Brigham Young died on August 29, 1877, 140 years ago today.
I hope that on this day, when we commemorate Brigham Young's death, we take another look at something important he taught just two months before he died because he feared it would be forgotten and lost.
I'm writing this post because if our BYU scholars have their way, this will be forgotten and lost to future generations.
Brigham Young spent the last year of his life in a remarkable effort to organize and clarify the temple ordinances and to reorganize the Priesthood.
An excellent article titled "The Priesthood Reorganization of 1877: Brigham Young's Last Achievement" starts off by observing this: "Death knocking loudly at his door, President Brigham Young labored restlessly in his last five months of life to reorganize the Church's government structures."
"Brigham's failing health by 1877 made needed priesthood reorderings urgent. That April he confessed, 'I feel many times that I could not live an hour longer.' Knowing the twelve would succeed him, he became very anxious to put the church in excellent order organizationally for them."
In January, Brigham Young was in St. George to work at the temple (which he dedicated four months later on April 6, 1877). On January 9, 1877, baptisms for the dead were performed in a temple for the first time since Nauvoo. On January 11, the first proxy endowments for the dead were performed and children were sealed to couples for the first time. These ordinances had not been performed previously any time in this dispensation.
Often, Brigham was so weak he often had to be carried through the temple.
He commissioned Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon to write down the temple ceremonies for he first time. This was done between April and June 1877.
Next, he reorganized the Priesthood by establishing 7 new stakes. Prior to 1877, there were only 13 stakes in the Church, and six of the Twelve served as Stake Presidents. The Salt Lake Stake presidency and high council presided over other stakes and had 20,000 members with 45 wards. There were Stake Presidents and Bishops who didn't have counselors, wards without Bishops, and the Priesthood quorums were disorganized.
In 1877, new stake presidencies were called; of sixty presidency members, 53 were new. 140 new wards were established, 100 new Bishops called, and 85 acting bishops were made Bishops.
The article explains: "the 1877 reordering was the single most important priesthood analysis and redirecting since the priesthood restorations of forty eight years earlier."
In addition to organizing the Temple and Priesthood, Brigham Young taught essential principles that remain relevant today. In his final sermon on August 19, 1877, he focused on the Sacrament, just as our current leaders have been doing.
"Previous to attending to the business to be presented to the congregation this afternoon, I feel to exhort the Latter-day Saints before me to try to realize the sacredness of the ordinance that is now being administered to them, which was introduced by our Savior, that his disciples might witness to the Father that they were truly his followers."
In June, he told the Saints something that he was concerned would be lost and forgotten after he died. "I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost."
What was this important topic?
It had to do with the Hill Cumorah.
Just two months before he died, in the midst of reorganizing the Priesthood and setting in order the Temple ordinances, Brigham Young felt compelled to emphasize the reality of the Hill Cumorah by explaining that Joseph and Oliver and others actually entered Mormon's depository. Starting on page 38, here, he said:
"I lived right in the country where the plates were found from which the Book of Mormon was translated, and I know a great many things pertaining to that country. I believe I will take the liberty to tell you of another circumstance that will be as marvelous as anything can be. This is an incident in the life of Oliver Cowdery, but he did not take the liberty of telling such things in meeting as I take. I tell these things to you, and I have a motive for doing so. I want to carry them to the ears of my brethren and sisters, and to the children also, that they may grow to an understanding of some things that seem to be entirely hidden from the human family.
Oliver Cowdery went with the Prophet Joseph when he deposited these plates. Joseph did not translate all of the plates; there was a portion of them sealed, which you can learn from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants. When Joseph got the plates, the angel instructed him to carry them back to the hill Cumorah, which he did. Oliver says that when Joseph and Oliver went there, the hill opened, and they walked into a cave, in which there was a large and spacious room. He says he did not think, at the time, whether they had the light of the sun or artificial light; but that it was just as light as day. They laid the plates on a table; it was a large table that stood in the room. Under this table there was a pile of plates as much as two feet high, and there were altogether in this room more plates than probably many wagon loads; they were piled up in the corners and along the walls. The first time they went there the sword of Laban hung upon the wall; but when they went again it had been taken down and laid upon the table across the gold plates; it was unsheathed, and on it was written these words: “This sword will never be sheathed again until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and his Christ.”
I tell you this as coming not only from Oliver Cowdery, but others who were familiar with it, and who understood it just as well as we understand coming to this meeting, enjoying the day, and by and by we separate and go away, forgetting most of what is said, but remembering some things. So is it with other circumstances in life. I relate this to you, and I want you to understand it. I take this liberty of referring to those things so that they will not be forgotten and lost. Carlos Smith was a young man of as much veracity as any young man we had, and he was a witness to these things. Samuel Smith saw some things, Hyrum saw a good many things, but Joseph was the leader.
Now, you may think I am unwise in publicly telling these things, thinking perhaps I should preserve them in my own breast; but such is not my mind. I would like the people called Latter-day Saints to understand some little things with regard to the workings and dealings of the Lord with his people here upon the earth."
Brigham Young emphasized how important it was to understand Cumorah. He prefaced his remarks by explaining these events took place right there in New York, where he lived.
But because of Mesomania, many LDS scholars and educators claim this was merely a "vision" of a hill in Mexico.
You may think I'm kidding, and I wish I was, but look at what FairMormon says about this:
My favorite part of FairMormon's answer is this. "If, therefore, the story attributed to Oliver Cowdery (by others) is true, then the visits to the cave perhaps represent visions, perhaps of some far distant hill, not physical events."
FairMormon and the Conclave generally excel in casting doubt on the Three Witnesses and their contemporaries, including Joseph Smith. You can see how readily and easily they say "If this story is true..." Then, after Brigham Young introduced this account by explaining how he lived in this area of New York, FairMormon says Brigham was either lying or telling about a vision of a hill in Mexico.
Now you see why I deplore FairMormon's Mesomania and why I hope people don't go to this site for answers about Cumorah, Book of Mormon geography, and Church history.
Obviously, if Mormon's depository was in the New York hill, the entire premise for the Mesoamerican and two-Cumorahs theories is false.
Our Mesomania scholars desperately try to explain away what Brigham Young said shortly before he died. They try to explain away what David Whitmer said. They try to explain away what Oliver and Joseph wrote in Letter VII.
As I wrote at the outset, I hope that on this day, when we commemorate Brigham Young's death, we take another look at what he feared would be forgotten and lost.
Because if our BYU scholars have their way, it will be forgotten and lost to future generations.
Brigham Young's final sermons:
June 17, 1877 - Discourse by President Brigham Young, delivered at a Special Conference Held at Farmington, for the Purpose of Organizing a Stake of Zion for the County of Davis, on Sunday Afternoon, June 17, 1877
Trying to Be Saints—Treasures of the Everlasting Hills—The Hill Cumorah—Obedience to True Principle the Key to Knowledge—All Enjoyment Comes From God—Organization—Duties of Officers—Final Results
July 19, 1877 - Discourse by President Brigham Young, delivered in the Tabernacle, Ogden, at a Meeting of the Relief Societies of Weber County, July 19, 1877.
Relief Societies—Talk to Mothers—Improvement Societies—Domestic Matters—Training Children—Home Production—Silk Interests
July 24, 1877 - Address by President Brigham Young, delivered to the Sunday School Children, in the New Tabernacle, Salt Lake City
Items of History—The Pioneers—Talking to the Children—Peace in Utah—God a Personage of Tabernacle—The Foolish Fashions
August 19, 1877 - Discourse by President Brigham Young, delivered at a Special Conference Held in Brigham City, Box Elder County, for the Purpose of Organizing a Stake of Zion in Said County, on Sunday Afternoon, August 19, 1877.
The Lord's Supper—a Word to Mothers—The Sacrament in Sabbath Schools—History of Some Things—Young Men to Preside—Home Manufactures
August 29, 1877 - Died in Salt Lake City