Examining Brigham Young’s legacy requires an understanding of his raw ambition and religious zeal. A formidable leader in both his church and country, Young’s abilities coincided with the colonizing zeitgeist of nineteenth-century America.
Thus, by 1877, some 400 Mormon settlements spanned the Western frontier from Salt Lake City to outposts in Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, and California. As prophet of the LDS Church and governor of the proposed State of Deseret, Young led several campaigns for Utah Statehood while defending polygamy and local sovereignty. His skillful and authoritarian leadership led historian Bernard de Voto to classify him as an “American genius” responsible for turning Joseph Smith’s visions “into the seed of life.”
Young’s diaries and journals reveal a man dedicated to his church, defensive of his spiritual and temporal claims to authority, and determined to create a modern Zion within the Utah desert. Editor George D. Smith’s careful organization and annotation of Young’s personal writings provide insights into the mind or Mormonism’s dynamic church leader and frontier statesman.
George D. Smith is a political science graduate of Stanford University, with an MBA from New York University. In 2016, he was awarded an honorary doctorate of humanities from the University of Utah. Throughout his career, Smith has served on the boards of several civic and philanthropic organizations, including the Commonwealth Club of California and National Public Radio. In addition to several articles on Mormon history, he is the author of the award-winning Nauvoo Polygamy, and edited An Intimate Chronicle:The Journals of William Clayton; and Religion, Feminism, and Freedom of Conscience. He established the Smith-Pettit Foundation and is president of Signature Books.