For a young religion, Mormonism seems to have more history than it knows what to do with. The church’s founding fathers were outsize, operatic characters: the prophet Joseph Smith, who believers claim received and translated “The Book of Mormon,” and his successor, Brigham Young, who “preserved a church and created a people,” according to this new biography by John G. Turner, an assistant professor of religious studies at George Mason University. But until he met Joseph Smith, Brigham — the Mormons, or Latter-day Saints, call both Smith and Young by their first names — was a 29-year-old transient nobody in upstate New York who “lived on the economic margins of his society,” and wasn’t particularly religious. He relished the sense of community he found among the Mormons and was much moved by his early encounters with Smith (“He took heaven . . . and brought it down to earth,” Young recalled).
more from Alex Beam at the NY Times here.