ROBERTS, BRIGHAM HENRY
Brigham Henry Roberts
Brigham Henry Roberts was born in Warrington, Lancashire, England, in 1857.
Roberts was left behind when his mother, a convert to Mormonism, migrated
to Utah. A waif, he was taken in by friends. At the age of nine, he obtained
passage across the ocean and walked across the plains to rejoin his mother
in Utah. His childhood continued to be one of insecurity, hard work, and
limited opportunity. During his teenage years he came close to following
a downward path of dissoluteness, but he got hold of himself, attended meetings
of the new local Mutual Improvement Association in Clearfield, and graduated
from high school and later from the University of Deseret.
Roberts became active in the Mormon Church and practiced the principle of
plural marriage. He married Sarah Louisa Smith in 1878, Celia Dibble in
1884, and Margaret Ship in 1890. In 1889 he served six months in prison
for unlawful cohabitation.
Varied youthful work experience, especially as a blacksmith, was followed
by employment as a schoolteacher and journalist, editing the Salt Lake Herald.
But Roberts was primarily a churchman, serving as a missionary in Iowa,
in the southern states, and in Great Britain. After 1888 he was a general
authority--one of the First Council of the Seventy.
An eloquent speaker and writer, Roberts defended Mormonism and became the
leading apologist of his generation. Examples of his writings are Succession
in the Presidency, New Witness for God, and Defense of the
Faith and the Saints.
Pugnacious and not easily cowed, Roberts gave a controversial speech at
Utah's constitutional convention in 1895, unsuccessfully opposing female
suffrage. He joined apostle Moses Thatcher in promoting the Democratic party
and in running for elective office. In 1898 he ran again for a seat in Congress
and easily won the election; but after an ugly media campaign and extensive
committee hearings, he was refused his seat on the grounds of his practice
Roberts was a prolific if untrained historian. In addition to writing a
biography of John Taylor and histories of the Missouri and Nauvoo periods
of the LDS Church, he went on to complete a series of articles eventually
published as the Comprehensive History of the Church of Jesus Christ
of Latter-day Saints (1930). As assistant LDS Church Historian, he worked
for several years on the primary source collection known as Joseph Smith's
History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (six volumes,
with a seventh volume on Brigham Young).
Roberts produced some of the most important Mormon theological works of
his time, including a series of Seventy's yearbooks, The Mormon Doctrine
of Deity, and an unpublished magnum opus, "The Truth, the
Way, the Life." He died in 1933.
See: Truman G. Madsen, Defender of the Faith: The B.H. Roberts Story
(1980); and J. Bergers, ed., The Autobiography of B.H. Roberts (1990).