Brigham Young was born on June 1, 1801 in Vermont. He worked a variety of different jobs in his early life, including blacksmith and carpenter. He joined the Methodist Church in 1823 and married his first wife, Miriam Work, in 1824.
In 1830, the Book of Mormon was published as an addition to the Christian Bible. Brigham read the book and became fascinated with the new sect. He decided to join the Mormon Church in 1832, then traveled to Canada as a missionary. In 1833, he joined a Mormon town in Kirtland, Ohio.
On February 14, 1835, Brigham was ordained as an apostle in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. In 1840 and 1841, he took missionary trips to England and successfully converted a large number of people to the Mormon Church. In 1840, he started the city of Nauvoo, Illinois to become the headquarters of the Mormons.
In 1844, the president of the Mormon Church, Joseph Smith, was killed by a mob of vigilantes. Several leaders in the church moved to take his position and Young managed to get command of the church stationed in Nauvoo. He was not officially declared president until 1837 and it was then that he led his followers west.
In 1846, Young led his army of Mormons to Nebraska, then to the Salt Lake Valley of Utah on July 24, 1847. That day became known as Pioneer Day and was established as a state holiday in Utah. At that point Utah was unclaimed territory and Young began petitioning the United States Congress to declare it as the State of Deseret. In the Compromise of 1850, the territory of Utah was officially established with Young as the governor.
After the federal government received word that Young was electing only Mormons to become government officials in the area, President Buchanan declared the territory of Utah in rebellion with the United States government and sent a military force to Utah along with a new governor, Alfred Cumming. Young retaliated by directing the Mormons to resist without bloodshed. A Utah militia known as the Nauvoo Legion delayed the federal troops and kept them out for the winter, but in the end Brigham Young stepped down from his position as governor on April 12, 1858.
Young continued to lead the Mormon Church in Salt Lake City and established the Brigham Young University. He continued to live his lavish polygamist lifestyle, tallying up over 50 marriages and 57 children. Since polygamy was illegal, none of the marriages were official and only had religious significance.
In 1872, he was indicted for murder charges, but acquitted when the United States Supreme Court declared that the process used to select juries in Utah was unconstitutional since it did not allow Mormons. He died on August 29, 1877, leaving behind a long legacy.