There are 6 thoughts on “New Light and Old Shadows: John G. Turner’s Attempt to Understand Brigham Young”.

  1. Thank you for this very helpful review. I had many of the same thoughts and feelings as I’ve been reading Turner’s biography — that he is fairly negative in his portrayal of Brigham Young and that Turner does not like him. I wasn’t looking for a fault-free discussion of Brigham Young. Just one that sincerely highlighted BOTH the negative and positive aspects of his personality.

  2. Thank you for such a thorough review of John G. Turner’s book about Brigham Young. I always appreciate the articles of various topics.

  3. I also was thinking that it would be interesting to have reviews of the Turner book by Leonard Arrington and Hugh Nibley, who were both familiar with different aspects of the work of Brigham and could tell us whether Turner’s Brigham is recognizable to them. Arrington was overseeing the Church archives when I was researching in them for a law school article. I read a couple of transcripts of Salt Lake High Council hearings on legal disputes where Young was present, once as a defendant and another as an observer. In a hearing that was held in private, with a stake presidency and high council loyal to Brigham, he did not act as a tyrant, and was not vindictive. He was opinionated, but he was not intolerant toward those who disagreed with him.

  4. Ung Joseph F. SmithThank you for this very detailed and balanced analysis. I had read the review in National Review, apparently witten by someone who had no independent knowledge of Brigham Young or his works or teachings. That reviewer’s impression was that Brigham was a thoroughly awful person, leaving him with no understandable reason for the loyalty of the Latter-day Saints to Brigham. I contrast that with the messages of Brigham Young in the book compiling his sermons out of the Journal of Discourses, the abridged version in the priesthood and Relief Society manual, and the essays by Hugh Nibley on Brigham’s themes compiled in a very positive book. Nibley was old enough to be personally acquainted with men who had known Young personally, including his grandfather, who was a general authority. Since his sermons were a major part of his role in leading the Saints, how can his work be judged without weighing them in the balance?

    Another book I have read is Brigham Young’s Letters to His Sons. His personal correspondence with his sons when they were away on missions, in college or law school, or in the military, show a man deeply concerned with each son, one who was concerned about sharing news of the family and Utah, and of giving sound advice about combining their endeavors in the world with devotion to the gospel of Christ.

    Was Brigham prejudiced against blacks? That seems apparent, but he also was not a man who earned his living from the labor of slaves in the way Washington, Jefferson, and Madison did, men who are gratly admired for their work in founding our nation despite their deep involvement I slavery. And we should remember that Brigham followed a much more positive policy toward American Indians than many of his contemporaries in the West, including calling missionaries to teach, baptize and ordain tribes throughout Utah Territory. Brigham also called missionaries to Hawaii, including the young Joseph F Smith. In 1876, the Ambassador from Japan and his entire entourage were stuck in Salt Lake for a month due to snow on the railroad through the mountains, and Brigham entertained and hosted them for a month. That visit was a major reason Heber J. Grant was sent to open a mission in Japan in 1901. Brigham’s prejudices did not extend to several races who were still looked down on by other leaeing Americans, such as Franklin Delano Roosevelt who supported the exclusion of all Asian immigration in 1924, and imprisoned 100,000 Japanese Americans, most of them born in the US, without evidence of any crime and without any hearing. FDR was also bigoted against Jews, refusing entry to thousands fleeing the Holocaust until he was threatened with opposition by Utah Senator Delbert Thomas, a former missionary to Japan. FDR’s actions led to suffering and death for thousands of innocents.

    When men who have committed offenses against others due to race can still be admired for their other actions and words, doesn’t Brigham deserve a more balanced evaluation from historians?

  5. Thank you for the time and effort that went into your review. Your knowledge of the sources is impressive. I’ve been very interested to read the various reviews of Turner’s book that have come out in the last several months. I have also been pleased to see comments by Turner himself that left me with the impression he consciously worked towards finding a middle ground that was neither traditional anti-literature nor hagiography. However, as yet I have been unable to read the book.

    Would Interpreter consider inviting Turner to respond to your review? In particular, I would be very interested in a point by point response. Some of the criticisms you raise here seem especially valid, while others seem like more of a reach, at least considering the examples you cite and the additional sources you address. Turner seems like one who would acknowledge weaknesses in his writing or approach if brought to his attention, and as a reader, it would be wonderful to have even more informed commentary to add to my study of Turner’s book in particular and Brigham’s life in general.

    Again, thank you for your review. Please consider inviting Turner to use Interpreter as a forum to respond to your review.

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