Saturday, February 21, 2009

Brigham Young: Prophet & Man

I am so intrigued by a post I read yesterday about Brigham Young that I have decided to re-post the quote here. I hope Daniel doesn't mind. :) He adds some extra comments about why he posted the quote that are worth reading, so I would recommend just going there to read it, but here is the quote itself if you'd rather stay here.

Before you read this, I want you to know that it does not give me a lower opinion of Brigham Young. I firmly believe he was a Prophet of God and did many great things leading the church in his day. What this does do for me is that it confirms to my heart that even prophets are men, and their words are influenced by their own opinions and the attitudes of the times in which they live. If I previously had any question regarding whether or not Thomas S. Monson is the Lord's Prophet, this helps me to believe more firmly that he is, even though I don't agree with absolutely everything he (and those under his jurisdiction) do and say regarding homosexuality and gay marriage.

The following is from a speech by Governor Young in Joint Session of the Legislature, Feb. 5th 1852. (I changed a few spelling mistakes because they were driving me crazy. I assume they just came from the original text.)

"Again to the subject before us; as to The men bearing rule; not one of the children of old Cain, have one particle of right to bear Rule in Government affairs from first to last, they have no business there. this privilege was taken from them by there own transgressions, and I cannot help it; and should you or I bear rule we ought to do it with dignity and honor before God. . .

. . . Therefore I will not consent for one moment to have an African dictate me or any Bren. with regard to Church or State Government. I may vary in my views from others, and they may think I am foolish in the things I have spoken, and think that they know more than I do, but I know I know more than they do. If the Africans cannot bear rule in the Church of God, what business have they to bear rule in the State and Government affairs of this Territory or any others? . . .

. . . The Africans are Citizens, . . . It is our duty to take care of them, and administer to them in all the acts of humanity, and kindness, they shall have the right of Citizenship, but shall not have the right to dictate in Church and State matters. The abolitionists of the east, have cirest them them, and. their whole argument are calculated to darken Counsel, as it was here yesterday. As for our bills passing here, we may lay the foundation for what? for men to come here from Africa or else where; by hundreds of thousands. When these men come here from the Islands, are they going to hold offices in Government No. It is for men who understand the knowledge of Government affairs to hold such offices, and on the other make provisions for them to plow, and to reap, and enjoy all that human beings can enjoy, and we protect them in it. Do we know how to amilerate the condition of these people? we do. Suppose that five thousands of them come from the pacific Islands, and ten or fifteen thousands from Japan, or from China, not one soul of them would know how to vote for a Government officer, they therefore ought not in the first thing have anything to do in Government affairs.

What the Gentiles are doing we are consenting to do. What we are trying to do to day is to make the Negro equal with us in all our privilege. My voice shall be against all the day long. I shall not consent for one moment I will will call them a counsel. I say I will not consent for one moment for you to lay a plan to bring a curse upon this people. I shall not be while I am here."

(Brigham Young Addresses, Ms d 1234, Box 48, folder 3, dated Feb. 5, 1852, located in the LDS Church Historical Department, Salt Lake City, Utah. )


Elisabeth said...

This is an intriguing post. The one caveat I would add is that just as we "believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly," I apply a similar filter to Brigham Young's quotes. I believe them to be accurate reflections of (at least) his personal views as far as they are transcribed correctly.

While I know nothing about the accuracy of this particular quote, and accept that it may be verbatim what he said, experience with many other quotes attributed to Brigham Young has proven that there were often significant variations in transcriptions, including omissions and additions of phrases, sometimes with the effect of completely altering the meaning of something (this is most evident when there are multiple accounts of a single speech, and is, of course, true of all of Brigham's contemporaries as well).

Again - I have no reason to believe that this is anything other than a direct quote from Brigham Young, but in the absence of aural recordings of his statements and speeches, it's very difficult to place too much confidence in the accuracy of words that have been reported by someone else, even in as official a context as the legislature, since there is inevitably a filter of what the transcriber heard.

Sarah said...


Thank you for the added disclaimer. I hadn't really thought about that, but what you say is probably true.

Formerly known as Peter said...

I am so thrilled that you got from this quote exactly what I was hoping people would get from this quote. Brigham Young did many great things in politics and religion. He also did things I think are horrendous. The same could be said of Thomas S. Monson.