Excerpted from “History of Brigham Young, Deseret News, vol. 7, no. 48 (3 Feb. 1858), pp. 1–2; or Millennial Star, vol. 25, no. 21 (23 May 1863), pp. 326–28; vol. 25, no. 23 (6 June 1863); vol. 25, no. 24 (13 June 1863), pp. 374–76; vol. 25, no. 25 (20 June 1863), pp. 390–92; vol. 25, no. 26 (27 June 1863), p. 406; or Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 1801–1844, ed. Elden Jay Watson (Salt Lake City: Smith Secretarial Service, 1968), pp. xiii–xxx.
Note: This transcript is based on the Millennial Star version. It needs to be proofread and corrected to one of the original versions.
[Deseret News, 7:48:1; Millennial Star, 25:21:326; Manuscript History, xiii]
“My earliest recollection of the scenes of life are relating to myself and my brother Joseph. A short time before I was two years old he cut off my right hand except a small email portion of my little finger, with an ax while we were at play my mother doctored it and saved it.
The same winter, or soon after this accident, my father moved to Whitingham, Windham Co., Vermont, where we lived three years, and during this time I recollect being taught to pray, and obey my father and mother. We then moved to the State of New York, where we lived for many years, most of the time in Chenango and Cayuga counties.
[Manuscript History, xiv]
At the age of nineteen I married Clarissa Hamilton and commenced in the world for myself. I now began seriously to think of getting religion, and according to my best light I sought the Lord, but finding very little or no comfort in this I soon gave it up and concluded to make the best of this world.
I sought for riches, but in vain; there was something that always kept telling me that happiness originated in higher pursuits, and in the fall of 1823, a few months previous to my twenty-fourth birthday, I again commenced seeking the Lord with greater energy and a more fixed determination than at any former period of my life.
I forsook all my former associates and commenced praying and fasting and watching every weakness of my nature and the more I prayed the more I saw my weakness and felt my dependence on God.
Thus things continued with me until the February following, when I found relief and felt the spirit of justification resting upon [Manuscript History, xv] me. I was then told that I had got religion but my mind was not wholly satisfied; I felt to pray day and night for greater manifestations of the spirit and power of God.
[Millennial Star, 25:21:327]
In April I gave my name to the Methodist Reformed Church, and thus was numbered with that body. In the fall of the same year I was baptized by immersion, that being the only mode that I could acknowledge or that would in any way satisfy my mind. About that time I received license to speak in public and I felt a great responsibility resting upon me and I prayed continually to God to make me holy and give me power to do good.
While in this state of mind I had a very singular manifestation which I will here mention. I was at a prayer meeting at the house of Israel Pease in the town of Hector, Tompkins County, New York; the congregation were mostly praying for sanctification; I felt like one alone for I could pray for nothing but to become holy, and I had got in one corner, as much alone as possible, when all of a sudden I saw a body of light above the brightness of the sun descending towards me; in a moment it filled me with joy unutterable: every part of my system was perfectly light and perfectly happy. I soon arose and spake of the things of the kingdom of God, as I had never spake before. I then felt satisfied that the Lord had heard my prayer and my sins were forgiven.
Soon after this, while at home, I was called to see a young woman in the neighborhood who had long been sick of consumption. The messenger said the lady was dying and her friends wished me to come as soon as convenient. I called on my brother John, who lived on the way and asked him to accompany me, which he very readily did.
We soon arrived at the house. On entering we found the family and friends weeping, and the young woman, to all appearance, breathing her last I stepped to the bedside and adjusted the pillows of the dying girl, as she seemed to respire with great difficulty.
At this moment her mother approached me and asked me if I [Manuscript History, xvi] thought she had a sense of her suffering. I replied, “I cannot say; she appears to be about through with the struggle.” She then said, “Will you pray?” I immediately knelt and commenced to invoke my Father in heaven in her behalf, asking him to ease her out of this world of sorrow and take her to a world of bliss.
After praying thus a few moments I felt a check on my spirit, and a voice whispered to me, “Pray for her recovery.” I immediately commenced praying that she might be restored to health and almost the same minute the same voice said, “Lay hands on the sufferer and rebuke the disease.” I did not wait to think of the probable result, but arose without saying Amen, went to the bedside, laid my hands on the dying girl and bade the power of the destroyer to flee and said in the language of the Savior, arise and be made whole.” (Here I would say that I had never seen anything of the kind in my life, but had always believed that the people were living far beneath their privileges.) The girl arose as one from the dead and sat up in bed and praised God with a loud voice and soon became a hearty and healthy woman, and as far as I know is still living and well; her name was Mary alary Webley.
Soon after this I went into the town of Canandaigua, Ontario Co., and commenced preaching in a little village called Cheshire, which was said to be the wickedest place in western New York. I was very successful in my labors and soon raised up a branch of forty-five members and then returned home, after an absence of forty-one days.
[Manuscript History, xvii]
I then settled up my affairs, took my family, and moved to Cheshire in Ontario Co., where I stayed and preached three years, laboring for the support of my family. During that time, in the fall of 1826, I became acquainted with Heber C. Kimball in the town of Mendon, while on a visit there to see my brother-in-law, John P. Greene; and having understood that others of my father’s family were going there, I concluded to sell out and move to Mendon, which I did in the spring of 1828.
About this time my father, brother Lorenzo and others of my father’s family moved into the town. We immediately opened a house for preaching and commenced teaching the people according to the light we had; a reformation commenced and we soon had a good society organized and the Lord blessed our labors.
The Baptist Church with their minister, [Millennial Star, 25:21:328] all seemed to feel a great interest in the work; the reformation spread and hundreds took an interest in it.
Thus things things moved on until the spring of 1830, and I mightsay until 1832; there was little or no change in the progress of the reformation; notwithstanding, I, as an individual, felt that we had arrived at the zenith of our enjoyment in the course we were pursuing.
[Millennial Star, 25:23:360]
In April, 1830, having received the Book of Mormon, as I was on my way home from the town of Lima, where I had been to preach, I stopped at the house of a man by the name of Tomlinson, to get some dinner. While engaged in conversation with the family a young man [Manuscript History, xviii] came in, and walking across the room to where I was sitting held a book towards me, saying, — “There is a book sir, I wish you to read.” The thing appeared so novel to me that for a moment I hesitated, saying, — “Pray, sir, what book have you?” “The Book of Mormon, or, as it is called by some, the Golden Bible.” “Ah, sir, then it purports to he be a revelation.” “Yes,” said he, it is a revelation from God.” I took the book, and by his request looked at the testimony of the witnesses. Said he — “If you will read this book with a prayerful heart, and ask God to give you a witness, you will know of the truth of this work.” I told him I would do so, and then asked him his name. He said his name was Samuel H. Smith. “Ah,” said I, you are one of the witnesses.” [Millennial Star, 25:23:361] “Yes,” said he, “I know the book to be a revelation from God, translated by the gift and power of the Holy Ghost, and that my brother Joseph Smith, jun., is a Prophet, Seer and Revelator.”
This language seemed to me very strange, and I thought, rather ridiculous; still I said but little more to him. but thought he be must he be deceived and that the book was a production got up to lead people astray; however, I thought it my duty to read it, as I had promised and search out the errors, and, as a teacher in israel, expose such errors and save the people from the delusion.
I bought the book and went home, and told my wife I had got a week’s work laid out, and I hoped that nothing would occur to prevent my accomplishing my task. She said, “Have you anything new to [Manuscript History, xix] attend to?” I replied, “I have got a book here called the Book of Mormon, and it is said to be a revelation, and I wish to read it and make myself acquainted with its errors, so that I can expose them to the world.”
I commenced and read every word in the book the same week. The week welt following I did the same, but to my surprise I could not find the errors I anticipated, but felt a conviction that the book was true.
On the next Sabbath I was requested to give my views on the subject, which I commenced to do. I had not spoken ten minutes in defence of the book when the Spirit of God came upon me in a marvellous manner and I spoke at great length on the importance of such a work, quoting from the Bible to support my position, and finally closed by telling the people that I believed the book. The greater part of the people agreed with my views, and some of them said they had never heard me speak so well and with such power. My father then took the book home with him and read it through. I asked him his opinion of it. He said it was the greatest work and the clearest of error of anything he had ever seen, the Bible not excepted.
I then lent the book to my sister Fanny Murray. She read it and declared it a revelation. Many others did the same.
[Millennial Star, 25:24:374]
In August following, my brother Joseph Young came from Canada to see me. He had been there preaching, and having a desire to have me in this field of labor for a season, he came over to the States with the intention of getting me to go back with him
[Manuscript History, xx]
We accordingly left for Kingston, in Upper Canada, about the 20th of August , and passing through the town of Lyons, we called on an old acquaintance by the name of Solomon Chamberlain. We had no sooner got seated than be began to preach Mormonism to us. He told us there was a church organized and ten or more were baptized and every body must believe the Book of Mormon or be lost.
I told him to hold on, when be had talked about two hours setting forth the wonders of Mormonism — that it was not good to give a colt a bushel of oats at a time. I knew that my brother had but little idea of what he was talking and I wanted he be should have time to reflect; but it made little difference to him, he still talked of Mormonism.
We tarried a short time with him and then went on our way, pondering upon the things we had heard. This was the first I had heard of the necessity of another church, or of the importance of re-baptism; but after hearing the old gentleman’s arguments, the importance of the power of the holy priesthood and the necessity of its restoration in order that the power of the gospel might be made manifest. I began to inquire seriously into the matter and soon became convinced that such an order of things was necessary for the salvation of the world.
We soon reached the place of our destination it being but 18 miles from Kingston, in Earnest Town, where we commenced our labor. I tarried some time with my brother trying to preach, but could think of but little except the Book of Mormon and what I had heard of Mormonism.
[Manuscript History, xxi]
One day after I had been preaching in Loborough, I said to my brother, “What did you think of my preaching today?” “O,” said he, “if you had just come from the priest factory in the States, I should have thought you did very well, but I don’t think there was much God in it.” I then told him I could not preach and that I should return home. I accordingly started in a few days.
On my way I attended a quarterly meeting held by the Episcopal Methodists in Kingston, at the close of their Annual Conference. At the close of the meeting an indian gave an appointment to preach in the British Chapel [Millennial Star, 25:24:375] at early candle-light. I determined to go, for the Book of Mormon and the Lamanites were were before me continually. As soon as the candles were lit, I was in my seat near the desk. The preacher was there and soon commenced. I listened with great interest while he set forth the traditions of his fathers in a masterly way and made many statements corroborating the truth of the Book of Mormon
After meeting I went to my hotel, where the most of the members of the conference assembled for the night. I think Bishops Heading and George were present. After all were seated in two large rooms I took my place at the door between the two rooms, and, calling the attention of the people, I asked them if any one present had ever read the Book of Mormon? I paused for an answer and after a short pause a gentleman said that he had never seen or heard of such a work. I then said the book was called by some the Golden Bible.
[Manuscript History, xxii]
This seemed to take the attention of the whole assembly consisting of more than one hundred. A gentleman requested me in behalf of the people present, to give them some account of the book. I commenced by telling them that it was a revelation from God, translated from the Reformed Egyptian language by Joseph Smith, jun., by the gift and power of God and gave a full account of the aborigines of our country and agreed with many of their traditions of which we had been hearing this evening and that it was destined to overthrow all false religions, and finally to bring in the peaceful reign of the Messiah.
I had forgotten everything but my subject, until I had talked a long time and told many things I had never thought of before. I bore a powerful testimony to the work, and thus closed my remarks and went to bed, not to sleep but to ponder with astonishment at what I had said and to wonder with amazement at the power that seemed to compel me thus to speak.
The next morning I took passage on a packet for the States, landed at old Owego, took passage on a canal packet for Manlius Square, where I met a great number of my friends who had assembled for our Annual Conference; among the number was my old friend Solomon Chamberlain. He told me he had come to offer the conference the Book of Mormon, saying that if they rejected it they would all go to destruction. He soon filled his mission and was driven from the place by the voice of the conference.
[Manuscript History, xxiii]
One man whose name was Buckley and an elder in in the Methodist Reformed Church, railed on brother Chamberlain and abused him shamefully. He immediately went crazy and was carried home to the town of Smyrnia, a distance of 20 or 30 miles and died in a few days raving mad.
I attended the conference, bore my testimony and left for home in company with my brother-in-law, John P. Greene.
On our arrival we found our families all well. I still continued to preach, trying to tie Mormonism to Methodism, for more than a year, when I found that they had no connection and could not be united, and that I must leave the one and cleave to the other.
About this time my brother Brigham came to see me and very soon told me that he be was convinced that there was something in Mormonism. I told him I had long been satisfied of that.
About this time we heard there were a few saints in Bradford county, Pa., and we determined to make them a visit. We accordingly got Heber Kimball to take his team and accompany us. We started about the 20th of January  and took our wives with us, visiting our sister Nancy Kent in Steuben county and my wife’s mother and sisters in Tioga county, N. Y., and then proceeded on our journey to Bradford county, Pa., where we spent some days with the few saints that were there, and became more and more convinced of the truth of Mormonism. We bade our friends farewell and returned home, rejoicing, preaching [Manuscript History, xxiv] the gospel by the way.
[Deseret News, 7:48:2]
A few days after we got home my brother Brigham left for Kingston, Upper Canada to tell the glad tidings to our brother Joseph, who was there preaching Methodism and to try to get him to come home with him, which he accomplished in a very short time, although he had to travel some four hundred miles by land. Immediately Millennial Star, 25:24:376] after his return, my father and my brother Joseph accompanied me to Bradford county, Pa., where they both became convinced of the truth of Mormonism and in the morning of the 5th of April 1832, I was baptized by Elder Ezra Landon and in my father by Elder Daniel Bowen. The next morning, being the 6th of April, 1832, my brother Joseph was baptized by the latter. April 7th, my father and I started for home, a distance of 120 miles, where we arrived in health and found our friends and families rejoicing in fulness of the Gospel
Early in June following I started on a mission to Canada in company with Elders Elial Strong, Eleazer Miller and Enos Curtis. We arrived in Earnest Town at the close of the yearly conference of the Methodist Reformed Church and attended their quarterly meeting on the sabbath. The priests had heard that I had become a Mormon, and consequently did not know me, although it was not two years since I had preached in the house and attended a conference with the most of them where we then were. At the close of the meeting I begged the privilege of preaching in their meeting-house at five the same evening, [Manuscript History, xxv] which they very reluctantly granted. I had a full house and good liberty, and at the close of my meeting I had more invitations to preach than I could attend to but, I sent seven appointments to different places for the ensuing week.
We labored in Canada about six weeks with great success, raised the first branch in British America, and returned home rejoicing, in the midst of cholera and death; found our families all well and the work rolling on under the labors of my brother Brigham and John P. Greene.
[Millennial Star, 25:25:390]
In a few days after my return home, I sold my farm and commenced in good earnest to get ready to take my family to Jackson Co., Missouri. In September, I left for that place, and reached Pittsburg on the 27th October, where I stopped with my brother Lorenzo, and preached till July, 1833.
At this time my father had arrived, and we all started in our family boa for Jackson Co., or Zion, on the 4th. The water being so low, we made but little progress, and felt on arriving at East Liverpool quite willing to stop for a season. Here we commenced preaching, and soon raised up a large branch, and felt quit at home.
About the 20th of November, we learned that the Saints were all driven from Jackson Co., Missouri, by mob violence, their houses burned, and their printing office destroyed. This intelligence gave us much sorrow. Soon after this I went to Kirtland to see brother Joseph, the Prophet; as soon as I got there, he told me he wanted I should move [Manuscript History, xxvi] there and assist in printing a paper. I gladly embraced the opportunity, and soon found myself and family in Kirtland. I labored in the office till the July following, in which time I buried my wife and one child.
I then took a mission to the State of New York with Oliver Granger, baptized quite a number, and returned to Kirtland in the fall.
In the spring of 1835, I took a mission to the south; spent a few weeks in Virginia, and returned home on account of ill health. I stayed at home a short time, and then left for the Eastern States on a mission with my brothers Joseph and Brigham; the latter was on his way to Canada, with others of the Twelve Apostles. We separated at Niagara Falls; I went east as far as Connecticut River, preaching and baptizing; and returned to Kirtland late in the fall.
After a few days’ rest, I was called upon to take a mission to the State of Michigan, to preach and collect money [Millennial Star, 25:25:391] for the relief of the building committee in Kirtland. I immediately left for that place, filled my mission and returned home, stayed one week, and returned to Michigan; on my way up the lake I was taken sick, and when we arrived in Detroit, I was unable to walk to the hotel. The next day, I was taken in a carriage to the town of Auburn, a distance of twenty miles, where I lay sick sixty days before I was able to get off my bed. I shall never forget the kindness of brother and sister Lathrop, with whom I stayed.
As soon as I was able to sit in a carriage, I was taken to Detroit, and put on board a steamer bound for Buffalo. I took my room and went [Manuscript History, xxvii] to bed; my fever had returned by reason of a cold I had taken by riding in the rain and snow in an open carriage, without even an overcoat to keep me warm; and I lay there perfectly insensible till the vessel reached Cleaveland. I was told by a passenger that we had been three days on the way, the vessel having been detained at Toledo. I hired my passage to Kirtland, where I soon arrived (the distance being 22 miles), and found my family well and the Saints rejoicing.
Brother Joseph Smith came to see me, and blessed me, and told me that I should live to see the redemption of Zion. I still grew worse, until at last Doctors Cowdery and Williams said there was no possibility of my recovery; but God had heard his Prophet declare otherwise, and sent Doctors Levi and Willard Richards to my relief. I was soon able to sit up, and in June started with my family for Caldwell Co., Mo., where I arrived in the month of August, 1837.
I paid for eighty acres of land in Caldwell Co., took my deeds, and then moved to Clinton Co., and bought two claims, one of Culp, and one of Elisha Cameron, containing four hundred and forty acres, two cabins, and thirty acres’ improvement. Here I stayed with my family, and improved my farm until the fall of 1838. About ten o’clock in the morning of the 28th of October, in this year, I was driven from my house by an armed mob of eleven men, who would not allow me to take a garment for myself or family.
We left every thing we possessed, and fled into the woods, where [Manuscript History, xxviii] we stayed until night, and then started on foot for Diahman, a distance of 25 miles.
When we got to the open prairie, we fell in with other brethren who had been driven like ourselves. One man had got my horse and put it in his team; I asked him to let my wife and youngest child ride, which he did the most of the way to Diahman.
On our arrival there, we found the people in great alarm, looking for Gillum and his mob force every hour; we were all under arms until eleven o’clock that night. At twelve there was an alarm; the brethren at Far West had sent an express, saying that General Clark had camped on Goose Creek with thirty-five hundred men, and demanded a surrender of all our arms the next morning at eight o’clock, or he would burn the town, and put the people to the sword.
Seventy-five volunteers were called for, I stepped forward and told them I was ready; the number was soon made up, and away we went. In three hours we were in sight of Far West and our enemies, a distance of 25 miles; we rode into town, and went to see brother Joseph the Prophet; he seemed calm, and greeted us with kindness.
We spent the day under arms; about four o’clock we heard the trump of the enemy, we formed in line of battle; the enemy advanced within a hundred yards, and halted. I stood between my brother Brigham and Dr. Levi Richards, in the centre of Main Street; there we beheld our beloved Prophet and his brethren, Lyman Wight, Sydney Rigdon, [Manuscript History, xxix] and others, give themselves up to the enemy to save the people.
When the enemy withdrew, we returned to our friends and families, not to rejoice, not to rest, but as sheep without a shepherd to be scattered and driven, and mourn for our Prophet and Seer.
I then took twenty-four of the brethren, among whom were Charles C. Rich, John P. Greene, Benjamin L. Clapp, Hosea Stout, Lorenzo D. Young, Samuel H. Smith, and Isaac Higbee, and travelled through the wilderness to the Black Hawk Settlement, on the Demoines river, in the Territory of Iowa, where we parted.
[Millennial Star, 25:25:392]
I took my son Brigham H., and went to Morgan Co., Ill., where I lived one year.
In 1840, I went to Nauvoo. In the fall of 1842, after spending the summer collecting means to build the Temple and Nauvoo House, with Lyman Wight, I was ordained to the high priesthood under the hands of my brother Brigham and Bishop George Miller ,adn sent in company with Franklin D. Richards to Cincinnati, to preside over the southern district of Ohio.
I was called home in June following, and sent on a mission to the Eastern States; and from this time to the death of our Prophet, I was travelling and preaching the most of the time in Ohio and New York.
Shortly previous to the death of Joseph, I returned from the east to Nauvoo, leaving my family in Kirtland. I heard the Prophet deliver his last public speech; and when he was on his trial at Carthage, I went [Manuscript History, xxx] in company with my son to Macedonia, with the intention of meeting him the next day.
[Millennial Star, 25:26:406]
We accordingly started from Macedonia on the morning of the 27th of June, for Carthage; we stopped at the house of Ozias Kilburn and took dinner. At three o’clock, we again started for Carthage; on our way, we met Captain Dunn, commander of the McDonough troops, who told us that if we were Mormons we had better not go to Carthage. Said he, ‘Every man who has one spark of honor has been discharged, and the Smiths are left in care of the Carthage Greys, and Captain Smith is a damned villain. I fear for the safety of the Smiths, and my judgment is, you had better not go there.’ However, we rode on until we got near the town, when we heard the firing of many guns and soon saw the people running in every direction.
We turned our horses towards Plymouth, and rode to that place in two and a-half hours, a distance of eighteen miles, and put up at a tavern kept by brother Cole. In a few minutes a messenger arrived from Carthage, bringing the news of the massacre of the Prophet and his brother Hyrum. I could not go back to witness the scene that I knew must follow, but started the next morning for Ohio, where we arrived on the 14th of July.”