Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Brigham, the Man and the Prophet (revised)

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 (those addressing 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.

One of Brigham's great virtues is his loyalty. Often portrayed as self-assuming, Brigham's humility is very well exemplified by his loyalty to the Prophet of the Restoration, Joseph Smith. Let us look at some quotes on the matter.

"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."
-Joseph Smith
(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.' "
-Truman G. Madsen
(Joseph Smith, The Prophet)

In many ways, the true determinant of a man's greatness is his subjection to God and those leaders whom God has placed over him. Joseph was the Prophet, and Brigham never sought to undermine him. After Joseph died, Brigham still did not exalt himself above his friend and mentor.

"I feel like shouting hallelujah, all the time, when I think that I ever knew Joseph Smith."
-Brigham Young
(Journal of Discourses, 3:51)

What I have received of the Lord, I have received by Joseph Smith; he was the instrument made use of. If I drop him I must drop these principles; they have not been revealed, declared, or explained by any other man since the days of the apostles.”
-Brigham Young
(Journal of Discourses, 6:279-280)

One of the greatest examples of trust comes from Brigham Young. The way he viewed Brother Joseph is the way we should view all the Prophets

“Though I admitted in my feelings and knew all the time that Joseph was a human being and subject to err, still it was none of my business to look after his faults.”
-Brigham Young
(Journal of Discourses, 4:297)

If a prophet called of God can look past the faults of another, I suspect that we owe that prophet the same courtesy. Brigham loved Joseph, there is no question there. He knew his place, and gave his heart in his humble capacity.

As we know, Joseph Smith was murdered, a signature to his work certifying its completion. But who would lead the Church? This issue was a problem not yet experienced by the Saints, and many did not know how to deal with it. People like Sidney Rigdon, James J. Strang, David Whitmer, and others saw themselves as the new leader of the Church, and denounced President Young’s claims as a usurpation of authority. This would not be in his character, nor necessarily was it his desire. He merely chose to accept the burden that was placed upon him. When he first learned of the Prophet’s death, he thought all was lost. It was only after pondering and prayer that he realized the duty that was his. When he spoke to the general assembly of Church membership in Nauvoo regarding his call to lead, this is what he said:

"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."
-Brigham Young
(B.H. Roberts, Succession in the Presidency of the Church. p. 8, emphasis added)

Judging from this, I don’t believe he reached for more authority than was his. Perhaps he only sought to do his best at what God asked.

Some say that Brigham was iron-fisted in his governing of his people in the West. As a man who spoke what was on his mind, and as a man who had to conquer a desert, his methods may have seemed harsh, especially by today’s standards. John A. Widtsoe stated that one of Brigham’s defining traits was his loyalty to truth. He further said, “Brigham Young is reputed to have had a strong will. That was needed in the conquest of the desert. Many have failed to understand that in the exercise of his will and power he was not autocratic, but firmly determined that truth should be obeyed.”
(Gospel Interpretations, p. 224)

His loyalty to truth and demands for obedience were what the Lord needed at the time. That is why he was called.

Throughout his life, he taught the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

“I am not bound to wife or child, to house or farm, or anything else on the face of the earth, but the Gospel of the Son of God. I have enlisted all in this cause, and it is in my heart, and here is my treasure.”
-Brigham Young
(Journal of Discourses, 14:19)

He loved the Gospel, and gave about 400 sermons, touching on numerous doctrines. Some will criticize him for some of his teachings (again, learn better perspective from Mathoni’s post), but he taught with power and authority, emulating the Savior as best as he could.

As Brother Brigham slipped from this world into the next, the final words to hang on his lips were, "Joseph, Joseph, Joseph." Those words were humble and loving, still acknowledging who was his mentor and leader. He loved Joseph. He loved Christ. From the moment he turned his life over to the Gospel after a two-year investigation, he never turned back.

Despite all I have shown, I can scarcely do justice to this spiritual titan. I do know however, that despite the bad light that some may 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.


Dave Norris said...

Do you really believe in all that? In the Testimony of Joseph Smith, he felt he was being defeated by thick darkness so he embraced the following white light. Moses did not make the same mistake. You might want to read Exodus 20:21 for the source of the thick darkness?

J2A2K (darth_ender) said...

Hmm...a tad off-topic. Ah, well, we can see how easily we can become "offenders for a words"(Isaiah 29:21). Let's see, Psalm 146:3 tells us not to put our trust in the son of man. In Matthew 8:20 and numerous other places Christ calls himself the Son of man. Obviously, we can't place our trust in him. Or maybe, just maybe the same words and phrases ("thick darkness" for instance) can have different meanings.
I know there are far stronger arguments than that out there. I am, however, almost positive I have read more anti-mormon literature than you. Check out my brother's (with my help) quicly evolving website at:
There, you may see that we are not the ignoramuses you may have mistaken us to be.
And incidently, I do believe in all that.

Anonymous said...

Dave, you sound like someone who looks for excuses not to believe. The Lord can be in a dark cloud so as not to dazzle those whose faith is weak. Satan can appear as an angel of light in order to deceive. The main thing is what is being accomplished by the apparition in question? In the case of Joseph Smith, it was to overcome him physically, even unto death. Does that sound like something God would want to do? Perhaps your god would do such a thing.
When a being practices deceit or attempts to harm a person, no matter the form he takes, he is what he is--the prince of darkness, the father of lies, etc.

(The dad of mathoni and darth ender)