Question: Did Brigham Young indicate in a speech in 1857 that the American government would fall to the Mormons?

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Question: Did Brigham Young indicate in a speech in 1857 that the American government would fall to the Mormons?

There is nothing of the violent apocalyptic or animus targeted at the United States in general in this address

In Brigham's speech on July 24, 1857, he said that "This American Continent will be Zion...for it is so spoken of by the Prophets." It is claimed that this means that the "godless American government's moving against them signaled the beginning of their Armageddon scenario" and would result in Brigham's "ascendancy" to rule the Kingdom of God on earth. However, there is nothing of the violent apocalyptic or animus targeted at the United States in general in this address.

As is often the case, the critics provide only a small snippet of text, which distorts what is being said. A more complete section shows Brigham's intent (italics represent the material quoted by Denton):

I am decidedly in favour of practical religion—of every-day useful life. And if I to-day attend to what devolves upon me to do, and then do that which presents itself to-morrow, and so on, when eternity comes I will be prepared to enter on the things of [p.4] eternity. But I would not be prepared for that sphere of action, unless I could manage the things that are now within my reach. You must all learn to do this....

You hear brethren talk of coming to Zion to enjoy the blessings of this land; but do you not see that it is the shortsightedness of men which causes their disappointment when they arrive here? They read in the Bible, in the Book of Mormon, and Book of Doctrine and Covenants, about Zion, and what it is to be; but brother Park and others could not realize, before they came here, that they were the ones to help to build up Zion. They gather here with the spirit of Zion resting upon them, and expecting to find Zion in its glory, whereas their own doctrine should teach them that they are coming here to make Zion.

We can make Zion, or we can make Babylon, just as we please. We can make just what we please of this place. The people can make Zion: they can make a heaven within themselves. When people gather here, they should come with a determination to make Zion within themselves, with the resolution that "I will carry myself full of the Spirit of Zion wherever I go; and this is the way in which I will control evil spirits; for I mean that my spirit shall have control over evil:" and do you not see that such a course will make Zion?

This American continent will be Zion; for it is so spoken of by the prophets. Jerusalem will be rebuilt and will be the place of gathering, and the tribe of Judah will gather there; but this continent of America is the land of Zion.[1]

Clearly, Brigham is not talking about an apocalyptic confrontation with the U.S. government. He is insisting that the western hemisphere's destiny is to be "Zion," which can only come when people "make Zion in [them]selves," "control evil spirits," "control over evil." Their individual choices govern the kind of society which they will have.

That Brigham is not speaking in an anti-American vein is clear, given his attitude toward Americans in the same speech:

It is an ignorant excitement which causes some people in the States to feel and act as they do. Who is there, of all who are really acquainted with our proceedings and will let good reason and good sense operate, that has one word to say against us? No one....

There is not an honest man in the United States or in the world but what, if he could hear this doctrine taught without knowing that it was a "Mormon" who was teaching it, would drink down these principles....

As I have said before, I have often gone incog., and taught persons the Gospel, and they would drink down its principles as eagerly as a thirsty ox would drink water; but an ignorant prejudice causes all the trouble. The excitement among the priests, and directed by politicians, raises this erroneous prejudice and hue-and-cry....

In regard to troops coming here, as has been rumored, should 1,500 or 2,000 come, what will you see? You will see that they will ask us to make their soldiers behave themselves, until they can get out of this place, which they will do as soon as possible. They are not coming here to fight us; though, if they were to, I should pray that the Lord would bring those here that mobbed us in days gone by, and just let us look at them. But no; the priests, and some editors and politicians wish to have innocent soldiers sent here to fight us. Let [p.6] them bring those priests, editors, and politicians who have howled so long about us, and we will attend to their cases. But I pray that I may never witness such scenes as I have in the midst of this people. If they will let us alone, we will preach the Gospel; and if they do not, we will do it, and we will build up Zion, if all the devils in hell howl. Let us know that we have to build up Zion until the Spirit of peace shall overrule our country.

Brigham is not fond of corrupt politicians or religious leaders who feel threatened by his doctrine and visited violent persecution on the Saints. But he is hardly hostile and expecting an apocalyptic confrontation between the Mormons and the United States—in this speech, he suspects that there will be no violence and the army will soon leave. He prays that he will never see scenes of violence again—a strange wish if he is anticipating an apocalyptic final battle with the evil United States.

Brigham's solution is to "build up Zion" so that there may be peace, and (as he indicated earlier) this starts with an internal control and reformation of the self. He makes clear the type of society he hopes to have:

Look at St. Louis. More murders have been committed there in almost any few days than have been committed in this Territory since it was organized. It is customary there to have murders committed almost daily; but we, above all other people, ought never to have such a crime committed in our midst; and we never have had, so far as the Latter-day Saints are concerned.

Notes

  1. Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 5:3-4.