Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Brigham, the man and the prophet

There are issues where I stand differently from others I know. One in particular is my defense of Church leaders. It may sound like nothing that different, but one thing that I have observed is that there are generally two camps: those who acknowledge the leaders and see them as near-faultless, and those who see their faults and look down upon them for it. I fall into what I believe to be a rather small third party. I note the faults in Church leaders, past and present, and I grow to love them all the more for it. I refer the reader to some of Mathoni's blogs on this matter (the beauty of the humanity of our leaders), as they are very poignant and deal with the matter very well.

I wish here to take up a little defense of the second president of our Church, President Brigham Young. I will not go into any real depth, but I do wish to show a few of his virtues. He was a man of faults, and is often criticized by any anti-Mormon and even a good many Mormons for those faults. He finds in this post, however, his praise, as he was the man called by the Lord to lead the Church of Christ.

First, I will give a couple of his references of his loyalty to Joseph Smith.

"Of the Twelve Apostles chosen in Kirtland, and ordained under the hands of Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer and myself, there have been but two but what have lifted their heel against me -- namely Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball." (May 28, 1843. DHC 5:412.)

As the Mormon movement grew, Smith became larger than life, but he also ended up with a mixture of friends and foes - with difficulty knowing who was who. Many of those who denounced Smith were his closest friends, who referred to him not as a "false prophet" but as a "fallen prophet." Smith became so troubled by this that he frequently tested the people around him...On one occasion, he vigorously chastized Brigham Young - accusing the latter of something he had never done in what was clearly a harsh, cruel, unfair manner. As Brigham said, 'Joseph, what would you have me do?' - Smith broke down in tears and hugged him. 'Brigham,' he said, 'I was testing you and you have passed.' " (Joseph Smith, The Prophet. Truman G. Madsen)

Brigham Young claimed he had never tried to usurp authority (as many schismatics would be pleased to accuse). I believe the first quote also makes this evident, as well as his own words here:

"For the first time in my life, for the first time in your lives, for the first time in the kingdom of God, in the nineteenth century, without a prophet at our head, do I step forth to act in my calling in connection with the quorum of the Twelve, as Apostles of Jesus Christ unto this generation—Apostles whom God has called by revelation through the prophet Joseph, who are ordained and anointed to bear off the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world." (Succession in the Presidency of the Church. B.H. Roberts, emphasis added)

It appears to me that Brigham was not one to reach for more authority than was his, but was not afraid to accept the mantles placed upon him.

As Brother Brigham slipped from this world into the next, the final words to hang on his lips were, "Joseph, Joseph, Joseph."

The truth is I could scarcely do justice of this spiritual titan. I feel ill-eqipped to handle the matter well. I do know however, that despite the bad light that is often cast on him, if we take a moment to reorient ourselves, we may see that he was a man of God in all respects. He was the one called to succeed Joseph Smith. He was the one called to ensure the continual rolling of the Kingdom of God.

I would recommend this site to the reader, particularly the essay by Hugh Nibley:

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