Brigham Young at age forty lived in western Illinois, was a faithful disciple of the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith, and had but one wife. He was known for his spiritual fire, collegial leadership, and tireless missionary service. Within ten years, much had changed. By then, Young had led thousands of religious refugees to the Salt Lake Valley, stood at the head of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was the governor of the newly created Utah Territory, and had been sealed in marriage to fifty-five wives. Young, moreover, had become a very different sort of leader: hyper-sensitive to criticism, vigilant against potential rivals within the church, and violent in his rhetorical responses to everything from criminality to U.S. interference in Utah affairs. In his talk, John Turner will follow Brigham Young from Illinois to Utah, explaining how that transition affected both Young’s personality and the place of his church within American society.
John G. Turner received his BA degree from Middlebury College and PhD from Notre Dame. In addition, he earned a Master of Divinity degree from Louisville Presbyterian Seminary. He is currently Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at George Mason University, having previously taught at the University of South Alabama for six years. His primary teaching and research interests are 19th and 20th century culture and politics. In addition to Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet, published in September 2012 by Harvard University Press, he is the author of Bill Bright and Campus Crusade for Christ: The Renewal of Evangelicalism in Postwar America,winner of Christianity Today’s 2009 award for best book in History / Biography. His essays and reviews about religion in America have appeared in such outlets as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.