“Until the Coming of the Son of Man,” chapter 28 of Saints: The Story of the Church of Jesus Christ in the Latter Days, Volume 2, No Unhallowed Hand, 1846–1893 (2020)
Chapter 28: “Until the Coming of the Son of Man”
On June 19, 1875, Brigham Young left Salt Lake City to visit settlements in central Utah.1 He had just turned seventy-four years old, and travel was becoming more difficult. Every time he moved, his joints ached with arthritis. Yet visiting the settlements brought him closer to the Saints—and put welcome distance between him and the Church’s recent legal difficulties.
After George Reynolds was indicted for bigamy, United States attorney William Carey had broken his promise with Church leaders and charged George Q. Cannon with bigamy as well. George Cannon’s case was later dismissed, but Reynolds was tried, convicted, fined $300, and sentenced to a year in prison. The territorial supreme court overturned Reynolds’s conviction, however, after his lawyers successfully argued that he had been charged by an illegally formed grand jury. Now that Reynolds was free, prosecutors vowed to bring him to trial again.2
Brigham’s estranged plural wife Ann Eliza Young, moreover, had lately joined forces with critics of the Church to sue the prophet for divorce. When she demanded more than $200,000 in alimony and other claims, Brigham’s lawyers rejected her suit, believing it extravagant. They also argued that Ann Eliza could not divorce Brigham in court because the United States did not recognize plural marriage as legal. Judge James McKean ruled in Ann Eliza’s favor, however, and sent Brigham to jail for one night when he, on the advice of his lawyers, refused to pay until after they had appealed the ruling in a higher court.
Newspapers throughout the country recognized the judge’s actions as a stunt to embarrass Brigham, and they condemned and ridiculed McKean for it. A few days later, the president of the United States replaced him with another judge, and Brigham went on to pay Ann Eliza’s $3,000 legal fees.3
Two days after leaving Salt Lake City, Brigham and his company met with the Relief Society in Moroni, a small town in Sanpete Valley. Eliza Snow and Mary Isabella Horne, who were traveling in the company, encouraged the women to continue to cooperate and to be self-sustaining in economic matters. Mary Isabella urged them to put the kingdom of God first in their lives. “What we expect to receive,” she said, “we must work for.”
Eliza then spoke about religious education. Some families in Sanpete Valley were sending their children to a newly opened school run by a missionary of another faith, and Church leaders worried that his lessons would contradict what the children were learning from their parents and the Church.
“Zion should be the place to educate the children of Zion,” Eliza told the women. “Let the children understand that your religion is uppermost in your mind.”4
In other Sanpete settlements, Brigham encouraged the Saints to embrace a more cooperative economic system. Two years earlier, a nationwide depression had hurt Utah’s economy. Several cooperative stores and industries in the territory had weathered the financial crisis, however, strengthening Brigham’s belief in cooperation.
Since then, he had called on Saints to live like the ancient people of Enoch, who were united in heart and mind and had no poor among them.5 The system, known as the United Order of Enoch, called to mind the Lord’s revelation on the law of consecration. Members of the order were to provide for one another like a family, freely contributing labor and personal property to promote home-grown industries and improve the local economy.
Many Saints had already organized united orders in their communities. Though the orders differed from one another in structure, they shared the values of economic cooperation, self-sufficiency, and simplicity.6
While meeting with the Sanpete Saints, apostle Erastus Snow spoke of how the United Order had blessed Saints in southern Utah. “There is a tendency with us to labor in that selfish way that tends to exalt the few at the expense of the many poor,” he noted. “This is in itself an evil.”
“The United Order is to learn what to do with the property we have,” Brigham added later that day, “and to use ourselves to the accomplishment of God’s designs.”7
Before finishing his Sanpete tour, Brigham spoke with local Church leaders. “We can build temples here cheaper than the one at Salt Lake,” he told them. “Do you feel like taking hold and building a temple here yourselves?”
Each man in the room raised his hand to show his support, and they agreed that the prophet should select the site. Brigham had visited several possible locations, and he announced his decision the next day.
“I would say my spirit rests entirely upon the spur of the mountain pointing into Manti,” he said.8
When Brigham returned from central Utah, a man named Meliton Trejo was in Salt Lake City translating the Book of Mormon into Spanish. A veteran soldier from Spain, Meliton had come to the city from the Philippines in the late summer of 1874. He arrived in Utah dressed in a military uniform, and his appearance had quickly attracted the gaze of passersby.
Meliton had come to the territory knowing little about the Church. He had heard of the Saints in the Rocky Mountains and wanted to visit them someday. One night in the Philippines, after praying for direction, he had been prompted in a dream to make the journey. He resigned from the army, sewed all the money he had inside his vest, and sailed for San Francisco.
Once in Salt Lake City, Meliton met a Spanish-speaking man who introduced him to Brigham Young and other Church leaders.9 Brigham had recently asked two men, Daniel Jones and Henry Brizzee, to prepare for a mission to Mexico. Brigham believed that some of the descendants of Book of Mormon peoples lived there, and he longed to send the gospel to them. But he also knew that Parley Pratt had tried to take the gospel to Latin America in 1851 and that the effort had been unsuccessful partly because the Book of Mormon was not available in Spanish.10
As part of Daniel and Henry’s preparation, Brigham had asked them to study the language and eventually translate the Book of Mormon. Both men knew some Spanish, but the thought of translating a book of scripture was daunting. Neither felt he had enough experience with the language. They needed a native speaker who could assist them.
Daniel and Henry considered Meliton’s arrival a godsend. They taught him the gospel, and Meliton wholeheartedly accepted baptism.11 Daniel then invited Meliton to stay with him for the winter to work on the translation.
Meliton spent several months translating the sacred text. When money ran out, Daniel received permission from Brigham Young to ask the Saints for donations. More than four hundred donors gave money to support Meliton and to pay for the printing.
After revising the translation, Daniel arranged for one hundred pages of excerpts from the translation to be printed as Trozos selectos del Libro de Mormon.12 Brigham wanted Daniel to make sure the translation was accurate, however, so Daniel arranged to reread the translation with Meliton. As they read, Daniel asked God to help him find any errors in their work. Whenever he sensed a rough spot in the text, he would ask Meliton for help. Meliton would then study the translation closely and find the needed correction. Daniel felt the Lord was guiding their work.
Shortly after Trozos selectos was printed, Daniel and other missionaries were called to Mexico. Meliton was not assigned to go with them, but he hoped the missionaries’ efforts would bear fruit.13
The missionaries departed in the fall of 1875. Before leaving, Daniel and the others carefully loaded fifteen hundred copies of Trozos selectos on the backs of pack mules. Then they started down the dirt road, eager to introduce the Book of Mormon to the people of Mexico.14
Around this time, Salt Lake City buzzed with news of an upcoming visit from President Ulysses Grant. No United States president had ever visited the territory, and a delegation of territorial officials, city dignitaries, and private citizens quickly formed to welcome him. Brigham Young was invited to join the delegation, as were John Taylor and Joseph F. Smith.15
Grant arrived in the territory in October, and Brigham met him and his wife, Julia, on a train in Ogden. Brigham was able to greet the party briefly before the president excused himself to visit the train’s observation car.
“I am anxious to see the country,” Grant explained.
After the president left, Julia said, “I am at a loss to know how to address you, Mr. Young.”
“I am sometimes called governor,” Brigham replied, “sometimes president, and, again, General Young.” He had received the last title years earlier as an officer in the Nauvoo Legion.
“As I am accustomed to the military title, I will call you the last,” Julia said. Her husband, a hero of the American Civil War, had been an army officer for much of his life.
“Well, madam,” said Brigham, “you will now have the opportunity of seeing this poor, despised, and hated people.”
“Oh, no, General Young,” Julia responded. “To the contrary, your people can only be respected and admired for their endurance, perseverance, and faith.” She then added, “There is but one objection to your people—to you, General.”
Julia did not need to state her objection; her husband was a staunch opponent of plural marriage. “Well,” Brigham said, “without that we would not have the population we have.”
“That is prohibited by the laws of the country,” Julia said, “and would have been wiped out long ago by the strong arm of the government except through charity for the young and innocent that would necessarily suffer.”
Before Brigham could reply, a staff officer invited him to join the president in the observation car, and Brigham took leave of the First Lady.
Later, after arriving in Salt Lake City, Brigham parted with the Grants, expressing hope that they would enjoy their visit. From the train depot, the Grants then left for a tour of the city with George Emery, the territorial governor. As they drove near the temple block, they saw rows of children, dressed in white, lining the streets with their Sunday School teachers. As the Grants’ carriage passed, the children strewed flowers in the street and sang to the visitors.
Impressed, President Grant asked, “Whose children are these?”
“Mormon children,” said the governor.
The president was silent for several seconds. Everything he had heard about the Saints had led him to believe they were a degenerate people. But the appearance and behavior of these children suggested otherwise.
“I have been deceived,” he murmured.16
That winter, Samuel Chambers stood up to testify in a meeting of the Salt Lake Stake deacons quorum. Like the men seated around him, he was middle-aged. “I came here for my religion,” Samuel told the men. “I disposed of all I had and have come here to help to build up the kingdom of God.”
Samuel had been a member of the Church for over thirty years. Born into slavery in the southern United States, he had been baptized at age thirteen after a missionary taught him the gospel. Because he was enslaved, Samuel could not join the rest of the Saints in Nauvoo. He had little contact with the Church in the years that followed, but he kept his faith through the influence of the Holy Spirit.
When the Civil War ended and enslaved people in the United States were freed, he and his wife, Amanda, had no money to move to Utah. They worked for five years, saving every penny they could, before they could make the trip. They came to Utah in April 1870 with Samuel’s son, Peter. Amanda’s brother and sister-in-law, Edward and Susan Leggroan, moved with their three children to Utah as well.17
The Chambers and Leggroan families settled next door to one another in the Salt Lake City First Ward. Richard and Johanna Provis, a mixed-race couple from South Africa, also lived in the ward. The Leggroans joined the Church in 1873 and soon thereafter moved with the Chamberses to the Eighth Ward, where Jane Manning James, her husband, Frank Perkins, and a few other black Saints also lived.18
In these wards, black Saints and white Saints worshipped side by side. Although the Church did not extend priesthood ordination to black Saints at this time, Samuel served as an unordained assistant to the deacons quorum and bore his testimony each month at quorum meetings. Amanda participated with Jane in the Relief Society. They paid their tithes and offerings and attended their Church meetings regularly. When calls came to donate to the St. George temple, Samuel donated five dollars and Jane and Frank donated fifty cents each.
Samuel and Amanda, along with several other black Saints, had also recently participated in baptisms for the dead in the Endowment House. Samuel and Amanda were baptized for more than two dozen friends and relatives. Edward Leggroan was baptized for his wife’s first husband. Jane Manning James was baptized for a childhood friend.19
Samuel cherished his membership in the Church and the opportunity to bear testimony to the deacons quorum. “If I don’t bear my testimony,” he said, “how do you know how I feel, or how you feel? But if I rise and speak, I know I have a friend, and if I hear you speak as I speak, I know we are one.”20
Late in the afternoon on April 5, 1876, a thundering blast shattered the spring air over Salt Lake City. A giant fireball rose up from the hill to the north where stone bunkers housed black powder. Something had ignited the explosives, destroying the arsenal.
In the Twentieth Ward’s schoolhouse, where Karl Maeser taught classes, the blast sent part of the plaster ceiling crashing to the floor. Since he was scheduled to give a lecture in the schoolhouse that night, Karl knew at once that he had to speak to his bishop about the damage.21
Karl found his bishop meeting with Brigham Young at the prophet’s office. Karl reported the extensive damage to the schoolhouse and told them that classes could not continue until it was repaired.
“That is exactly right, Brother Maeser,” Brigham said. “I have another mission for you.”22
Karl’s heart sank. Only a few years had passed since he had returned from a mission to Germany and Switzerland. His steady employment in the Twentieth Ward school had been a blessing for his family. They were comfortably settled in Salt Lake City and felt at home.23
But Brigham did not want him to go far. Like Eliza Snow, Brigham and other Church leaders were worried about educating the rising generation of young people, whose faith had not been tried by the early persecution of the Church or solidified through experiences of conversion and immigration.24
Brigham was not opposed to secular knowledge or universities; some of his sons had even attended colleges in the eastern United States. Yet he worried that young Saints in Utah were being taught by people who were deeply critical of the restored gospel. The University of Deseret, first established in 1850, enrolled students from other churches and did not teach Latter-day Saint beliefs as part of the curriculum. Brigham wanted the youth of the Church to have educational opportunities that strengthened their faith and helped create a Zion society.25
To achieve these ends, in fact, he had recently founded a school in Provo called Brigham Young Academy. Its first term had just ended, and now he invited Karl to take charge of it.
Karl did not respond to Brigham’s invitation right away. But two weeks later, after he had accepted the appointment, Karl visited the prophet. “I am about to leave for Provo, Brother Young, to start my work in the academy,” he said. “Have you any instructions?”
“Brother Maeser,” said Brigham, “I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication table without the Spirit of God.”26
Later that year, every ward in Salt Lake City held a party to raise money to finish the St. George temple. Knowing twenty-year-old Heber Grant was a reliable young man with many friends, Bishop Edwin Woolley of the Thirteenth Ward asked him to organize his ward’s party. “I want you to make a success of it,” he told Heber.
The previous year, Heber had been called as a counselor in the presidency of his ward’s Young Men’s Mutual Improvement Association (Y.M.M.I.A.), a new organization formed in 1875 after Brigham Young asked wards to organize their young men just as they had organized their young women. As a leader in the Y.M.M.I.A., Heber was responsible for helping young men develop their talents and strengthen their testimonies of the gospel.27
Heber had misgivings about Bishop Woolley’s request. “I will do my level best,” he said, “but you must guarantee, if it doesn’t pay, to put up the difference.”
He explained that young people wanted to attend dances where they could waltz. The popular dance involved partners holding each other close while spinning around the dance floor in a large circle. Although some people considered the waltz to be less proper than more traditional quadrille dances, Brigham Young was known to allow three waltzes per party. Bishop Woolley disapproved of the dance, however, and had prohibited it at Thirteenth Ward parties.28
“Well,” Bishop Woolley said, “you can have your three waltzes.”
“There’s another thing,” Heber continued. Without a good band for the dance, he would have a hard time selling tickets. “You won’t allow Olsen’s Quadrille Band to play in your ward because the flute player once got drunk,” he told the bishop. “There is only one first-class string band, and that is Olsen’s.”
Reluctantly, the bishop agreed to let Heber hire the band as well. “I have let that young man have everything he wanted,” he said as he walked away. “I’ll roast him in public if he doesn’t make a success of it.”
Heber recruited the bishop’s son Eddie to help sell tickets and prepare the ward building for the party. They cleared away desks from a large room, placed borrowed rugs on the floor, and hung pictures of Brigham Young and other Church leaders on the walls. They then recruited several young men to promote the dance at their workplaces.
On the day of the dance, Heber sat at the door with an alphabetical list of everyone who had purchased tickets. No one was allowed inside who had not paid a dollar and a half for a ticket. Then Brigham Young showed up—without a ticket.
“I understand this is for the benefit of the St. George temple,” Brigham said. He threw down ten dollars. “Is that enough for my ticket?”
“Plenty,” Heber said, unsure if he should give the prophet change.
That evening, Heber counted the money while Brigham counted the waltzes. The ward brought in more than eighty dollars, which was more than any other ward had collected for the temple. And the young people danced their three waltzes.
Before the party ended, however, Heber whispered to the band leader to play a waltz quadrille, a waltz that contained elements of the classic square dance.
As the band began playing, Heber took a seat beside Brigham to hear what he would say when he saw the fourth waltz. Sure enough, as soon as the young people began the dance, Brigham said, “They are waltzing.”
“No,” Heber explained, “when they waltz, they waltz all around the room. This is a quadrille.”
Brigham looked at Heber and laughed. “Oh, you boys, you boys,” he said.29
Soon after the Thirteenth Ward dance, Brigham headed south with Wilford Woodruff to dedicate portions of the St. George temple. Although the temple would not be finished until spring, some ordinance rooms were ready for use.30 In the Nauvoo temple and the Endowment House, the Saints had performed endowments only for the living. Once the St. George temple was dedicated, they would perform endowments for the dead for the first time.31
As Brigham neared the settlement, he could easily spot the temple. From a distance, it looked like the Nauvoo temple, but up close its exterior was simpler. It had rows of tall windows and unadorned buttresses to support its high white walls. A domed tower rose above fortresslike battlements that lined the roof.32
On New Year’s Day 1877, over twelve hundred people squeezed inside the temple basement for the dedication of the baptistry.33 After climbing to the top step of the baptismal font, Wilford Woodruff called the Saints to attention. “I realize that this assembly cannot bow the knee in their crowded condition,” he said, “but you can bow your heads and your hearts unto God.”
After Wilford offered the dedicatory prayer, the congregation moved upstairs to an assembly hall. Brigham’s arthritis had lately made walking nearly impossible, so three men carried him into the room. Erastus Snow then dedicated the hall, and the three men carried Brigham up more stairs to dedicate a sealing room.
When Brigham returned to the assembly hall, he struggled to stand at the pulpit. Steadying himself with a hickory cane, he said, “I cannot consent in my feelings to retire from this house without exercising my strength—the strength of my lungs, stomach, and speaking organs.”
Brigham wanted the Saints to dedicate themselves to redeeming the dead. “When I think upon this subject, I want the tongues of seven thunders to wake up the people,” he declared. “Can the fathers be saved without us? No. Can we be saved without them? No. And if we do not wake up and cease to long after the things of this earth, we will find that we as individuals will go down to hell.”
Brigham lamented that many Saints were pursuing worldly things. “Supposing we were awake to this thing, namely the salvation of the human family,” he said, “this house would be crowded, as we hope it will be, from Monday morning until Saturday night.”
At the close of his sermon, Brigham raised his cane in the air. “I do not know whether the people are satisfied with the services of the dedication of the temple or not,” he stated. “I am not half-satisfied, and I never expect to be satisfied until the devil is whipped and driven from off the face of the earth.”
As he spoke, Brigham struck the pulpit forcefully with his cane, leaving dents in the wood.
“If I mar the pulpit,” he said, “some of these good workmen can fix it up again.”34
On January 9, Wilford Woodruff waded into the temple’s baptismal font with Brigham’s daughter Susie, now eighteen years old and married to a young man named Alma Dunford. Using a crutch and walking stick, Brigham stood as witness as Wilford baptized Susie for one of her deceased friends, the first baptism for the dead in the St. George temple. Afterward, Wilford and Brigham laid their hands on Susie’s head and confirmed her on the deceased’s behalf.
Two days later, Wilford and Brigham supervised the first endowments for the dead performed in any temple. Wilford then spent nearly every day afterward doing temple work. He began wearing a white suit, the first time someone had worn white clothes rather than normal dress clothes as part of the temple ceremonies. Susie’s mother, Lucy, who likewise dedicated herself to temple work, wore a white dress as an example for women.35
As Wilford worked in the temple, Brigham asked him and other Church leaders to write out the endowment ceremony and the other temple ordinances. Since the time of Joseph Smith, the words of the ordinances had been preserved only through word of mouth. Now that the ordinances would be performed at a distance from Church headquarters, Brigham wanted the ceremonies written down to ensure that they would occur the same way in each temple.36
In standardizing the ordinances, Brigham was fulfilling a charge Joseph Smith had given him after the first endowments in Nauvoo. “This is not arranged right, but we have done the best we could under the circumstances,” Joseph had told him then. “I wish you to take this matter in hand and organize and systematize all these ceremonies.”37
Wilford and others worked for weeks on the assignment. After writing down the ceremonies, they read them to Brigham, who accepted or revised them as the Spirit directed. When they finished, Brigham said to Wilford, “Now you have before you an example to carry on the endowments in all the temples until the coming of the Son of Man.”38