Father Brigham in His Western Canaan

If you were to paint a word picture of Brigham Young by comparing him to an earlier spiritual leader, to whom would you compare him? Maybe the most dramatic comparison comes from that pivotal moment when he spoke to nearly five thousands Saints gathered in Nauvoo to select those who would take the reins of leadership in the restored Church. To many, including my own forebears, as he delivered his address he looked and sounded like Joseph Smith. Or perhaps, as Leonard Arrington did, you would compare him to Moses leading the children of Israel on a long and perilous exodus to a promised land.

Despite those compelling candidates, the image I see is that of Father Abraham. Yes, the exodus from Nauvoo to the Great Salt Lake was vital and exciting and the comparison with Moses apt. We look back on that great event with pride much as the Jews have viewed the exodus of Israel from Egypt. But the portrait of President Young (fig. 1) that strikes me as being the fullest and most memorable is that of a great patriarch, a father like Abraham, presiding and directing the work of establishing a people, safe and free to follow their Prophet and gospel doctrines in the mountains and valleys that became their Western Canaan.

Published in BYU Studies Quarterly 40:2
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