Who was Brigham Young?

   Brigham Young, leader of the Mormons from 1844 to 1877, was born in Whitingham, Vermont, on June 1, 1801. He was the ninth child of poor farmers. When he was 3, his family moved to New York State. Like many children of his time, Brigham had almost no schooling. When he was a young man, he worked as a carpenter and painter.

   The course of Young's life changed when he chanced upon The Book of Mormon, the sacred book of Joseph Smith, founder of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After two years of study, Young adopted the Mormon faith and joined Smith in Kirtland, Ohio.

   Young's rise in the church was rapid. In 1835 he became a member of the Quorum (Council) of the Twelve Apostles, the church's second-highest governing body.

   The Mormons were often persecuted as heretics, and they were forced to move their settlements many times. For a while they found peace in Nauvoo, Illinois. But trouble began again, and in 1844 Joseph Smith was murdered. Brigham Young became the new Mormon leader. Determined to avoid further persecution, Young planned to move his peo­ple west.

   In 1846 thousands of Mormons began the long journey from Nauvoo. After many months of hardship, the first group of pioneers reached the Great Salt Lake valley in 1847. It appeared to be a dry and desolate land. But on a ridge overlooking the valley, Brigham Young uttered the words familiar to all Mormons, "This is the place."

   The settlers called the new territory Deseret, a Mormon word meaning "honeybee." Guided by Young's genius for organization, communities grew and prospered. When the area was admitted to the United States as the territory of Utah in 1850, Young became its first governor.

   According to early Mormon custom, he had many wives during his lifetime and dozens of children. Brigham Young died on August 29, 1877. Today Salt Lake City, the home of the great temple and tabernacle he designed, remains the spiritual center of the Mormon Church.