Brigham Young, ruler of the Mormons in Utah, born in Whitingham, Vt., June 1, 1801. He was the son of a farmer, received but little education, and learned the trade of painter and glazier. He was a member of the Baptist church, and is said to have preached occasionally. In 1832 he joined the Mormons at Kirtland, O., was ordained elder, became one of the twelve apostles, and was sent to the eastern states in 1835 to make proselytes, in which he was very successful. After the death of Joseph Smith, in June, 1844, Young was one of four aspirants to the presidency, and was unanimously chosen to that office by the apostles. The choice met the general approval of the sect, and soon afterward his principals rival, Sidney Rigdon, was excommunicated. After the charter of Nauvoo had been revoked and the city bombarded, Young set out with his followers in 1846, and after a weary march across the plains reached Great Salt Lake valley, which he persuaded them was the promised land. Here he founded Salt Lake City in July, 1847, became the absolute ruler of the colony, and in 1849 organized the state of Deseret, which applied for admission into the Union. This was denied by congress; but the territory of Utah was organized in 1850, of which Young was appointed governor for four years.
In 1854, on the appointment of a governor who was not a Mormon, he began to disregard the laws and defy the authority of the federal government. In 1857 President Buchanan appointed Alfred Cumming governor of the territory, and sent him out with a military force of 2,500 men. This brought matters to a crisis, and the Mormons submitted and became peaceable. On Aug. 29, 1852, Young proclaimed the "celestial law of marriage," sanctioning polygamy, which he declared had been revealed to Joseph Smith in July, 1843. Smith's widow and her four sons at once denounced this as a forgery, and headed a schism. Though the Mormon apostles had repeatedly replied to the imputation of such doctrine or practice with the most emphatic and explicit denials, the personal power of Brigham Young was such that he had little difficulty in establishing polygamy as an institution of the church. He has taken to himself a large number of wives, most of whom reside in a building known as the "lion house," so called from a huge lion, carved in stone, which stands upon the portico. In 1874 his fifteenth wife left him, and petitioned the United States court for a divorce.
In addition to his office of president of the church, Young is grand archee of the order of Danites, a secret organization within the church, which is one of the chief sources of his absolute power; and by organizing and directing the trade and industry of the community for his own advantage, he has accumulated immense wealth.