Excerpts From Thomas Bullock’s Journal #1: Brigham’s Best, Home Teaching the One, and Reminiscing

Thomas Bullock’s journal-keeping serves up some interesting slices of life on the Utah frontier. This begins an irregular series of excerpts from his writing during the 1850s.

Newell K. Whitney’s payoff. Countersigned by TB

Thomas Bullock, LDS Church Historian’s Office chief clerk in 1856 reported this during the month of June:

GAS [George A. Smith – Church Historian] & TB [Bullock] went to the dry kanyon where there was living bro Lovering by the mouth <head> of a deep pit <about 150 feet deep> with a spring of water, then retraced our steps to Whites settlement about 10 miles, then to Butterfields settlement about 8 miles where there are 18 families. held a meeting in the school house in the evening and Elder W. Woodruff at this place where they have a great no of sheep & cattle but little water . . . .

Pres. Y[Brigham Young] K[Heber C. Kimball] & G[Jedediah M. Grant] stay[ed] with Col Tho S. Smith [-] the ward & adjoining wards met in & round the Schoolhouse between 8 & 9 am[.] Pres. preached 2 1/2 hours with great freedom <& he said afterwards if it was not the best it was one of the best he ever preached> on the subject of prayer, building a city wall, & the primary objects of a man’s life, shewing he must devote to all to the building up of the King[dom] of God & on family government — on dividing — 30 persons minds when in accord if even 10 [not] & they is not united they will not obtain & gave the usual advice about walling in cities . . . .

The following day (Sunday) Bullock observed

at 4 pm Presidency[t] & his Council met in the upper room to pray & conversation on Strang – Wm Smith – Little Joseph – &c . . . . telling the Inroads that Emma had made

These were recurring topics of discussion among the Presidency and each was associated with obvious reasons of concern or at least important boundary maintenance. In terms of the second excerpt, Strang represented the alternative to the Twelve: a charismatic leader rather than one who led essentially by virtue of office — a pattern Joseph Smith wanted to establish, but never explicitly articulated in terms of succession. William Smith was more of a sad issue for them. A fellow apostle of the three originals in Utah, his peripatetic career was troubling to everyone it seemed. The Little Joseph trope was often a subtext to Church leadership discussion in Utah. Everyone knew of the Smith family’s position in the restoration, occupying several important sometimes seemingly custom-made-for-them offices. Moreover, there were revelations that might be interpreted to the effect that the Smith family should inherit Church leadership. The hope for a descendant of JS to come on board and perhaps take the reins was real and the elevation and eventual succession of Joseph F. Smith was important to some old-timers. The remarks about Emma were standard fare, placing her in the role of a disloyal, selfish, even a subversive blood-on-her-hands dissident, not for the last time.


  1. Kevin Barney says:

    Makes these tropes come alive; thanks for the excerpt.

  2. Thanks Kevin.

  3. I wish I could have heard just one good Brother Brigham sermon in person. They’re fun enough to read, but I can just see him pounding the pulpit in his Lion of the Lord Gusto. I’m thankful for good folks who keep such good records. It’s a good example for us all.

  4. While it seems we have many reports of BY’s sermons, in fact they are rather poor. The shorthand of the day was not as robust as later and the transcriptions were done with, shall we say, great freedom and without review.