"Worlds Without End" : The Cosmological Theodicy of Brigham Young
Utah State University
A striking characteristic of Brigham Young's theology was his inclusion of a cosmology in his teachings. In his speeches as President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Young juxtaposed cosmological pronouncements with practical advice. Young regularly opined on such topics as the eternal nature of matter and light and the interaction of gods and humans with these substances. Dovetailed to his cosmic musings was down-to-earth advice on raising children, avoiding the evils of the gold rush, and controlling one's temper. This paper argues that Young's mingling of the abstruse with the mundane functioned as a theodicy for the nineteenth-century Mormons. In order to justify an omnipotent God's allowance of Mormon suffering and persecution, Young framed God and the human experience within a cosmology. He taught that humans exist with the express purpose of accumulating light and truth. This accumulation would continue after death throughout eternity. Young taught that an ineluctable factor in this progression was suffering and for this reason, Young condoned God's allowance of Mormon hardship. By weaving these cosmological teachings with his pragmatic counsel, Young taught the Latter-day Saints to view their daily lives--full of struggles, pain, and fear--within a cosmological framework. Young believed that such a mindset would bolster the faith of the benighted Mormons.