Brigham Young was a rough-hewn craftsman from New York whose impoverished and obscure life was electrified by the Mormon faith. He trudged around the United States and England to gain converts for Mormonism, spoke in spiritual tongues, married more than fifty women, and eventually transformed a barren desert into his vision of the Kingdom of God. While previous accounts of his life have been distorted by hagiography or polemical exposé, John Turner provides a fully realized portrait of a colossal figure in American religion, politics, and westward expansion.
After the 1844 murder of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, Young gathered those Latter-day Saints who would follow him and led them over the Rocky Mountains. In Utah, he styled himself after the patriarchs, judges, and prophets of ancient Israel. As charismatic as he was autocratic, he was viewed by his followers as an indispensable protector and by his opponents as a theocratic, treasonous heretic.
Under his fiery tutelage, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints defended plural marriage, restricted the place of African Americans within the church, fought the U.S. Army in 1857, and obstructed federal efforts to prosecute perpetrators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. At the same time, Young’s tenacity and faith brought tens of thousands of Mormons to the American West, imbued their everyday lives with sacred purpose, and sustained his church against adversity. Turner reveals the complexity of this spiritual prophet, whose commitment made a deep imprint on his church and the American Mountain West.
About John G. Turner
John G. Turner is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University.
Brigham Young was Joseph Smith’s lieutenant in spreading the newly coined doctrine of Mormonism and his successor on Smith’s murder. Young carved a homeland out of the Utah wilderness, which was heavily settled by inconvenient Lamanites, as the Mormons called Native peoples. As Turner (History/Univ. of South Alabama; Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America, 2008) capably demonstrates, Young’s successes were the fruit of a driving ambition that sometimes manifested itself in ruthlessness. Turner writes carefully—a good tactic, for Mormon history is an always-fraught topic—of Young’s rise in the early hierarchy, including an episode in which he “confronted Smith and his two counselors in the church’s presidency…about their lingering grievances,” divisions that might have yielded a schism had not Young also been a skilled strategist. Dissent was a constant companion in Young’s life, and Turner, to his credit, does not shy from noting that fact. Moreover, the author looks at the various strains of Protestantism, “ecstatic” and otherwise, that fed into early Mormonism, drawing particularly on Methodism in the British Isles, where Young worked as one of the church’s first missionaries. Some of the resulting ideas, blended with Smith’s own, were unusual in the religious landscape of the time. Of interest—and potential controversy—is Turner’s attention to Young’s many wives, who were not always happy with the arrangement and some of whom cut their ties with him; it’s not exactly Big Love, but there’s some high drama in the text. Drama also prevails in the passages related to the infamous Mountain Meadows Massacre and the subsequent execution of Young lieutenant John D. Lee, who insisted that “Young and other church leaders had selected him as their ‘scapegoat.’ ” – Kirkus Reviews
Latter-day Patriarch - ‘Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet,’ by John G. Turner
The New York Times Book Review – October 19, 2012 (Excerpt)
For a young religion, Mormonism seems to have more history than it knows what to do with. The church’s founding fathers were outsize, operatic characters: the prophet Joseph Smith, who believers claim received and translated “The Book of Mormon,” and his successor, Brigham Young, who “preserved a church and created a people,” according to this new biography by John G. Turner, an assistant professor of religious studies at George Mason University.
But until he met Joseph Smith, Brigham — the Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, call both Smith and Young by their first names — was a 29-year-old transient nobody in upstate New York who “lived on the economic margins of his society,” and wasn’t particularly religious. He relished the sense of community he found among the Mormons and was much moved by his early encounters with Smith (“He took heaven . . . and brought it down to earth,” Young recalled). Yet half a lifetime later, that unlettered ex-husbandman ruled over a theocratic empire as large as France. Turner calls Young “the greatest colonizer in American history,” who established Mormon outposts in present-day California, Arizona, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming. [Read the full article...]
THE LONDONDERRY AIR
Testament of an Ulster Gunman A Novel by Garrad Gawler
It all changed for Charles Cunningham, a Physics teacher at the local College of Technology in the County Derry town of Maddenstown, on a June afternoon in 1973 when a bomb exploded in his neighborhood. He answers an advertisement by the UDR, the Ulster Defence Regiment, but, in the time to come, he will experience the consequences of his decisions, and how his involvement complicates matters with family and friends, Protestants and Catholics alike, to an unexpected degree.
With “The Londonderry Air – Testament of an Ulster Gunman” Garrad Gawler describes in minute detail and with an astonishing level of authenticity not only the inner workings of the Ulster Defence Regiment, but also the activities of underground paramilitary groups of regular citizens who planned and carried out the assassination of suspected Republican terrorists in their neighborhood.
We are the only country that makes guns, including military-style assault weapons, available to anyone who wants to buy them. This is not freedom. It is a tyranny of death and destruction — a tyranny of which the National Rifle Association is proud. The Washington Post
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