. I also wish that Turner had focused more on the development of the church, as the other biographies I have listed here do, but that's more of a scholarly quibble. This is a biography, and a pretty narrowly focused one at that. But in missing even the idea that Brigham was a leader because he felt he was inspired, or that others felt he was inspired, the biography misses much of the point of Brigham Young's life. One of the new catchphrases of Mormon history is to show it "warts and all." This biography misses the "and all" portion.So, while this is not a scholarly point at all (but this is not a scholarly review) I feel that I did not receive a stronger testimony of Brother Brigham from reading this book, like I did from reading the Arrington biography, which I actually read on my mission, no less! The biographies I mentioned above of the other LDS church presidents similarly strengthened my testimony of the Latter-day work of God.And maybe because I did not feel the Spirit while reading this book, there are a few incidents in Brother Brigham's life that I feel I do not have a good handle on. Many Mormons have this idea of a "shelf" where you put items or doctrines or statements or historical facts that you don't know what to do with on. Polygamy, for example, is on the shelf for many Mormons. That will be explained, they hope, more thoroughly in the next life, but for now it's on the shelf, gathering dust, because they don't know what do do with it and can't get a handle on it. For some people, the shelf collapses eventually because they have added too much to it.I don't have much of a shelf. I've learned through experience that most of these "problems" sort themselves out over time and study and prayer. My shelf gathers dust, because there are no permanent items on it. (Things that do show up on the shelf are usually easily dismissed by the idea that prophets are not infallible. Hence, many of these items have a "shelf-life" now measured in nanoseconds, for me.) But after reading this biography, there are a few items on my shelf, and they might remain there permanently. I won't get into the details, but there you have it. I finally have items on the shelf that I expect will remain there for some time.In the end, then, I do not recommend the biography for believing Latter-day Saints. The Arrington biography, Brigham Young: American Moses, should suffice if you want the more historically accurate, yet still faithful, point of view.Overall grade (scholarly point of view): 90.Overall grade (believing Mormon point of view): 40.P.S. End notes are still the devil. I HATE having to flip to the back of a book to see the citation and discussion!

  • Elliott Petty
    2019-03-27 15:33

    This is a solid biography that covers not only Brigham Young but does a nice job elucidating early LDS church history and the many political and social dynamics in the fast changing USA in the 1830s to 1870s. The book does a good job covering the good, bad and ugly connected to the pioneer prophet by presenting all of Young's accomplishments along with his warts. Controversial teachings and doctrines are front and center but handled with thought and sensitivity rather than sensationalism. Glad I read it. (Full disclosure: I am am a practicing Mormon.)

  • Jon
    2019-03-31 13:35

    Someone should have told the narrator how to pronounce the names of Utah cities. Other than that, I found the book even-handed and thorough. I thought I was fairly well-versed in LDS history, but Mr. Turner was able to add to my knowledge and understanding of early LDS history. He very carefully avoided presentism in his reporting and did a good job of explaining the environment of the day and its bearing on Brigham Young's attitudes and views.

  • Austin
    2019-03-22 12:49

    I thought this was a great biography of Brigham Young. I learned a lot more about him and why he came to be the way he was in reading it. One of Turner's theses is that Young's firm hand when it came to apostates/dissenters in the church was a reaction, at least in part, to seeing apostates lynch Joseph Smith--he didn't want to repeat that, and explicitly said so on a few occasions. I think that's a helpful way of looking at that aspect of his leadership, and one that I hadn't ever really heard or considered before. I also appreciated Turner's highlighting the spiritual and doctrinal side of Young, since he is often caricatured (even by Mormons) as almost entirely a hands-on, practical, pioneer prophet, but not one with as many revelatory experiences as Joseph Smith. The long discussions of, e.g., Young's speaking in tongues, or having dreams that he felt were spiritually significant, or introducing new doctrines (not always with great results), were great at adding nuance to my understanding of that stereotype of him.One of the main criticisms I've heard from Mormons about the book is that it doesn't give a good explanation of how he was so well liked and respected by his followers--with all the juicy, negative elements of his personality that the book admittedly enjoys dwelling on, how could he still inspire such devotion in so many thousands? While I suppose the author could have done better at this, I think these criticisms are more anachronistic than useful. So he helped cover up the Mountain Meadows Massacre, so he tacitly (and sometimes explicitly) approved of killing Indians, so he quite possibly ordered some apostates who wanted to make trouble for the church with the federal government to be murdered, so he said sexist and racist things... I absolutely agree, these are terrible things. It would be extremely hard for me to live under that prophet today. I don't excuse any of those as "OK". But that's me. I don't think many people in Utah would be nearly as troubled by all of that as us moderns are. Many of them wanted him to be harder on the Indians, many of them didn't want details of Mountain Meadows to get out either, many of them hated/feared the federal government too. Turner gives lots of examples of the beautiful teachings Young preached, he lists a number of good works that Young did, and he details how Young lead the saints to Utah and stood up to the federal government on their behalf. I feel like it's not that hard to imagine that many people at that time and in that situation would follow him. Expounding on this too much would force the book to start to be more about the people in general and not Young in particular, so I can't fault Turner for not focusing a ton on why people were willing to follow him--I think the evidence is there, though it might be more implicit than it needs to be.Perhaps the best parts of this book were the many small, humanizing details peppered throughout. There are fun quotes of Young's characteristic colorful language, we get a view into his dealings with his wives and children, snippets from his letters on matters large and small, information on his finances and business dealings, and lots more. It's a meticulously researched book, and it shows--obvious even to a non-historian such as I. I feel like I know Brigham a lot better after having read this. As I alluded to above, not all of it made me like him more (by a long shot), but it gave me an appreciation for all the complexity of both the situations he faced and of the ways he responded to them.

  • Jeff
    2019-03-27 11:43

    Fantastic history about a pioneering and polarizing figure for both American Western history and United States history as a whole. Turner walks the fine line (with a heavy dose of skepticism) between the glossed Church hagiographical histories and the purposefully embellished heretical histories by his antagonists and detractors. Turner covers all of the major points including Brigham's early life as a Methodist; his conversion, ascent, and dedication to the prophet Joseph Smith; the purely Herculean effort to move an entire people west; the "Mormon Reformation" in 1856; the colonization of the Great Basin and the American West; the Utah War from 1857-8; temple construction; governorship; time as a Federal Indian agent; his visions of the State of Deseret and his own phonetic alphabet; and his fiery dedication to his religion. Turner contrasts his great triumphs with poise and clarification for the often uncomfortable but real issues of polygamy; the Mountain Meadows Massacre; the Black Hawk War (of 1865 through 1872 and not to be confused with the War in the Midwest in the 1830's) and interactions with natives; controversial teachings on Africans, women, blood atonement (here Turner dances delicately with castration episodes, the Thomas Coleman murder, the Potter and Parrishes murders in Springville, and the Danites), and Adam being the God of mankind and the father of Jesus Christ; legal trials and issues; and finally what appears to most outsiders as a despotic nature willing to crush enemies and subdue the faithful. Turner is by no means an apologist for Young for he is able to cautiously walk that fine line of critique and endorsement that every historian should aspire to emulate. In my opinion, Brigham Young utilized hyperbole often and frequently to the chagrin of many, but to the survival of a fledgling religion and society. Based on the information available, I do believe that the Mormons faced eventual extinction without Brigham's strong-arm tactics. A strong case can be made that no other figure in American history has had a stronger or lasting impact on the American West than Brigham Young.

  • Brad Hart
    2019-03-29 16:40

    This was a great book and arguably the best bio of Brigham Young ever written. With that said, it is worth pointing out that this book is NOT for the faint in heart. The Mormon reader may find this book to be too critical the church's 2nd prophet. History, true history, is replete with the good and the bad, and B. Young's life is a perfect illustration of that fact. If you want to read material on B. Young and early Mormonism that is purely positive and uplifting then this book is NOT for you. If, however, you are interested in an in-depth historical analysis, and can stomach having a few of your preconceived notions challenged, then this is your next read!Of course, as is the case with many works of history, Turner's book can get a bit wordy in places. But if you "endure to the end" and press on you will find a wealth of knowledge on a man who most Mormons probably don't fully understand.

  • Brenton
    2019-04-11 15:32

    A very fine biography of the second-most important architect of the LDS faith. Brigham Young has been called "the Mormon Moses" and did manage perhaps the largest mass migration in American history, including, of course, his numerous wives, eventually exceeding fifty. He was a crude man and jealous for his authority. He squabbled constantly with territorial and national authorities attempting to preserve the Mormon culture-an insular culture shaped as much by him as any Mormon in history. His racist attitudes toward blacks and Indians were typical of nineteenth-century religious authorities. The author carefully manages the Mountain Meadow Massacre affair in which several Mormons were found guilty of indiscriminately slaughtering western pioneers. It's impossible to determine whether Young bears any culpability. Turner's biography sets a high standard and will doubtless be the standard work for a generation.

  • Brian
    2019-04-14 12:36

    This book did a lot to reshape the way I see my religious leaders. In short, it allowed me to see Brigham Young as a man: flawed. Frankly, I don't think Brig and I would have gotten along very well, but I feel that this book also demonstrates that the LDS church would not have survived without his leadership. I trust the author (the first non-mormon to be given access to the church archives), and I think that his descriptions and conclusions are fair.This book not only helped me to better understand Young, but also gave me a lot more context to polygamy in the early church which allowed me to form what I feel are much more educated personal conclusions on the matter, as opposed to the anecdote and conjecture that I have relied upon up to this point.I highly recommend it if you're willing to keep an open mind and allow your views of early church leaders to be altered for good and ill.

  • Christian Larsen
    2019-03-21 15:28

    John Turner, in "Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet" has written the seminal biography of one of the most influential figures in American history. Not only as a religious leader, but as a colonizer and innovator Brigham Young help shape our country, particularly in the American west. Though an extremely important leader Young was certainly not always the most savory character and Turner does not shy away from portraying this side of his personality. Of particular interest to the reader is Young's preoccupation with LDS temple rituals, temple building, and priesthood hierarchy, subjects which Turner treats with sensitivity and tact. Also addressed are the Mountain Meadows Massacre, succession crisis, the exodus westward, and Young's polygamous marriages. This biography is essential reading for Mormons and non-Mormon Americans alike.

  • Mary Alice
    2019-04-10 11:31

    I found this book fascinating. From plural marriage to theocracy to the notion that every man can be a god, this book gives us a detailed view of early Mormonism and its leader in the mid to late 19th Century. Brigham Young and his Saints were very much part of the Old West. Even if Young didn't fight Indians and settlers himself, he was the man behind the settlers (and even some Indians) who waged war for the Mormon territory and way of life.Like other religious sects, the Mormons found themselves pushing west for a great part of the century. When they reached their "promised land", the Rockie's Great Basin, they fought physically and politically to stay there. We see Brigham Young as both Saint and Outlaw.