Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1801-1877) Successor to the founder of Mormonism, Joseph Smith, and, like him, born in Vermont. In many ways, Young was the more important to the survival and spread of Mormonism, not only in America but in England as well. Young's mission to England in 1840-1841 contributed greatly to the conversion of thousands there and to their orderly mass migration to Mormon settlements in America.

Following the assassination of Joseph Smith in 1844, Young almost single-handedly guided the fractious and traumatized Mormon community through the succession crisis and eventually led them, Moses-like, to the mountains of Utah in the single longest and most dramatic wilderness trek in American history. Beginning in 1847 with the founding of Salt Lake City, Young established hundreds of Mormon colonies between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada. During most of the 1850s, Young was the Territorial Governor of Utah and simultaneously Superintendent of Indian Affairs there. These historic secular accomplishments, along with his towering spiritual presence as the Mormon prophet, have tended to be overshadowed by salacious popular treatments of his polygynous household, when in reality early Mormon polygyny was rather an austere institution.

Most of the scholarly literature on Young over the years has appeared in numerous journal articles (e.g., Pacific Historical Review and Utah Historical Quarterly ) but in only a few books. The most thorough of these are Brigham Young: American Moses (Knopf 1985) and Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints (Harvard University Press 1958), both by the distinguished western historian Leonard J. Arrington and based on key collections of primary sources. Much shorter but also very useful is Newell G. Bringhurst's Brigham Young and the Expanding American Frontier (Little Brown 1986).

Armand L. Mauss


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