Brigham Young, until age thirty-one, was a painter and carpenter of less-than-modest origins from western New York. He was raised by parents who inclined toward the excitable brand of Methodism and, from age fourteen on, sought a peaceful, regulated, unexcitable life of hoped-for prosperity. Though dutiful enough a believer, he preferred to be known as an honest, hard-working, thorough craftsman who dealt justly with his neighbors and was a friend to all, even his own wife and children.
How does one find in such beginnings the leader of perhaps the most sensational institutional experiment to come out of the American frontier? Where in Brigham’s roots are the strands of secret hopes and conflicts which somehow got caught up and worked by the social and religious currents of his day to produce a Latter-day Saint loyalist sans par? Clues must lie in Brigham’s family and religious inheritance-in the religious cauldron of western New York and in the catharsis of frontier Methodism.