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Brigham Young Passes Away

Today in Masonic History Brigham Young passes away in 1877.

Brigham Young was an American religious leader of the Church of Latter-day Saints.

Young was born in Whitingham, Vermont on June 1st, 1801 to a farming family. As Young grew up he would begin traveling and working in various jobs to support himself.

Young would read the Book of Mormon in 1830 shortly after it was published. He immediately converted to Mormonism. He would travel Upper Canada as a missionary in 1832. In that same year his wife, who he had married in 1823, passed away. He would travel to Kirtland, Ohio to meet with the Mormon community that had been established there. It Kirtland, Young was ordained as one of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, the leadership of the Mormon religion.

From Kirtland, Young would travel with the Mormon Community to Missouri and then to Nauvoo, Illinois, searching for a place to establish their community. In Illinois, Young was arrested and jailed on charges of treason. While he was jailed, an angry mob killed Joseph Smith, president and founder of Mormonism. This left a vacuum in the church leadership. Various members of church tried to claim leadership. Young, after being released from jail gave a speech stating that the Quorum was the rightful leadership of the church. In his speech, many of members present felt that Young sounded like Smith and felt that it was a divine influence.

Young moved the church west and would settle them in the Salt Lake Valley. At the time, the valley was still part of Mexico. They arrived there on July 24th, 1847. Just 29 days later, Young would establish the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He was declared President of the Church in December of 1847.

As founder and colonizer of Salt Lake City, Young would be appointed Governor of the territory by President Millard Fillmore. Young term as the Governor saw the Mormon church building bridges and roads, building irrigation projects, establishing public welfare and organizing a militia. There were also problems with Young's governorship. Reports would come out of the Utah territory that federal judges were being obstructed by members of the Mormon church. Without further investigation, President James Buchanan sent the United States Army with a non-sectarian successor. When word reached Young he organized his militia and sent them to engage the United States Army. The Mormon militia would hold off the Army for a winter. Young made plans to burn Salt Lake City to the ground and take his followers to Mexico. At the last minute he decided against it and turned over the Governor's office to his replacement.

In 1857, the Mountain Meadows Massacre occurred. The massacre was an event where 120 men, women and children were slain as they passed through southern Utah. It is believed that massacre was performed by the Mormon Militia. It was claimed that Young sent a letter telling the militia to stand down and the letter arrived two days late. A United States Army officer erected a monument on the site after arriving and finding that the bodies had been left in the open and never buried. The monument consisted of a giant wooden cross and a slab of granite. On the transverse piece of the cross, the officer had written "Vengeance Is Mine, Saith The Lord: I Will Repay." It is claimed that in 1861, Young led a group of Mormons to the site and ordered the monument destroyed. As it was torn down it is again claimed that Young exclaimed "Vengeance is mine and I have taken a little!".

Another accomplishment of Young during his term as Governor was the establishment of the University of Deseret. It would later be renamed to the University of Utah. After leaving the Governors office he purchased land in Provo for the extension of the University of Deseret. Young had a vision of all members of the Mormon church being able to receive and education. The Provo portion of the school would break from the main university, first calling itself Brigham Young Academy. Today it is known as Brigham Young University.

Within the Church, Young is known for some controversial teachings. He is credited with establishing polygamy in church, even though Joseph Smith practiced polygamy. He also taught the Adam-God doctrine which basically states that Adam came with Eve from another planet as immortal beings. After eating fruit in the Garden of Eden, they became mortal and Adam fathered children. Once the children were born, Adam and Eve returned to their home world and Adam took his place on the throne as the God of Earth. The doctrine also claimed that Adam returned to Earth to be the father of Jesus.

Young would also ban all men of African descent, specifically black men, from being priests in the church. He claimed that blacks were descended from the "seed of Cain" and that mating with a descendant of Cain would mean instant death for those who would attempt it. It was not until 1978 that the Mormon Church would lift the ban and would disavow the theories that led to the ban, essentially placing the blame for the ban on Young.

Young would pass away on August 29th, 1877 from what was believed to be peritonitis from a ruptured appendix. At the time he was suffering from various other ailments. It is claimed that his last words were "Joseph! Joseph! Joseph!"

Young was a member of Nauvoo Lodge in Nauvoo, Illinois. Nauvoo Lodge was initially recognized by the Grand Lodge of Illinois and then was declared clandestine.