“Let us now praise famous men,” a line from Ecclesiasticus, a second-century B.C. Jewish text, directs attention to renowned leaders of ancient Israel. James Agee and Walker Evans’s 1939 publication, taking this same phrase for its title, alludes to common men and women whose silent deeds of heroism have been overlooked. In Brigham Young, second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these two images combine. A man of humble New England heritage, limited to formal schooling but mighty in public speaking, Brigham Young rose to prominence as a leaders of tens of thousands. Yet even today, many of his silent, heroic deeds have gone unrecognized.
June 1, 2001, marked the bicentennial of President Young’s birth, and in commemoration this issue of BYU Studies features four essays and two edited documents about Brigham Young. Shorter versions of the essays were first presented at symposia sponsored by the Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History,Brigham Young University, in 1998 and 1999.