Lesson 11: Brigham Young: Building the Kingdom by Righteous Works

"Lesson 11: Brigham Young: Building the Kingdom by Righteous Works," The Presidents of the Church: Teacher’s Manual, (1996)


By studying Brigham Young’s life, each class member will desire to do works of righteousness equal to his own capabilities.


  1. 1.

    See that each class member has a copy of the Pearl of Great Price and the Book of Mormon.

  2. 2.

    Assign three to five class members to give the reports as indicated. (The reports are found in the lesson material and should be photocopied or hand copied and given to the assigned class members.)

  3. 3.

    Obtain permission from the bishop or branch president to ask a young man or young woman who is preparing for a mission to come and tell the class how the Lord is blessing him or her in getting ready. Ask him to tell specific incidents of help. (If such a person cannot be found, continue the lesson as directed.)

  4. 4.

    Prepare to show the picture of the beehive in the lesson.

Suggested Lesson Development


Picture discussion

Show the picture of the beehive found at the end of this lesson. Explain:

This was one of the symbols Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers used when they settled the territory of Utah. A beehive is on the beautiful home Brigham Young built and named the Beehive House. This symbol was also used in the Salt Lake Temple, where bees and beehives are depicted on the doorknobs. The beehive is also a symbol on the Utah State flag.


  • What did the beehive symbolize to Brigham Young and the Mormon pioneers? (The beehive and the bees were symbols of industry and work.)

  • Why do you suppose this symbol was so important to them? (The symbol of the bees reminded them that they had to work to be able to exist in the mountains and valleys of the West. It also reminded them that God had a work for them to do. They had first named their new area in the western United States the Territory of Deseret. Deseret was the Jaredite name for the honeybee [see Ether 2:3]. When the Jaredites came to the promised land, they carried with them swarms of bees.)

Scripture discussion

Point out that the work God had for Brigham Young to do is like the work God has for us to do today. Have the class turn to the Pearl of Great Price and read Moses 1:39.

  • What is God’s work as well as our own work in this life? (“To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”)


Each short report is designed to stimulate discussion and is followed by questions to help bridge the gap between Brigham Young and today’s class members.

Brigham Young’s example of work inspired and helped the Saints through some very difficult times as they tried to do the Lord’s work. As the assigned class members give the short reports, ask the others to listen carefully and see how these examples apply to their lives.

Making the Impractical Practical

Report 1

Brigham Young, like Joseph Smith, was both a practical and a visionary man. He was determined to do everything possible to bring to pass all that the Lord wanted done in the last days. Joseph had laid the foundation of the kingdom of God, but others were needed to rear the superstructure. Knowing this helps us understand why Brigham Young did some of the things he did. Unless we understand his role as prophet and seer, some of his actions might seem very impractical.

For instance, just before the Saints were forced to leave Nauvoo, Illinois, President Young insisted that the Saints finish the Nauvoo Temple. This required an immense amount of time, money, and talent when it was apparent that the Saints would not be able to enjoy the temple very long.


  • Why do you think Brigham Young insisted that the Saints finish the Nauvoo Temple, even though they would probably not get to use it long? (He knew that the Lord had commanded them to build the temple [see D&C 124:27], and even if it were used only briefly, the Saints could gain the ordinances that would help them endure the hardships they would face during the coming exodus to the West.)

Brigham Young Led the Saints West

Report 2

Within three years after the mantle of Joseph Smith had fallen upon Brigham Young, he, along with the Quorum of the Twelve, led the faithful Saints into the Great Salt Lake Valley. They established some three hundred fifty settlements in the western United States, built Salt Lake City, and, as the Prophet Joseph Smith had prophesied, became a mighty people in the midst of the Rocky Mountains.

Brigham Young had seen in vision where God wanted to settle his people: “Here is the place God has appointed for his people. We have been kicked out of the frying pan into the fire, and out of the fire into the middle of the floor, and here we are and here we will stay. … We shall build a city and a temple to the Most High God in this place … and we will build towns and cities by the hundreds, and thousands of the Saints will gather from the nations of the earth. … The noble and wise of the earth will visit us here” (Autobiography of James Brown, pp. 119–23; quoted in Preston Nibley, Brigham Young: The Man and His Work [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1936], pp. 127–28).


  • How was Brigham building on the spiritual foundation the Prophet Joseph had laid? (He led the Saints west, colonized the area, and established the Church of Jesus Christ in the tops of the mountains.)

  • What principles made it possible for Brigham Young and the Saints to make the “desert … blossom as the rose” (Isaiah 35:1)? (Faith and work.)

Brigham Young Encouraged Work, Culture, and Education

Report 3

“While building homes, developing farms and establishing themselves a government, [Brigham Young encouraged the Saints not to] neglect the finer side of life. Education, religion, art, drama, and music were fostered for the social [and mental] development of the people. The Saints built their own theatres and trained their children in the various sciences and in music. Simultaneously with the erection of private dwellings, each group of colonists through cooperative effort constructed a public hall which was used as a church house, a school house, and a place in which dances and dramas were conducted” (Milton R. Hunter, Brigham Young the Colonizer [Salt Lake City: Deseret News Press, 1940], p. 359).


  • Why did Brigham Young not only encourage the Saints to work hard but to appreciate the cultural things in life such as art, music, education, and drama? (He wanted the Saints to maintain a balanced life—physically, mentally, socially, and spiritually.)

A Beloved Exemplar

Report 4

“It was not [just] his executive ability that endeared [Brigham Young] to his family and the Saints. Frank, kind, and concerned, he was as a father among them. Working alongside them, he chopped wood, cut timber, made bridges, cleared land, and built roads. During the exodus [west] he was the first up in the morning and the last to retire at night, always making the rounds to see that all were as comfortable as possible. But above all, he was the prophet of God. He could rebuke, yet love and inspire; demand, yet give; lead always, yet follow. And the courage and humor with which he faced trials served as an anchor and a model for the persecution-weary Saints” (“Brigham Young,” Presidents of the Church [Religion 345 student manual], 1979, p. 61).


  • What qualities made Brigham Young deeply loved by the Saints? (His willingness to serve beside them and his concern and love for them.)

Enduring Leader

Report 5

“For [thirty-three] years [either as President of the Quorum of the Twelve or as President of the Church] he led the [people]. He knew the divinity and destiny of the work. From [the foundation Joseph laid, Brigham Young] continued to build the kingdom that would go forth to encompass the world and eventually transform the world into Zion” (Presidents of the Church [Religion 345 student manual], 1979, p. 61).


  • What quality was probably Brigham Young’s most powerful character trait? (His willingness to keep going, doing God’s work in spite of all opposition.)

The Lord Will Help Us Succeed, As He Did Brigham Young

Scripture discussion

Have the class turn to 1 Nephi 3:7. Review the background of the Lord’s command that Lehi’s sons go back to Jerusalem to get the brass plates from Laban.

Have a class member read 1 Nephi 3:7 aloud.

  • Why did Nephi say he would go and do what the Lord had commanded? (Nephi had faith that the Lord would help him accomplish the task.)

Stress that Brigham Young, like Nephi, knew that he was doing God’s work. He believed that if he and other mortals did all they could to establish the kingdom, God would see to the rest. Help the class understand that if we do all we can, God will then help us.


If you obtained permission from the bishop or branch president and asked a young man or young woman who is preparing for a mission to come to the class, have him or her tell about the Lord’s specific help in getting ready. If such a person was not found, go directly to the chalkboard and discussion, concluding with your testimony.

Chalkboard and discussion

  • What are some of the blessings that can come to us from righteous work? (Answers should be listed on the chalkboard and should include such things as the following: self-confidence, discipline, faith, service, compassion, self-reliance, happiness.)

Brigham Young often told the Saints: “When [a] man is industrious and righteous, then [he is] happy” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], p. 235).

Testimony and Challenge

Bear your testimony that when we do the things the Lord has asked us to do, even though it may seem difficult or impossible, the Lord will help us to do what he has commanded. You may want to share a personal story or experience to illustrate this concept. Challenge class members to build the kingdom through righteous works.