Thomas G. Alexander’s Brigham Young and the Expansion of the Mormon Faith is a complex, reflective portrait of Brigham Young, the nineteenth-century Mormon leader who brought his flock to Utah, where they found a permanent and prosperous home.
The biography follows Young from his early life in upstate New York, which was a “precarious balance between deprivation and starvation,” to the death of his first wife from tuberculosis. Originally a Methodist, Young joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after reading Joseph Smith’s Book of Mormon and meeting the charismatic Smith in person.
Young became a member of the Church’s Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in 1835, and was part of the Mormons’ westward trek to Missouri. Following Smith’s 1844 murder by an anti-Mormon mob, Young assumed leadership of the Church and organized the Mormon exodus to Utah’s Salt Lake Valley.
Brigham Young and the Expansion of the Mormon Faith details the persecution Mormons faced as their presence increased, including an order by the governor of Missouri that the group be “exterminated or driven from the state.” Though Young initially opposed the practice of polygamy, by the time of his death he had over fifty wives. Young was also a strong advocate for music and the theater, making sure that these arts were an integral part of Mormon life.
While Young presided over the Mormons’ ultimate success, there were times of hardship and internal strife. Other darker chapters, such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre and dealings with African and Native Americans, occurred during Young’s watch.
Brigham Young and the Expansion of the Mormon Faith is an engrossing survey of the Mormon Church through the 1800s, and of the man called upon to lead them into the seemingly promised land.
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