Brigham Young is one of the early leaders of the Mormon faith and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. His teachings outlined many of the beliefs that Mormons share, and his establishment of the first Mormon community made him important not just within his religion but as one of the original settlers of the American West.
Brigham Young was born in Vermont in 1801. In his youth, Young converted to Methodism, but after encountering the recently-published Book of Mormon in 1830, he decided to convert once again. He quickly rose through the ranks of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and after the death of church founder Joseph Smith, Young was named as successor. It was Young who decided to move the church headquarters to Utah and instituted a policy of seclusion that put the church at odds with the United States government for a time. In 1877, during the legal disputes that followed, Young passed away.
One of the the most important beliefs of Brigham Young was that Mormonism needed a central home. This resulted in the settlement of Utah. Young began the move when he told followers that he had dreamed of a new home for the Mormon community, and in 1846 he led a group of 15,000 Mormons out of Illinois and into the west. After months of travel they arrived in their new home and settled near a large salt lake which would eventually become Salt Lake City. At first, the community was governed by religious law, but as the trade of gold brought non-Mormon Americans into the community, Young and other members of the church introduced new laws to govern the whole of the territory.
Brigham Young's beliefs also helped shape the early form of the Mormon Church, though many of his theories are controversial even among believers. His staunch support of polygamous marriage was one of the many sources of the rift between Utah and the American government. Young also argued that Adam and the Archangel Michael were one and the same and that he was also a manifestation of God. He went on to explain that Eve was one of his many wives. According to the Mormonism Research Ministry, many Mormons have taken issue with these beliefs and argue that they are contrary to church doctrine.
Other than the founding of Utah, Young's biggest contribution to the Mormon faith was likely his organization and popularization of the religion. Under Young, the The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints grew from a relatively small following into a state-wide religion. Young also played an important part in women's rights when, in an effort to consolidate Mormon power in the increasingly secular state, he granted women the right to vote.
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