Question: Did Brigham Young believe that he would one day become president of the United States?

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Question: Did Brigham Young believe that he would one day become president of the United States?

Hubert Howe Bancroft reports a prophecy made by Brigham Young in 1847, but provides no sources

Bancroft states that Brigham believed that one day soon he would himself become president of the United States, or that he would be able to dictate who should become the president. [1]

Hubert Howe Bancroft reports a prophecy made by Brigham Young in 1847. He provides no sources, so it is difficult to assess Brigham's possible meaning from Bancroft's report. [2] However, Heber C. Kimball spoke in 1856 with Brigham present, and we can perhaps see what Brigham intended:

The Church and kingdom to which we belong will become the kingdom of our God and his Christ, and brother Brigham Young will become President of the United States....

And I tell you he will be something more; but we do not now want to give him the name: but he is called and ordained to a far greater station than that, and he is foreordained to take that station, and he has got it; and I am Vice-President, and brother Wells is the Secretary of the Interior—yes, and of all the armies in the flesh.

You don't believe that; but I can tell you it is one of the smallest things that I can think of. You may think that I am joking; but I am perfectly willing that brother Long should write every word of it; for I can see it, just as naturally as I see the earth and the productions thereof. [3]

Critics of Mormonism usually make it appear that this is a desire or plan on behalf of Brigham Young to acquire secular political power. However, the Israelites did nothing to destroy or battle the Egyptians, they simply obeyed God and God protected and defended them. This fits in well with the apocalyptic view which Heber and Brigham seem to share of Brigham's future leadership in a divine, temporal kingdom of God on earth. But this is no more than the faithful have always anticipated:

To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne....And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them....(Revelation 3:21, Revelation 20:4).

Brigham and Heber were a government-in-exile, but had faith their exile would soon end. [4] They needed only "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord" (Exodus 14:13).

Heber C. Kimball does not foresee Brigham Young or other Church leaders ascending to power in the traditional way

Heber C. Kimball's meaning is clear. He does not foresee Brigham Young or other Church leaders ascending to power in the traditional way. Rather, he sees the end of the world as being near. Thus, he anticipates that the earthly Church will yet become "the kingdom of our God and his Christ"—a clear reference to DC 105:32, which promises that "the kingdoms of this world may be constrained to acknowledge that the kingdom of Zion is in very deed the kingdom of our God and his Christ; therefore, let us become subject unto her laws."

This imagery involves the Millennium or end-times, since it invokes the language of John's Revelation:

10 And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night (Revelation 12:10).

This triumph in which the Church achieves the world's secular rule does not happen until Satan—"the accuser of our brethren"—is cast down. Just as Satan was cast from heaven, so he will be cast from rulership of the temporal world.

As head of the Church, Brigham will thus be called to world leadership when the day of the Lord comes—"President," and something grander. (Biblical prophets in a monarchy would be more likely to speak of kings rather than Presidents.) Early Latter-day Saints (like the early Christians) tended to believe that the second coming was very near, and so Heber and Brigham doubtless anticipated that God's triumph over Satan might come soon, within their lifetimes.

Heber's next words are instructive:

Let us live our religion, serve our God, be good and kind one to another, cease all those contentions in your houses, and live in peace....

Why, I would go to work and make an altar and a heaven, and I never would take any other course than that which is honorable before God; and how can you live your religion without this?....

Well, if it is time for the Government of the United States to cut the thread, we are perfectly competent to take care of ourselves. We would not give a dime for this people to be one more in number than they are. There are enough of us; for the Lord is going to manifest his power and to play with our enemies as he did with Pharaoh and all his host. Now, mark it, and see if it does not come so, or something similar. All these things are in this dispensation, and why? Because this is the fulness of times: it is the time fixed for all to make a sacrifice before God.


Notes

  1. Hubert Howe Bancroft, History of Utah, 1540-1886, 505.
  2. One reference (Sunstone 6:4/41 [Jul 81]) places the prophecy in Brighton, Utah, 1857—this cannot be same reference as Bancroft's, since his event refers to events ten years before the approach of Johnson's army in 1857. Please contact FairMormon if you have further information.
  3. Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses 5:219.
  4. For this imagery, see Edwin Brown Firmage and Richard Collin Mangrum, Zion in the Courts : a Legal History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1830–1900 (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988), 7. ISBN 0252069803.