33. “President Brigham Young Leads the Saints”

Brigham Young Takes over Leadership at the Death of Joseph Smith

“The Mantle of the Prophet Joseph Passes to Brother Brigham: A Collective Spiritual Witness,” Lynne W. Jorgensen, BYU Studies Staff, BYU Studies, Vol. 36, no. 4
On August 8, 1844, six weeks after the Prophet Joseph Smith’s martyrdom, a meeting of the Saints was held in Nauvoo, Illinois. The purpose of the meeting was to determine by vote who had the right and responsibility to lead the Church—Sidney Rigdon or the Quorum of the Twelve with Brigham Young at their head. In the course of the two meetings held that day, many in attendance received a divine witness that Brigham Young was to be the next leader: some Saints specifically state that as Brigham Young addressed the congregation he sounded and appeared remarkably like Joseph Smith, others simply say that the “mantle of Joseph” or “of the prophets” rested on Brigham Young, and others state that they were given a witness “by the spirit” that Brigham was to lead the Church. Here are 82 people’s witnesses of that event.

“‘I Roll the Burthen and Responsibility of Leading This Church Off from My Shoulders on to Yours’: The 1844/1845 Declaration of the Quorum of the Twelve Regarding Apostolic Succession,” Alexander L. Baugh, Richard N. Holzapfel, BYU Studies, Vol. 49, no. 3
The document presented in this paper, written in late 1844 or early 1845, appears to have been drafted for possible use as an official statement by the Twelve concerning Joseph Smith’s “last charge” to them, given at a special meeting held in late March 1844, three months before his death. On this occasion, the Prophet conferred upon the Twelve the priesthood keys and authority necessary to lead the Church following his death. The document is a powerful, declarative, united testimony that the Twelve were the authorized legal successors to Joseph Smith. Furthermore, the declaration provides valuable historical information concerning the March meeting—including where the meeting was held, which members of the Twelve were present, and the core of what Joseph Smith said on that occasion.

“Joseph, Brigham and the Twelve: A Succession of Continuity,” Ronald K. Esplin, BYU Studies, Vol. 21, no. 3
Joseph Smith had carefully prepared the Twelve Apostles to succeed him by teaching them about temple ordinances and temporal stewardship, providing continuity among the Saints after the shock of the Martyrdom.

The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830-1841, Ronald K. Esplin (dissertation, 1981)
This study investigates Brigham Young and his fellow apostles in the 1830s as they gradually became an effective quorum and moved toward eventual ascendancy. It examines the all-encompassing religious framework from which Brigham Young acted and uses it to shed light on both the complex issues confronting early Mormons and on his emergence as a leader.

Brigham Young as a Leader, Speaker, and Family Man

“Father Brigham in His Western Canaan,” John K. Carmack, BYU Studies, Vol. 40, no. 2 (a special issue on Brigham Young)
While Brigham Young is often seen as a Moses figure, Elder Carmack sees Brigham as 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.”

“Brigham Young and the Mission of Mormonism,” Jed L. Woodworth, BYU Studies, Vol. 40, no. 2
For the most part, Brigham Young chose to ignore his critics, but on occasion he personally responded to them. On January 7, 1869, Brigham wrote an answer to a newspaper editor’s question “What is the mission of the Mormons?” Mormonism’s fruits, Brigham attested, substantiated its claims.

“A Man of God and a Good Kind Father: Brigham Young at Home,” Dean C. Jessee, BYU Studies, Vol. 40, no. 2
Brigham Young was the patriarch of probably the largest family of any public figure in the history of the United States. Statements from his wives and children show that he cared for his family deeply. He provided not only homes, food, and support but effectively imparted the values of his faith.

“The Lion and the Lioness: Brigham Young and Eliza R. Snow,” Jill Mulvay Derr, BYU Studies, Vol. 40, no. 2
Brigham Young was born in 1801, Eliza Snow in 1804. He was a man known for his humor and gruffness, she a woman known for her sobriety and refinement. He preached unforgettable sermons, though he never learned to spell. She wrote reams of poetry and songs. He provided her a home as one of his wives for thirty years, but she never took his name. Both he and she were passionately devoted to the Prophet Joseph Smith and his expansive vision of eternity. President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and presidentess of its Relief Society, Brigham Young and Eliza Roxcy Snow formed a couple whose marriage eludes simple description.