December, 1, 2013

Brigham Young’s Foresight

Melinda Blog Image Brigham Young

Church President Brigham Young saw the growth of secularism in public education during the 1860s and 1870s as a threat to the youth of the Church and the future of Zion. Early in that period, he began mentoring individuals and setting aside resources that the Church would need, including property for schools. Early during this period, President Young quietly and providentially began transferring Church property to family members and trusted Church leaders, including Provo Stake President Abraham O. Smoot.

Later, the federal government passed the Morrill Act of 1862, which called for the confiscation of property owned by churches that practiced polygamy. Fortunately, President Young’s transferal of property to individuals preserved resources that those members were able to return to Church education, including Brigham Young Academy.

In order to continue teaching their religion, the Church and other religious groups were forced to consider founding schools of their own, so as state legislatures nationwide were bringing community schools under public control, President Young was putting Church schools in place. In 1888, Wilford Woodruff launched a system of stake academies patterned after Brigham Young Academy. The educational program needed for a Church wide school system had been developed and tested by the time the Church needed it.


Leonard J. Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830-1900 (Chicago; University of Illinois Press, 2005), 257-58.

Joseph J. Cannon, “George Q. Cannon: Relations with Brigham Young,” Juvenile Instructor 80, no. 6 (June 1945); 259-260.