Brigham Young is one of the most well-known figures in the history of the American West. The first man to become President of the Church after the death of Joseph Smith, Young left behind a legacy in which he was known both as a “Lion of the Lord” and “Brother Brigham”—two distinct aspects of his personality. This article breaks down some of the most important historical research about Brigham Young’s wives, church presidency, teachings, and more.
After attending a Relief Society meeting in 1857, Wilford Woodruff recorded in his journal that “the house was full of females.” As someone who practiced plural marriage instituted by the Prophet Joseph Smith, the comment could have applied to Woodruff’s home life. In this interview, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich discusses how early Latter-day Saint sources shed light on female authority and plural marriage.
Zion’s Cooperative Mercantile Institution (ZCMI) is known as America’s first department store. Founded by Brigham Young in 1869, the store played a central role in the early Utah economy. Nineteenth pioneers saw ZCMI as a tool to eliminate poverty—and it was a requirement for Latter-day Saints to shop there. In this interview, Jeffrey Paul Thompson explains the fascinating history of the ZCMI department store in Salt Lake City.
Brigham Young was known by many different names. To some, he was the Lion of the Lord or an American Moses. To others, he was simply “Brother Brigham.” In this interview, Chad Orton discusses the many ways he finds inspiration in the prophet’s life—and reveals what he’d include in a second edition of his biography of the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In a startling moment in the history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the First Presidency suggested that tithing should be suspended. This was in response to a decision that the Church’s tithing was a taxable income, resulting in an initial assessment of $59,338.51 that President Brigham Young was expected to pay. In this interview, Samuel Brunson discusses how the predicament came about, how Church leaders responded, and the surprising ending to the whole episode.
Zion’s Camp—also known as the Camp of Israel—was a formative experience in the life of 28-year-old Joseph Smith. However, like the Law of Consecration, it’s a pioneer experience rife with misunderstanding. In this interview, historian Matt Godfrey separates fact from fiction and discusses the purpose of Zion’s Camp.
One of many little-known facts about Brigham Young is that he established a pioneer mail system. It was called the Brigham Young Express and Carrying Company, and included a “swift pony express” that predated the legendary Pony Express by several years. In this interview, Devan Jensen explains that the company was a contributing factor to the Utah War—and that it could have transformed the American West if not stopped by the federal government.
The Journal of Discourses is a 26-volume series of sermons by Latter-day Saint pioneers like Brigham Young, John Taylor, and Orson Pratt. However, the accuracy of the published transcriptions is questionable. Bruce R. McConkie even attempted to publish a shorter 10-volume edition that removed what he viewed as false doctrines. In this interview, LaJean Purcell Carruth says that most of the discourses contain significant unauthorized changes—and rarely represent what was actually said.
Susa Young Gates was one of the most influential women in Utah history. As the daughter of Brigham Young, she held a place of prominence in pioneer society. But her legacy goes beyond genealogy. Biographer Romney Burke describes Susa Young Gates as a human dynamo who left her mark on nearly every aspect of contemporary Latter-day Saint life.
George D. Watt was the first Latter-day Saint convert baptized in the British Isles. He kept a diary as he crossed the ocean and traveled the pioneer trails on his way to Salt Lake. Watt became indispensable thanks to his expertise with Pitman shorthand, and created the Journal of Discourses. You can now read his 1851 journal, thanks to the efforts of LaJean Purcell Carruth and Ronald G. Watt.