Working on the autobiography of John Young often led to interesting story-telling that left my friends constantly asking what other insane things John did in his life. He was Brigham Young’ s nephew and knew Joseph and Hyrum Smith personally as a child. In fact, it was Joseph who told John’s worried father:
“Brother Lorenzo, this boy will live to aid in carrying the Gospel to the nations of the earth.”
John’s memoirs detail many missions he completed in his life, all for the sake of the Prophet and the Kingdom of God that he loved so much. He rubbed shoulders with some of the most prominent figures in church history; serving under Parley P. Pratt in the Sandwich Islands, collaborating with Joseph F. Smith in the same mission, and constantly exchanging letters and visits with President Brigham Young, among others.
John was born in Kirtland, Ohio in 1837. He lived in Nauvoo and left with the saints when the persecution grew too great to remain there. He moved west, narrowly escaping being murdered by Native Americans and ruffians, and made it to the Salt Lake Valley with his family. He watched the people’s scanty wheat crop being eaten by crickets, and accounts his first-hand witness of the miracle of the seagulls. He served a four-year mission to the Sandwich Islands and encountered many miracles and many wild stories there. He served two missions to the Sandwich Islands, and one to Great Britain, as well as several settlement missions for the church.
John Young’s story is compelling, interesting, terrifying, heartening and enlightening. Much of his original poetry appears throughout the memoirs, as well as letters to and from his family and friends and various church leaders. His accounts of the Saints’ early struggles and the eulogies written for Brigham Young and Joseph F. Smith are compelling and personal. His memoirs detail his faithfulness to the Gospel and to his family, of heeding the Prophets’ words and following the promptings of the Spirit.
“These are the scenes that many years have brought into my view,
And I testify, with soberness, the words I speak are true;
And to my wives and children dear, who cluster round my hearth,
I say, with tears of happiness, I’m glad I had a birth.”
Heidi Billy, one of our summer interns, produced both this book and this blog post. Thanks!