My Servant Brigham

Portrait of a Prophet

Book Notice

My Servant Brigham: Portrait of a Prophet, by Richard Neitzel Holzapfel and R. Q. Shupe (Bookcraft, 1997)

“The heart of this book is the images” (3), assert the authors of this brief but attractive volume. Providing “some lesser-known word pictures and visual images, photographs and artifacts” (3) from the life and world of Brigham Young, this work skillfully weaves together a well-documented running text with visual images, often ingeniously utilizing images as text.

Many images are seen here in print for the first time, such as the handsome portrait of Brigham Young featured on the cover (also 107). Rare views were dug out of nineteenth-century national copy, the Library of Congress, or private hands. There are no earth-shattering discoveries—no long-hoped-for photograph of Brother Brigham out among his people—but even the expert will learn something new from this collection. In particular, images of Brigham Young’s carriage, his death mask, and a document listing the measurement of his physical lineaments (120, 141, 142) will interest both scholar and layman alike. Scholars will benefit from corrections and clarifications on the dating of portraits and will puzzle over an image purported to be a fragment of Brigham Young’s original membership certificate (59), dating his baptism to April 9, 1832, five days earlier than his own recollected date of April 14.

Telling a story through images, as this book attempts to do, inevitably leaves out elements of the story where images are lacking or do not get the point across. Toward the end of his life, Brigham Young formally introduced the United Order of Enoch, which he considered to be the culmination of his prophetic leadership. No information on that order is included, nor is his endowment for three schools broached. A delightful, familiar image of Brigham Young’s daughter in a “retrenchment” dress accompanies a discussion of the young women’s society (111), but no image of the young men’s movement Brigham Young initiated in 1875 apparently exists.

Over one hundred images are interspersed throughout the book. Its standard-size format allows this significant work to give only a snapshot of Brigham Young’s world, but it will rightly bring that world into the hands of a larger audience.



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