Brigham Young was born on June 1, 1801 in Whitingham, Vermont, shortly after his family's move from Hopkinton, Massachusetts. A product of a strict Methodist upbringing, he worked as a glazier and artisan before joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, serving out the remainder of his life as a missionary, Apostle, and finally President of the Church until his death in 1877. No historical figure had a greater role in the development of the American West than Brigham Young. His influence for more than three decades on the development and historical trajectory of the Church, and on Mormon country, was even greater. Yet perhaps no individual receives more criticism and draws more ire than Brigham Young.
Along with Church founder Joseph Smith's life - and increasingly for some even more than Joseph's - Brigham Young and his era of church history is contested ground. Young led the Church for a third of a century and was a primary historical figure in the American West for three tumultuous decades. Throughout these decades (and for more than a decade after) "Mormon Country," which he led, was at odds with the United States Government and its officials both in Utah and in Washington, making the Brigham story and the Mormon story during his lifetime a national story. Few had more fame - or notoriety, to his detractors - than did Young during his years in Utah.
Young was instrumental in founding more than five hundred colonies in a vast territory that is today a part of six American states. For eight years, he was Governor of Utah Territory and Superintendent of Indian Affairs at a time when relations with Native Americans was a fact of daily life. To the frustration of critics, he still "ruled," even after his official term of office ended. Young orchestrated the economic development of a vast territory and was directly involved in scores of business. His office maintained the ledgers that allowed the Saints to conduct trade and commerce across the region in a largely cashless society. He oversaw an immigration system that brought tens of thousands to Utah Territory and the Great Basin. As president of the Church, he presided over the religious life and worship, and in many cases the economic life and labors of tens of thousands of Saints in the Great Basin and thousands more abroad.
Getting arms around the documentary record of Brigham Young’s life is no short-term proposition. Thanks to 19th-century Latter-day Saint record-keeping practices and the custodianship of the Church Historian's Office, dating back to 1840s Nauvoo, Illinois, a vast number of Brigham Young's papers survive. The Center is committed to growing and maintaining a repository of research materials that help scholars understand and document the life and times of Brigham Young. This repository will grow month by month, but given the scope of extant documents, posting most Young’s documents will require years.
This site is but another step in the Center's mission, and includes:
- An ongoing archive of Brigham Young's papers, arranged by category.
- A collection of references that list notable books and articles that have been written about Brigham Young or his times.
- An assortment of images and other media relating to Brigham Young and the world in which he lived.