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Brigham Young became the second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after the death of Joseph Smith. He lead the exodus of the pioneers to Utah, exclaimed "this is the place," and now has several universities of education named after him. However, there are probably things you did not know about this leader of the Church. Here are two stories you might not have heard before.
When Brigham was only fourteen years old, his mother lost her struggle with tuberculosis and passed away. Her death, combined with the rigors of a life so dependent upon the land, helped the boy grow quickly into a man. The children were left in the care of their father who, though a good man, was often very strict. Brigham would later say of his father that “it used to be a word and a blow, with him, but the blow came first.” His father would sometimes have to leave the children on their own for days while he worked or got supplies.
One time Brigham and his brother were so hungry, with nothing but maple sugar in the house, that he resorted to shooting a robin so the two boys could have something to eat. It was not long after his mother’s death that his father told him it was time for him to leave home.
“When I was sixteen years of age, my father said to me, ‘You can now have your time; go and provide for yourself;’ and a year had not passed away before I stopped running, jumping, wrestling and the laying out of my strength for naught; but when I was seventeen years of age, I laid out my strength in planing a board, or in cultivating the ground to raise something from it to benefit myself.”
Brigham left home and became an apprentice carpenter, painter, and glazier. Over the next five years he gained a reputation for being a capable and hardworking man.
As a member of the twelve apostles, he spent his time doing missionary work and being with family. He was also part of the building of the Kirtland Temple. Despite the great blessings that flowed from having the temple in Kirtland, a troubling spirit of fierce contention spread throughout the village. Many members of the Church believed that Joseph was unwisely combining the spiritual with the secular and should not allow the Church to be involved in temporal affairs.
They blamed him for “meddling” with a financial institution (the Kirtland Safety Society Anti- Banking Association) that ultimately failed. Always loyal to Joseph Smith, Brigham Young defended him and his inspired role as head of the Church against all critics—even certain members of the Twelve.
He knew Joseph was not perfect, but he also knew he was a prophet. The unrest and resentment toward the Prophet and those who supported him became so severe, in fact, that Elder Young had to leave Kirtland under the cover of night for his own safety.