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[Brigham Young]

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Brigham Young's Estate

    Brigham Young, second president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was born on June 1, 1801 in Vermont. He came from a family of eleven children and went on to become a farmer and carpenter. Before joining Mormonism in 1832, Brigham Young was a member of the Methodist Church. He was made an LDS apostle in 1835 and secretly took his first plural wife in 1842. Joseph Smith had not presented polygamy publicly to the church, only to a few select leaders. Brigham had 57 children by sixteen women but was married to possibly as many as 57 women. Brigham took over the leadership of the Mormon Church after the death of Joseph Smith in 1844.

    Operating on limited funds, he led the majority of the Latter-day Saints west in 1847. Brigham Young went on to become extremely wealthy. Stanley P. Hirshson reported that "in the 1870 census he [Brigham Young] declared personal property worth $102,000 and real estate valued at $1,010,600." ( The Lion of the Lord, by Stanley Hirshson, Knopf Pub., 1969, p.247) Evidently Young did not have a problem with using or borrowing funds from the LDS Church for his personal use. This practice created considerable problems after his death in determining what was actually his and what was in fact the property of the church.

    LDS historian Leonard J. Arrington wrote:

    "Brigham Young and other church authorities, when need required it, drew on the tithing resources of the church, and at a later date repaid part or all of the obligation in money, property, or services. No interest seems to have been paid for the use of these funds.... This ability to draw, almost at will, on church as well as his own funds, was a great advantage to Brigham Young and was certainly one of the reasons for his worldly success.... while Brigham Young was probably the largest borrower of funds from the trustee-in-trust, he was certainly not the only one." ("The Settlement of the Brigham Young Estate," 1877-1879, Reprinted from the Pacific Historical Review, vol. 21, no. 1, Feb. 1952, p.7-8)

    LDS scholar Jeffrey Johnson observed:

    "By his death on 23 August 1877, Brigham Young had married fifty-five wives. Nineteen had predeceased him, ten had received divorces, four are unaccounted for, and twenty-three survived him. Seventeen wives received a share of his estate while the remaining six apparently had nonconjugal roles." (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, ("Defining 'Wife': The Brigham Young Households," by Jeffrey Johnson, 1987, Vol. 20, No. 3, p.62)

    LDS historians James Allen and Glen Leonard observed:

    "It was finally determined that his estate was worth approximately $1,626,000, but obligations of more than a million dollars to the Church plus other debts and executor's fees reduced the family's claim to $224,000. When seven of his dissatisfied heirs challenged this settlement, however, that matter was settled out of court and the Church agreed to give the heirs an additional $75,000." (The Story of the Latter-day Saints, by James Allen and Glen Leonard, second ed. 1992, Deseret Book, p.385)

    LDS historian B.H. Roberts told about the lawsuit filed by some of Young's heirs:

    "During the three years' presidency of the council of the twelve [after the death of Pres. Young] the affairs of the church quite generally were prosperous. Some difficulty arose, however, in the matter of settling the estate of the late President Brigham Young. Some claims were made by a number of the late president's heirs respecting the possession of property that President Young held for the church as trustee-in-trust. It was alleged by them that President Young died seized of an estate valued at two and a half millions of dollars. This, however, was denied by his executors, and also by President John Taylor...that the property to which Brigham Young held the legal right or title was not worth over $1,626,000; and further they affirmed, that much of said estate was held by the testator in trust for the Church...and that Brigham Young was largely indebted at the time of his death 'and justly owed to said church over $1,000,000.' " (Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, vol. 5, by B. H. Roberts, p.524-525, BYU Press 1965)

    The New York Times, March 10, 1879:


    In the Encyclopedia of Mormonism we read:

    "Because the Church has no professional clergy, it is administered at every level through LAY PARTICIPATION AND LEADERSHIP, and officials other than the General Authorities contribute their time and talents without remuneration. ...Because the General Authorities are obliged to leave their regular employment for full-time Church service, they receive a modest living allowance provided from income on Church investments." (p.510)

    That Brigham Young would be able to run up a debt of a million dollars from the church funds plus draw a salary certainly raises questions about LDS claims of not having a paid clergy. After leading the Mormon Church for over 25 years Brigham Young preached:

    "How much tithing do you pay? The professing Christians, apostates and others have a great deal to say about the Saints paying tithing. Now let us compare notes. The Elders of this Church travel and preach without purse or scrip, and labor at home as Bishops, Presidents, High Counselors, and Ministers, free of charge. Now take the Christians, how many of their Ministers preach without pay? Go to their meetings, in their churches, halls, schoolhouses, or any of their public gatherings, and you have a box, a plate, or a hat put under your face, and it is, 'Give me a sixpence, give me a sixpence, give me a sixpence!' Show me the Elder of this Church that does this? We preach the Gospel without purse or scrip and work for our own bread and butter. Yet the Christian world whine about our paying tithing. The Saints should pay the tenth of their income with glad and thankful hearts, and help to bring home the poor. We have supported and helped the poor to the amount of millions." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 16, p.44-45, Brigham Young, May 18, 1873)

    While it is true that the local leaders of the LDS Church do not receive a salary, the top men in leadership do receive financial remuneration. See:

Do Mormon Leaders Receive Financial Support?
General FAQ: How wealthy is the LDS Church?


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