Brigham Young was a rough-hewn craftsman from New York whose impoverished and obscure life was electrified by the Mormon faith. He trudged around the United States and England to gain converts for Mormonism, spoke in spiritual tongues, married more than 50 women, and eventually transformed a barren desert into his vision of the Kingdom of God. While previous accounts of his life have been distorted by hagiography or polemical exposé, John Turner provides a fully realized portrait of a colossal figure in American religion, politics, and westward expansion.
After the 1844 murder of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, Young gathered those Latter-day Saints who would follow him and led them over the Rocky Mountains. In Utah, he styled himself after the patriarchs, judges, and prophets of ancient Israel. As charismatic as he was autocratic, he was viewed by his followers as an indispensable protector and by his opponents as a theocratic, treasonous heretic.
Under his fiery tutelage, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints defended plural marriage, restricted the place of African Americans within the church, fought the U.S. Army in 1857, and obstructed federal efforts to prosecute perpetrators of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. At the same time, Young's tenacity and faith brought tens of thousands of Mormons to the American West, imbued their everyday lives with sacred purpose, and sustained his church against adversity. Turner reveals the complexity of this spiritual prophet, whose commitment made a deep imprint on his church and the American Mountain West.
©2012 the President and Fellows of Harvard College (P)2012 Tantor
"An impressively detailed portrait of a controversial giant." (Booklist)
But I write for myself, for my own pleasure. And I want to be left alone to do it. - J.D. Salinger ^(;,;)^
This is one of those biographies that should be read regardless of your interest in the subject. IT is important not just because of what it can teach you about Brigham Young, Mormons, the American West of the late 1900s, etc, but because of what it can teach the careful reader about how history is done. This book is history done by a craftsman who is fascinated by his subject, but also devoted to his craft.
Turner, a non-Mormon historian, is able to craft a compelling narrative of Brigham Young that avoids the hagiographic and almost propagandist tendencies of those biographies pushed out by some faithful LDS biographers. It also avoids, however, giving too much weight to aspects of Young's character and life that while in the 21st century seem bigoted and narrow (his view towards blacks and women) were actually quite common among most protestant males in America from the Jacksonian era through Reconstruction. 'Pioneer Prophet' avoids focusing too much attention on aspects of Young's life that are easily exploited for their titillation factor, but Turner doesn't avoid them. He places polygamy, Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Mormon Reformation, the Utah War, etc., all in the proper framework -- one which helps the reader to understand Brigham Young as a man and a prophet, but NOT as a caricature or a saint.
My only criticism or gripe about this audiobook is the narrator. While both Mormon culture and Utah's geography pose unique challenges to the casual reader with their funky names, part of a narrator's job is to research the pronunciation of a book's unique names. Town names like: Weber (/ˈwēːbər/ WE..Burr), Ephraim (/ˈiːfriːəm/ hard E), Manti (/ˈmantī/ hard I) were all mispronounced, as was the Book of Mormon name Moroni (/mō-rō'nī/ hard I). These are issues that could have been avoided by simply calling anyone in Utah with an area code of 435.
The narration was competant, but the reader consistently mispronounced names, concepts, and place names that could have been avoided with a little research, or an inquiry.
This is the most thorough, balanced and carfully constructed biography of Brigham Young available. There are Mormon sources that are quite good, but fatally flawed by underlying bias. This avoided insider and outsider bias. The source material is considerably superior to any other popular treatment. There isn't even a close second. The narrator did mispronounce many names and place names. That is really innexcusable and I blame the producers for this, as much as the narrator. This could have been easily avoided. Still, this was a great listen and well worth consideration. Brigham Young was a remarkable figure and the history of this period is fascinating.
British Broadcaster, Photojournalist and member of LDS living in Canada.
Personally I found listening to Stephen's delivery extremely difficult. That said, the book itself is very informative and worth buying in print form if not audio.
Ive read many books on BY and most are either subjective or slanted for or against the mormon church. This book delivers the good/bad of an important man in american history without an angle. Turner researched his subject more extensively than any other author of a religious leader since Bushman. This Bio is on par with Rough Stone Rolling and i believe it will be the formeost biography on Young
The book is interesting, well-written, and provides a good deal of new information. The first half of the book is better than the second; once the Mormons reach Utah, the author leaves his previous chronologically-based narrative and tries to deal topically which doesn't work as well as he bounces back and forth through the 1850s, 1860s, and sometimes into the 1870s in the same paragraphs and sections. The author tends to tilt somewhat toward a critical view of Young when providing his personal analysis in instances when the historical record seems contradictory or incomplete.
The narrator should have taken a few minutes to talk with Utahns to learn correct pronunciation of Mormon words and cities. Listening to frequent and repeated (although internally consistent) mispronunciations with numerous words -- Manti, Moroni, Weber, Vilate, and several others -- will grate like fingernails on a chalkboard to anyone who knows the correct pronunciations. The narrator also speaks too slowly; recommend listening at 1.25x speed.
The book provided a good look into the life of an early Mormon leader. The author, in my opinion, presented facts without inserting biases and left the reader to draw their own conclusions. I enjoyed the book and discovered a few facts about his life and personality rarely discussed in mainstream Mormon literature. I own the hardcover book which I like to skim for specific details but like the audio version for plodding through the less interesting details. Overall I am glad I listened to it.
I'm a Mormon and I read Mormon history more than the average member, but I'm by no means a big Church history buff. I'm aware/open to both sides of different historical issues, and I usually give Mormon apologists and critics an opportunity to weigh in when there is a debate. When I purchased this book I was not expecting faith promoting propaganda about Brigham Young and I wasn't expecting an anti Mormon treatment either. To me the author succeeded in presenting a historical biography of Young and I learned new things. It also caused me to go out and do a little more research on my own. About half way through, I got online and read a few reviews. I wanted to know what Mormon and non Mormon critics thought about the book. There was one by Craig Foster published in the Mormon Interpreter called New Light & Old Shadows, that I thought was quite helpful. Craig wondered whether Turner "actually liked Brigham Young." He then quoted British poet Carol Rumens, “The ideal biographer must admire his subject but remain clear-eyed.”. I must concur, that I wasn't sure Turner had much admiration for Young. The book itself reads a bit like a historical laundry list at times, but it does expose the reader to a large amount of all things Young. Overall, I'd recommend the book to readers who are already or who would like to be more mature about Mormon history and who are willing to incorporate additional study into the profile painted of Brigham Young. The narrator was very good. He reminded me a bit of Bruce Lindsey.
I honestly doubt that ANY serious reader is going to enjoy this book. Positive reviewers must have been from John's family. Save yourself the immense pain I just went through and pick a different book.
Listening to this book has really put me off on John G. Turner. I doubt I will trust his research in the future. His collage approach of throwing in any random "idea" that anyone ever had on the subject without any vetting process is disturbing. I know of 10-year-old's with a better research sense.
The narrator was an incredible farce! What a bad selection for this subject. You could almost feel his disdain as he read spiritual narratives. I will assume that he "tried" but he was so distracting that he alone made it difficult to make it through the book. In addition there was no preparation on his part because almost every proper noun was pronounced wrong. What a farce of a narrator!
I had high hopes for this book after reading other reviewers. I was greatly disappointed before ending the 3rd chapter. The book just continued in the same method of regurgitating anything the author ever had considered swallowing. By the end I was just forcing myself to finish it because I had spent the money on it and also because I thought there had to be something redeeming. I should have followed my gut and stopped listening after the first chapter. If you are wanting to get confused and lead down many, MANY, crazy, false paths this is the right book for you.
John G. Turner's approach is unique but it is horrible. He takes ANYTHING that ANYONE ever wrote onto paper about Brigham Young or his ancestors and throws it together with barely any attempt to keep it organized. His approach is barely chronological and has so many barely substantiated claims that you seriously end up knowing less about history when you are done than when you start.
You might consider this the printed equivalent of taking EVERY answer ever posted on some subject the Web as the "facts" and having all of those various (and false) answers written into a single "collage" answer. Come on John, do a tiny bit of validation after you hit the search button! The truth is out there but you will never be able to pull it out of this ball of slime. What a disappointment!
Then narrator, as I said, takes the book to a new low level and the synergistic combination is somehow even worst. What a stunning waste of time for all of us. Please don't support these guys any more than I already have. There are tons of books out there, pick a different one.
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