THE CONVERSION OF BRIGHAM YOUNG
(Compiled and written by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Brigham Young was born on June 1, 1801, in Vermont - the ninth child of a poor farmer named John Young (two more children followed him). When Brigham was two years old, the family moved to Sherburn, New York, where they worked hard in frontier conditions to survive. Brigham had a total of 11 days of schooling in his youth, learning instead the skills necessary to survive in those conditions.
His mother died when he was 14, a tremendous sadness to the boy. Brigham later said of his youth: "Brother Heber (Heber C. Kimball) and I never went to school until we got into Mormonism, that was the first of our schooling. We never had the opportunity of letters in our youth, but we had the privilege of picking up brush, chopping down trees, rolling logs, and working amongst the roots, and of getting our shins, feet, and toes bruised.... I learned how to make bread, wash the dishes, milk the cows, and make butter; and can make butter, and can beat the most of the women in this community at housekeeping. Those are about all the advantages I gained in my youth. I know how to economize, for my father had to do it." (_JD_ 5:97)
In 1829, Brigham joined his father and other members of his family in Mendon, which is only 15 miles from Palmyra. The Youngs were a religious family; Brigham was a member of the Methodist Reformed church, but had never been fully pleased with the sect. When his brother Phineas introduced the message of Mormonism to him, he was intrigued; but he investigated the Church for a full two years before being baptized on April 14, 1832. He later described his conversion:
"If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like the smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, 'I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,' the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was
encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true.... My own judgment, natural endowments, and education bowed to this simple, but mighty testimony. There sits the man who baptized me, (brother Eleazer Miller.) It filled my system with
light, and my soul with joy. The world, with all its wisdom and power, and with all the glory and gilded show of its kings or potentates, sinks into perfect insignificance, compared with the simple, unadorned testimony of the servant of God." (_JD_ 1:91)
Newly baptized, Brigham was eager to go to Kirtland and meet the Prophet Joseph. He later said he gave away all his possessions, "that I might be free to go forth and proclaim the plan of salvation to the inhabitants of the earth" - he even borrowed shoes for the journey (_JD_ 2:128). In his personal history, he described the journey and arrival at Kirtland:
"In September, 1832, Brother Heber C. Kimball took his horse and wagon, Brother Joseph Young and myself accompanying him and started for Kirtland to see the Prophet Joseph. We visited many friends on the way, and some branches of the Church. We exhorted them and prayed with them, and I spoke in tongues. Some pronounced it genuine and from the Lord, and others pronounced it of the devil.
"We proceeded to Kirtland and stopped at John P. Greene's, who had just arrived there with his family. We rested a few minutes, took some refreshment, and started to see the Prophet. We went to his father's house and learned that he was in the woods, chopping. We immediately
repaired to the woods, where we found the Prophet, and two or three of his brothers chopping and hauling wood. Here my joy was full at the privilege of shaking the hand of the Prophet of God, and received the sure testimony, by the spirit of prophecy, that he was all that any man could
believe him to be, as a true Prophet. He was happy to see us, and bid us welcome. We soon returned to his house, he accompanying us. "In the evening a few of the brethren came in, and we conversed together upon the things of the kingdom. He called upon me to pray; in my prayer I spoke in tongues. As soon as we arose from our knees the brethren flocked around him, and asked his opinion concerning the gift of tongues that was upon me. He told them it was the pure Adamic language. Some said to him they expected he would condemn the gift Brother Brigham had, but he said, 'No, it is of God, and the time will come when Brother Brigham Young will preside over this Church.' The latter part of this conversation was in my absence." (Eldon Watson, ed., _Brigham Young History_, 1801-44, pp. 4-5)
(See also Roberts, _Comprehensive History of the Church_, 1:289; Preston
Nibley, _Brigham Young - The Man and Leader, Handbook of the Restoration_, p. 517)