Brigham was first introduced to the Book of Mormon while in Mendon in the spring of 1830. Samuel Smith, brother to the Prophet Joseph, tracted through the area with a knapsack of the newly printed scripture. Two of these copies made their way into the hands of Brigham’s siblings and began to circulate through the family. The first copy was presented to his brother Phinehas at the Tomlinson Inn in Mendon. Samuel entered the tavern, where hotel guests and stagecoach travelers were dining, and approached Phinehas, who had stopped there for supper. While holding out a copy of the Book of Mormon, Samuel simply said, “There’s a book, sir, I wish you to read.” He described its contents and said, “I know the book is a revelation from God, translated by the power of the Holy Ghost, and that my brother, Joseph Smith, Jr., is a Prophet, Seer, and Revelator
That single, quiet conversation initiated a chain reaction of events leading to the conversion of several future leaders of the church. The Youngs had heard rumors about Joseph Smith’s golden Bible and knew something about it but this was the first time any of them had actually seen the book. Phinehas said, “I commenced and read every word in the book the same week. The week following I did the same, but to my surprise, I could not find the errors I anticipated, but felt a conviction that the book was true. Phinehas loaned the book to his father and to his sister Fanny. She declared the book to be “a revelation.” After father Young read the book, he said it was “the greatest work . . . he had ever seen, the Bible not excepted.” Apparently, Brigham also read from the book but wanted more time to study the matter.
A few months later, in June 1830, Samuel Smith returned to the Mendon area and loaned a second copy of the Book of Mormon to Brigham’s brother-in-law John P. Greene, a Methodist preacher. This second copy also circulated among family members.
In August 1830 Phinehas and his brother Joseph were on their way to preach Reformed Methodism in Canada. At one point in their journey, they were entertained in the home of Solomon Chamberlain, a former Reformed Methodist who had been baptized a Latter-day Saint in Seneca Lake by the Prophet Joseph Smith in April. Solomon preached to Joseph and Phinehas from the Book of Mormon for almost two hours. Overwhelmed by Solomon’s enthusiasm for the book, Phinehas protested, saying it was “not good to give a colt a bushel of oats at a time,” but Solomon did not desist. Phinehas was moved by Solomon’s sincere declaration that “everyone must believe in the Book of Mormon or be lost.” He later wrote: “This was the first I had heard of the necessity of another church, or of the importance of re-baptism; but after hearing the old gentleman’s arguments, . . . I began to inquire seriously into the matter, and soon became convinced that such an order of things was necessary for the salvation of the world.” Naturally, Brigham heard reports of his brothers’ experience. He remarked to Phinehas that he was convinced there was something to Mormonism. Phinehas replied that he “had long been satisfied of that.
Brigham later accompanied Phinehas to a conference of the Reformed Methodists at Manlius Center in Onondaga County, New York. There they listened to Solomon Chamberlain preach about the Book of Mormon. Although Solomon’s message was not well received by those at the conference, Brigham’s soul was stirred. Yet he proceeded cautiously. “When the Book of Mormon was first printed, it came to my hands in two or three weeks afterwards. Did I believe, on the first intimation of it? . . . ‘Hold on,’ says I. . . . ‘Wait a little while; what is the doctrine of the book, and of the revelations the Lord has given? Let me apply my heart to them. . . . I considered it to be my right to know for myself, as much as any man on earth. I examined the matter studiously for two years before I made up my mind to receive that book. . . . I wished time sufficient to prove all things for myself.” He later recalled: “I was not baptized on hearing the first sermon, nor the second, nor during the first year of my acquaintance with this work.”
Besides studying the Book of Mormon, Brigham wanted to learn the character of those who professed to believe in it: “I watched to see whether good common sense was manifest; and if they had that, I wanted them to present it in accordance with the Scriptures. . . . [W]hen I had ripened everything in my mind, I drank it in, and not till then.” For the next 18 months he pondered the Book of Mormon and its message. In the fall of 1831, Elders Alpheus Gifford and Eleazer Miller, along with other missionaries, came from Pennsylvania through Mendon to preach the Book of Mormon. When Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball heard them, they were, in Heber’s words, “constrained by the Spirit to bear testimony of the truth which we had heard, and when we did this, the power of God rested upon us and we had a testimony that the work was true.” Brigham simply noted that they were taught “the everlasting Gospel as revealed to Joseph Smith,” which gospel, he said, “I heard and believed.”
The missionaries returned to the area in 1832, and Brigham’s extended family made two visits to hear them at the Columbia Branch in Pennsylvania. Brigham described the impact of Elder Miller’s humble manner and firm testimony of the Book of Mormon: “If all the talent, tact, wisdom, and refinement of the world had been sent to me with the Book of Mormon, and had declared, in the most exalted of earthly eloquence, the truth of it, undertaking to prove it by learning and worldly wisdom, they would have been to me like the smoke which arises only to vanish away. But when I saw a man without eloquence, or talents for public speaking, who could only say, ‘I know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is a Prophet of the Lord,’ the Holy Ghost proceeding from that individual illuminated my understanding, and light, glory, and immortality were before me. I was encircled by them, filled with them, and I knew for myself that the testimony of the man was true. . . . My own judgment, natural endowments, and education bowed to this simple, but mighty testimony.”
On Sunday, 15 April 1832, after two years of intensive investigation, Brigham was baptized in his own millstream at Mendon and confirmed at the water’s edge by Elder Eleazar Miller. All of his immediate family—father, brothers, and sisters—were also baptized. “It is a remarkable fact,” historian Leonard J. Arrington noted, “that . . . all [of the Young family members baptized that day] remained loyal, practicing Mormons throughout their lives.”
Brigham said that on that occasion he felt a humble, childlike spirit witness to him that his sins were forgiven. He was filled with enthusiasm and a sincere desire to share what he now possessed. In the week following his baptism, he delivered his first sermon. He later said, “I wanted to thunder and roar out the Gospel to the nations. It burned in my bones like fire pent up, so I [commenced] to preach. . . . Nothing would satisfy me but to cry abroad in the world, what the Lord was doing in the latter days.” Although he would be driven from five homes because of his testimony (homes in which he barely had time to settle before being forced to leave —losing “everything [he] had” each time), he spent the remainder of his life declaring what he knew to be true.