Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Note About the Memoirs of John R. Young, Mormon Pioneer

I found the journal of John R. Young to be interesting in that he as a young boy writes about the Mormons being blasted out of their hometown of Nauvoo, Illinois, by the people who thought the Mormons were evil and demonic for building a beautiful little town out of nothing near the Mississippi River. And some of the people also believed the Mormons were devils and had horns on their heads. They killed their leader, Joseph Smith, in cold blood as he rested in a jail where the people of Illinois had put him for daring to start a new religion that didn't agree exactly with the way the people thought it should.

Anyway, Mr. Young relates the trials and tribulations from his perspective as the Mormons travel West in 1846-47. After finally reaching the area of the Great Salt Lake, they begin to build houses and another town, and Brigham Young, John R.'s uncle, sends his adherents on missions to other places in Utah to help settle the Territory and bring more people into the fold. John R. Young, at the tender age of sixteen, is called upon to go on a mission to the Sandwich Islands.  Under the guidance of the mission President, he and others are sent to the various islands to preach and proselytize. He doesn't know a single word of the Kanaka language, but within two weeks of landing on Maui, he has practically mastered it just from conversing with the natives. He describes in detail the times he spent preaching and talking to the people in Hawaii and the troubles he had from certain individuals. He returns to Utah, happy in his soul that he did everything within his power to enlarge the church.

He goes on to tell abut his marriages and his mission to England and Wales, the people he met there and the money he earned working to send a number of converts to Utah and his return. His problems with polygamy later on are described in detail, the narrow escapes, and his sojourn in Mexico. He had a total of four wives, one marriage only lasting about a year due to the death of that wife in childbirth. He loved deeply all of them and their kids and the wives loved each other, too. They lived for a while in Orderville, a town that was set up by Brigham Young as an experiment in Communism in the 1870's, where everyone was treated as equals in wages and everything else in the social order. After Brigham died, the town returned to the "normal" way of life.

Jacob Hamblin, the Missionary to the Indians, was sent to end the practice of the Utes of choosing a bride for a tribal member. They no longer fight over who is going to get the girl like they had become accustomed. Mr. Young was witness to one of these fights where an Indian selected a young girl to be his bride, but another Indian also wanted her - ergo the fight. One of them was bigger and stronger than the other, so more men were selected by the Chief to fight on one or the other's side, with about twenty on each side when the fight began. Some of the Indians fell into a creek along with the girl who was seen only by her long, black hair on the surface of the water and she was pulled out by a white man. This resulted in a fight between the first Indian who wanted the girl and the white man with the white man winning and dragging the girl to the other Indian. And they all started fighting again with the girl between the two main participants. Her brother saw that she was in terrible pain and suffering, so he jumped up and stabbed her in the chest and killed her. The brother took a stance and said that if anyone wanted to kill him, to go ahead, he wasn't afraid of dying. This ended that fight and the girl was given a funeral.

Mr. Young wrote fine tributes to three of his wives and was very poetic, writing poems as the urge hit him throughout his life, several of which are in his journal.  The end of his Memoirs, Chapters 36 and 37, consist of poems reflecting on his life, Brigham Young, and Utah, among other subjects.

Being reared as a Mormon, I found the Memoirs of John R. Young, to be interesting and educational, especially on the early years in the history of the Mormons.This book is available for free at Project Gutenberg.


  1. One thing religion is not, and that is tolerant of other religions.

    1. No they are not. Just look at the ISIS group. They hate everybody!

  2. Fascinating history, Oscar. Thanks for posting.