No man, no prophet, has been as divisive as Brigham Young has been on social media save Joseph Smith only. The mere mention of his name brings to mind either a profound sense of gratitude and pride in a shared heritage of strength and willpower or it causes a finger of scorn and derisiveness for someone who was clearly a man of his era with all the same foibles and quirks any human possesses.
Few other men in that time period could have done what Brigham Young did. With the full assistance of the Lord and the mantle that he inherited from the martyred Prophet, he held steady the Old Ship Zion, lead it from mob danger and destitution to safety “far away in the West,” and guided it through a profound period of prosperity and abundance.
Beginning a humble life in New England, like many early Saints, Brigham was only a carpenter. Yet through his service in the church and under the tutelage of the prophet Joseph, he became a powerful statesman, religious leader, community planner and colonizer. If you live in the Western United States, it is almost impossible to not feel his influence in the settling and formation of countless communities.
Let us get to the crux of the matter. How could Brigham Young have done nothing wrong? Surely he was a man, he made mistakes, even needed the atonement just like you and I so he must have sinned. All this being true he was still the chosen prophet of the Lord. He himself said:
“I would beseech and pray the people to so live that if I do not magnify my office and calling, you will burn me by your faith and good works, and I shall be removed. Salvation is what I am seeking and striving for, and it is also your aim and object.”(JD 7:276).
In his own words, he was striving, just as we should be, for salvation. He taught it would be up to us as members to be so faithful that he would be removed if he could not live up the standard the church and the Lord set. But he was not removed. He is still the longest-serving president of the Church in our short history.
What about his sexism? His racism? His…homophobia? How could he have done nothing wrong? The answer is simple, but it takes faith. Just as Joseph Smith started as a 14-year-old with a question and then grew into the prophet of the Restoration, so Brigham Young started as an itinerant carpenter whom the Lord molded into the man, the Governor, the president, and the prophet that was needed at that moment in the church’s development. He was the right man at the right time doing the right job the Lord needed him to do. If the scripture “by your fruits ye shall know them” holds any weight, then truly the fruit of Brigham Young’s tree is bountiful even if a couple of them taste bitter or sour to us today.
If we can have the faith that Joseph was a prophet and we can have the faith that Russell M. Nelson is the current prophet, then why can we not see that every man who has been at the head of this church has also been the right man at the right time? It’s not faith in the man — though a little trust might help — it’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ to lead His Church and select His mouthpieces. In Brother Brigham’s own words:
“God is at the helm. He guides the ship, and will bring us safely to port. All we have to care about is to take care of ourselves and see that we do right. Let us man the ship manfully, every one standing faithfully and firmly to his post, and she will outride every storm and safely bear us to the harbor of celestial bliss.”(JD 7:276).
Twitter user @jreubenclark has stated, “perhaps ‘Brigham Young has nothing to apologize for’ would be more precise.” While probably true, saying he “did nothing wrong” adds a definitive weight of sustaining and faithfulness to the sentiment.
No matter what the world says or the degraded standards it tries to foist on the Church and the Saints, we will decidedly stand with the Lord and His prophet. Brigham Young did nothing wrong.
“Prophets – Pioneer and Modern Day” – Elder Earl C. Tingey, April 2007
“The Prophet of God” – Elder Neil L. Andersen, April 2018
“Sustaining the Prophets” – Elder Russell M. Nelson, October 2014
You can follow J.P. on Twitter @jpbellum.