There has been much press about volumes 1 and 2 of The Joseph Smith Papers Project. My wife even spoiled me with a copy of volume 2 this past Christmas. It contains the actual hand-written revelations of Joseph, along with a typed copy to help the reader understand some of the hard to read handwriting.
Well, Signature Books has just released something similar for Brigham Young. This article from the Salt Lake Tribune talks about the release of The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young , a five-volume work. For a mere $500, you can own every version of every speech known to exist. Richard Van Wagoner, author of Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait in Religious Excess (I did a 6 part review starting here) has compiled these speeches over the last 15 years. The Tribune article has some interesting quotes from Van Wagoner.
“Brigham’s facility with language and ability to address complex issues on the fly rank him among the most able preachers,” Van Wagoner says, “and, as Utah’s governor, most talented politicians of the day — just as capable, I think, as any U.S. president of his time.”
Ronald Walker, who is toiling away on a biography of Young, applauds Van Wagoner and Signature for the massive undertaking — although the retired Brigham Young University historian cannot afford his own copy of the set.
“Reading the discourses is one of the starting places one must make to capture the real Brigham,” Walker says. “But they must be read side by side with his letters that no one has really looked at. A softer, more pastoral, sweet man appears in the letters than in the pulpit.”
Any search for the hidden mystery of Young has to be multifaceted, Walker says. “To really do the job right, you have to look also at how people interacted with him. Then you begin to get a picture of the complex, contradictory guy Brigham was.”
There are only 325 copies for this printing run. While I’d love to get a copy, the price tag is too steep for my budget. There are 3200 pages in the 5-volume set. So, does anyone have any copies of Brigham’s letters to see “A softer, more pastoral, sweet man appears in the letters than in the pulpit”? Does anyone want to chip in and share a copy?
I am sure you have read this, but just in case, and because it served as a reminder to me. This is one example of that pastoral side from Ardis.
This biography of BY by Ronald Walker sounds especially interesting, MH. When you think about it, wouldn’t it be good to have a Rough Stone Rolling -type bio of BY? Whereas RSR may have done some damage to our image of JS, I wonder if such a bio on BY may actually help his image. 🙂 I’m not sure that it would help me like him better, but I think it could help us have a greater respect for some of the things that he accomplished in his amazing lifetime.
There are a few biographies of BY in the process of being written. In addition to Walker, historian John Turner (a non-LDS) is working on a biography that aims to specifically explore Young’s religiosity, and Tom Alexander is working on a short biographical treatment as well. I’ve also heard (but not confirmed) that Will Bagley is writing a biography as well.
Rico, thanks for the link! I’m just too busy to catch up on all the good blogs, and that definitely slipped by me.
FD, good to see you again! I’d love to see some better biographies of Brigham. From what I’ve heard, there isn’t anything as good as RSR for Brigham yet.
Christopher, thanks for the update on the Brigham Bios. I have a contact at Signature, and I’ll have to ask him about Will Bagley. (I actually went to lunch with my friend, and Will showed up late. I wasn’t able to talk to Will, and was quite surprised to see him.