Who was a better leader, Joseph Smith or Brigham Young?
Joseph Smith was an important religious figure who founded Mormonism. He was faithful, driven, and a strong speaker, but was easily tempered. Joseph Smith had his great contributions and failures, and after his death the new Mormon leader became Brigham Young, who also made great contributions to the Mormon movement, but just as Joseph Smith he had his failures. Joseph Smith was born in 1805. While Smith was growing up, there was a great religious revival taking place in New York State. When he was fourteen, Smith was finding this very confusing, and began to pray for guidance.
Smith then claimed that a pillar of light appeared before him, and told him not to join any religious sects. Later as he was growing up, Smith experienced a vision from the angel Moroni, who told him that God had work for him to accomplish. The angel told Smith that a book written upon gold plates was deposited. The book gave accounts of former inhabitants of this continent and their source. The angel then told Smith where to find the book, and he dug it up on a hillside near Manchester. The book gave a different story from the Bible. According to the book, lost Israeli tribes migrated to America before the birth of Christ.
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There they fought each other until Christ was born and established his Church. Then the fighting began again, and one of the survivors, Mormon, wrote down records of his people on the plates. The person who found these plates was to restore the Church of Christ in America. Smith wouldn’t let anyone check the plates to check his honesty, and said he had returned them to the hillside. Smith then published a translation of the plates in 1830. Smith started with just five followers, but his speaking and persuasions kills were very strong, and by the end of 1830 he had several hundred followers.
However they were very unpopular in New York State because people claimed that Smith was only trying to make money and his book was offensive. His house was attacked and followers were shot in the streets. Smith then prayed for guidance, he took his followers Kirtland, Ohio. There he planned to set up a City of God. In Kirtland, the Mormon movement flourished greatly, reaching a thousand followers by 1831. They even founded colonies in Missouri. They worked very hard and soon had a store, bank, printing press and a mill. They soon outnumbered the non-Mormons. However their success increased the envy and hatred of the others.
Very unfortunately for the Mormons, in 1837 there was a economic crisis, making many banks collapse. Many non-Mormons had put their savings into the Mormon bank, and when it collapsed, they were chased out of Kirtland. The Mormons and their leader, Joseph Smith, then went to the colonies they had set up in Missouri, but this didn’t increase their popularity. Attempts were made to stop them from voting, and the local settlers destroyed property. When the government sent in troops to make order, the Mormons were blamed for everything, put in prison, and condemned to death.
Then rumours began to go around that they were freeing slaves and upsetting Indians, making the government declare them as public enemies. In 1838 the Mormons were released from prison, they went to a very small town of Commerce in Illinois, which Smith renamed Nauvoo. The Mormons were allowed to develop it into and independent city state. They prospered cooperatively, and in 1844 Nauvoo was the biggest city in Illinois, dominated by the giant temple. The Mormons, now at 35,000 were trying to create an ideal society with no poor, homeless, smoking or drinking. Many of the poor converted, promised salvation. The Mormons were finally settled.
However this was ruined by Smith’s serious mistakes. He said that the idea of polygamy was right, leading to many Mormons calling him false, and a lot of criticism in the newspapers. This angered Smith and he destroyed the presses of the newspaper. His critics then asked for him to be arrested, and he was put into jail in Carthage. Once the news about polygamy spread to the non-Mormons, they were enrages. They shot Smith in the prison, and Mormons were hunted down by mobs. After the death of Joseph Smith, the new leader of the Mormons became Brigham Young. He decided that the Mormons would leave to the Great Salt Lake in 1846.
Young was very organized and down-to earth, and very determined. He also married eight of Smith’s former wives, so he was very considerate. Preparations took all winter, and then the Mormons finally began their journey. They passed many dangers even though the journey was well organized, such as the prairie weather and plague that killed hundreds of people. On their way to the Great Salt Lake, they met Jim Bridger, a mountain man who warned them that it would be too cold for growing corn, but was ignored. They also passed Sam Brannan, a Mormon who told them to go to California.
Young replied that he is looking for a desolate place. They climbed on upwards, and by July they reached the Great Salt Lake. Young had total control over his community; they trusted and believed in him, and so although he had many challenges to overcome, he knew he’d be able to build a Mormon City. Young decided that there would be no private ownership of land or water, and land would be assigned to people according to their needs by the church. Everything was going well, but in 1848 the US defeated Mexico in war and gained territories including part of the Great Salt Lake.
Young decided to form a Mormon state called Deseret, but the US government refused and a compromise was made and the territory of Utah was created, and Young was governor. Young organized and developed Utah very well, building new towns and making farming and wheat production a success. He was sure that the Mormons would be self-sufficient. Young also sent out missionaries to convert people, and got an amazing result. There was an immigration fund set up to help converts pay for their passage to Salt Lake and organize it. However the Mormons weren’t very self-sufficient and still didn’t have enough workers or money for industrial development.
Education wasn’t much of an achievement either. Tension also grew between the Mormons and the outsiders when converts began to move to Utah. Many bad rumours spread about the Mormons. It was suspicious to the outsiders that the Mormons had converted some of the Indians, and so rumours spread that they were planning to kill all gentiles together. The US government decided to emphasize their authority, and in 1857 an army of 2500 men was sent out to march against the Mormons, who fled to Salt Lake City. This worked very well and the army ended up not reaching Salt Lake City.
Then the Mountain Meadow Massacre took place. As 140 emigrants were heading for California, they passed Utah. They abused Indian converts and insulted the Mormons. This provoked the Indians to attack them. The Indians and the Mormons killed all the emigrants to stop the news from spreading out. The Mormons then blamed everything on the Indians. But soon newspapers spread the story, begging for the Mormons to be punished. The US government sent troops out again, causing the Mormon families to flee. But when the news reached the East, the Mormons were suddenly turned into victims.
In 1858 the US government offered them a full forgiveness if they accepted the US authority. They agreed, a governor was appointed, and they were allowed to develop in peace. Their true leader was still Brigham Young. However polygamy was still a disagreement. When Utah applied to become a state, the US offered to let them become a state if they accepted the ban of polygamy. They agreed, and Utah was made a state in 1896. Both of the men faced challenges, found solutions, and left a positive impact on the Mormon movement. Joseph Smith was very driven and determined and wouldn’t accept defeat.
He was a great public speaker with a lot of charisma, and thereby converted many people into Mormonism. He was a business man and established banks. Smith was very intelligent because he created a thriving business and a new religion. He was also a great leader before he was jailed. He was also clever to establish colonies in Missouri, to which the Mormons fled out of Kirtland. Brigham Young managed to leave a very positive impact on the Mormon movement as well. He was a great leader, and his people believed in him and trusted him. He was very organized and more down to earth than Smith.
He managed to organize the long and difficult journey to the Great Salt Lake. When they faced cold weather in the winter, he arranged the winter quarters where they stayed. He also had total control over his community and established a thriving city in the Great Salt Lake. He developed a great law of land being given to people according to their needs. He also negotiated well with the US government, eventually receiving the land of Utah. His missionaries to convert people were a big success, and he built new towns in Utah, as well as making faming and wheat-production a success.
He also established a great immigration fund for immigrant converts. He made a right and down-to earth decision when he accepted anti-polygamy, finally making Utah a State. He was also very considerate; he had the answers to the Mormons’ problems, carried them through after the death of smith, and married all of Smith’s wives. He left a long-time impact, and after his death Salt Lake City was prosperous, the power of the Church was finally established through his system of government, and many of his foundations still remain today. Both of the Mormon leaders also had failures. Joseph Smith’s strong temper got him into jail twice.
He was also too ambitious, and his ideas of polygamy ruined the Mormons’ peace in the land they were finally free in. When his banks collapsed, this added tension to the Mormons’ relationship with the outside world even more, and made them seem unreliable and too ambitious. By the time he presented his ideas about polygamy, his people didn’t believe in him anymore because he had gotten them into jail, and so his leadership image was ruined. Brigham Young had failures as well. Although his planning for the Great Salt Lake journey was good, they still faced challenges and people died on the way.
He also didn’t manage to establish a law to allow polygamy. They also weren’t as self-sufficient as he planned, and they lost money when their iron, pottery and textile attempts didn’t succeed. They also didn’t achieve much in the education area. The emigrants also complained of overcharging, and relations between Mormons and the outsiders remained difficult. Overall, Brigham Young definitely left a bigger positive impact on the Mormon movement. He was much more down-to-earth than Smith, and his people remained believing in him until his death.
Even when Utah was appointed a new governor, he still remained their spiritual leader. Young managed to make Utah a state where Mormons continued to live after his death. Many of his foundations still remain today. The power of the Church was firmly established through his system of government, and Salt Lake City was prosperous after his death. Many Mormons remain in the world today. Young didn’t get the Mormons into jail or disappoint them like Smith did, and carried them through his death. Smith had minimal achievements compared to Young, and died in shame and disapproval unlike Young, who left a great impact after his death.