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Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet Hardcover – September 20, 2012

4.3 out of 5 stars 59 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 512 pages
  • Publisher: Belknap Press; 1st edition (September 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674049675
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674049673
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.3 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (59 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #546,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Indulge me: picture a man neck deep in a swift river with people on both banks trying to warn him of boulders they think are in his path. After successfully navigating his course, he exits the river to the cheers of both banks. It happened. His name is John Turner and he's just written a landmark biography of Brigham Young. With an embarrassment of riches in terms of sources that would drown a lesser man and voices from both extremes depicting a tyrannical harem-master and, conversely, a gentle kingdom builder, Turner has achieved a fair and well-rounded portrait of Brigham Young. No sticky wicket (Mountain Meadows, the handcart imbroglio, Young's often testy personality, etc.) is skirted--at the same time, the reader does not get a sense that Turner is poking at them as at a sore tooth. Notoriously difficult for biographers, Young has eluded many through the years. With Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, Turner has done what Rough Stone Rolling did for Joseph Smith: combine meticulous primary source research with balanced historical craft.

One more comparison with Joseph Smith--for many years, Brigham Young: American Moses had served a role much like Joseph Smith: The First Mormon of (at least for believing Mormons) the standard--possibly even definitive in the minds of some--biography. Though Arrington [1] did achieve a much more effective treatment of Young--using a wealth of uncatalogued contemporary source chaos discovered by Michael Quinn--the result failed to provide a picture of the "man." One left the book without feeling that his thought and drive had been reached. In addition, most of the rough edges of both Young's life and contemporary Mormon history were filed down if not ignored.
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Format: Hardcover
I am also a practicing Mormon who finds this biography both insightful and challenging. One challenge is that I don't have the time to review the clearly huge number of primary sources available. A second challenge is fundamental to examinations of the Church by outsiders: What tools are there to determine when actions are taken as a result of revelation vs. rational calculation, or to determine what the interaction is between this mortal sphere and the currently hidden, immortal one? Thus the final sentence in this biography: "In his forty-five years as a Latter-day Saint, Young dedicated himself to Joseph Smith, boldly challenged religious, political, and economic conventions, and shaped--as far as was possible, for as long as was possible--the Mormon people in his self-image." Really? That's it? You get the same perspective when, say, the New Testament church as founded by Christ is dissected by secular scholarship. Was anything beyond human effort at work here? These authors should not be expected to weigh in on revelation and should be applauded when acting in good will and being as fair as they can be (as is the case here). But the gap remains. Bearing this in mind creates balance for LDS church members.

The book is similar to many other biographies I have read in this: The dramatic is always going to overshadow the ordinary. Brigham Young was President of the Church for 30 years, or about 11,000 days. Since you can't (and shouldn't) get all of that into a biography, what are you going to focus on? Brigham Young hitting the roof is always going to get play, other days not so much. What's the ratio between days of drama and days of quiet, effective administration, counsel and Christian service? Little covered is Brigham's relations with his numerous children.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This volume will likely stand, for many years, as the best biography of Brigham Young. It is erudite, insightful, honest, fair and unflinching. Turner does an excellent job of portraying Young as a man of his time--a bold, visionary leader who believed, like so many of the legends of the American West, there was no foe or obstacle he could not overcome.

Brigham Young was a mass of contradictions, a misogynist on the one hand and, at times, a proto-feminist on the other. Like most of his contemporaries, he believed blacks were an inferior race, and yet he frequently displayed considerable compassion and generosity towards those in his employ. To his credit, Turner goes to great pains to ensure that the reader refrains from hasty judgments. To the extent possible, he tries to get us to see Brigham through the prism of the 19th Century, not with the hindsight of the 21st.

Perhaps Young's greatest flaw--one that almost destroyed him on more than one occasion--is that he rarely engaged in introspection or second-guessed his own decisions. He was quick to find fault in both his friends and adversaries, but he seemed incapable of discerning "the mote in his own eye" or admitting that he was responsible for a scheme or policy that went awry. Like many other ecclesiastical leaders of his and other churches, both then and today, he was sometimes wrong, but never in doubt. Sadly, his arrogance and stubbornness sometimes resulted in pain, suffering, and even death, for his friends, opponents, and innocent bystanders.

My only criticism of the book is that it was too short. I felt there was so much more about this man that I would like to know. But, to be honest, no matter much additional material Mr. Turner had included in this biography, I'm not sure I am capable of fully comprehending Brother Brigham, a man for whom the phrase "larger than life" is truly apropos.
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