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Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet by John G.…

Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet (2012)

by John G. Turner

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Biography of the man who took Mormonism from its genesis with Joseph Smith to near-control of Utah, and managed its Weberian transition from being led by a prophet to being led by a church, with an administrative hierarchy capable of surviving in the long term. Young is not larger than life; he makes many mistakes, mostly financial; he has complicated relationships with his multiple wives, some of whom seem to be married out of convenience and others for passion; he says contradictory things about women over time, but always stays racist; he gets crankier as he gets older; he supports the slaughter of non-Mormons in various circumstances and then gets cagey about it in order to keep the federal government’s heavy hand from coming down. Turner repeatedly notes that Young’s positions weren’t unique in his time—though massacring a bunch of white Protestants and getting away with it was pretty unusual. I should probably read a biography of Smith for comparison. ( )
  rivkat | May 7, 2014 |
Well balanced portrait of the Mormon leader. Good coverage of post-Joseph Smith history of the LDS church for the novice or expert. ( )
  wmnch2fam | Jul 12, 2013 |
Fascinating and well-rounded biography of an extraordinary man. Brigham Young came from a humble background, yet became a dynamic leader whose importance to the survival and growth of his religion after the death of the founder was comparable to that of Saint Paul.

Even for readers who already know something about Young, John Turner's biography will reveal much new information. It portrays him in all his aspects, particularly the "American Moses" who kept the LDS church viable after Joseph Smith's assassination and led his people through immense suffering to the promised land of the Great Basin. He was a driven and energetic man who could not only lead a religion and build an economically and politically strong culture, but had the time for at least 55 wives and 58 children, pages 375-376.

Turner writes about the familiar aspects of LDS history, such as Joseph Smith's introduction of "the principle" of plural marriage and the longtime attempts to keep the practice secret, but brings out less familiar history, such as members, and even the apostles, drinking alcohol. For example, see page 173.

In addition to Young's extraordinary virtues, Turner writes about many of his failings, which were all too human, such as his often foul and intemperate language, his payment of bribes, and much worse, such as his ordering the murder of people he considered LDS enemies.

Concerning one of the greatest blots on LDS history, Turner comes down on the side of those who believe Young tried to prevent the Mountain Meadows Massacre, but then after the massacre had occurred did his utmost to conceal the reality of what happened and protect the perpetrators. This view seems to be the one most popular these days, replacing the prior view that Young ordered the massacre.

There are some errors, such as on page 160, where Turner refers to "the biblical twelve sons of Joseph," rather than Jacob, an error that is somewhat embarrassing in a book where religion is such a central factor.

Minor errors don't diminish the great value of this biography, and anyone interested in LDS history in general or Young in particular should read it.
1 vote JohnPeterAltgeld | Sep 19, 2012 |
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Provides a fully realized portrait of Mormon leader Brigham Young, a colossal figure in American religion, politics, and westward expansion.

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