Family Councils and the home of President Brigham Young
Taken from Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons
An important institution in the Young household was the evening devotional. “There might be wars and rumors of wars, councils and and balls, meetings and dinner-parties,” but no matter how busy they were, all family members were expected to be in attendance at home. After prayer, the family would hold council to formulate policy, plan recreational activities, or solve juvenile problems that may have arisen in the family. At these devotionals Brigham Young would often take the opportunity to counsel and instruct his wives and older children. A note dictated by him to his family on April 2, 1866, suggests that schooling them to meet regularly for their daily devotion was not accomplished without repetition:
“I have felt moved upon to write the following, for the perusal of my family, and to which I call their serious attention.
“There is no doubt but that my family, one and all, will acknowledge that my time is as precious to me as theirs is to them. When the time appointed for our family devotion and prayer comes, I am expected to be there; and no public business, no matter how important has been able to influence me to forego the fulfilment of this sacred duty which I owe to you, to myself and to God.
“I do not wish to complain of you without a cause; but I have noticed at prayer time that only a portion of my family has been present; some of my wives are absent visiting a sister, a neighbor, a mother or a relative; my children are scattered all over town, attending to this or that; and if at home, one is changing her dress, another her shoes, another getting ready to go to the theater; another has gone to see Mary, and another to see Emily, and I may add, etc., etc., etc.
“Now, I have a few words of counsel for my family, which I shall expect them to receive kindly, and obey: namely, when prayer time comes, that they all be at home. If any of them are visiting, that they be at home at half past six o’clock in the evening. I wish my wives and children to be at home at that time in the evening, to be ready to bow before the Lord to make their acknowledgements to Him for His kindness and mercy and long-suffering towards us.
“Your strict attendance to my wishes in this respect will give joy to the heart of your Husband and Father.”
Church Historian George A. Smith was in Brigham Young’s home at prayer time on one occasion. After noting that quite a large number of the President’s family were there, he recalled that after a “very fervent prayer,” Brigham addressed his family on the subject of his and their positions in the Church. The President told his family that the eyes of the world were upon them and also the eyes of the Saints and that the influence of his teachings was affected by the example of his family.
(Brigham Young, Letters of Brigham Young to His Sons, edited and introduced by Dean C. Jessee [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1974], xxv.)