new biography of Brigham Young is almost here. John talks about his new book on this Harvard University Press podcast.
Here is a summary of the book:
Brigham Young was a rough-hewn craftsman from New York whose
impoverished and obscure life was electrified by the Mormon faith. He
trudged around the United States and England to gain converts for
Mormonism, spoke in spiritual tongues, married more than fifty women,
and eventually transformed a barren desert into his vision of the
Kingdom of God. While previous accounts of his life have been distorted
by hagiography or polemical exposé, John Turner provides a fully realized portrait of a colossal figure in American religion, politics, and westward expansion.
After the 1844 murder of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, Young gathered
those Latter-day Saints who would follow him and led them over the Rocky
Mountains. In Utah, he styled himself after the patriarchs, judges, and
prophets of ancient Israel. As charismatic as he was autocratic, he was
viewed by his followers as an indispensable protector and by his
opponents as a theocratic, treasonous heretic.
Under his fiery tutelage, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day
Saints defended plural marriage, restricted the place of African
Americans within the church, fought the U.S. Army in 1857, and
obstructed federal efforts to prosecute perpetrators of the Mountain
Meadows Massacre. At the same time, Young’s tenacity and faith brought
tens of thousands of Mormons to the American West, imbued their everyday
lives with sacred purpose, and sustained his church against adversity.
Turner reveals the complexity of this spiritual prophet, whose
commitment made a deep imprint on his church and the American Mountain