Biography | BYU Studies


Melting the Ice: A History of Latter-day Saints in Alaska

Author Fred E. Woods,
Notwithstanding the frigid circumstances, a genuine warmth emanates from the Alaskan Saints. The match that lit this internal flame was the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, first striking the Alaskan borders at the turn of the twentieth century. They have subtly shaped Alaskan society, although composing less than five percent of the state's population. Their influence on Alaskan communities can... Read more

Martin Harris: Uncompromising Witness of the Book of Mormon

Martin Harris: Uncompromising Witness of the Book of Mormon reveals the compelling story of a man who had seen angels and knew Joseph Smith was a prophet but who nevertheless struggled to keep his faith in the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith and the restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His is a story of fascination with worldly honors, flirtations with apostasy, and pride that nearly cost him the joy of his later years in the West. It is the biography of a witness who clung tenaciously to his testimony of the Book of Mormon.


The Japanese Missionary Journals of Elder Alma O. Taylor: 1901–10

Author Reid L. Neilson,
Alma O. Taylor was called to the Japan Mission at age eighteen, and his parents would have been shocked had they known his mission would last nearly nine years. Alma, the eighteen-year-old lad, would return a twenty-seven-year-old man, having served one of the longest continuous missions in Church history. For eight and a half years (August 1901–January 1910), Alma worked with intense fervor,... Read more

The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830–1841

Author Ronald K. Esplin,
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. Read more

Wayward Saints: The Social and Religious Protests of the Godbeites against Brigham Young

Author Ronald W. Walker,
A story that includes spiritualistic seances, hidden conspiracy, and an important church trial, Wayward Saints chronicles the challenge, during the 1870s, of a group of British Mormon intellectuals to Brigham Young's leadership and authority. William S. Godbe and his associates revolted because they disliked Young's authoritarian community and resented what they perceived as the church's... Read more

No Toil Nor Labor Fear: The Story of William Clayton

Author James B. Allen,
Joining the Church in 1838 catapulted William Clayton into new activities and associations, took him from England to the United States, and offered him soul-satisfying spiritual experiences. As Joseph Smith's friend and scribe, Clayton kept extensive journals and was the one who recorded the revelation on plural marriage. He also wrote the first history of the Nauvoo Temple. As a pioneer, Clayton... Read more

The Life of Dr. Frederick G. Williams: Counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith

Author Frederick G. Williams,
The Life of Dr. Frederick G. Williams: Counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith is a thoroughly researched documentary history of Frederick G. Williams and his immediate family. This book provides an intimate look at many significant events in the Ohio, Missouri, Illinois, and pioneer Utah periods of Church history. Frederick G. Williams (1787–1842) was an important figure during the early days of... Read more

The Journals of William E. McLellin: 1831–1836

Editor John W. Welch, Editor Jan Shipps,
William E. McLellin (1806-1883) was an early Mormon apostle who later left the church. In his later years he questioned the authority of founder Joseph Smith, but he always said he believed that the Book of Mormon was truly the word of God. In 1871 he wrote a notebook in which he recorded his contacts with men who had filled special roles as Book of Mormon witnesses in 1829. McLellin described... Read more

Qualities That Count: Heber J. Grant: As Businessman, Missionary, and Apostle

Author Ronald W. Walker,
Called as an Apostle at age 25, Heber J. Grant was acutely aware of his inadequacies. Feeling unseasoned and unsure, he questioned whether he had the "qualities that count" for such a position. Yet he took solace in his faith: "There is one thing that sustains me and that is the fact that all powers, of mind or body, come from god and that He is perfectly able and willing to qualify me for His... Read more

Jedediah and Heber Grant

On December 1, 1856, Elder Wilford Woodruff and Elder Franklin D. Richards left the Church historian's office for the home of Jedediah Grant, less than a block away. The hour was late, about 10:30 in the evening. It had snowed several inches during the day, and the weather was turning cold. Read more

In Memoriam: T. Edgar Lyon

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Atchison's Letters and the Causes of Mormon Expulsion from Missouri

This article will explain the Atchison letters from the 1838 Mormon conflict. He and Alexander W. Doniphan knew Joseph Smith's policies, since they had negotiated with both parties for some two months prior to the Mormon surrender on 1 November 1838. Doniphan's views have great interest because he consistently saw the Mormons as victims of intolerance throughout their Missouri experience. But... Read more

Nephi, Seer of Modern Times: The Home Literature Novels of Nephi Anderson

Nephi Anderson, known primarily among late twentieth-century Latter-day Saints as the author of Added Upon (1898), attempted in that widely read, ambitious failure, to encompass "all things in heaven and earth within 140 pages." B. H. Roberts wrote this statement in admiration, but I assume Anderson knew better—at least, if he didn't then, he would later, when he came to be a much more... Read more

In Memoriam: Henry Eyring 1901–1981

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George H. Brimhall's Legacy of Service to Brigham Young University

Franklin S. Harris, president of Brigham Young University from 1921 to 1945, said of his predecessor, George H. Brimhall (fig. 1), "George H. Brimhall, under a tree would make a university any day for where he teaches students will always gather to be taught." Brimhall had two great causes, Harris said: his religion and the cause of education. From his youth to his old age, Brimhall carried these... Read more

A Long-Awaited Visit: President Heber J. Grant in Switzerland and Germany, 1937

In 1937, just two years before Hitler invaded Poland, President Heber J. Grant made a memorable journey from Salt Lake City to Europe (fig. 1). President Grant had served as president of the European and British Missions from 1903 to 1906 and was now returning to Europe as prophet of the Church. He was the second Church President to visit Europe while serving in that capacity. His predecessor,... Read more

The Story of A Disciple's Life: Preparing the Biography of Elder Neal A. Maxwell

In 1996, I was called to the Seventy and assigned to an Area Presidency in Australia, where I would remain until returning to Utah in August 2000. Like so many other Church members, my wife, Marie, and I were stunned by the news of Elder Maxwell's leukemia in late 1996, and we worried and prayed about his health. During October conference 1999, he invited me to come by his office. As we talked,... Read more

Lengthening Our Stride: The Remarkable Administration of Spencer W. Kimball

In an October 1977 conference address, Elder William Grant Bangerter of the First Quorum of the Seventy looked back on those difficult days. He described an uncomfortable period among the Saints as they mourned the loss of President Lee and struggled to accept the new prophet: "We knew, of course, that he would manage somehow, until the next great leader arose, but it would not be easy for him,... Read more

J. LeRoy Kimball, Nauvoo Restoration Pioneer: A Tribute

In 1954, James LeRoy Kimball bought the Heber C. Kimball home in Nauvoo. The house was slowly remodeled and restored. When Kimball saw how many people were interested in the house, he started mulling over the idea of opening the house to the public. The Church organized Nauvoo Restoration Inc. in 1962, and Kimball was asked to be the first president. This short article tells the story of Nauvoo's... Read more

Antonio Lebolo: Excavator of the Book of Abraham

The Latter-day Saint community was startled by an announcement in November 1967 that the Church had obtained from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City eleven fragments of Egyptian papyri that had once been in the hands of the prophet Joseph Smith. This announcement piqued the interest of students and soon the number of young people who registered for Pearl of Great Price classes... Read more

Roots and Wings

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Robert Lang Campbell: "A Wise Scribe in Israel" and Schoolman to the Saints

Here on the very edge of civilization, in the wilds of the American West, where "manifest destiny" was being realized by the constant flow of emigrants moving westward, the writer's apprentice and former Christian Chartist from Kilbarchan was working out his own personal "manifest destiny." Because of his faithfulness, he was promised that he would yet play a role in bringing to pass the divine... Read more

Reflections on Howard W. Hunter in Jerusalem: An Interview with Teddy Kollek

As I have worked in archives collections abstracting an overall picture...I have realized that my joy was not in the generalizations I could draw, but in each life I was reading. Something in the handwritten, sometimes penciled, often naïve, misspelled, uncluttered account each woman gave of herself drew me in and held me fast. I would find the single detail or particular description I needed for... Read more

Harry S. Truman as a Modern Cyrus

Cyrus the Great made possible the return of Jews to Jerusalem (as recorded in Ezra, Isaiah, Daniel, and 2 Chronicles). Harry S Truman became a modern-day Cyrus for his crucial role in the creation of the state of Israel. This article describes Truman’s role. Read more

I Dreamed of Ketching Fish: The Outdoor Life of Wilford Woodruff

Known as both a "mighty fisher" of men and and enthusiastic literal fisherman, President Woodruff melded the spiritual metaphor of fishing with the temporal reality. Read more

Youth and Beauty: The Correspondence of Hugh Nibley

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The Saint and the Grave Robber

Converted in the Australian goldfields, Frederick William Hurst and John de Baptiste became mining partners and fellow emigrants. But in Utah their paths made a Jekyll-and-Hyde split. The colony of Victoria, Australia, produced one-third of the world's gold found in the 1850s; as a result, every imaginable type of person converged on the area. This assemblage, coupled with England's earlier "... Read more


The L. Tom Perry Special Collections in the Harold B. Lee Library at Brigham Young University has been acquiring manuscripts relating to the life of Thomas Leiper Kane for many years. The focus of searching out and collecting these manuscripts has been to discover more about Kane’s relationship with the Mormons from 1846 until his death in 1883. Over the years, items of significance have been... Read more

Thomas L. Kane and Nineteenth-Century American Culture

This article, originally a lecture given at Brigham Young University in 2009, was published as part of a special issue of BYU Studies featuring Thomas L. Kane. Although Kane was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was an advocate for the Mormon cause and a trusted friend of Mormon leaders for almost forty years. Kane's legacy has been passed down in LDS memory... Read more

Rachel R. Grant: The Continuing Legacy of the Feminine Ideal

We can imagine ourselves visiting Aunt Rachel Grant, longtime president of the Thirteenth Ward Relief Society and one of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint's "leading ladies," at her home on Salt Lake City's Second East Street. In the year of our visit, 1890, her two-story, plastered adobe home partakes of the prevailing feminine ideal that stresses homemaking and handicraft. The... Read more

Mesquite and Sage: Spencer W. Kimball's Early Years

During his forty-two-year ministry, Spencer W. Kimball spoke of his beginnings in many of his talks and sometimes in letters or published articles. When taken together, his statements provide something of an autobiography, a task that the indefatigable diarist never quite managed. While they do not provide a full and probing view of his youth, they give a glimpse into his early life and times... Read more

Biographical Reflections on the American Joseph Smith

I have long thought that the importance and role of Joseph Smith in the history of religion in America has been muted more than necessary by the Latter-day Saint church. As his biographer, I was and remain very anxious that his contribution to American culture and religion in general be recognized and appreciated, both by Mormons and by non-Mormons. Read more

A Latter-day Saint in Hitler's SS: The True Story of a Mormon Youth Who Joined and Defected from the Infamous SchutzStaffel

In researching and writing the story of Helmuth Hübener, the Latter-day Saint youth who was executed for distributing anti-Nazi literature in Germany during World War II, I learned of several other Hübener-like people in Nazi Germany. One such person, whom I shall call Bruno to preserve anonymity, was a young Latter-day Saint man who joined Hitler's infamous elite force, the SS, and then had a... Read more

The Mormon Heritage of Vardis Fisher

Twentieth-century novelist Vardis Fisher is often regarded as a Mormon apostate and critic, most notably for his 1939 book Children of God. However, Fisher was never excommunicated from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and despite his skeptical and sometimes critical portrayals of Mormonism, religion played an important role in his lifestyle and writings. Having studied the Bible... Read more

A Great Little Saint: A Brief Look at the Life of Henry William Bigler

Early on the morning of 24 November 1900, an elderly man died in St. George, Utah. He had never held high ecclesiastical office within the Latter-day Saint Church—of which he had been a member for over sixty years. He had never been elected to any office nor did he achieve anything but passing regional or national fame. Yet two days after his demise, a leading Salt Lake City newspaper, the... Read more

Andrew Jensen, Latter-day Saint Historian

What judgment can we make of Andrew Jenson—Latter-day Saint, traveler, writer, historian? He arrived in America a poor, uneducated boy who, because of his broken English, was faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Yet he aspired to greater things, and in his lifetime accomplished much. Jenson made his greatest contributions through his writing and collecting ability. The span of Andrew... Read more

Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederick Handel: In Remembrance of the Three-Hundredth Anniversary of Their Births

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He Is Our Friend: Thomas L. Kane and the Mormons in Exodus, 1846–1850

This article, originally a lecture given at Brigham Young University in 2009, was published as part of a special issue of BYU Studies featuring Thomas L. Kane. Although Kane was not a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he was an advocate for the Mormon cause and a trusted friend of Mormon leaders for almost forty years. Bennett shows how documents from the Kane collection... Read more

The Early Baptist Career of Sidney Rigdon in Warren, Ohio

Undoubtedly one of the most enigmatic characters of Mormon history is Sidney Rigdon (1793–1876). He was one-time adviser and right-hand man to Joseph Smith; he lost out against Brigham Young in the succession crisis of 1844; and, after founding an obscure sect, he died forgotten in Friendship, New York. This article presents new biographical information on the Disciple Rigdon, information... Read more

Joseph F. Smith and the Reshaping of Church Education

This article examines the educational background, philosophy, and legacy of Joseph F. Smith and his impact on Church education. It traces the role President Smith played in expanding the Church academies and later facilitating the formation of the current seminary system. It places these changes within the context of the dramatic growth in U.S. public education and the financial challenges faced... Read more