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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"An impressively detailed portrait of a controversial giant." ( Booklist)

What members say

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Darwin8u
  • Mesa, AZ, United States
  • 08-26-13

The Lion of the Lord says "Mind Your Own Business"

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.

68 of 70 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

This is the very best general biography of Brigham

If you could sum up Brigham Young in three words, what would they be?

Thorough/Balanced/Well-Documented

Would you listen to another book narrated by Stephen Hoye?

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.

Any additional comments?

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.

16 of 18 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Lion of the Lord examined

The narrator Steven Hoye has a fine voice however he mispronounced many Utah words including Moroni, Manti , Weber, Sevier, Ephraim and Timpanogos. Any Utahn could have told them the correct pronunciation for all those words.
Too bad the reader and his producers didn't do a little more research.
I am a Mormon with Pioneer Heritage and have listened to the accounts of Brigham Young's history from bias perspectives for many years. This was nice to be able to have a fairly unbiased opinion about Brigham Young and the great contribution he gave to the settling of the West.
Turner helped me to understand Young as a man not just as a prophet . I'm glad he also covered polygamy ,Mountain Meadows Massacre, the Utah War and the Mormon reformation, putting them all in perspective and giving as many unbiased details as possible.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Review from a regular Mormon

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

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.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • CBlox
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • 02-11-13

The foremost biography on Brigham Young!

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

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Not easy listening.

Would you be willing to try another one of Stephen Hoye’s performances?

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Sadly unbalanced. Many mistakes in pronunciation.

a great deal of research clearly went into this book. it would have been a much richer experience to listen to this book if the author had more fully described the man rather than spending most of the time highlighting his eccentricities, of which he had many. it would also have been better if the narrator had done at least a little bit of research into how to pronounce names and places. in short, there was some good information contained in the book, but it was sadly incomplete in describing the man.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Questionable Accuracy

What disappointed you about Brigham Young?

Although I enjoyed learning more about history of Brigham Young and his family, there are many items that were so blatantly missed, that it calls into question the accuracy of everything else presented in the book. There were many inaccuracies which could have been correct had the author researched his subject more. I will explain a one here. Turner stated that the early Mormons referred to American Indians as the children of Jacob and children of Joseph in reference to the youngest sons of Lehi (from the Book of Mormon). This is not why Mormons would refer to American Indians as the children of Jacob and/or Joseph. Mormons do not believe the American Indians descend from Lehi's son Jacob or Joseph, but rather believe the descendants of those men were destroyed long ago. Mormon doctrine is that Lehi is a descendant Jacob or Israel from the Bible, through Jacob's son, Joseph (of coat of many colors fame). Mormon doctrine also teaches that the principal ancestors of the American Indian descend from Lehi's eldest sons, Laman and Lemuel. So when Mormons refer to American Indians as the children of Jacob or Joseph, they mean that they descended from the biblical prophets by the same name. This is such a basic and widely known Mormon doctrine, that it is perplexing that the author missed it.

The author has negative leanings toward the prophet and Mormons, but tries to hide them in as subtle a way as possible. He has tried to present this book as being a historically accurate report on the Mormon prophet, but his purpose was to debunk Brigham Young

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Good content, narration not so much!

I read reviews about this book before I bought it and they said the narration was poor. it is! he doesn't pronounce stuff correctly!

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Young martyred by the pen

An interesting, though uncompelling, non-Mormon view of a Mormon lion, martyred again by the author's pen and narrator's inarticulate pronunciation of basic LDS nomenclature. The author, in taking a secular, outsider's autopsy of Brother Brigham's whole body of work sliced the man every which way till Sunday, minus any sincere sanctity expected for the modern American Moses. Rather than providing a spiritual context for a revered prophet, the author unceremoniously drained and displayed the bile and smeared blood over this lifeless work, laying it on a cold, rough stone of history after rolling it over an old Young, squeezing any semblance of vitality from what could have been an excellent work.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful