When Brigham Young was killed in 1877, Latter-day Saints saw him as an inspiring theocrat who mobilized his people after the death of their founding prophet, who led them on an epic exodus across the plains to what they hoped to be Zion in the West, who fought an antagonistic government and had his fingerprints on every move, from their arrival in the Great Basin to his death.
As the “Lion of the Lord,” his image can be found on monuments, statues, and even a university named after him.
The 16 million members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are unaware of the many facets of Young, who was tender, stubborn, strong-willed and racist but passionately religious and dedicated to the temple.
When Mormonism was just beginning to spread around the world, critics didn’t seem to realize that missionaries were already making converts from Scandinavia to South Africa and from New Zealand to Samoa.
The second edition of the church’s four-volume official history, “Saints 1846-1893: No Unhallowed Hand,” has just been released and attempts to shed light on the church’s past and its personalities, including Young.
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“Saints 1815-1846: The Standard of Truth”, the first volume, was released in September 2018 and has since sold over half a million copies. The second book is also available on the Internet, where another million people have already read it.
As the head of the church’s history department explains, “We wanted to write a history that would be completely accurate, that would incorporate the latest and most up-to-date scholarship, but that would also be very, very readable. and with an audience that was not just educated Latter-day Saints or those who really cared about their history.”However, these novels should be accessible to a wide range of readers.”
In an interview with the Salt Lake Tribune’s latest “Mormon Land” podcast, Grow says the goal was to “tell the story as it was and show people’s lives as they were with all the complications , the tensions and the difficulties that life entails, but also all the triumphs and the really positive things too.
“Saints” points to a “seismic shift in how Latter-day Saints deal with our past,” according to Utah writer James Goldberg.
In regard to the writing of Latter-day Saint history, Goldberg identifies three distinct eras: the Early, Middle, and Late Ages.
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He asserts that Mormon history was “mostly transmitted orally” in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Participants in the Core Experiments simply told their stories, which were then told by other participants. »
According to Goldberg, when mass media such as radio, television, and film grew in the 20th century, “we began to package history more and more for these media…. With Joseph Smith and Brigham Young serving not only as historical individuals but also as mascots of Mormon qualities of righteousness, spirituality, and industry, history was reduced to a single heroic arc.
Due to the growth of the Internet, this way of thinking has become obsolete.
There was a need for depth and authenticity once individuals had access to diverse perspectives, he argues. For the most part, we weren’t interested in mascots representing early saints,” the author explains.
The Mormons, according to Goldberg, “have abandoned” the heroes. “We were looking for real individuals.”
In the “Saints” they abound.
One of the most important tests for a new religion is whether or not it can be passed on successfully to the next generation.
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After Joseph Smith’s death on June 27, 1844, in Illinois, his grieving followers remained uncertain of what the future held for them.
Thousands of LDS Church members gathered on the first floor of the Nauvoo Temple on October 8, 1845, for the Church’s General Conference.
“Strength beyond her weak 70-year-old body” is how the author describes Lucy Mack Smith’s appearance on the catwalk.
Throughout the book, readers will learn how the Saints arrived in Utah, how Salt Lake City became a state, and how they spread to the Pacific, Europe, and Mexico.
As the LDS Church grows, “the story spreads into new cultures, trying to tell what that faith meant in many places,” Goldberg adds. “That’s one of the main differences between this volume and the previous volume.” As a result, “these books do their best to introduce you to a wide range of people and allow you to connect with their diverse experiences and voices.”
Women, Native Americans, immigrants, slaves, and other non-citizens of the United States are all represented.
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Seances and dissenters are just as common as polygamy raids and trials, divorced couples, and secret letters, as are seances and seances (some started the Mormon Tribune-cum-Salt Lake Tribune). With the so-called Manifesto of 1890, the first attempt is made to put an end to polygamy.
The book “Saints” challenges us to understand our history as a “great laboratory of discipleship”, he continues. People experience a variety of things. From time to time there are wonderful events. In some cases, people who try to do the right thing end up doing the wrong thing. »
When it comes to the story of Brigham Young’s many children, Susa Young Gates is a constant presence.
Known as “Sussie,” Alma Dunford was a miserable wife. When the Word of Wisdom was not fully anchored in the health code of the faith, he was physically aggressive and had a drinking problem.
She would divorce, but her ex-husband would get custody of their daughter Leah. After marrying Jacob Gates, she had 11 children, but only four survived to adulthood. The first editor of the Young Women’s Journal, she became a famous advocate for women’s rights and suffrage.
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“On the ruins of the life she thought she had,” writes Goldberg of Gates’ successful new life.
Angela Hallstrom, an editor in the history department and the series’ literary editor, thinks readers will discover more about well-known personalities they thought they knew.
He is “presented as a young man grieving in many ways” following the death of his mother, she explains.
She says her father, Hyrum Smith, brother of Joseph Smith, was “martyred” many years ago.
As a “very, very young man,” Joseph F. Smith was sent to Hawaii on a mission “by the Lord,” Hallstrom adds. “We’re going to see him evolve.”
Additionally, BH Roberts, General Authority of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, responds to the Manifesto.
“He had a lot of mental issues,” she recalls. On a train, he heard about it. As he traveled with other apostles, some of whom were more aware than others, [Roberts] came across a newspaper article and read it.
Other problematic events in the church’s past include the Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Saints’ involvement in influencing the Bear River Massacre, and a discussion of the roots of the church’s priesthood/temple restriction on black members.
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There are no hard questions about whether this or that historical claim is true, Goldberg adds. One of the most difficult questions to answer is, “How do people who have had extraordinary spiritual experiences continue to be so captivated by the moment?”
However, “we have to ask ourselves this question,” he says.
It is sandwiched between the story of Hawaiian convert Jonathan Napela and the missionary work of William Walker in Cape Town, South Africa, in the film “Saints.”
When the Utah legislature met in 1852, it was debating the subject of slavery.
According to the book, “while many Saints in the southern United States had previously brought slaves into the territory,” Young did not want slavery to proliferate in the region.
Although the Latter-day Saint prophet opposed slavery, he agreed that “black people were suited to bondage.”
Young “declared publicly for the first time that people of black African descent could no longer be ordained to the priesthood,” according to the book. A common but incorrect belief that God had cursed people of African descent was voiced by Brigham. ”
On the other hand, Apostle Orson Pratt had a different view.
Instead of asking for divine permission to do so, he asks, “Shall we then take the innocent African who has committed no sin?”
Latter-day Saint (LDS) missionaries in South Africa “largely targeted white residents of the city.”
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Unlike some earlier official stories, “Saints,” according to Grow, portrays the human side of church leaders.
On “Mormon Land”, Grow notes that Young is a “misunderstood character in many ways”. Regarding his leadership style, “many see him as a very down-to-earth, sometimes hard-to-like leader.”
As he says, there is truth in what he says. “But Brigham Young was loved by the Saints. And you have to understand why they cherished it so much.
The Nauvoo Temple is completed in the first volume of “Saints.” Mormonism was not only passed on to the next generation, but it was here to stay, as the Salt Lake Temple was completed in 1893.