Brigham Young (1801 – 1877) was the second president and prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon) and a pioneer in the western United States. He has been nicknamed the “American Moses” or the “Mormon Moses.”
Born and raised on a frontier settlement, Brigham Young only had formal schooling for a total of eleven days. Young left home at the age of 16 to become an itinerant carpenter, joiner, painter, and glazier. He converted to Methodism in 1823 and married his first wife in 1824. Brigham Young discovered Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon at the age of 28, and two years later he was baptized into the Mormon Church. After his wife died in 1833, Brigham Young led family and friends to join Joseph Smith’s group of followers. The rest of his life was dedicated to the spread of Mormonism.
After Joseph Smith’s death in Illinois in 1844, Brigham Young organized the exodus of thousands of Mormon pioneers westward, seeking a place of refuge from persecution. Most of the Mormons followed Young, but some did not, forming various factions. One such faction chose to follow a blood relative of Joseph Smith. This group later called themselves the Reorganized Church of Latter-day Saints (RLDS) and eventually built their headquarters in Independence, Missouri. They now call themselves Community of Christ.
The followers of Brigham Young trekked westward until they finally settled in what is now Salt Lake City, Utah, which Young founded on July 24, 1847. In 1851, Utah was organized as a territory, and Young was appointed as governor and Superintendent of Indian Affairs. In his lifetime, Young founded several hundred settlements and is largely responsible for Mormons becoming the single most important agency colonizing the West between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada.
Brigham Young was a polygamist; he had fifty-five wives in his lifetime. He also had fifty-seven children, many of whom survived to adulthood. Several wives died, and Young divorced ten others. One wife, Ann Eliza Young, wrote a memoir about her experience with Young: Wife No. 19: The Story of a Life in Bondage.
Brigham Young’s legacy continues to this day. One of the universities he founded is named after him: Brigham Young University. He also founded the University of Deseret, now the University of Utah, as well as the Salt Lake Theatre. Brigham Young oversaw construction of the Mormon Tabernacle in Salt Lake City and began the building of the Salt Lake Temple. He established “Young Men” and “Young Women,” auxiliary youth clubs for the LDS Church. There are more than five hundred extant sermons that he delivered over his thirty years as president of the Mormon Church.
Brigham Young died on August 29, 1877, of a ruptured appendix. His legacy is seen in the impact he had on millions of Mormons. As the “Mormon Moses,” Brigham Young led the Mormon people to a so-called earthly promised land, but where did he lead them spiritually? In promoting a religion of works, a doctrine of multiple gods, and a false view of Jesus, Brigham Young can only be considered a false teacher on a grand scale who led millions away from the heavenly promised land (see 2 Peter 2:1–3).