Who was Brigham Young?
Prophet? Governor? Colonizer? Businessman? Family patriarch? The answers would be yes and more.
In their book "40 Ways to Look at Brigham Young: A New Approach to a Remarkable Man," historians Chad M. Orton and William W. Slaughter help readers get acquainted with the real Brigham Young.
Each of the 40 chapters in the volume, published this summer by Deseret Book, takes one aspect of Brigham Young's life and explores it from a variety of sources.
In the introduction, Orton and Slaughter acknowledge that Joseph Smith's successor as prophet was misunderstood and maligned sometimes because of his use of fiery rhetoric. Brigham Young saw no reason to try to change outside opinions of him and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
But Orton and Slaughter are convinced that Brigham Young was a remarkable individual who combined the "practical, spiritual and aesthetic characteristics seldom found in one man."
The chapters follow his life, including "A Life of Quiet Desperation: The Early Years," "To Thunder and Roar Out the Gospel: Brigham as Missionary," "Brigham as Leader," "Brigham as American Moses," "City Planner and Colonizer," "Brigham as Polygamist," "Brigham As Entrepreneur," "Brigham at Play," "Brigham as Seen by Others," "Brigham as Renaissance Man," "Brigham Editorialized and Eulogized" and many points in between.
In the chapter "Fun Facts," we learn that after he determined to give up chewing tobacco, he carried half a plug in his pocket. "When he got the urge to chew, he would take it out and ask himself, 'Are you, or is Brigham going to be master?"'
The authors also write that "in counseling the Saints not to worry about things they could not control, Brigham colorfully counseled them, 'Do not fret thy gizzard.'"
Orton, an archivist in the church's Historical Department, and Slaughter, a photo historian and senior reference specialist for the Historical Department, freely acknowledge other historians whose work enabled them "to look at Brigham from a new perspective."