Brigham’s Wild West Humor

U.S. Capital Building

Brigham Young became the second President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after a mob murdered the Prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.  Brigham also became the first governor of the Utah territory. 

He led the migration of tens of thousands of saints from Britain, Scandinavia and the eastern United States across the plains and mountains to Utah. He is “the American Moses.” His prominent statue sits in the Hall of Statues in the U.S. Capital Building.

In the Wild West, humor was used both as a source of entertainment and a weaponBrother Brigham fit right in.

Brigham Young Insults Mark Twain

When Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was young, he dressed up in his fanciest clothes and went with his older brother, who was a reporter, to “pay a state visit to the king,” Brigham Young. During the visit, young Twain kept trying to get Brigham’s attention.  Brigham completely ignored him. Twain finally got “hot and flushed” at the “ignorant savage,” and “subsided into an indignant silence.” 

Mark Twain wrote, “When the audience was ended and we were retiring from his presence, he put his hand on my head, beamed down on me in an admiring way, and said to my older brother: “Ah – your child I presume?  Boy or girl.” 

Brigham’s Advice to the Woman Whose Husband Told Her to “Go to Hell”

One day a woman complained to Brother Brigham that her husband had told her to “go to hell.” She wanted to know what she should do about it.  Brigham replied simply, “Don’t go.”      

Brigham’s Advice to an Antagonistic Woman

In a letter to an antagonistic woman, Brother Brigham wrote: “Madam: I have this day examined the records of baptisms for the remission of sins in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and not being able to find [your name] recorded therein, I was saved from the necessity of erasing your name therefrom. You may therefore consider that your sins have not been remitted, and you may consequently enjoy the benefits therefrom.”

Brigham Young vs. “General Tom Thumb”

Tom Thumb & PT Barnum

General Tom Thumb” was a famous “midget” who performed for circus legend P.T. Barnum. (“Tom Thumb” was featured in the musical film, “The Greatest Showman.”) When Tom was introduced to Brigham Young during a reception in Salt Lake, Tom Thumb tried to embarrass Brigham by saying, in essence, “I just don’t understand this polygamy thing.” Brigham shot back, “Neither could I when I was your size.” 

Brigham’s Comment on the Death of President Zachary Taylor

President Brigham Young and President Zachary Taylor had a mutual dislike. Brigham thought Taylor was unduly hostile to the saints. 

In the morning session of general conference, Brigham Young announced, “We have just learned that Zachary Taylor has died and gone to hell.” After the session, federal officials and others insisted that Brigham apologize. Otherwise, relations between the federal government and the saints would further sour. 

So, in the afternoon session Brother Brigham declared, “We have learned that Zachary Taylor has died and gone to hell – I’m sorry.” 

Stake President’s Young Daughter Insults President Young

At a social gathering at the home of a stake president in St. George, Utah, the host’s young daughter ran up and sat in President Young’s lap.  While everyone watched, she stared at Brigham’s face and exclaimed, “You look just like our big pig!”  Everyone gasped.  Brother Brigham immediately stood up, grabbed the girl by the hand, and marched toward the front door. Everyone relaxed when he proclaimed, “I can’t wait to see the pig that looks like me.”

(Sources: Mark Twain, Roughing It, p.94; Brigham Young American Moses, by Leonard Arrington, p. 199; Deseret Church News, “Church leaders use sense of humor,” by Carrie A. Moore, Aug. 20,2008; Wikipedia, “General Tom Thumb”)

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