“Cows to Milk Instead of Novels to Read”: Brigham Young, Novel Reading, and Kingdom Building

It is instructive to observe how literally sophisticated Latter-day Saints scramble to defend the contemporary, universal embrace of imaginative fiction in general and the novel in particular against the single-minded, single-eyed, and vigorous attacks of President Brigham Young. During his thirty-year tenure as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Brother Brigham, as he was affectionately called, made his views on novel reading unmistakably clear: he dismissed novels as “nonsense,” called reading them a waste of life, and reminded the Saints that they have more important ways to spend their time—that, like the daughters of Zion, they “have got cows to milk instead of novels to read” (fig. 1).

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