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The remarkable brothers of the Prophet Brigham Young

This is a photo of Brigham Young and his brothers taken in the 1860s by C.R. Savage. 
They are, from left, Lorenzo Dow Young, Brigham Young, Phineas Howe Young, Joseph Young and John Young Jr.
This is a photo of Brigham Young and his brothers taken in the 1860s by C.R. Savage. They are, from left, Lorenzo Dow Young, Brigham Young, Phineas Howe Young, Joseph Young and John Young Jr.
Laura Seitz, Deseret News archives

There were five stalwart brothers in the John Young family.

Brigham Young, who was born June 1, 1801, was the fourth son and eighth child, and he would later become the second president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

John and Nabbie Young had 11 children, six daughters and five sons, beginning with Nancy in 1786 and ending with Lorenzo Dow in 1807 — beginning in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, and ending in Chenango County, New York — not far from the village of Palmyra, New York.

Samuel Smith, the young brother of the Prophet Joseph Smith, was one of the first missionaries of the newly restored LDS Church. On his second day, traveling with copies of the Book of Mormon in his satchel and a prayer in his heart, the young man encountered John P. Greene, a Methodist minister, who kindly took some of his books to promote on a preaching tour of his own. Samuel also sold a copy to Phineas Howe Young, one of Brigham's brothers and Greene's brother-in-law.

• John Young Jr., the eldest brother, became a Methodist minister at a young age, as did Joseph, the second oldest, who was deeply solemn in his dedication to religion. He once said to his brother Brigham, "There is not a Bible Christian in the world; what will become of the people?"

"For many years no person saw a smile on his countenance,” Brigham, in a later sermon, told the Saints about his conversation with his brother, “in consequence of the burden of the Lord upon him, and realizing that the inhabitants of the Earth had all gone out of the way and had turned every man to his own views” (see Journal of Discourses, 12:95).

This had a great impact upon Brigham, who was four years his junior, and confided that “I had more confidence in his judgment and discretion, and in the manifestations of God to him, than I had in myself” ("Brigham Young: Journal of Discourses," 8:37).

• Phineas, the third son, had struggled with the enticements of the world before finding a spiritual identity near the age of 24, when he forsook his former companions and pursuits, and prayed fervently to the Lord until he, too, accepted Methodism and became a preacher, according to “The Faithful Young Family."

He tells of a singular experience he had when he was visiting a young woman who was dying of consumption, the same dreaded malady of which his mother had died. He relates that he was “promoted to lay hands on the sufferer and rebuke the disease" — and this action healed her. “I never had seen anything of the kind in my life," Phineas continued, “but had always believed the people were living far beneath their privileges” (see “The Faithful Young Family: The Parents, Brothers and Sisters of Brigham," Leonard J. Arrington and JoAnn Jolley, Ensign, August 1980).

These young men were thoughtful, and their spirits were not afraid to embrace truth when they encountered it. For instance, at first, Phineas was expecting — perhaps even a little bit hoping — to find error in this new, strange book and to expose the errors he found that they might not lead others astray.

“I commenced and read every word in the book in the same week," he recorded and is recounted in “The Faithful Young Family." "The week following I did the same, but to my surprise, I could not find the errors that I anticipated, but felt a conviction that the book was true.”

He asked his father, who had read the book through, what his feelings were. “He said it was the greatest work and the clearest of error he had ever seen, the Bible not excepted” (see “The Faithful Young Family").

• Before any of these events, which were instrumental in drawing the brothers to the truth, the youngest son, Lorenzo, at the young age of 9 years, experienced an extraordinary and prophetic dream.

He recorded standing in an open space, seeing a carriage coming along a road that led up into the air. The carriage was white and brilliant with gold and the horses traveled like the wind.

“It was made manifest to me,” he recorded and is published in “Lorenzo Dow Young’s Preparation for the Gospel” on, “that the Savior was in the carriage, and that it was driven by his servant. The carriage stopped near me, and the Savior inquired where my brother Brigham was. After informing him, he further inquired about my other brothers and our father. After I had answered His inquiries, he stated that he wanted us all, but he especially wanted my brother Brigham."

After conversion to the gospel, Lorenzo continued to be a visionary man, experiencing much by means of the Spirit which strengthened and enlightened him. In Missouri, he left behind home, animals and fields ready to harvest and began again in Nauvoo, Illinois. Here he was ordained a Seventy and received his endowment before traveling West in the first group of pioneers, led by his brother, Brigham Young. Lorenzo’s wife, Harriet, bore a baby son two months after their arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, the first pioneer male child to be born in that wilderness (see “The Faithful Young Family").

Lorenzo was fearless in dealing with hostile Indians or any form of difficulty or trial. Once, when returning to his ranch on the Jordan River, he was mistakenly taken as a thief, shot at and wounded in the arm, where the main artery was severed. Stubborn and determined, he kept riding until he reached the home of a friend. Somehow he had the presence of mind to send this Brother Daniels to another, Brother Jeremy, who lived close by. “The two laid hands on me,” Lorenzo wrote, “and asked the Lord to stop the flow of blood from my wounded arm. It stopped immediately. The main artery was cut above the elbow, and but for this timely relief I should have bled to death” (see "History of Utah, Vol 4" by Orson Ferguson Whitney).

This remarkable man served as bishop of the Salt Lake City 18th Ward for 27 years (see Whitney's "History of Utah: Biographical"). And, as a “home missionary” he administered to the sick, the needy, the spiritually weak, spreading love, light and encouragement wherever he went, according to “The Faithful Young Family."

His brother Brigham ordained him a patriarch in 1877, shortly before Brigham’s death. Lorenzo remained in that noble calling until he died, 18 years after that. While yet a boy, his mother had often counseled him “to be a good man that the Lord might bless my life. On one occasion she told me that if I would not neglect to pray to my Heavenly Father, he would send a guardian angel to protect me in the dangers to which I might be exposed” (see “The Faithful Young Family").

Joseph Young was a witness to the infamous Haun’s Mill massacre during the tumultuous Missouri days of the LDS Church's history, according to “The Faithful Young Family."

Phineas and John were two of the early pioneers to head West and who volunteered to turn back upon the weary trail and guide other groups who were just beginning the trek, see “The Faithful Young Family." John presided over the first group he led.

All of the original Young family joined the LDS Church and served faithfully throughout their lives. They were a rejoicing family, a dancing family and a singing family. From the early Nauvoo days, the Young brothers performed quartet-style for the Saints; the Prophet Joseph especially enjoyed hearing them sing.

Susa, Brigham’s daughter, wrote of her father: “He fostered and encouraged the study and practice of music, not only in his own family, but among the people” (see “Life Story of Brigham Young," by Susa Young Gates and Leah D. Widtsoe).

The family the Lord had put his hand upon did not fail. Surely the “Brothers Young,” with their gifts and their devotion, added to the music of joy and service that marked life among the early Latter-day Saints.

Susan Evans McCloud is author of more than 40 books: fiction, mystery, biography. She has two songs in the LDS hymnbook, is mother of six children, 10 grand, 5 great grandchildren. Instagram: susanevansmccloudauthor. Also susanevansmccloud@blogspot.c