Picking up where we left off with Brother Brigham last time: Brigham Young was not called to the presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon Church) in an easy fashion. Joseph Smith, Jr. the prophet of the restoration, had been assassinated on June 27th (1844.) Brother Brigham learned of this heart wrenching and horrific event while serving a summer mission in Boston. Immediately, so far from home and the rest of the Twelve, he wondered if the keys of the kingdom were lost to the earth once again, but immediately the Holy Ghost (also known as the Holy Spirit) comforted him and he knew those same keys rested with the Quorum of Twelve Apostles until a new prophet could be called.
From his history we learn more about that time:
“Returning at once to Nauvoo, he found that Joseph’s First Counselor, Sidney Rigdon, had offered to take over leadership of the Church, and a general assembly of Saints had already been called to sustain a new leader. President Young spoke to the gathering of Saints with forceful plainness:
“For the first time in my life, for the first time in your lives, for the first time in the kingdom of God in the 19th century, without a Prophet at our head, do I step forth to act in my calling in connection with the Quorum of the Twelve, as Apostles of Jesus Christ unto this generation—Apostles whom God has called by revelation through the Prophet Joseph, who are ordained and anointed to bear off the keys of the kingdom of God in all the world.
“… Now, if you want Sidney Rigdon or William Law to lead you, or anybody else, you are welcome to them; but I tell you, in the name of the Lord that no man can put another between the Twelve and the Prophet Joseph. Why? Because Joseph was their file leader, and he has committed into their hands the keys of the kingdom in this last dispensation, for all the world” (HC, 7:232, 235.)
“Many witnesses noted that President Young looked and sounded like the Prophet Joseph as he spoke, a powerful manifestation of divine approval. The nearly 5,000 Saints assembled sustained the Twelve as the governing quorum of the Church. Three days following the meeting in which President Young had told the Saints he “wanted the privilege to weep and mourn for thirty days at least” (HC, 7:232), he quietly expressed his grief: “It has been a time of mourning [since] the day that Joseph and Hyrum were brought in from Carthage to [Nauvoo]. It was judged by many both in and out of the church that there was more than five barrels of tears shed. I cannot bear to think anything about it” (MHBY-1, 177.)”
It was a difficult time in the Church. The saints were being driven from their homes and lands once again. Their prophet and patriarch slain, different leaders attempting to take power, thereby proving they had no understanding of the gospel or the Lord’s sense of order in all things, attempting to complete the Nauvoo temple before they left and preparing for the long, arduous journey to the Rocky Mountains in hopes of finding safety and peace at last.
The saints completed the Nauvoo Temple, and many saving ordinances were performed before the long journey across the plains and mountains of the American Midwest and West.
A scant two months after the death of Joseph and Hyrum, Brigham Young said:
““Brother Joseph, the Prophet, has laid the foundation for a great work, and we will build upon it,” he promised the Saints in August 1844. “We can build a kingdom such as there never was in the world”” (HC, 7:234.)
That is precisely what he did. He never wavered in his faith toward God or his support of the Prophet, Joseph Smith, Jr. He expounded upon the doctrines taught by Joseph and then the revelations he received for the Church as well. Under his care and direction, the exodus of the Saints began and on July 24, 1847 he looked over the Salt Lake Valley and later wrote of this moment, “The spirit of light rested upon me and hovered over the valley, and I felt that there the Saints would find protection and safety,” (MHBY-2, 564.)
In December of 1847, three-and-a-half years after the death of Joseph, Brigham Young, who had shouldered the responsibility for the Church and the saints, was officially called, ordained and sustained as the living prophet, seer and revelator for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Over the course of his tenure as president of the Church and prophet, 80,000 Mormons found their way from all corners of the world to Utah. From the harsh and unforgiving terrain of the west, cities were carved out and blossomed. When irrigation became a problem for the farmers, because of the aridness of the land, Brigham received inspiration and water filled the lands bringing forth crops of all kinds.
He said of those who had followed him west and those who had later come, “that God had called Saints “together from the uttermost parts of the earth … to become of one heart and of one mind in all our operations and endeavors to establish Christ’s spiritual and temporal kingdom upon earth, to prepare for the coming of the Son of Man in power and great glory” (DNSW, 21 Jan. 1868, 2.)
Under Brother Brigham’s direction, saints left Salt Lake City and settled over 400 cities in the American West, including cities such as San Bernardino, Las Vegas and others.
In his 33 years as the prophet, Brigham worked hard to settle difference between the Mormons and the U.S. government. In addition to being prophet and President of the Church, Brigham Young was also governor of Utah until removed by the U.S. government and replaced with a lackey who would do all the government commanded.
Through all the trials, tribulations and continuing persecutions Brigham Young remained stalwart and steadfast as the Lord’s mouthpiece. Of the Relief Society, which had been created by Joseph Smith, Jr. Brigham Young,:
Recognizing that Zion [could not] be built without the sisters, President Young reestablished the Relief Society in 1867 as it had been organized in Nauvoo by the Prophet Joseph Smith. The women assisted bishops in providing relief to the poor and afflicted, encouraged families to make at home whatever they needed, taught one another the gospel, and supervised the teaching of younger women and children. (“Chapter 1: The Ministry of Brigham Young,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 1)
During the last year of his life, President Young put the priesthood quorums in order. He divided and reorganized stakes, increasing the number of stakes from eight to eighteen. He directed the organization of elders quorums and instructed the elders in their temporal and spiritual responsibilities. He emphasized the ward as the primary local unit of Church activity and expanded the role of the bishop as head of the ward. Members of the Quorum of the Twelve who had been presiding over local [congregations] were released from those positions so they could carry out their callings as special witnesses of Jesus Christ to the nations. By the time of his death on 29 August 1877, the Church was organized as most Saints recognize it today. “Chapter 1: The Ministry of Brigham Young,” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 1)
Joseph Smith, Jr. restored Jesus Christ’s church in the spring of 1830. Brigham Young, after the death of the Prophet, took the mantle of leadership upon his shoulders and for the remainder 33 years of his life served God with unwavering faith and determination. He served as prophet, seer and revelator and in doing so, colonized the American West. He oversaw a growing Church and attended to every detail under the inspiration of God.
I testify to you, at this time, that Brigham Young, the Lion of the Lord, was called of God to serve as prophet at a crucial and difficult time in the restoration of the Church. I testify now that through his efforts, again under the inspiration of God, he built upon the Church Joseph Smith restored. And I know of a certainty, when he passed from this life, Brother Joseph was waiting their for him, arms open wide.
This Church so many have died for, suffered for and fought for is the full restoration of God’s church on the earth. God chose well in his servants and because of that, we have the gospel of Jesus Christ ready and available to all who will listen. Those early prophets and saints have earned a deep and abiding gratitude in my heart . . . because of them, because of Brother Joseph and Brother Brigham, I know the answers to Who am I? Where did I come from? Why am I here? Where am I going? Peace exists in my heart because of these prophets of God and Brigham Young rightfully takes his place in those ranks.