Joseph Young

By Levi Edgar Young

[The Utah Genealogical and Historical Magazine, vol. 5 (July 1914), pp. 105–7]

Read at the memorial meeting held in honor of Brigham Young and Joseph Young, under the auspices of the Woman’s Committee of the Genealogical Society of Utah, June 1, 1914.

Joseph Young was born April 7, 1797, in the little town of Hopkinton, Mass. His father was John Young, a soldier of the Revolution, and his mother was Nabbie Howe. Both his father and mother were of well educated and highly cultured parentage, characteristics of which they bequeathed to all their children. Reared as Joseph was in the atmosphere of the wilderness, he ever had a devotion for trees and woods, flowers and streams. In those days, the villages and towns of New England were extremely puritanic. Church services on the Sabbath day were regularly attended, and during the week, the children were taught to walk aright by strict discipline and admonition. Joseph with his brothers knew a splendid training. When but a lad, he learned to paint and glaze, and earned here and there some little money to help keep the family larder.

The family were Methodists. Joseph became an itinerant preacher, often traveling for miles through the forests to carry cheer and a Gospel message to some poor soul. With his brothers, Brigham and Phineas, he became known far and wide for his sweet singing of the Wesleyan hymns. In 1832, the family moved to Kirtland, Ohio. Joseph had already been baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Caiuga Lake, New York. On arriving in Kirtland, he met the Prophet Joseph Smith, from whom he gained a greater knowledge of the Gospel message. In 1834, at the request of the prophet, Joseph, with his brother Brigham, went to Zion’s Camp in Missouri. During [p. 106] the following February occurred one of the events that was to help bring about the perfect organization of the Church. The prophet had called Brigham and Joseph Young to his private room one morning and there made known to them his intention of organizing the quorum of the Twelve Apostles and the first quorum of Seventy. Turning to Brigham, he instructed him to notify all the nearby branches of the Church to meet in Kirtland two weeks from that date. “At which time,” said he, “I shall choose and ordain the Twelve Apostles, and you, Brother Brigham, will be one of them.” Turning then to Joseph, the prophet said: “Brother Joseph, the Lord has made you president of all the Seventy.” At first it was obscure to Joseph as to what it all meant, but time solved the problem, and during the period of forty-six years, he presided over all the Seventy of the Church.

In 1838, Joseph left Kirtland and traveled to Missouri on his way to Far West with his wife and children. He had married Jane Bicknell in Kirtland during the spring of 1834. On his way he was stopped with other Saints by Missourians at Haun’s Mill, where he witnessed, with his wife, the terrible massacre of that place, and on the following day helped to bury the eighteen brethren that were killed.

In the travels of the Youngs westward, they were accompanied by their father, John Young, who as one of the first patriarchs of the Church. In 1839, Joseph journeyed to Nauvoo with his family, stopping at Quincy on his way, however, to bury his father, whose grave remains unmarked at that place. In completing the Nauvoo Temple, he was engaged in painting and glazing the building, and at the first meeting of its dedication, at the request of Brigham Young, presided.

It was now that he began the organization of the Seventy, which has grown to one hundred and eighty-six quorums. As he was a reader of breadth and understanding, his aim was to make of the Seventy the scholars of true religion, and the representatives of the best moral manhood.

In 1846, the family moved to Winter Quarters, where they lived for eighteen months in a log house and dug-out. While there, they witnessed the departure of the first company of pioneers to the West under the leadership of Brigham Young. Though poor in worldly goods, Joseph had developed a spiritual outlook on life that had already brought from his brethren the name of “beloved saint.” In those days, they lived on corn-meal mush and corn bread. Joseph went far and wide preaching the Gospel of Christ and in his words and life, he won many souls to Christ. He had a natural power and magnetism that seemed to win people to a higher life.

In the spring of 1848, Joseph with his family was forced to cross the Missouri River by the Indian agents, who were greatly prejudiced against the Saints, and until the spring of 1850, they [p. 107] lived in Cartersville. In June, 1850, they left for Utah in Wilford Woodruff’s hundred, and arrived in Salt Lake City, Sept. 29, of the same year. The journey over the plains, while not distinctly one of trial and tribulation, was characteristic of the “Mormon” migrations in those days. Here is an extract from a letter Joseph wrote to one of his kinsmen at Winter Quarters:

“Tonight we camped on the Platte River, just opposite Grand Island. We had a good supper, for we had exchanged a few pounds of flour with Indians for some fresh buffalo tongues. The Indians also had some salt, which they gave us. In the evening after supper, we gathered around the fire and sang hymns and told stories. After the evening prayer, we went to our wagons, and slept soundly. We are happy, for the Spirit of God is in the Camp of Israel.”

After arriving in Salt Lake City, Joseph was furnished a small house on the spot near what is now Second South and Commercial Street. In 1856, he took up his abode in the Ellsworth House, which stood just east of the present site of the Alta Club on South Temple. Here he lived until 1872, when he moved to the Twelfth Ward, and there built a home which afterwards was occupied by the family of Henry Wagner.

During the year 1870 Joseph, with his son Seymour, went to England to preach the Gospel, and returned home in the autumn, after having completed a successful mission in England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. It was now that he continued organizing the Seventy with a zeal that knew no bounds. He traveled far and wide where the Saints had settled in Utah, Arizona, Idaho, and New Mexico. Under his direction the Seventy began the study of scriptures and history, and were urged to read and study the best of modern books. Joseph Young died in Salt Lake City, July 16, 1881, and was buried from the Tabernacle four days later. Elder Henry W. Naisbitt composed “Rest on the Hillside, Rest” for the occasion, and it was put to music by Elder George Careless. Joseph Young had six wives and was the father of twenty-two children. In all of his labors he was known as a very spiritually-minded man. Always charitable and kind, he was much beloved, and his word and look were buoyant with cheerfulness and sunshine. He was the embodiment of love, the example of faith in God, and a man of great ideals for his people. His life’s dream was to have the Seventy the scholars of the Church, who should explain the Gospel far and wide. A Seventy’s hall was to be built and called the “Seventy’s Hall of Science.” Here was to be housed the scientific, philosophic, and historical lore of the ages for the use of the brethren. While he did not live to see the fruition of his ideals, he knew that they would yet be carried out.