November 30, 2007

"I will be Governor as long as God permits"

Brigham Young March 16, 1856 Precursors to the Utah War Sometime during the Nauvoo period it became clear the Church would have to spread out, or even move altogether. Options were discussed and Joseph Smith prophesied the Saints would remove to the Rocky Mountains. Granted, that view covered a broad area; they believed it could have included Oregon or California, among other places. Brigham Young was a man who saw the hand of God in all things, and discussed the circumstances leading to the Saints withdrawal from the eastern states:

The Prophet Joseph has been referred to, and his prophecy that this people would leave Nauvoo and be planted in the midst of the Rocky Mountains. We see it fulfilled. This prophecy is not a new thing, it has not been hid in the dark, nor locked up in a drawer, but it was declared to the people long before we left Nauvoo. We see the invisible hand of Providence in all this; we realize that His hand has wrought out our salvation. Are we here in fulfillment of prophecy? The world say that the Prophet knew nothing about it, that the Lord had nothing to do with it, that the "Mormons" became obnoxious to them and had to leave, because they were the weakest party, and their enemies the strongest. "No, God knew nothing about all this, He had no hand in it, but we could not live with you Mormons." They said, "We Methodists, Presbyterians, Baptists, &c., cannot live with you, one of us must leave, which shall it be? You Mormons must leave, if we can drive you." They herald forth that, "It was us who drove you to the Rocky Mountains, as every one knows who is acquainted with your history." "The Mormons must leave and go where no other people will go, and live where no other people can or will live." The world cannot see the hand of the Lord in all our movements, they have not eyes to see, nor hearts to understand that the Lord showed the future to the Prophet Joseph, and brought it before him in vision. They cannot understand that the Lord produced all the circumstances which effected the removal of this people. They do not now understand that the Lord is building up His kingdom on the earth, is gathering His Israel, for the last time, to make a great and mighty nation of this people.

Brigham believed circumstances led to the establishment of the new Mormon kingdom of the west, and believed likewise that circumstances would eventually gain them statehood, something they'd petitioned for since they first arrived in the Salt Lake Valley:
Circumstances have planted the Saints in the midst of the mountains, have given them a Territory and a Territorial Government, and will, ere long, give them a free and independent State, and justly make them a sovereign people. Circumstances will accomplish all this. Now, in the name of common sense, who rules these invisible circumstances? Is it you, or I? True, to a certain permitted degree, we rule, govern, and control circumstances, in a great many instances, but, on the other hand, do not circumstances control us? They do. Who has guided all these circumstances, which neither we nor the Prophet knew anything about? Was it in the power of a single man, or of any set of men, to create and control the circumstances which caused this people to be planted within these mountains? The moment that you say it was not, you acknowledge the workings of a Supreme Power.
Given the impending difficulties (i.e.- the upcoming Utah war) Brigham's belief that God ruled over the whole earth gives us insight into his seemingly cool approach to the difficulties in forming the new Territory:
Do you suppose that it is in the power of any man to thwart the doings of the Almighty? They may as well undertake to blot out the sun. I am in the hands of that God, so is the President of our nation, and so are kings, and emperors, and all rulers. He controls the destiny of all, and what are you and I going to do about it? Let us submit to Him, that we may share in this invisible, almighty, God-like power, which is the everlasting Priesthood. We cannot thwart the plans and purposes of the Almighty. Do the world comprehend that if this people are faithful to God they will become a mighty people? No. It has been leaked out, to a few individuals, that the government of the United States is going to send troops here to drive out the "Mormons." I say to such threateners, cease your folly, for you can only do as God permits you.
The threatenings occurred because of difficulty with Federally appointed judges from the east who didn't get along with the influential Governor of the Territory, Brigham Young. Utah petitioned for statehood, which would have given them the right to elect their own judges and representatives. Instead, they were granted a territorial government, which allowed the presidential administration the right to select the positions. The appointees often ran contrary to what the Saints and the Church leaders would approve of. After a brief and tenuous period three of the appointed judges left the territory and spread rumors about the Church, which culminated in the Utah war.[1] Brigham spoke of one of these judges, Brandenbury, in this sermon:
When certain immaculate judges went from here, they were going to obliterate “Mormonism.” What did they accomplish? They did all they could, and, like an empty sound, their vaporings passed away and are known no more, neither are those judges known. Where is Mr. Brandenbury? Is he seated in the President's chair, under the wings which shadow this nation? Does he control the strength and power of any part of the American Union? Where is he? The last we heard of him he was in Washington, doing a little writing for this, that, and the other lawyer, when he could get any to do, and attending to cases as a lawyer, when he could get a few dollars for transacting a little business of that kind, for this or that man; running from office to office, and from pillar to post, to obtain a living. He is a tolerably good man, after all; and, if he had done as I counseled him, he would have stayed here, and let that other judge go. Mr. Brandenbury was a good sort of a man, he never had any difficulty with me, and would have done well, if he had only had sense enough to know that he could not obliterate “Mormonism.” But he thought that his associate was going to blow the advocates of truth out of existence, when he might as well blow towards the sun to puff it out. When men operate against this people, they may spend all they possess and all their ability, and it will pass away like an empty sound, and they will be forgotten. Such persons have always come to naught, and all who fight against the people of the Most High will continue to come to naught.
Brigham expanded on this concept, telling the Saints not to fear detractors:
Who that has lifted his heel against Joseph has ever prospered, from the day he found the plates, from which the Book of Mormon was translated, until now? No man. So it will be with all others who leave this community thinking to injure them. Show me the priest, the church, the people, the state, or nation, that will prosper in lifting the heel against the kingdom of God, which is built up upon the earth. They cannot prosper in such a course. Do not be fearful, brethren, you and I will live here just as long as the Lord wishes us to. If I have fears about anything, it is that you and I will not live our religion; if we do this I am at the defiance of all the wicked.
Brigham realized, and mentioned his tendency to get a little overexcited when discussing those who "lifted their heel" against the Church. In so doing, he preached a short sermon admitting to his sometimes hyperbolic remarks, and reminding himself to be still and remember God is in charge:
I sometimes become excited when I talk about them, and so do my brethren. Why? Because we are made of flesh, blood, and bones, like other men, and sometimes our feelings are warm, when we think about the conduct of our enemies. But what do the pure principles of the Gospel teach us? "Be still, and know that I am God, that I rule in the heavens above, and perform my pleasure on the earth, and that I turn the hearts of the children of men, as the rivers of water are turned?" He asks no odds of anybody. Who does He call upon to counsel Him, to dictate Him in the affairs of His rule on the earth? He is the Father, God, Etc, Maker, Preserver, and Redeemer of man. He holds in His hands the issue of all things, and will judge every man according to his works.
He then made a comment that would give his enemies fuel to their claims that Brigham Young refused to be directed by the Federal government, that he was a law unto himself:
I will be Governor so long as God permits, and we will live here, and have hard winters and unfruitful summers, and suffer the ravages of the destroying insects-what for? To bring us to our senses; I am thankful for it.
This statement was used to "prove" that Brigham believed as the leader of a "theocracy" in the west he could do whatever he wanted, and fly in the face of Federal instruction. He would be led to offer explanatory remarks months later. When taken in context it is easy to see he believed he was governor under the province of God, and could just as easily be removed from that position, which he was during the Utah war on 1857. Footnotes: [1] The judges were Perry E. Brocchus and Lemuel G. Brandenbury. The judges arrived in Salt Lake over a year after their initial appointments, and only stayed for about one month before going back east. Personal conflict with Brigham Young led them to believe and report that Brigham, the Governor, wouldn't work with any non-Mormons. Brigham particularly disliked Brocchus, who gave an inflammatory speech in the Tabernacle regarding the chastity of Utah women. See Leonard Arrington, Brigham Young: American Moses, pg. 228-230.

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