Brigham Young Meet Sigmund Freud

I promise this post has nothing to do with anybody’s mother.

I’ve heard that Sigmund Freud is generally respected in the field of Psychology for getting everyone started on the right path. But when it comes to his actual theories, no one is lining up to defend his thoughts. In fact they been largely abandoned. For the sake of argument grant me the argument. I fully acknowledge I know little about Psychology.

I wonder if this comparison holds up for Brigham Young in Mormonism? If anyone is ever quoting Brigham Young on the internet, you can be quite confident that they aren’t a true-believing-Mormon. I’d venture to guess that Mormons grow up hearing many stories of Brigham Young but very few of his teachings. All of his contributions to Mormon doctrine have been dropped and disowned but the journey he took Mormons on is respected and revered.

Am I right about this? Or am I about to get schooled in Psychology and Mormonism?

8 thoughts on “Brigham Young Meet Sigmund Freud

  1. I remember in 1997-1998 the curriculum for Priesthood and Relief Society was Teachings of the Prophet Brigham Young, which was a book full of quotes from him, and they were read and discussed in meetings. Now, granted, this was a carefully selected sample of teachings that would still be considered appropriate, but I think a lot of Latter-Day Saints have a sanitized image of Young, and thus are taken aback when another portrayal is shown to them. The contrast winds up being so sharp that I think a lot of Mormons simply disbelieve what they read, see, or are told, because it is so completely incongruous with the correlated story and teachings they get.

  2. I would agree with Kullervo. In addition, Brigham Young is quoted extensively in many other Church manuals. He had plenty of other things (good things) to say. The Church just doesn’t talk about the bad things he said. If the truth be told he probably said more good than bad, but the bad things he did say are so troubling that the Church tends to avoid talking about them and in fact ignores them completely. So even if you grow up in the LDS Church you might not know that Brigham Young was racist and even if you did you certainly wouldn’t say he was racist because of the high esteem he is held in by most members. You also would not be aware of his other odd teachings (because they are ignored (i.e. not taught)) such as blood atonement, God/Mary intimate relationship/Adam-God theory and so on.

  3. I think labeling Young’s utterances “good” and “bad” is simplistic and obscures the issues. “Inconvenient to the modern Church” is probably more accurate.

  4. “The worst fear that I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and His people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty, and all manner of persecution, and be true. But my greatest fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches, for they will become the richest people on this earth” (Brigham Young, reported in James S. Brown, Life of a Pioneer [1900], 122-23).

    That one gets quoted pretty frequently.

    Brigham Young was little more than a historical figure to me. Then I read a good chunk of “Brother Brigham Challenges the Saints” (The Collected Works of Hugh Nibley, Vol 13) by Hugh Nibley. It really brought him alive to me and revealed a person with some remarkably foresighted and progressive ideas, as well as one of the most formidable leaders in American history.

    The problem with Brigham Young is that he is selectively quoted by both sides. He really doesn’t fit the mold of the gentler, more measured modern LDS Church – so his harsher statements get filtered out for Church manuals.

    But the opponents of Mormonism don’t do any better of a job. They selectively mine the man for the juiciest, most inflammatory quotes they can. If Abraham Lincoln were quote-mined the same way Brigham Young has been, modern Americans would think he was a monster. Both men lived in extreme times, when rhetoric was more raw, and P.R. hadn’t really been invented.

    I’ve always been a fan of Brigham Young though.

  5. Tim,

    I think part of the dilemma in dealing with teachings of any previous Prophet, Seer, and Revelator or President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is understanding that the teachings of the current Presiding High Priest are always given supremacy. (This can be understood by reading Brigham Young’s statement in the current Church manual – Teachings of Presidents of the Church – Joseph Smith; Brigham said, “when compared with the living oracles [today’s Presiding High Priest] those books [i.e. scriptures] are nothing to me; those books do not convey the words of God direct to us now, as do the words of a Prophet or a man bearing the Holy Priesthood in our day and generation”.)

    Having studied Brigham Young a little over the years, I have come to greatly respect him and the principles he taught.

    One thing that has helped me has been to study and to try to learn the circumstances which brought about the teachings of previous prophets which often acted as “catalysts” to their teachings and the revelations given to them. As a member of the Church, this has helped me immeasurably. I’ve almost always found answers to my questions. And for those questions that I haven’t found an answer to immediately, I file them away with faith that in the future I will likely come across an answer. I have found that when I do that, I usually receive an answer to those questions in often unexpected ways. I think this is what is called learning “line upon line, and precept upon precept (2 Nephi 28:30; compare Isaiah 28:10).

    Concerning the current Church manuals, etc. – I believe that any manual which contains the teachings of a previous Church leader is usually put into today’s circumstances and context. Yes they are edited, but the principles which have long-lasting effect are typically those that are published. But even then, when I’ve gone back to the “original sources” – when I can find them – I have gained so much more.

    I like to think that the Church manuals really serve the purpose of encouraging us to dig a little deeper and study the words of the prophets and apostles with more diligence. When I have done that – e.g. dug a little deeper, studied it out on my own – I have always come away edified and enlightened.

    Hope that gives you some perspective – or at least my perspective on Brigham Young and teachings of past Church leaders. Now that I’ve got my blog up and running, over time you’ll see many quotes by Brigham Young. He taught many truths that are just as applicable today as when he taught them within the confines of the semi-secluded Great Basin.

  6. Interesting to compare this to our discussion in the other thread: we definitely have a situation here, at least according to Greg, where fallible current leaders are given the ultimate authority, superceding basically everything.

  7. Well, let’s just see how he fares in another two thousand years, the same time the “Bible” had to be edited down and passed for “purity” by numerous conventions. Funny, nobody seems to teach from the Apochrypha any more either…

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