Utah History Encyclopedia


By Richard D. Poll
One of the most popular twentieth-century Mormon leaders, Hugh B. (for Brown) Brown was born in Salt Lake City on 24 October 1883, to Homer Manley and Lydia Jane Brown. He was fifteen when his family moved to southern Alberta. There he made a home for Zina Young Card, whom he married in 1908, and there the first six of their eight children were born. He went to England as a missionary, serving from 1904 to 1906, and briefly returned in 1917 as a major in charge of Canadian replacements in World War I. These experiences produced two classic stories, "Father, Are You There?" and "The Current Bush." Brown's Canadian vocations included stints as cowboy, farmer, soldier, businessman, lawyer, and head of the LDS Lethbridge Stake.

Moving to Salt Lake City in 1927, Brown quickly became a successful lawyer and president of the LDS Granite Stake. He also formed a lifelong allegiance with the Democratic party, which led to an unsuccessful run for political office and an unpleasant term of service as first chairman of Utah's Liquor Control Commission from 1935 to 1937.

A call to head the LDS British Mission came soon, the first of many full-time church positions which brought him admiration and influence, but never the affluence for which he also yearned. As LDS Servicemen's Coordinator from 1941 to 1945, he traveled extensively in North America and western Europe as de facto chief chaplain for the thousands of Mormons in American, British, and Commonwealth uniforms; anecdotes born of this experience punctuated his sermons and writings thereafter. Early in 1944 he was given an additional appointment to reactivate the British Mission.

Intervals as a professor of religion at Brigham Young University (1946-1949), and with an Alberta oil prospecting firm (1949-1953), preceded his call, at age seventy, to be one of the LDS General Authorities - an Assistant to the Council of the Twelve. Thereafter he became a member of the Council of the Twelve in 1958, and Counselor to and then Second Counselor in the First Presidency in 1961, becoming First Counselor in 1963. His record of earlier service, his effective writings and sermons, and his long friendship and ideological affinity with LDS Church President David O. McKay probably accounted for his rapid advancement in the church hierarchy. McKay's failing health and his own policy differences within the church leadership later weakened Brown's influence, though his popularity remained great. Following McKay's death in 1970, he served in the Council of the Twelve until his own death, two years after Zina's, on 2 December 1975.

See: Eugene E. Campbell and Richard D. Poll, Hugh B. Brown: His Life and Thought (1975); and Edwin B. Firmage, ed., An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown (1988).